The number of small Iowa farms selling directly to consumers increased to 2,987 in the 2007 count, up from 2,455 in the last Census of Agriculture in 2002.
Farms harvesting vegetables for sale climbed 17.2 percent over the five-year period, to 881.
The number of farms with fruit trees, nuts and berries increased 78 percent to 735. They generated $7.4 million in sales, up from $4.5 million in 2002.
But the biggest gain in local produce was in grape production. The number of growers increased more than twofold, from 133 to 335. Grape acreage increased more than fourfold to 797 acres.
“The census illustrates the increased interest statewide in locally grown produce,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said in a prepared statement. He praised specialty crops, saying they help farmers diversify their production while diversifying the state economy. Northey said growth in the state’s wine industry helped boost Iowa’s agricultural tourism, which grew more than threefold to $12.7 million.
Nursery, greenhouse, floral and sod operations also grew at a strong pace, with sales climbing from $77.6 million to $93.8 million. The amount of growing space protected from the elements in hothouses or greenhouses grew to 7.3 million square feet from just more than 5 million square feet.
The number of farms growing greenhouse vegetables and fresh-cut herbs more than doubled, to 106, reaching over $7.5 million in sales. Ninety Iowa greenhouses grew tomatoes, generating almost $1.7 million in sales.
Friday, February 20
Locally-Grown Growers Growing
According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette: