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Indoors or outdoors, Michigan crops deliver

detroit spotlight web

Greenhouse-grown vegetables from local farms, neighboring Leamington, ON and many other areas are on the rise in Detroit and across Michigan.

“They use less water and get higher yields,” said Dominic Russo, a buyer for Rocky Produce, Inc., Detroit, BB #:104786, “so it’s a positive thing.”

Mike Pirrone Produce, Capac, MI, BB #:105238 takes advantage of hothouses to grow indoor rhubarb in the winter from roots harvested during the fall. Matt DeBlouw, director of operations, said shares rhubarb consistently proves to be a high-demand commodity because few farmers grow it.

Other hot items grown on its 3,000 acres include cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant in summer, with organic kale as the grower’s No.1 item.

Additionally, “cabbage has been really hot the past year—it’s tough to grow and historically has been cheap, but with less farmers doing it, there’s definitely demand,” DeBlouw said.

During the fall, the company’s business revolves around Halloween items such as “squashes and big, mini, and funny-looking pumpkins” which are sold mainly to retail outlets like Kroger, Walmart, and Meijer.

For growers, it’s all about anticipating what buyers and consumers will want and trying to plan ahead.

“It’s like the stock market,” DeBlouw said. “We receive a lot of contract pricing that allows us to plant accordingly and pays reliable dividends, and then there’s the risky side.”

The company hedges itself by doing three-quarters of its plantings based on bids, and on the other quarter, taking a little more of a chance and always hoping to hit a good market.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full version.