Small Farm Blogs
San Joaquin Valley production of moringa, a purported superfood that is typically imported to the United States from the tropics, might open the door for small scale farmers to break into a value-added business, reported Katrina Schwartz of KQED News.
Moringa is a fast-growing, drought-resistant tree native to the southern foothills of the Himalayas in northwestern India. It's young seed pods, roots and leaves are used as vegetables, says an article on Wikipedia.
Ruth Dahlquist-Willard, the UC Cooperative Extension advisor to small-scale farmers in Fresno and Tulare County, believes the product lends itself to value-added because it can be dried, ground and stored for later use as a nutritional supplement.
"I think there's a lot of opportunity there," Dahlquist-Willard said.
Typically, small scale farmers only sell fresh produce. But adding value - processing, preserving, cooking, etc. - can boost the bottom line. Dahlquist -Willard said expanding a farm's activities in this way may also make the family business more attractive to the younger generation.
"Kids who have gone off to college for business, marketing or graphic design might see a new kind of future for themselves on the family farm with a product like moringa," the KQED story said.
With this in mind, Dahlquist-Willard organized a free value-added workshop in Fresno for small-scale farmers, to be held Jan. 31 at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 550 E. Shaw Ave., Fresno. The workshop brings together local agencies that offer financing, small business resources and services for local small-scale farmers that will allow them to create a value-added enterprise on their farms. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with real-time adaptation in Hmong and Spanish. Partners include Central Valley AgPlus Food and Beverage Manufacturing Consortium, Fresno State, San Joaquin County Rural Development Center, the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, Small Farm Program, and the Farm Credit Agency.
Until recently, American coffee was grown commercially only in Hawaii. To make the most of their precious water, California farmers have begun experimenting with coffee plantings and producing beans that fetch a premium.
“There are about 30,000 coffee trees now planted on about 30 farms and that acreage will continue to grow during 2018 with programmed new plantings,” said Mark Gaskell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor who works with coffee growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. “Only a relatively small amount of the planted acreage is now producing, but the market interest and demand continue to outpace anticipated new production for the foreseeable future.”
At the Coffee Summit, participants will learn about new opportunities for this high-value crop from industry professionals. Summit topics will include development of estate coffee, coffee production, pests and diseases, processing methods and marketing.
Coffee is planted from Morro Bay to San Diego, with production concentrated in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Diego counties, according to Gaskell.
California coffee industry leaders from Santa Barbara and San Diego counties and agriculture professionals with University of California Cooperative Extension, University of Hawaii and U.S. Department of Agriculture will give presentations and answer questions.
Good Land Organics grower Jay Ruskey, who has been growing coffee in Santa Barbara County since 2002, and Gaskell will discuss growing coffee in California.
Based on their coffee variety research trials, UC Cooperative Extension advisors Ramiro Lobo and Gary Bender, both based in San Diego County, and Duncan McKee of Cal Poly Pomona will discuss which varieties are suitable for production in California.
“We are working collaboratively with UC Cooperative Extension to determine the best coffee varieties for our area,” said Valerie J. Mellano, Cal Poly Pomona professor and chair of the Plant Science Department. “Much of the California coffee is grown along the more coastal areas, but we are really interested in determining what will do well in the more inland areas, where it is a little hotter in the summer and a little colder in the winter.
“We are starting the second year of our trial and will be able to see how certain varieties hold up in the colder weather this winter, but we will not have any coffee yield data for a couple more years.”
Andy Mullins of Frinj Coffee, a cooperative of 24 farms including Good Land Organics, will discuss business and marketing opportunities for new California coffee growers.
The Inaugural Coffee Summit will be hosted by the Huntley College of Agriculture on Jan. 18, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the AgriScapes Conference Center at Cal Poly Pomona. Registration is $75 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and coffee tasting. For more information and registration, visit http://bit.ly/2jtXyFP.
Your coffee is from where? California https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/26/business/your-coffee-is-from-where-california.html?_r=0
Farmer breaks ground with California-grown coffee success https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/18-cup-of-california-grown-coffee-sparks-industry-interest/
Farmer Arian Williams is successfully tending 16 acres of avocados in the De Luz area of Temecula, but he and his wife came to the 10th annual UC Pitahaya Festival in August to see whether there is commercial potential in producing pitahaya.
