'Great Veggie Adventure' begins with research
“We’re looking for vegetables that are not on everyone’s radar yet,” explained Mark Gaskell, farm advisor. “In some cases, a new crop is one that’s been grown by another culture for hundreds of years and is just ‘new’ to us.”
The program’s five farm advisors will be testing varieties of rainbow carrots, watermelon radishes, party cauliflower and Romanesco broccoli. The crops are grown in a demonstration plot at the Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, as well as plots in Santa Clara, San Luis Obispo, Tulare and San Diego counties.
“This is another opportunity to highlight specialty crops that could be profitable for small-scale growers, with the tastes and interests of kids in mind,” said Shermain Hardesty, program director and Cooperative Extension economist at UC Davis.
Five schools, which each received a $20,000 “Love Your Veggies” grant from Hidden Valley Salad Dressing, will also be planting and growing the vegetables. The schools and the farm advisors will share their gardening and tasting experiences via blog posts, time-lapse photography in the garden, taste-testing activities and promotion of the program within their networks and local communities.
Now in its fifth consecutive year, the Love Your Veggies program is also providing $100,000 in funding to support the UC Small Farm Program as it identifies and grows these vegetable varieties.
Hidden Valley created the Love Your Veggies program in 2007 after a study conducted by UC Cooperative Extension researchers found that children in the study consumed more vegetables when paired with a moderate amount of ranch dressing.
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