UC helps farmers identify profitable specialty crops

Mar 22, 2011

California small-scale farmers have an ally in their corner when it comes to specialty crop production - UC Cooperative Extension small farm advisors, noted a recent article in Capital Press.

In Fresno, UCCE small farm advisor Richard Molinar is working with Southeast Asian farmers on such crops as Chinese long beans, gailon, eggplant and jujubes, the story said.

He's also helping growers produce Uzbek-Russian melon, which is said to be more flavorful than cantaloupe or honeydew. And for the past seven years, he's been experimenting with miniature watermelons, another specialty crop well suited for small-scale production.

"We're taking a little twist off big watermelons," Molinar was quoted. "We're looking at varieties that growers can obtain and plant."

UC small farm advisor Mark Gaskell helps coastal farmers grow crops for niche markets.

"That's the kinds of things we do," Gaskell was quoted. "We get these things out in trials and get them in growers' hands."

The story said Gaskell, Molinar and other UC farm advisors are now working with Hidden Valley Salad Dressings to identify unusual vegetable varieties that will get elementary school students excited about eating right.

“We’re looking for vegetables that are not on everyone’s radar yet,” Gaskell said. “In some cases, a new crop is one that’s been grown by another culture for hundreds of years and is just ‘new’ to us.”

For more information the "Great Veggie Adventure," view the video below or see the UC news release.

View a 90 second video about the Small Farm Program
and the Great Veggie Adventure.

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist