Eastern consumers ' demand for local broccoli is high, but that demand cannot be met until sufficiently adapted varieties are available and the distribution network is expanded. Locally grown represents a large transition in the produce industry and in consumers interest in food. Broccoli is an excellent model for driving that transition. This project will enable a tripling of eastern production, to a farm gate value of $100 million per year, by making eastern broccoli more profitable for seed companies, growers and distributors. This expansion will also reduce the overall cost and carbon footprint of broccoli consumed in the East, increase food security by diversifying production areas, and provide rural economic development. National food security is improved by diversifying the production area to reduce risk from regional events like the current western drought. Production to include areas with sufficient rainfall stabilizes the market and improves food security. Furthermore, the carbon footprint of eastern broccoli consumption is lower because it is shipped shorter distances, and with less ice.
The project goal is to make broccoli a self-sustaining crop on the East Coast by developing adapted varieties and overcoming barriers in production and distribution that currently limit expansion. The project has four primary objectives:
Objective 1: Seed of new cultivars commercially available: Bring to market hybrids, bred in the previous five years of this project, that are much better adapted to the East. Seed companies will produce, market and distribute seed of about six new varieties in the eastern US market.
Objective 2: Sustained Improvement of broccoli: Introduce new breeding tools and create germplasm even better than today's best, to produce broccoli hybrids with the adaptation, quality and productivity needed to keep the crop competitive into the future.
Objective 3: Develop a large grower base Provide the information that growers need in order to be financially successful when expanding broccoli production, and raise awareness of the opportunities that the new varieties create.
Objective 4: Enhanced distribution channels for regional fresh produce. Overcome barriers to increased distribution of eastern-grown broccoli that have not resolved in the private sector. Much of the potential production capacity is on farms that could produce tens of acres per year, but larger customers need a base of hundreds of acres and lower risk of supply gaps than individual growers can provide. Customers expect year-round supply, but individual production areas have short seasons; coordinating distribution from multiple regions is necessary to meet customer expectations. The growing food-hub movement is a vehicle for addressing both of these limitations. We will work with food hubs to use broccoli as reliable revenue source and to solve some of the problems that cause food hubs to fail.