Phase II

Increasing Grower Market Potential and Consumer Preference for Locally-Grown Strawberries through Strategic Extension Programming in Texas

 

Contact: Russell Wallace, 806-746-4052, rwwallace@ag.tamu.eduWallace phase 2 photo 1

 Leadership Team

  • Russ Wallace, Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center
  • Peter Ampim, Prairie View A&M University, Sustainable Agronomist
  • Juan Anciso, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Extension Specialist
  • Joe Masabni, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Extension Specialist
  • Larry Stein, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Extension Specialist

Project Collaborators

  • Prairie View A&M University - Billy Lawton, Brukendra Jackson
  • Texas A&M AgriLife Extension - Monte Nesbitt, Mengmeng Gu, Marco Palma, Karl Steddom, Angel Fattorini, Vikram Baliga, Laura Miller, Dale Rankin, David Rodriguez, Daphne Richards, Skip Richter, Barbara Storz, Daphne Richards, Keith Hansen
  • Texas Fruit Growers Association - Dan Rohrer
  • Texas Vegetable Growers Association - Ray Prewett
  • G&W Nurseries - Jim and Donna Goodson
  • Growers - Kyle Barnett, Natalie Borchardt, Jeffrey Braune, Barbara Choate & James Zeig, Debbie Cline, Louis Duffield, Larry Jollisant, Joseph Mezher, Robert Mishler, Mike Moser & Bekki Callaway, James Moss, Jeff Nickerson, Collen O'Donnell, Saul & Diane Padilla, Katie & David Pitre, Russell Prince, Byran & Cindy Pruett, Lynn Remsing, Debra Rodriguez, Darren Rozell, Tim Smith, Craig & Karen Turley, Franklin Wagner, Amanda Watson, Ronnie Wheeler, Diann & Milton Woods.

Wallace phase 2 photo 2Project Summary

This project brought together experienced and inexperienced growers and teamed them with county extension agents and marketing specialists to improve knowledge of small-scale strawberry production and sales in Texas. The project was designed to help determine whether small-acreage strawberry production can be expanded more widely across the state and whether growers are willing to take the risks of a new crop enterprise. The economics of high tunnels, plastic mulch, irrigation, pest management and other associated labor costs were calculated and correlated with demonstration strawberry yields and current market prices in order to provide an economic assessment of strawberries in Texas. Various marketing strategies used by collaborating growers, including pick-your-own and roadside stands, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), farmers markets and sales with local retailers, were analyzed to help determine which sales techniques are best suited to various farm sizes. This project began the collection of production, marketing and sales data needed to produce a "Texas Small-Acreage Marketing and Sales Guide" that will benefit growers and will be a companion guide to the Phase I publication, "Production Guide for Texas-Grown Strawberries." In addition, the major events of this project, along with grower and other collaborator interviews, were recorded, compiled and edited into a video of the Texas Strawberry Project: Phase II. The workshops, field demonstrations, field days, conferences and team collaboration helped teach and enhance sustainable strawberry production principles, strengthen communication between stakeholders, and alleviate small-acreage grower misconceptions regarding such an undertaking.

Objectives of the project were to enhance strawberry production in Texas using plasticulture and working with small-acreage growers; to enhance the knowledge and understanding of strawberry production in the state with County Extension Agents working closely with growers and marketers; to increase the competitiveness of growers by improving their choices of marketing strategies; and to understand the various factors that go into deciding whether or not to grow strawberries in the various climactic regions throughout the state.                  

 Project Outputs and Impacts

There continue to be high levels of excitement for locally grown strawberries in Texas because of  the success, exposure, and information generated by this project. The increased awareness of strawberries as a viable option for small-acreage growers in Texas has been a direct result of this project. Media outreach was fundamental in getting the exposure of the strawberry project to stakeholders across the state. More than 150,000 contacts were made through TV, radio, newspaper, newsletters, and blogs. Field days with on-farm demonstrations across the state were highly effective in getting exposure directly to other growers interested in strawberries. On-farm demonstrations successfully equipped growers with the tools and information needed to continue to pursue strawberry production as a viable farm enterprise. Ninety-one percent of surveyed grower-collaborators who participated in the project responded that growing strawberries was worth the added effort, and 55 percent of the surveyed growers have plans to increase their acreage in the coming season. For 60 percent of the growers, strawberries led to an increase in farm sales. Also, growers in areas where there is currently no strawberry production have expressed a desire to begin growing strawberries, which will continue to expand the acreage devoted to strawberry production in Texas. The High Tunnel Conference and Strawberry Grower Meeting were both well-attended, with growers expressing an interest in continuing the strawberry program in Texas. Because of this feedback, funding is being pursued to continue to support the growth of the Texas strawberry industry and to develop best management practices for organic strawberry production. 

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