( Photo courtesy E. Miedema & Sons )

With year-round shipments of fruits and vegetables, Michigan is a fresh produce force in the U.S.

For 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the state shipped the equivalent of 50.8 million 40-pound cartons of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Michigan’s total shipments were slightly less than 53.2 million 40-pound equivalent cartons shipped in 2017 and 9% lower than the 55.8 million 40-pound cartons shipped by the state in 2016.

Michigan produce companies have had to adapt to increasing food safety regulations and a tight labor market, said Steve Haaksma, sales manager for Byron Center, Mich.-based E. Miedema & Sons. Some smaller farmers have folded because they are not big enough to attract labor, he said. Others can’t afford staffing for complying with food safety regulations.

“We have a full time guy year-round and we’re just a seasonal farm like anybody else, but we have got to have somebody on the payroll year-round just to keep up with the food safety issues,” he said. 

That level of staffing may increase during periods when food safety audits occur.

Though Michigan ships fruits and vegetables every month of the year, volume will increase seasonally this summer and fall. Last year, 14% of total annual Michigan produce shipments occurred in August, increasing to 15% in September.

The top 10 fresh produce commodities for the state in 2018, in 40-pound carton equivalents, were:

  • Apples, 6.9 million cartons, down 13% from 7.9 million cartons in 2017;
  • Potatoes: 5.65 million cartons, down 4% from 5.91 million cartons in 2017;
  • Watermelons (seeded and unseeded): 2.46 million cartons, up 5% from 2.35 million cartons in 2017;
  • Cucumbers: 2.05 million cartons, down 7% from 2.21 million cartons in 2017;
  • Onions: 1.14 million carton, down 16% from 1.36 million cartons in 2017;
  • Bell peppers: 985,000 cartons, down 26% from 1.33 million cartons in 2017: 
  • Cabbage: 880,000 cartons, down 15% from 1.04 million cartons in 2017;
  • Squash: 880,000 cartons, up 4% from 847,500 cartons in 2017;
  • Celery: 862,500 cartons, down 33% from 1.28 million cartons in 2017;
  • Blueberries: 672,500 cartons, down 32% from 982,500 cartons in 2017;
  • Tomatoes (all types): 655,000 cartons, down 33% from 975,000 cartons in 2017;
  • Sweet corn: 562,500 cartons, down 5% from 592,500 cartons in 2017;
  • Asparagus: 272,500 cartons, down 8% from 297,500 cartons in 2017; and 
  • Peaches: 117,500 cartons, down 4% from 122,500 acres in 1970.

Long-term acreage trends

The USDA’s Census of Agriculture reveals most Michigan fruit and vegetables experienced an acreage decline in the past 10 years, though there are exceptions.

Acreage figures for Michigan fruits and vegetables in 2017, compared with 2007:

  • Apples: 38,563 acres in 2017, down 13% from 44,189 in 2007;
  • Peaches: 2,863 acres in 2017, down 47% from 5,400 acres in 2007;
  • Grapes: 13,127 acres in 2017, down 11% from 14,701 acres in 2007;
  • Blueberries: 22,959 acres in 2017 (no data for 2007);
  • Celery: 2,078 acres in 2017, up 6% from 1,968 acres in 2007;
  • Carrots: 3,473 acres in 2017, down 37% from 5,499 acres in 2007;
  • Onions: 2,495 acres in 2017, down 46% from 4,592 acres in 2007;
  • Cucumbers: 34,409 acres in 2017, down 16% from 40,820 acres in 2007;
  • Lettuce: 1,027 acres in 2017, up 17% from 876 acres in 2007;
  • Bell peppers: 1,876 acres in 2017, up 19% from 1,577 acres in 2007;
  • Potatoes (fresh market and processing): 30,750 acres in 2017, up 19% from 1,577 acres in 2007; 
  • Sweet corn: 8,466 acres in 2017, down 11% from 10,885 acres in 2007;
  • Strawberries: 870 acres in 2017, down 29% from 1,229 acres in 2007; and
  • Raspberries: 532 acres in 2017, down 19% from 654 acres in 2007.
 
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