Project: Barriers to Expansion of Long Island Broccoli Production

Nicholas Karavolias
Nicholas Karavolias ’18

Nicholas Karavolias ’18, agricultural sciences major, CCE Suffolk County

Blog entry: July 3, 2015

This week I continued surveying and scouting for pests as per usual, however what was unusual was the high incidence of black leg observed in potatoes. Black leg is a bacterial disease in potatoes that can be either seed- or air-borne. An infected plant will yield inedible potatoes, so its management is essential. A particularly severe strain of new black leg has appeared in the seed pieces of many growers this year. Growers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York have experienced a 10-50% infection rate of black leg in their fields. The previous strain of black leg would historically only infect 1% of potatoes. It is obvious therefore why many are referring this year’s black leg epidemic as “black leg on steroids.” No management strategies are available since the bacteria is present in the seed piece. Samples of the black leg have been shipped back to the seed producers to prevent such a severe infection in the future. It seems that Long Island potatoes could use a “leg” up. 

Grown on Long Island sign
Celebrating the second to last day of my internship at the annual Grown on Long Island Day.

My surveys regarding the barriers to expanding the production of broccoli on Long Island have been returning promising results. Long Island growers use several methods to sell their produce, and my surveying efforts have allowed me to identify these unique methods and their geographical associations.

There are three primary models that growers use to sell their produce. The first and most common to Long Island is selling from a farm stand that is within the proximity of their farm. This method has virtually no transportation costs and gives consumers access to the freshest produce, if they are willing to make the trip to the stand. Growers who use this method tend to have highly diversified farms where they grow everything and anything that a consumer might want. This sales method is found throughout essentially all of rural Long Island.

The second method of sales is the use of distributors that serve Long Island supermarkets. With this method, the distributor determines the price point of produce and makes weekly pickups from the grower. Unfortunately, distributors tend to pay less for crops than a consumer at a farm stand would. This sales method is especially prevalent on the North Fork where there are still many large potato farms, and land is more readily available.

Nicholas Karavolias with strawberriesThe final sales method is farmers’ markets. A small minority of growers throughout Long Island, but especially on the eastern tip of the North Fork, truck their produce to western parts of Long Island to sell at farmers’ markets. Consumers at these markets are very willing to pay premiums for these fresh and local commodities. Using a distributor as a sales method was once a very common practice among Long Island growers, however as farmers recognize that other sales methods could be more lucrative they have been transitioning to other sales methods.

The survey contains questions that address growers current methods such as, “Have you ever raised broccoli in the past?” and “Do you currently use a distributor to reach wholesale or retail markets?” It also contains additional questions to assess their willingness to expand their broccoli production. As per the results I have collected thus far, it seems that this is quite likely. It is my hope that before long, supermarket shelves on Long Island will be stocked with broccoli that boldly states “Grown Locally.”

The Cornell Cooperative Extension Summer Internship Program has helped Cornell fulfill its land-grant mission by engaging students in outreach since 2007. Faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the College of Human Ecology along with extension educators from local Cornell Cooperative Extension offices involve students in the college’s work to benefit New York state communities. From research to education and program development, interns are involved in a wide spectrum of activities which they document by blogging.