Oceana Co. asparagus farmers can’t pick fast enough

Posted at 5:21 PM, May 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-18 18:18:45-04

HART, Mich.--The annual asparagus crop is a big part of the West Michigan economy, especially in Oceana County, where a lot of it is grown. The conditions have been just right and when it's warm out asparagus can grow up to half an inch per hour.

"When you get hot and dry weather, which we had a couple weeks ago, asparagus really takes off," says Danielle Kokx of Kokx farms.

Asparagus pops up quick and it's picked quick, but to pick farmers need pickers.

Kokx explains, "Labor is everything; we would be putting in way more acres of asparagus if we just had the help to pick it."

The farmers depend on migrant workers during the harvest, and most farms are short a crew or two because the season started too early.

"Usually we say we start the season around Mother's Day and obviously that hot weather, that 80 degrees was probably May 7th and most guys weren't planning on getting up here till the weekend," says Kokx. "So they were just a little bit late for the season."

If fields can't be picked in time, they get mowed over.

Kokx says, "It was just sad when I was driving around and I'd seen a bunch of guys out in the field just mowing down money."

Michigan farmers can't pick fast enough and despite the bumper crop, Michigan asparagus is not always front and center in your local grocery store.

"Our biggest competitors are Peru and Mexico and they kill us in price," explains Kokx, "That's where a lot of the stuff is coming from because they have cheap labor there, so we have to compete with that."

Asparagus season will wrap up by June 25.