Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES -- New Mexico State University's commitment to maintaining strong vegetable industries in the state and the challenge that provides are appealing to Robert Bevacqua.
Bevacqua joined NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service as the statewide vegetable specialist in November and is already touring the state to set up a vegetable network. He will be in charge of monitoring and responding to the needs of the commercial vegetable growers.
"The highest priority is to maintain our chile industry," he said. "But I want to let people throughout the state identify their needs for me."
Bevacqua, who earned his doctorate in horticulture from Oregon State University, has overseen vegetable projects in Hawaii, California and Virginia. Most recently, he was an area vegetable agent in the Tidewater region of Virginia, where the Virginia Association of Extension Agents recognized him for excellence in publishing a guide about watermelon production.
There, Bevacqua worked to help farmers produce vegetables for well-defined market windows, including cantaloupe, sweet corn, pumpkin, bell peppers and snap beans.
In the early 1990s, Bevacqua was superintendent of the University of California South Coast Agricultural Science Center, where he supervised research on strawberries, avocados and tomatoes. He followed that with a term as assistant director of the Honolulu Botanical Garden and manager of a project to diversify Del Monte Inc.'s crop production to include potatoes and melons.
Bevacqua points out that vegetable growers need all the help they can get. "Vegetables are sensitive to market forces and they are not protected agricultural enterprises."
He notes that nationwide there are movements to grow alternative vegetables, despite the fact that it is very hard to start new farm enterprises, today. Spending more time on maintaining and enhancing existing vegetable industries will be a refreshing change, Bevacqua said.
The New Mexico chile industry just came off one of its roughest seasons on record and faces tough competition. A chile task force was established by NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences to face long-term problems. Onions have been identified by NMSU agricultural economists as the most consistently profitable crop in the state over the past decade.
Chile, onions and lettuce bring in the greatest dollar volume to farmers among the state's vegetable crops.
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