- Author: Penny Leff
A guide for specialty crop promotion and education at California district and county fairs
Almost everyone in California enjoys our county and district fairs, but most people attending California fairs don't know much about local farmers or the crops that are grown in their own region. Many fairs and members of California agricultural communities are trying new ways to connect local farmers with fair attendees.
Specialty crops – fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, flowers, honey, and the products created from them – are a big deal in California. California farmers feed their local communities, provide about half of the fruits and vegetables eaten in the United States, and export their crops and products around the world. Fairs attract thousands of visitors from urban, suburban and even rural communities who have never met a farmer or visited a farm and often do not know what is growing in fields and orchards surrounding their communities. California fairs offer opportunities for the agricultural community to connect with these visitors.
In 2013 and 2014, the California Department of Food and Agriculture's Division of Fairs and Expositions collaborated with the University of California Small Farm Program to organize 20' by 40' interactive, fun and educational exhibits at four different California District Fairs to teach about local farms, crops and farmers' markets and promote fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, flowers and honey to fair-goers.
Project staff created a guide to specialty crop education and promotion at county fairs, based on the experience of the many farmers, educators, fair officials and community groups participating in that project. The guide is funded by a California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, as part of the "Mobile Agriculture Education Exhibit" Project.
The 22 page guide is available here as a downloadable pdf file:
- Author: Brenda Dawson
May 18 may be just another day, but it will be a busy one for the UC Small Farm Program.
That's because on May 18, the Small Farm Program will be in two places at once — hosting two educational meetings in two different locations in the state.
Before I go any further, here are the details in case you are interested in attending either one:
- Blackberry and blueberry field tour
9 a.m. – 3 p.m., Parlier
Visit grower fields and packinghouses, with discussions about field establishment, acidification, irrigation, harvest practices, postharvest handling practices and pruning. (The tour will be followed by a blueberry field day on May 19.)
- "Growing Agritourism" workshop
8:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m., Salinas
Meet with other agritourism operators, tourism experts and government officials to discuss marketing and planning topics. (This is the fifth offering of this workshop, which has already been offered in four other California regions this year.)
(See other small farm-related events on the Small Farm Program calendar.)
At both events, participants will be sharing research, swapping experience and networking, networking, networking.
When it comes to production, small-scale farmers can differentiate themselves by growing niche specialty crops — like blueberries. In fact, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors with the Small Farm Program (most notably Manuel Jimenez and Mark Gaskell) have been instrumental in introducing blueberries to California farmers as a niche crop. (Here's more information about growing blueberries.)
In marketing, small-scale farmers can often get a leg up on the competition by connecting directly with consumers — and agritourism is one way to do so. The Small Farm Program has been a leader in California agritourism for more than a decade, with a statewide directory of farms to visit (CalAgTour.org) and education about agritourism for farmers (currently managed by Penny Leff).
Juggling both production and marketing can be a challenge for any farmer — just like being in two places at once.