Farmers increasing asparagus production to meet growing demand
When it comes to vegetables harvested in the spring, asparagus is a popular pick.
“Asparagus has become increasingly popular among chefs and consumers,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Annual per capita consumption of fresh asparagus in the U.S. has steadily increased over the past decade to almost 2 pounds per person.”
More Virginia farmers are growing the vegetable to meet this increased demand.
Revered for its nutritional value, asparagus is a low-calorie vegetable high in iron, fiber and vitamins A, C and K. While many leafy greens available in early-season markets share the same characteristics, asparagus’ protein content has helped contribute to a rise in its consumption.
The elevated demand for asparagus has benefited Virginia growers, and according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, Virginia’s planted acreage has more than doubled since 2012.
Grown in most counties as a specialty crop, 190 Virginia farms grew asparagus on a total of 176 acres, the most recent census found. As a niche crop, asparagus has given farmers an alternative to the crowded field of cold weather crops such as lettuce, spinach and kale.
“Asparagus is a labor-intensive and high-value perennial vegetable,” Banks said. “Its value and timing as an early-season crop lends itself well to small-scale and part-time farming operations, as well as farm-to-customer marketers when combined with other crops. Many home gardeners produce asparagus as well.”
To locate asparagus and other fresh fruits and vegetables grown on Virginia farms, visit virginiagrown.com.