Asparagus Nuggets developers hoping to revamp local industry

April 27, 2023

Dave Hansen, left, and Joe Prado prepare a batch of Asparagus Nuggets

Asparagus Nuggets developers hoping to revamp local industry

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

HART (Oceana County) — Joe Prado and Dave Hansen have a plan to revamp the local asparagus industry. Last year, the two began marketing The Original Asparagus Nuggets, developed by Prado Food of West Michigan. The lightly breaded nuggets come frozen and are ready to serve after two minutes in the fryer. 

Prado, 49, currently farms 120 acres of asparagus in Weare Township with plans of adding at least another 100 acres. He grew up in a migrant family that would travel every year from Florida to Michigan, stopping at various farms in between and harvesting various commodities. When he was 8 or 9 years old, his parents decided that they wanted to stop migrating and settle down permanently in Oceana County. In 1997, Prado started his own farm operation, though he been farming before that. 

“My mother wanted us to be someplace that was safe,” Prado said. “She didn’t feel safe in Florida. She knew Oceana County was, by far, the safest and best place we would work.” 

Hansen owns Hansen Foods and Big Hart Brewing Co. He grew up in the grocery business, has owned three grocery stores and knows how to market products. 

“We have the best asparagus right here in west Michigan and every spring our restaurant customers want deep fried asparagus,” Hansen said. “It’s delicious but it’s also a pain to prepare. It’s very messy. Last year Joe approached me with this new product and I was impressed. It’s delicious. We started selling them to our customers in the restaurant and the grocery store and people can’t get enough of them.” 

Prado said he’s always enjoyed cooking and has experimented with different ways to cook asparagus for several years. He said this particular recipe seems to be a great way to serve the deep fried asparagus because of the right flavorings and light breading. 

One of the goals of Asparagus Nuggets is to provide a market for local farmers. 

“The nuggets are made using premium west Michigan asparagus,” Prado said. “Our goal is to be able to pay top dollar and to give the local farmers a new place to sell their asparagus. Ideally, it would be great if this became successful enough, that we can increase local acreage of asparagus again.”

Hansen said asparagus grown near the lakeshore has a unique taste. 

“It’s just better than other asparagus, even asparagus grown in other places in Michigan,” he said. “We have a chance, with these nuggets, to market west Michigan asparagus across the country and support our local farmers. We need these farmers. They are the backbone of our community’s economy.” 

Prado said the local asparagus industry has seen a significant reduction in acreage grown over the past couple of decades, due to trade deals that allow foreign asparagus to be imported into the U.S. at a lower price. 

“Our farmers can’t compete against these unfair prices,” Prado said. “It’s unfortunate because our asparagus here is much higher quality than anything you will get from another country, or even another state.” 

Currently, the product is not available on store shelves. Prado and Hansen are marketing it to local restaurants and hope to offer it soon frozen in a 12 ounce box. 

“We are hoping we can get more restaurants to pick this up, especially in the Ludington and Muskegon markets,” Hansen said. “This is a great alternative to preparing it in-house and it’s something that can be sold year-round. We also have had a lot of demand for it to be sold frozen for grocery store consumers. That’s certainly a top goal of ours.” 

Hansen Foods is located at 3750 W. Polk Road and Hart Brewing Co. is located at 4086 W. Polk Road. 

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