Economic Challenges of Small-Scale Vegetable Production
and Retailing in Rural Communities: An Example from Rural
Jon Biermacher, Steve Upson, David Miller, and Dusty Pittman
Information regarding the economic potential of producing and retailing vegetables in rural communities is limited.
This study determined the actual net return from producing and on-site retailing a mix of produce in a rural Oklahoma
community and determined if consumers in the region were willing to pay differentiated prices for the locally grown
vegetables. Although the project did not generate a profit, a wealth of insightful information was gained. Results show
that a substantial number of consumers were willing to pay premiums for certain types of produce; however, there were
not enough such consumers to overcome the production and harvesting expenses.
Biermacher, is a research economist, Upson is a horticultural
specialist, Miller is a research associate, and Pittman is a
research assistant, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation,
Inc., Ardmore, OK.
The authors wish to extend gratitude to Albert J. Allen
and three anonymous reviewers of the Journal for their useful
comments and insights.
Currently, the bulk of our nation’s produce is pro-
duced in specific growing regions in California,
Florida, Washington, Idaho, and Arizona where
certain comparative economic advantages exists,
including growing conditions, labor markets,
processing facilities, and operating capital (NASS
2002). In addition, a large percentage of our nation’s
produce is imported during the off-production sea-
son from Latin American countries such as Mexico
and Chile who have similar comparative advantages
in production. As a result of these comparative ad-
vantages, farms producing in these regions often
exhibit constant returns to scale.
Recently, though, consumer trends appear to
be moving in favor of the more highly publicized
locally grown produce. As an example, the cover
of the March 13, 2007 issue of Time magazine