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Save money on produce by growing your own

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With all the snowing and freezing and thawing and flooding we’ve experienced, it was sometimes a case of “water, water everywhere”. Now we’re finding out it was everywhere except where it was most sorely needed, California.

Experiencing one of its worst droughts, it’s estimated that as much as 20% of the state’s crops could be lost this year, across a span of as much as one million acres. And it’s those losses that will hit us in the produce pocketbook later.

Professor Timothy Richards of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University researched which were most likely to be affected using data from the Nielsen Perishables Group. Crops affected were the ones most susceptible to fluctuations in irrigation and those that use the most water. It’s also a who’s-who list of customer favorites.

Avocados could go up to $1.63 each, a rise of .17-.35¢.
Tomatoes might go up to $2.84 per pound, an increase anywhere from .22-.45¢.
Peppers could go to $2.48 a pound. (Red bell pepper has gone to $2.99 before)

Packaged salads might raise to $3.03 a bag; berries could cost as much as $3.46 a clam-shell and grapes could go up to $2.93 a pound (currently $2.99 per pound). Other vegetables affected include lettuce, melons and broccoli.

There is good news however and that’s everything on the list can be grown in a regional zone 6A urban garden. Some may need a bit more space, melons, grapes and some berries as an example while others like tomatoes, peppers or lettuce will lend themselves nicely to a limited area or containers.

Even in limited space you can produce yields sufficient to, at the very least, offset summer produce costs, if not cut them out altogether. (I grow a Bonnie Plant Husky Cherry, cherry tomato bush variety every year and I get more cherry tomatoes than I know what to do with) That more people may decide to grow their own in the wake of rising produce prices is just one possible example of how consumers will adapt.

The drought and subsequent shortage will also open up the market to more imports from Asia and Mexico, a point of concern for those interested in buying domestically. Sherry Frey, vice-president of the Nielsen Perishables Group says, “The increased prices will change consumer purchasing behavior. While some consumers will pay the increased prices, others will substitute or leave the category completely.” She further predicts that as retailers will have to look elsewhere for their stock, collateral food categories, such as ethnic grocery items, will be affected by the shortage of related foods.

Critical Crop Grow Links

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/broccoli.cfm

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/lettuce.cfm

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/peppers.cfm

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/tomato.cfm

http://urbanext.illinois.edu/veggies/muskmelon.cfm

Gauging Yield Needs

http://www.harvesttotable.com/2011/06/vegetable_crop_yields_plants_p/

Sources: The Packer, Produce Retailer, Fruit, vegetable prices on the rise with drought, Tom Karst, April 16, 2014; USAToday, California drought to cause fruit and veggie sticker shock, Adam Shell, April 16, 2014

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