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Lauren Ware

Farmers Raising Specialty Market Crops

By May 17, 2009

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Ever thought about raising food for a specific cuisine or culture? Have a local demand for specialty crops? If you have wondered about how other farmers are doing with their expansion to not-as-common herbs and vegetables, The New York Times recently published an article reporting that in the Long Island region they're doing quite well, thanks - with a few important caveats.

The article calls these specialty foods "ethnic crops." Essentially, they're vegetables and herbs heavily preferred and used by particular cultures. For example, Jamaican and African immigrants enjoy the leaves of the sweet potato plant. Cilantro is a popular herb used by several different ethnic cuisines.

There's a catch: these aren't the types of crops grown on dozens of acres. You won't want to rush out and plant ten acres or even five of cilantro. These are small-market, niche items. But grow a diversified array of popular local ethnic crops and you could see sales soar. The article mentions that the extension service is testing these crops and seeing how to get them to grow best in climates that are not native to them. Make use of your extension office; they can be valuable in steering you toward a crop that will do well in your area both in growth and in sales. Find your extension service here.

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