"We're taking cuttings, and trying it now," Williams said.
Vanessa Caballero, Williams wife, was enthusiastic about the prospect. "I love the way pitahayas look, and there are not too many grown commercially now," she said.
The field day at the UC South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine included research-based presentations on irrigation strategies, gopher control, integrated pest management, and the impact of root knot nematode on the vining, climbing pitahaya cacti. Native to Central America, the crop has become popular in Asia and the Middle East. Most of the fruit sold in the U.S. is imported.
UC Cooperative Extension advisor Ramiro Lobo has found that the unusually beautiful fruiting cactus thrives in Southern California's mild climate. Pitahaya do well in regions where avocados are produced, but use much less water. They can also make excellent landscape plants, adding interest to the garden while producing healthful fruit.
Pitahaya fruit begin as large, showy, nighttime-blooming flowers, each of which contain male and female parts. In many of the most-desirable varieties, the anthers (the male part with pollen) and the stigma (the female part that needs to be pollinated) are separated by a distance that prevents night-flying pollinators, such as moths, from consistently making the connection.
For a uniform and bountiful crop, Lobo suggests hand pollination. Pollen can be collected by shaking a bloom over a bowl or trimming the anthers into a cup with a pair of scissors. He stores pollen in the freezer until the night or early morning hours when cacti bloom. He dabs up pollen with an inexpensive makeup brush and lightly swishes it onto the flowers' stigma.
“It's easy and takes just a few seconds per flower," Lobo said. "If you don't hand pollinate, you end up with fruits that are very small. And uniformity isn't there."
Hand pollination also allows farmers to accurately project their pitahaya harvest and work in advance with fruit marketing companies to sell the crop. Lobo said he carries a mechanical counter to click as he pollinates flowers. Forty days later, that precise number of fruit will be ready for harvest.
The UC system's goal to purchase 20 percent of its food from sustainable sources by 2020, one of the efforts connected to the UC Global Food Initiative, has already been achieved four years early, reported Scott Thill on Civil Eats.
The residence dining halls purchased 22 percent of their food from sustainable sources and five UC medical centers have reached 20 percent.
"I think our challenge going forward is realizing that 20 percent is considered a minimum-level threshold," said Tim Garlarneau, co-chair of the UC Sustainable Food Service Working Group and co-chair of the UC Global Food Initiative's Food Access and Security Subcommittee.
One way the article suggested to make more progress in sustainable food procurement is to purchase popular foods – like coffee – from growers in California, where the bean isn't typically grown. UC Cooperative Extension advisor Mark Gaskell said that he expects to see more coffee plantings and increased overall coffee acreage in central and southern California.
“This will always be a niche crop on small farms in California destined for high-value niche markets, but fortunately we have clearly demonstrated that very high-quality coffee can be produced in California,” he said.
Garlarneau notes that crops like coffee and bananas are better grown and sourced fairly from abroad while UC focuses on local sources for California-grown foods.
Systemwide coordination for purchasing higher costing food products (such as meats) that can meet campus and medical center specifications and demonstrate increased sustainability will require going out to bid to larger entities to meet the demand. As an example, Garlarneau shared UC's Sea to Table commitment to support small-scale fisherfolk to complement larger company offerings of sustainable tunafish and other seafood.
Sixty-eight farmers were interviewed by phone or in-person. Twenty-two percent said their wells had dried up, and 51 percent reported a decreased water flow.
“For the ones with dry wells, it could be $20,000 to $50,000 to drill a new well,” Dahlquist-Willard said. “A lot of them cannot get access to loans.”
To deal with irrigation water limitations, some farmers told interviewers they reduced acreage or changed the time of day they irrigate. Some stopped farming all together.
“One farmer told us he was irrigating his crops with his domestic well,” Dahlquist-Willard said.
The survey was conducted in conjunction with outreach efforts with Fresno Regional Workforce Investment Board and Jennifer Sowerwine, UCCE Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at UC Berkeley. The survey was funded funded with a grant from the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach and with support from UC Agriculture and Natural Resources via Sowerwine.