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Artichokes could be key to crop diversity for Florida growers

As a leader of research into growing artichokes in Florida, Shinsuke Agehara isn’t out to dethrone California as the king of artichoke production.

Instead, the assistant horticulture professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences hopes to find a possible profitable alternative to the state’s mainstay vegetable crops.

“Many crops are not doing well,” said Agehara, based at the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center near Wimauma. “The tomato growers, the pepper growers, the traditional vegetable growers – are looking for something that can be more profitable for them. I don’t expect this will be a huge industry, but we have to create more diversity. 

“We want to find more crops that some growers can switch to. We also want to find higher-value crops. We want to find crops that can take advantage of our warm winter climate, and I think artichokes can be one of them.”

In Florida, peak artichoke production is in January and February, when California is largely out of the market, he said. That could equate to potentially higher prices for producers because of lower supplies.