The Vegetable Team provides both research and educational programs for a diverse and thriving vegetable industry in Massachusetts and the region. In Massachusetts, over 900 farmers use 18,000 acres to produce vegetable crops and potatoes (2002 Census of Agriculture). The acreage of cropland in vegetables ranks third, after land used for hay and silage corn. The farm-gate, wholesale value of vegetables and small fruits ranges from about $2,000 per acre for relatively low-value crops like sweet corn or potato, to upwards of $20,000 per acre for high value fruiting crops or specialty vegetables. At an average crop value of $4500 per acre, the value of the vegetable industry is $81,000 million, equivalent to a retail value of $202,500 million. In addition, at least 100 farms grow greenhouse vegetables in 1,000,000 square feet of greenhouse space.
The Commonwealth has a wide diversity of landscapes from rural to urban in which farmers grow and market vegetables. These farms provide valuable open space as well as fresh, high quality produce to local communities and to the food distribution system throughout the state. Direct marketing through farm-stands, farmer’s markets, pick-your-own, and community-supported agriculture (CSA) accounts for more than half of the marketing of fresh produce, with the remainder sold through wholesale channels or for processing. Processed, value-added products such as pickled cucumbers and peppers and peeled squash add to profitability for producers of vegetables. Vegetable and fruit farmers offer the most direct contact that Massachusetts' consumers have with land and people who provide their food supply.
The UMass Extension Vegetable team is a multidisciplinary group including specialists in sustainable vegetable production, cover crops and soil fertility, IPM and organic management of weeds, insects and diseases, disease diagnostics, plant breeding, development of new crops especially for ethnic and immigrant communities (http://worldcrops.org/), education of new and immigrant farmers, and marketing. We work with other New England Vegetable Extension programs to produce the New England Vegetable Management Guide (http://nevegetable.org/). With this group and the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association, we organize the New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference (http://newenglandvfc.org/), the region’s premier conference for vegetable producers, as well as other educational programs. We conduct on-farm research and demonstrations as well as applied research at the University of Massachusetts Crops Research and Education Center in South Deerfield Massachusetts. We publish Vegetable Notes, which provides growers with weekly information throughout the growing season on pest and crop conditions, IPM techniques and recommendations. Current projects include developing new world crops and markets for Brazilian, Asian, African and Hispanic crops, evaluating perimeter trap cropping for insect and disease management in cucurbits and brassicas, management of flea beetles in brassicas, production of high quality Brassica crops, education and training of new entry farmers, cucurbit IPM systems, organic sweet corn pest management, Phytophthora and Plectosporium biology and management in cucurbits, selection of aji dulce pepper, evaluation of cover crops and nutrient cycling, and farm to school systems. Contact Us The members of the UMass Extension Vegetable team are available to respond to questions and concerns of commercial vegetable farmers. Whatever your farm size, if you earn your livelihood growing vegetables, please feel free to contact us via phone, email or mail with concerns on production, management, or marketing.