Seakale: Commercial Opportunities for New Perennial Crops and Climate Smart Agriculture

Project Overview

FNE18-895
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2018: $14,968.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Walking Onion LLC
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: foliar feeding, no-till, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, pollination, pollinator habitat, pollinator health, postharvest treatment, Perennial Vegetables; mulching
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: farm-to-restaurant, feasibility study, market study, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting, mulches - general, mulching - plastic
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    We want to  study one of the most promising perennial vegetables for commercial crop production, perennial Seakale (Crambe maritima). Seakale is an edible member of the brassica family, and has been largely forgotten in America, although it was once popularized by Thomas Jefferson, for whom it was a favorite spring vegetable at Monticello.

    As we have seen in our own nursery, grassfed beef operation, and business decision making, adopting new enterprises successfully into farm operations requires at the very least careful budget consideration, an understanding of best practices and cultural methods, and a viable market for distributing product.

    We have selected Seakale because our own personal experience, and the advice and research of experts in the field, suggests that it is the perennial vegetable which is perhaps the closest to “production ready,” in terms of reliability and marketability. In order to encourage the adoption of Seakale—and to build cultural interest in perennial crops—we propose to establish at least 3 trial plots at our and host partner locations, and work with professional research partners, and farmers to collect data with respect to cultural practices, enterprise budgets, and marketability. A crop guide like this does not exist in the US.

    Our Seakale Crop Guide will include enterprise budget, yield, cultural, and market data, which we will publish freely and distribute to farmers, service providers, consumers and food entrepreneurs through a myriad of channels in partnership with project collaborators.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our objective is to develop a cultural and enterprise analysis for Seakale in order to encourage its adoption into production, sale and consumption in the northeast. We will address the primary barriers to adoption by conducting research trials and providing outreach to farmers with our results: enterprise analysis, practices, yields, site preparation and establishment, best management practices, maintenance needs, cultural requirements, marketing strategies, environmental benefits, propagation and sourcing, as well as recipes for farmers to share with customers.

    If this project is successful, Seakale will become an increasingly common vegetable on farms, in home gardens, in kitchen skillets, and on restaurant menus in VT and regionally. Farmers will benefit in a number of ways: having a specialty crop that can be integrated into their farm brand which presents vertical integration opportunities, occupies a unique spring-time harvest window, doesn’t require frequent tillage or seeding, is resistant to common pests of its plant family, is drought tolerant, improves water infiltration, soil conservation, and may require less labor to manage. If this project is successful, there will be increased interest in, and funding for, researching more perennial crops for commercial production; and more farmers willing to integrate perennial vegetables into their operations.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.