Practical UC Course on Specialty Crops Production
What Has ANR Done?Since 1987, an 18-week course on specialty crop production has been taught by UCCE annually through Santa Rosa Junior College. This course involves three hours of lecture per week plus time in the field to get hands-on training in seeding and transplanting vegetables, pruning berries and fruit trees, measuring irrigation system efficiency and tasting various types of specialty fruit crops. The students range from young people with an interest in agriculture to existing landowners looking for alternative ideas. They are shown demonstration plots and working farms with most of the locally grown crops. The demonstration plots on chestnuts, mandarins, apples, oil olives and berries are used to show the students what those crops taste like, and also to demonstrate how they are planted, spaced, irrigated, pruned, harvested, packaged and sold.
Specialty crops course helps farmers get startedAbout 400 growers have taken the course and many of them are now successful producers. Specific information on berry varieties has helped the local berry growers stay in business by growing plants that tolerate our winter rains and produce early, flavorful, large-sized fruit. Marketing information has opened up new markets for farmers with specifics on how to set up a farmer's market booth, start a subscription farm, or appropriately package their produce for the wholesale market. The course has saved growers thousands of dollars by teaching them how to eliminate unnecessary pest control sprays and by demonstrating practical methods of vegetable bed planting with mechanical weed control. The course has established a good working relationship between the UC advisor and farmers who have taken it. There is also a network of past students to help new students.
Clientele Testimonial"This was a fanastic course that really got me started in the gourmet lettuce business."--Mike Steinberg.
"The Specialty Crops Course really helped us develop our organic apple orchard, which has been a great success." Sally and Mike Gale
Supporting Unit:Sonoma County
Paul Vossen, UCCE, 2604 Ventura Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95403 (707) 565-2621