Revised, August 2015 By Linda Naeve
Spinach is a quick-maturing, cool season leafy green vegetable crop. In in online survey of nearly 2,000 people in the U.S., it ranked 11th most popular of 50 vegetables. U.S. annual per capita consumption of fresh spinach was 1.7 pounds per person in 2014, down from a record 2.8 pounds per person in 2007. Spinach also ranks as one of the most nutrient-dense of all foods. At just 7 calories per uncooked cup, it is is an excellent source of folate, and vitamins K, C, A, E and B-6. It’s also a good source of iron magnesium, riboflavin and potassium. While cooking spinach somewhat degrades its folate and vitamin C content, cooked spinach provides higher levels of vitamin A and iron than raw.
Spinach is marketed as three different commodities: fresh market clipped and bagged, fresh market bunched, and processed (frozen and canned). The fresh bagged product contains very small, young leaves (“baby spinach”) or slightly larger. Bunched spinach leaves are larger, and processed spinach leaf size is the largest.
Approximately 46,640 acres of spinach was harvested in the U.S. in 2014, up 6.2 percent from 2013. California is the largest spinach producing state. With nearly year-round production in the coastal valleys, it produces approximately 70 percent of all acres in fresh spinach production. Four states, California, Arizona, New Jersey and Texas, grow 98 percent of the commercial fresh market spinach in the U.S. The national three-year yield average was approximately 15,800 pounds per acre for fresh spinach and 20,000 pounds per acre for processed. In 2014, total spinach production was 772.6 million pounds with 90 percent (592 million pounds) marketed as fresh and 136.6 million and 44 million pounds frozen or canned, respectively. The value of the 2014 spinach crop was estimated at $271 million.
In 2014, the U.S. season average farm price for fresh spinach was $43.90 per hundredweight. Historically, the average price for canned spinach has been much lower than that for frozen spinach; in 2014 prices were $68 and $144 per ton for spinach for canning and freezing, respectively.
According to a University of California report, harvest and post-harvest costs were 56 percent of the production costs for spinach. It is very labor intensive, especially for weed management, bunched spinach harvests, and clipped spinach handling. Production costs and net profit varies depending on the location, size of the farm, amount mechanization, and market.
Vegetables, 2014 Summary (USDA NASS, 2015)
Vegetable and Pulses Outlook (USDA ERS, 2015)
Nutritive Value of Foods (USDA ARS, 2002)
Chicago Terminal Market Prices (USDA AMS)
National Retail Report: Fruits and Vegetables: Weekly Advertised Prices for Fruits and Vegetables at Major Retail Supermarket Outlets
Spinach Production in California (University of California)
Spinach Production: Sample Costs and Profitability Analysis (University of California)