Specialty crops research is an essential part of the UC Small Farm Program. Small-scale farmers can often find a profitable niche by differentiating their products from more widely available commodities by unique quality, taste, appearance, or harvest time.
Small Farm Program advisors conduct ongoing field research on specialty crops, including crops new to California production. Some specialty crop research is conducted at the request of small-scale farmers who raise questions about new methods of producing certain crops. Advisors also regularly participate in variety tests aimed at helping small-scale farmers decide which new varieties might flourish under local growing conditions.
Below are some resources for information pertaining to specialty crops.
Choosing a new crop
- Market-Driven Enterprise Screening Guide
- This guide is a series of questions to help farmers self-evaluate their knowledge of potential new crops or products to their farming business. Co-authored by Ramiro Lobo, 2008.
- Determining What to Grow: Looking at Markets
Presentation by Mark Gaskell at the Specialty Crops Conference, 2007.
- Specialty Niche Crop Profiles
Presentation by Richard Molinar at the National Small Farm Conference, 2005.
Production costs, by crop
- Cost & Return Studies, UC Davis Department of Agricultural Resources and Economics
Economic studies of various crops throughout California, including costs to establish, costs to produce, and overhead costs.
- Cost Studies
A collection of 14 recent cost of production studies for specialty crops, co-written by Small Farm Program farm advisors. List includes various Asian vegetable varieties.
- Projecting Costs and Returns: Enterprise Budgeting (PDF)
Article explains how farms can use cost studies to budget for each enterprise or crop.
Specialty crop production information, in general
- Organic production and marketing
- Pesticides for specialty crops
Publication with basic informatin about pesticide labels, and registered pesticides for various specialty crops.
- Pesticide Safety for Small Farms
This 32-page publication includes illustrations and text, with steps to reduce or eliminate the risk of pesticide poisoning on the farm. Also available in Hmong, Lao and Cambodian languages.
- UC Integrated Pest Management
Information about techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties to manage pests.
Production information, by crop
- Specialty and Minor Crops Handbook - Second Edition
An array of specialty crops are introduced in this 192-page, full-color handbook, with market and culture information. Compiled with the expertise of more than 30 experts, the handbook was published in 1998, and also includes a glossary of Asian vegetable names. Sample pages and ordering information are included in the link above.
- UC Vegetable Research and Information Center
Vegetable information from throughout the University of California system, organized by crop.
- UC Fruit and Nut Research Information Center
This database compiles information about more than 45 fruit and nut crops, with specific publications, links and resources from throughout the University of California.
- Backyard Orchard
Additional information about starting and maintaining a small-scale orchard, from University of California researchers. Also includes information about specific fruit and nut varieties.
- Pesticides for Specialty Crops
A collection of articles that were produced by the Small Farm Center and by USDA. The articles are listed by crop and are all online for easy viewing.
- Agricultural Alternatives Free Publications, Penn State Cooperative Extension
An archive of brochures on an array of agricultural production options. Each brochure includes information such as planning, marketing, production and resources for a crop or product.
The Small Farm Program works with a wide variety of crops, not all of which are highlighted here. Below are some additional articles about specialty crops:
- Current Opportunities in the California Olive Oil Industry (2007)
- Olive information from Paul Vossen
- New Specialty Potato Varieties Increase Production and Marketing Options for California Small Farmers