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Revised, February 2020
Asparagus is a high-value, labor-intensive perennial vegetable. It is an early season crop that lends itself well to small-scale and part-time farming operations as well as direct-to-consumer retail marketers when combined with other crops. U.S. annual per capita consumption of fresh asparagus has been steadily increasing over the last decade to 1.9 pounds in 2018. It is a low calorie, nutritious vegetable that is high in iron, fiber, and vitamins C and A; one cup of asparagus contains 3 grams of protein.
Most of the asparagus harvested in the United States is sold as fresh. It is traditionally sold in pyramid crates packed with 1.5- to 2.5-pound bunches held with a rubber band. Several marketing alternatives are available to the asparagus grower: wholesale marketing, produce auctions, cooperatives, local retailers, roadside stands, and pick-your-own operations.
Asparagus, native of temperate regions, succeeds best where either low temperatures or drought stops plant growth for a “rest” period and should not be considered for commercial production where warm conditions result in the plant's growth all year. Asparagus is generally planted using crowns, which are a root system of a year-old plant grown from seed. Although a small volume of stems can be harvest the first couple of years, it doesn’t come into full production until the third year and beyond. Studies in Michigan showed that 22-23 pickings per season (about a six week harvest season) is optimal for both yield and spear size over time in the Midwest and Northeast. Asparagus is generally harvested by snapping which typically commands a high market price than cutting.
Approximately 20,700 acres of asparagus were harvested in the U.S. in 2019. U.S. acreage is currently only about one-third of what it was 15 years ago due to increased imports from Central and South America. Essentially all of the U.S. commercial asparagus production occurs in Michigan, California and Washington. The national average yield in 2019 was around 4,076 pounds per acre. In 2019, total asparagus production was 84.39 million pounds. Approximately 502.4 million pounds of fresh asparagus was imported in 2017, mostly from Mexico, Peru and Chili. The value of the 2017 U.S. commercial asparagus crop was approximately $73.1 million.
In 2017, the U.S. season average farm price for asparagus was $118 per hundred weight.
Although asparagus is a perennial crop and doesn’t require replanting every year, the estimated cost of planting is about $1,500 per acre. Labor: 20–30 hours. The costs of production of asparagus production varies, however, harvest labor is the highest expense. Based on most recent production and price averages, the estimated gross value per acre is approximately $4,200 to $6,000 per acre for wholesale and retail markets, respectively.
New: Enterprise Budget for Asparagus, Iowa State University Farm Food and Enterprise Development
Asparagus, 2017 Summary (USDA NASS, 2017)
Nutritive Value of Foods (USDA ARS, 2002)
Chicago Terminal Market Prices (USDA AMS)
Asparagus: A Small-Scale Agriculture Alternative (University of California)
Growing Asparagus (South Dakota State University)
Sample budget spreadsheet for Mature Asparagus Production (Pennsylvania State University)