Land prices and rents are also edging higher in Yuma County and neighboring Imperial County, Calif. where about 80 percent of the nation’s supply of winter vegetables are grown.

“There are parties actively looking for produce land,” said Bill Moody of Robert J. Moody Appraisers, Yuma. “There is a lot of activity and land prices are trending upward.”

He added, “Produce drives the market in the Yuma area.”

Winter produce growers had a very good fall-winter season in terms of crop production but horrible consumer demand. Severe cold weather in the East and Upper Midwest greatly reduced consumers’ appetites for salads.

“No one wants to eat salad when it’s cold out,” Moody said. “The local term is they go for ‘soup over salad’ so fewer people bought fresh produce.”

In the North and South Gila valleys – about 8,000 acres total - land prices are also trending higher.

“In 2012, several farms in these valleys (good produce ground) sold for about $32,000 per acre,” the appraiser said. “I am aware of cash rents as high as $850 and trending higher. These valleys are an absolute place where produce people want to farm.”

In neighboring Bard Valley, Calif. (Imperial County), land prices for Medjool date palm trees can run $50,000 - $100,000 per acre, depending on the age and condition of the trees.

Moody said, “Date fruit can be very profitable but it’s a long-term investment.”

In 2008, Moody says a 10-acre date palm tree parcel sold for $130,000 per acre with the trees later sold for landscaping. The demand for ornamental date palm trees fell substantially with the economic recession.