Effort underway to grow broccoli in East

IRMO (WACH, AP) -- Farmers on the East Coast are hoping to cash in on an initiative to produce broccoli.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and money from private contributions will fund trials to find new varieties of broccoli that can withstand the eastern climate.

I grow several different varieties, says farmer David Derrick, that way if one does fail for some reason, I have two or three other varieties that will make up the difference.

Owner David Derrick of Heritage Fields Farm in Irmo harvests broccoli on a small scale in the spring and fall, however, he says it does better in cooler climates.

In fact, 90 percent of broccoli sold in the east comes from California.

Farm Manager Eric McClam of City Roots in Columbia is encouraged by nearly $5 million in funding to research different strains of broccoli.

It could be easily grown here and its one more product that South Carolina could claim," McClam adds.

Researchers are hoping to take a bite out of the West Coast's $1 billion broccoli monopoly and build a network of growers from northern Florida to Maine.

Experts believe it could grow into a $100 million industry over the next ten years.

Broccoli consumption has doubled in the past 25 years with Americans now eating 8.5 pounds of the vegetable annually, according to the USDA.

The investment to grow broccoli in the East has been driven by the rising cost of fuel to ship the vegetable across the country.

In the meantime, Both McClam and Derrick say they will continue to produce what broccoli they can.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)