Winter is the season for feasting. It’s also a profitable time for communities that grow and produce the bounty of fruits, vegetables and other foods that make their way into favorite soups, stews,casseroles and other spreads filling the dinner table. Food production is a $750 billion industry in the U.S., and regions across the country are developing specialty markets that consume a growing portion of it. Here are five communities where food production is flourishing.
•Snow Hill, NC: North Carolina tops the nation in its sweet potato production, and the top farm behind its bumper crop is Ham Farms, one of the leading vegetable growers in the Southeast with 8,500 acres of sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash and cabbage. Based in the small eastern North Carolina town of Snow Hill, the family owned farm has launched several businesses to process its excess of crops, including a vegetable dehydration plant and an operation known as Yamco that produces highend vegetable purees and distills its own brand of Covington Gourmet Vodka from off-grade sweet potatoes. Eastern North Carolina is also home to the world’s largest turkey plant for Butterball and the Mt. Olive Pickle Company, which converts 55 million pounds of locally grown cucumbers and peppers each year into its best-selling brand of pickles and relishes. The region supports 160 food manufacturing plants that employ more than 20,000 workers.
•Madison, WI: Cheese produced in Wisconsin is a favorite among consumers, thanks to the state’s 1,200 cheesemakers who produce more than 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese that comply with stringent state standards for safety, grading and quality. A key cog in this production wheel is the Madison region, whose deep roots in the diary industry make it a natural hub for cheese production. The area is home to the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Dairy Research, which oversees the Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Program, a program that provides cheesemakers with advanced training to master their craft. Speciality cheesemakers thrive in the area, feeding the nation’s growing appetite for artisanal cheeses and contributing to nearly a quarter of the state’s cheese production. Top producers in this realm include Colony Brands, famous for its Swiss Colony brand of mail order cheeses, and Emmi Roth USA, which launches several new cheese varieties each year.
•Twin Falls, Idaho: Idaho is known for its potatoes – and no where is this more prevalent than in the Twin Falls area. Though small in population, this city of 45,000 and the eight counties of Southern Idaho that it anchors form an agricultural powerhouse that makes the region a leading producer of potatoes, sugar beets, barley, milk and cheese. The area supplies 50 percent of the state’s food exports, as well as 50 percent of the barley that Coors Brewing Company uses in its beer. Trout farms also flourish in the area, providing 70 percent of the nation’s trout supply. Along with a rich heritage rooted in the soil, the region has key ingredients in place that make it a hotbed for food manufacturers, including ample fresh water, good transportation connections and a skilled workforce.
•Yakima, WA: Washington is the leading source of fresh apples and pears, with a majority of suppliers concentrated in the eastern and central portions of the state. A rising epicenter for production is the Yakima Valley, which markets itself as the nation’s fruit bowl. Washington accounts for 60 percent of the nation’s apple production, and two-thirds of that supply is grown and packed in Yakima. Its arid climate, large-scale irrigation and longer growing season make it a mecca for tree fruit producers, which support approximately 17,000 jobs and and bring in revenues of more than $500 million annually. Yakima Valley is known for its organic Fuji apples, but other top varieties produced there include Red Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. It is also a top producer of pears, cherries and grapes as well as a growing hot spot for wineries producing Riesling, Merlot, and Syrah varieties.
•Salinas, Calif.: California is the leading supplier of fresh foods in the U.S., including vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, artichokes, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, celery and spinach. With a $9 billion agriculture economy, Salinas ranks as a top producer in this market thanks to its Mediterranean-like climate. Known as the salad bowl of the world, the area grows 60 percent of the nation’s leafy greens and 30 percent of its strawberries, and its specialization in fresh foods makes it a center for agricultural research and marketing. Its local farms feed the world, exporting 435 million pounds of lettuce, 80 million pounds of broccoli and 61 million pounds of
strawberries. As one of the state’s top regions for growing Pinot noir and chardonnay grapes, the area also profits from a thriving winery and organic farming scene.
Read more about food manufacturing clusters growing in regions across the country by visiting our Agriculture and Food Production Industry page at BusinessClimate.com.