You may own the horticultural rainbow’s end
If you’re a landowner, do you gaze out at your acreage and wonder, “What if I could do something with this? What if I could get a return on my investment?” You just might be able to, according to Dustin Coufal of the Williamson County AgriLife Extension Office. If you own a small parcel (less than fifty acres), you don’t have enough land for big row crop farming or livestock production, but you do have the right amount of land for growing vegetable and specialty crops. The market is hot for farm-to-table produce right now—and you can supply such produce.
As opposed to the large-scale row crops such as corn and grains, specialty crops are garden-variety vegetables. Grown on a larger scale than a backyard garden, however, specialty crops can benefit the landowner and consumer alike. Dustin points out that many consumers prefer fresh, locally grown produce. “We see this trend with a diverse population like in Williamson County and the Austin metroplex. A lot of people are interested in buying local. Specialty crop production provides an avenue,” Dustin adds. “For people that raise small acreage horticultural crops, there’s a large and growing market to sell produce in Williamson County. We have the Georgetown, Round Rock, and Taylor farmer’s markets, as well as two in Austin. There’s even one over by Barton Creek. So, while the availability to grow these crops is here, there’s also an available market. This can turn into an enterprise where producers can capitalize on their investment.”
Where should interested landowners start? One place to begin is your local AgriLife Extension office, where a demonstration garden nurtures crops such as herbs, asparagus, banana peppers, lettuce, radishes, and tomatoes. Dustin says that landowners can also attend clinics offered periodically, such as the Specialty Crops Clinic put on by Dr. Russ Wallace of the Lubbock AgriLife Research Center last February. In addition, the office works closely with extension specialists to help producers discern what would work best on their property, as well as varieties that work well in this area. Fortunately, because of Williamson County’s rich, hearty, and forgiving soil, many crop options are available. One crop that has been doing extremely well, especially during the warm weather, is peppers. All types of peppers like the heat, and that is something we have in abundance.
You may or may not possess the luck o’ the Irish, but if you live in Williamson County, you might be able to catch a horticultural leprechaun just the same.
For more information, visit williamson.AgriLife.org.