Farmers in the South are challenged by the uncertainty of tobacco quotas and markets and the continuing low prices for commodities such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. Many southern states, for example North Carolina and Kentucky, are exploring vegetable co-op and farmers’ markets to increase cash sales of crops. This transition from tobacco and row crops presents many challenges to traditional farmers.
There is a growing market for soy foods. Consumers include soy products in their diets one or more times a week. The producer sold one pound bundles (15-18 stalks) of beans on the stalk for $2.00. At produce stands she sold beans wholesale, off the stalk, in the pod, for $2.00 per pound. The retailer sold the beans for $4.00 per pound, as did the farmers’ market vendor
Sara McNulty—the producer–and Sally Ellis raised edamame soybeans (a variety that can be eaten fresh) to promote in farmers markets in Owensboro Kentucky and Evansville, Indiana. As a result of these efforts and those of Martha Lee and Jan Dugan of Kentucky and Purdue extension respectively, 30 consumers asked for fresh beans during the 2002 season.
This producer partnered with Tim Woods and Matt Ernst of the University of Kentucky to create a web site to promote edamame soybeans and also use it for a taste test and workshop. The website can be found at www.uky.edu/ag/hortbiz under the edamame soybean project link.
This producer has concluded that because customer awareness has expanded, growers need to examine efficient ways to mechanically harvest, sort and shell the green soybeans for the frozen market. She feels this niche market offers exciting prospects for growers and consumers alike.