Survey shows Iowan horticulture farming trends

Maggie Curry

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and Dr. Craig Chase from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach released the Iowa Commercial Horticulture Survey on Monday.

The report

The data in the report is from the 2015 growing season, which was collected in 2016 and analyzed this past winter, according to a release.

The report concludes with a statement: “We hope this document, including survey data and analyses, is a useful tool for growers, consumers, policy makers, educators, and researchers to continue their work supporting and strengthening Iowa’s horticultural food crop economy.”

Northey said it has been more than a decade since there has been a similar survey conducted and it is great to have updated information to better understand this section of Iowa agriculture.

The newly published survey results are from 882 horticulture crop producers across the state. The data includes an economic impact analysis provided by Dr. David Swenson of the Iowa State Department of Economics. That analysis showed that Iowa’s horticulture industry in 2015 generated more than $48 million in direct sales with an additional $32 million in value-added commerce.

The data

The data also shows:

  • The majority of Iowa’s horticulture farmers have grown commercial horticulture crops for 10 years or fewer.
  • The average horticulture farm is approximately eight acres in size. 
  • Most survey respondents use horticulture crop production as means to supplement family income as opposed to deriving their main income from this type of agriculture.
  • The majority of Iowa horticulture farmers rely on direct-to-consumer markets to sell their products.
  • Wine grapes have become the largest-grossing processed horticulture crop in Iowa with total reported sales at $1.5 million. Wineries purchase approximately 40 percent of their grapes or juice from out of state.

A full digital version of the document can be found here.

“The Local Foods Program team at Iowa State University is excited about the findings of the survey,” said Chase, program manager. “In particular, it illustrates that horticultural producers are an important sector in Iowa’s agricultural landscape.” 

The study was led by a steering committee of staff within the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, ISU Extension & Outreach, the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, and the Iowa Field Office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service.