Extension Commercial Horticulture Specialist
Specialty crop growers experienced a wild year in 2020, with complications from the drought, derecho and the COVID-19 pandemic.
This trio of events served as a reminder for many growers about the importance of risk management and being prepared for rapid change.
While many specialty crop growers saw increased demand in 2020, they also faced significant changes to their marketing plans and customer base. To help growers prepare for the year ahead, the Small Farm Sustainability program with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is offering a webinar series that runs through March 10.
The Specialty Crops Risk Management Webinar Series will cover a new topic each Wednesday, at noon. Topics are listed in the January edition of the “Acreage Living Newsletter” and include risk management for perennial crops and vegetable crops, food safety on the farm, Ag Decision Maker Resources, weather patterns and management tools, farm finance and more.
The goal is to help growers mitigate risk, so they can prevent loss and prepare for changes in the marketplace, according to Ajay Nair, associate professor in horticulture and extension vegetable production specialist with Iowa State.
Nair said the challenges of 2020 underscore the need to think creatively and find solutions that lessen an operation’s exposure to risk.
“Oftentimes the grower knows the risk after it hits, and we want to help them get ahead of the risk, so that if something happens, they know how to handle it,” he said.
Nair will lead the Feb. 3 session on risk management in vegetable crops. He will talk about the ways to manage weed, disease and insect pressure, and how producers can diversify their marketing and financial approach.
He said specialty crop growers should be paying attention to the type and condition of their soil, the crops they choose for the soil, the integration of crops to help manage pests, and the option of using climate-controlled structures such as high tunnels.
Other speakers will cover the types of insurance policies and options available for specialty crops, whole farm revenue protection, and the weather patterns and management tools available.
Kathleen Delate, extension organic specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, will lead the final talk, March 10, on risk management for organic production.
Sessions are presented live, with time for question and answer. Register in advance at: https://iastate.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4orMZUc5RKCocj_6CLn5vQ.
All webinars are free of charge. Sessions will also be recorded and the archive will be available on the Ag and Natural Resources Extension YouTube channel.