Michigan fruit growers were asked in January to provide data for a fruit inventory that would update information on the state of the state’s industry.
The last inventory was taken in 2011, so the new study will show how acreage and varieties have changed over the last five years.
In addition, growers are being asked about labor—how many permanent and seasonal workers they hire and whether they had problems finding enough workers. One question asks growers how many workers would they have hired had more been available.
“This is not a sample or a survey,” said Marty Saffell, the statistician with the National Agricultural Statistics Service in the Michigan field office who is handling the data collection process. “It is essentially a census. We need a response from most of the large growers or this doesn’t work well.”
The questionnaire was mailed to growers of record. Followup calls—in person if necessary—will be made to obtain as many responses as possible by mid-April.
The inventory covers ten fruit crops—apples, stone fruits, grapes, and berries.
In the apple section, growers are asked to name the block and its location, the year the trees were planted, and the variety and rootstock. Codes are provided for 24 varieties and 11 rootstocks, with a possible additional choice being “other.”
A similar format is used in all ten sections.
Growers are also being asked about their fruit planting and removal intentions for the five years from 2015.
Labor is part of the fruit questionnaire, but vegetable growers and nursery operators are also being queried, in a separate mailing, about the labor situation.
In 2011, the inventory was paid for by the fruit industry after the U.S. Department of Agriculture lost its funding. Funding was restored as part of the Specialty Crop Research Initiative section in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Results of the inventory will be released, fruit by fruit, starting in about a year.
After growing up on a Michigan dairy farm, Richard Lehnert began writing about farming in 1962, while still a junior studying journalism at Michigan State University. He worked at newspapers for a year before joining the staff of Michigan Farmer, where he spent 26 years, the last 15 as chief editor. He was a member of the staff of Good Fruit Grower from 2010 until 2015.Read his stories: Story Index