By GAY GRIESBACH the Daily News
Farm-to-table sales are growing as a number of consumers visit farms and farmers’ markets to stock up on fresh produce.
Statewide, Wisconsin farms reported $46.9 million in direct sales in 2012, an increase of almost 8 percent over 2007.
A statewide average of about $8,000 isn’t enough to support a family, but Washington County direct sales per farm average more than $26,000.
Ray Burg and his wife have jobs away from Rim’s Edge Orchard, but Burg hopes the revenue will eventually serve as retirement income.
Burg is still in “startup mode,” planting 1,400 trees in 2010. “When we opened in September, we had just started picking those apples and got about 50 percent of what we’ll get when they’re matured,” Burg said.
In 2012, he added another 1,700 trees and is planning to plant another 800 this year. For many farms with direct sales, the local market is a small part of their production and could be viewed as supplemental income.
That’s what it is for Jim Klug, who has been parttime farmer for more than 25 years, growing pumpkins and squash that are sold from his village of Germantown farm.
Klug retired in December, but pumpkin, squash and feed sales are not enough to be a primary source of income.
That is not the case at HighCross Farm. Steve and Kath Vogelmann have made their living at HighCross in southern Fond du Lac County exclusively from direct sales for the past nine years.
In the past five years Steve Vogelmann said the numbers of CSA (community- supported agriculture) members at HighCross have doubled and they expect to sign 300 to 400 subscribers for the 2014 season.
“It’s the foodies who are really into fresh vegetables, and it doesn’t come any fresher than from the farm,” Vogelmann said.
While the Extension report arrives at a per capita number by taking county production and dividing it by county population, it can’t track the transport of farm products.
The West Bend and Hartford farmers’ markets have vendors that bring in produce from neighboring counties and local growers “export” their wares to other counties.
HighCross has subscribers pick up vegetables at 20 drop-off sites scattered throughout Washington County and Southeastern Wisconsin, with the majority being in the greater Milwaukee area.
Klug’s customers are primarily from Washington County, but consumers from Milwaukee and Waukesha counties also buy at the farm.
While Burg sells out of his orchard and at the Holy Hill Art Farm Market, he’s had customers come from as far as southern Milwaukee County and as far north as Plymouth. “They come from all over,” Burg said.
Statewide, the average consumer spends $15.49 on direct sales. Vernon County has consumers spending the most money at $88.86 — while Milwaukee direct sales per capita are about 11 cents.
While several Wisconsin counties experienced a decline in the absolute volume of direct sales, Vernon County, home of Organic Valley, stands out as experiencing the largest absolute increase going from $1.4 million in 2007 in direct sales to $2.7 million in 2012.