California's small-scale farmers are producing an array of fruits and vegetables not normally seen in the standard grocery store, including heirloom, tropical, gourmet and other specialty varieties. But the challenge for many small-scale, specialty crops growers is getting their fruits, vegetables and other products into the grocery carts -- and mouths -- of consumers.
To provide growers with information about specialty crops and how to market them, the University of California Small Farm Program will host a Specialty Crops Conference Dec. 12-13 at UC Davis. The two-day event will include a day of traditional conference presentations, followed by a bus tour of Bay Area markets.
"Finding a niche is how many small-scale farmers survive and thrive," said Shermain Hardesty, an agricultural economist and director of the UC Small Farm Program. "Whether that means differentiating themselves by growing a unique type of fruit, or finding new ways to sell their products -- we want to provide farmers of specialty crops the best tools available to make profitable decisions."
Presentations will include information about new crops, including the latest field research on blueberries, Asian vegetables and pitahaya fruit, as well as marketing tools and market analysis for small-scale farmers. Stops on the tour will include the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, Berkeley Farmers Market, Monterey Market, the new Whole Foods Market in Oakland and Innovative Foods, a food processor.
The conference will begin 9 a.m. Dec. 12 at UC Davis' Activities and Recreation Center. The tour vans will leave at 7 p.m. that evening for an overnight stay, in order to get an early start on the Bay Area market tour Dec. 13. Though all seats on the market tour have been booked, registration is still open for the Dec. 12 conference, which has a $20 registration fee that includes lunch and parking.
(Note: News media can make arrangements to participate in the tour by contacting Brenda Dawson of the UC Small Farm Program at (530) 752-7849 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Conference registration and agenda forms are available online at http://www.sfc.ucdavis.edu/register.pdf. For more information, contact the Small Farm Center (530) 752-8136 or e-mail email@example.com.