Specialty Crops

Specialty crops are a division of crops that include fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts, horticulture, floriculture, and nursery crops. To be considered specialty crops, they must be cultivated, managed, or used by people for food, medicinal purposes, or aesthetic gratification. Specialty crops can include everything from apples, walnuts, and potatoes to Christmas trees, hops, roses, St. John’s wort, honey, tea leaves, rosemary, and maple syrup!

Benefits of Specialty Crops

Specialty crops often encompass fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other unique or niche products. Their cultivation frequently involves sustainable practices such as crop rotation, integrated pest management, and reduced chemical inputs, which can contribute to improved soil health and biodiversity. This shift towards diverse crops can also help mitigate the risks associated with monoculture farming, where a single crop dominates, potentially leading to soil depletion and increased vulnerability to pests and diseases.

Moreover, the appeal of locally grown specialty crops can bolster the connection between farmers and consumers, promoting a sense of community and fostering a greater understanding of where food comes from. This connection often leads to increased demand, creating opportunities for smaller farms and local producers to thrive in the market.

Investing in these crops also aligns with consumer trends favoring healthier, more sustainable options, which can further enhance the economic viability of farming operations while supporting environmental stewardship. Overall, by diversifying into specialty crops, farmers can not only improve their economic prospects but also contribute positively to their local communities and the environment.

Changes in Indiana County Agriculture

Indiana County Hub for the Advancement of Specialty Crops

The Indiana County Conservation District has created a hub to advance specialty crop production in Indiana County. Our grounds now house a greenhouse and high-tunnel, raised garden beds, various species of fruit and nut producing trees and shrubs, and a row of hops.

Products grown on our grounds are used to populate various community gardens in the county including the Indiana Community Garden, Chevy Chase Community Garden, and community gardens at various county aging services senior centers.

ICCD Produced Resources

Additional Resources on Specialty Crops

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