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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Specialty Crop Workshop Offers Production and Marketing Advice

ALBUQUERQUE - Small-scale growers can harvest a wealth of advice on boosting profits with specialty crops and alternative marketing at a free workshop March 31 in Santa Fe.


New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service is sponsoring the event to help growers diversify their products and the venues where they sell, said George Dickerson, an Extension horticulture specialist.

"Small-scale growers need to produce high-value crops like herbs, small fruits and specialty chiles to stay profitable," Dickerson said. "They also need alternative markets where they can sell directly to consumers, such as farmers markets and roadside stands. We'll discuss all of that at the workshop."

Specialty crops are well-suited for small farms because they generally require intensive labor to harvest and earn substantial profits with limited acreage.

"Delicate crops such as lavender and specialty herbs must be hand-picked," Dickerson said. "That discourages large-scale growers from producing those crops, driving up market prices."

At the workshop, Dickerson will teach how to grow and process culinary and aromatic herbs such as basil, cilantro, garlic, oregano and lavender.

Fruit specialist Ron Walser will discuss small fruit varieties that grow well in northern New Mexico, including blackberries, raspberries and grapes. He'll also cover new apple varieties tested at NMSU's Sustainable Agriculture Science Center at Alcalde.

Rex Franklin, membership secretary for the New Mexico Wine and Vine Society, will give an update on new wine grape varieties tested at NMSU's Agricultural Science Center at Los Lunas. NMSU vegetable specialist Stephanie Walker will talk about chile varieties adapted to northern soils and short growing seasons, such as Chimayo and Espaņola Improved chile. Joanie Quinn of the New Mexico Organic Commodity Commission will cover regulations for marketing organic crops.

NMSU agriculture specialist Del Jimenez will explain how to use cold frames to extend the growing season and high-tunnel hoop houses to provide substantial space for crops and equipment.

Dickerson will present alternative marketing techniques that include growers markets, roadside stands, direct marketing to public schools and restaurants, consumer supported agriculture and farms that allow consumers to pick their own crops. A panel of growers and retailers will discuss their experiences with these marketing techniques.

The workshop runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Santa Fe County Fairgrounds at 3229 Rodeo Road. Participants can preregister for $5 or pay $10 at the door.

For more information, or if you are an individual with a disability in need of an auxiliary aid or service to participate, call Patrick Torres at (505) 471-4711.