November 26, 2003 | By: Haven Miller
LEXINGTON, Ky.

For Kentucky crop producers looking to expand or diversify, opportunities exist.  But evaluating which crop is the right one for a specific situation can be challenging.

Helping producers meet that challenge was the idea behind the New Crop Opportunities Conference held recently in Lexington, sponsored by the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

“We want everybody to have the best chance for success, so we geared this conference toward the economic and marketing aspects of starting a new enterprise,” said Christy Cassady, coordinator of UK’s New Crop Opportunities Center.

Drawing more than 115 participants from across the state, the conference featured several speakers who are growers with successful farm businesses.  One of them was Tom Larson, who grazes cattle and grows organic popcorn, soybeans, and barley on his farm in Nebraska.

“I guess the message I like to bring is don’t be afraid to try something new,” he said.  “I don’t mind making mistakes, but I don’t like making big, ugly mistakes, so we try something and if that works then okay, and we expand on that.”

Larson said he spent time traveling around Kentucky prior to the conference, and was encouraged to see crop diversity and market channels for certain crops already established.

Another conference participant was Jean Daniels.  She and her husband, Larry Martin, operate a successful blueberry nursery, farm-fresh, U-pick and retail operation near Edmonton. 

“Most of the questions we get are marketing questions,” she said.  “That’s really the big issue because a lot of times that’s where producers will get into something and then get stuck.  And they ask about grading, but with blueberries there really isn’t any grading and if it’s not bruised it nearly all sells.”

The New Crop Opportunities Conference also featured Betty Naugle, director of the Kentucky Small Business Development Center, who told attendees that new farm business ideas should be feasible, viable and desirable.

“Desirability means is it worth it to you, and that’s the one we focus on when we look at a crop because that’s what it’s going to take personally to make it worth your while,” Naugle said.  “How do you find out if it’s feasible, viable and worth it? That’s generally through the business plan.”

Other conference topics included sweet sorghum, wheat straw, bedding plants, green vegetable soybeans, hydroponic tomatoes, nursery crops, small fruit, organic grain and agritourism. The conference concluded with a grower panel that discussed the challenges encountered with new enterprises and how panel members met those challenges.

For more information on new crop opportunities, contact Christy Cassady at cgcass0@uky.edu, or 859-257-1477.

 

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Source: Christy Cassady, 859-257-1477