Specialty Crops

Specialty Crops

Surviving and Thriving With Vegetable and Fruit Production

strawberry plants

Just as fresh fruits and vegetables are part of a balanced diet, they are also an essential part of a diverse, resilient and secure food system. Specialty crops are produced on nearly a quarter-of-a-million U.S. farms, with a market value of $63 billion per year and rising steadily in recent years.

Although fruit and vegetable revenue represents a relatively small portion of the farm economy, these crops provide young and beginning farmers an opportunity to overcome barriers to entry by producing high-value crops that require relatively low investments of capital. Fruit and vegetable crops also offer row crop producers an opportunity to increase the economic and biological resilience of their operations. Introducing fruit and vegetables into traditional crop rotations diversifies the farmscape, providing new sources of income, interrupting pest and weed cycles, and conserving natural resources. Farmers who respond to the growing consumer demand for fresh, healthy products strengthen socio-economic bonds with local communities and improve domestic food security in the process.

SARE grantees are leading the way by exploring innovative, research-based models for fruit and vegetable production and marketing. In concert with land-grant researchers and Cooperative Extension agents, and with support from SARE, sustainable farmers are expanding production capacity and marketing networks through hard work and entrepreneurship to improve the profitability and sustainability of agriculture. (See the story, Financial Management Training Cultivates Farm Business Success.)

By the Numbers - SARE Grants on Specialty Crops, 1988-2017

Getting the Word Out

Crop Rotation publication cover

SARE produces dozens of educational resources on a range of sustainable agriculture topics. Grantees produce even more with SARE funding. Here are just a few examples that address specialty crops (or see all SARE resources on fruit and vegetables):

Print: 25,005 | Online: 92,106

Print: 7,223 | Online: 106,408

Print: 7,643 | Online: 21,921

Print: 3,461 | Online: 8,991

“Print” is copies distributed since the date of publication. “Online” is combined downloads and unique page views over a recent six-year period.

Visit the database of project reports to explore SARE-funded research on these topics.

Berries
strawberry icon 485 grants | $12.5 million

Grapes
grapes icon 156 grants | $4 million

Herbs
herbs icon 315 grants | $4.8 million

Leafy Greens
leafy greens icon 324 grants | $8.1 million

Nuts
pistachio icon 142 grants | $3.5 million

Other Specialty Crops
leafy greens icon 543 grants | $12.7 million

Tree Fruit
apple icon 493 grants | $14 million

Vegetables
peas icon 1,266 grants | $38.5 million

Total
2,431 grants | $74.6 million

Because some projects address more than one topic, the total is adjusted to remove duplicates.