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Many California Asparagus Farmers Calling It Quits

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SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY -- It's considered one of the cash crops in San Joaquin County but now several farmers are throwing in the towel when it comes to asparagus because it's too expensive.

Jeff Klein, the president of Klein Family Farms, is one of the last asparagus farmers standing in California.

"We rely so heavily on the consumer and the consumer needs to be given the opportunity to buy the California asparagus," Klein told FOX40.

The farmer says a number of factors have driven up the labor-intensive crop, such as crew shortages and costs. They have forced many growers to call it quits.

"In the past year, I know of six growers who have thrown in the towel," said Dan Miller, the director of field operations for produce shipping company Jacobs Malcolm and Burtt.

Miller says Delta farmers can’t compete with the cheaper costs of Mexican asparagus.

"It’s based on a supply and demand process and if there’s too much supply on the market at any given time, it drives down the price," he said.

What has helped, both Klein and Miller say, are the retailers willing to work with regional farmers.

"The only reason we’ve been able to keep doing it is because we have a few people that support us," Klein said.

"We all want to make a living, nobody’s getting rich doing this," Miller said.

Klein said his family has been growing asparagus for 100 years and if the community continues to choose locally grown asparagus it's what he’ll continue to do.

"I believe that if they’re given the opportunity, they will buy it every day over the Mexican asparagus," he said.

The San Joaquin County Farm Bureau Federation said decades ago there were more than 60,000 acres of asparagus in the Delta.

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