Local garlic growing in popularity thanks to farmers markets, trade dispute

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As the local foods movement continues to grow, it appears more farmers are planting garlic each fall for harvest in the spring.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture found 212 Virginia farms were growing garlic in 2017, compared to 49 farms in 2012.

“The jump in garlic growers is because of the jump in farmers markets,” said Jim Hankins, executive director of the Fauquier Education Farm. “Garlic is an excellent crop for smaller growers going to market. There is a big demand in a premium market for a crop that is widely used and stores easily.”

There are now 256 farmers markets across the state according to Kim Hutchinson, executive director of the Virginia Farmers Market Association. Many are experiencing an uptick in both supply and demand.

“There are multiple types of consumers at farmers markets,” Hutchinson said. “From the individual that does some of their shopping at farmers markets to the everyday shopper, to the chef that comes to source the products locally, farmers have to keep up with the demand as the desire has continued to increase to source more and more products locally.”

In the past couple of years, “farmers have become much more responsive to the growing trends with consumers,” Hutchinson continued.

Another reason garlic is selling well in recent months is the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and China. Tariffs on Chinese garlic increased from 10% to 25% in May.
Fortunately for Virginia’s garlic enthusiasts, the plant can be grown close to home—or at home.

“Anywhere from about mid-September to about mid-November,” Hankins said. “It overwinters beautifully, there aren’t any pests, deer don’t bother it, nothing really bothers it. And then next June, you’ll see the plant start to die back and you’ll get really nice big bulbs.”

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