- Vegetables: cucurbits
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Production Systems: general crop production
Winter squash is a delicious and nutritious vegetable. PNW retail winter squash sales peak in October/November and decline to April. Butternut makes up 1/3 of sales, spaghetti squash 17%, acorn and delicata at 12% each, and a diversity of other types filling in the remaining 25%. Regional wholesale squash farmers supply much of the organic winter squash in October and November but not thereafter, as farmers have not been successful in storing squash into the winter. Half of the winter squash sold in December, and almost all of it sold from January through April, is imported from California and Mexico. Consumers shopping in natural foods stores increasingly prefer local sources, so there is a local organic squash sales opportunity from December through April. Project distributors/retailers sell more than 200,000 pounds of squash per month in October and November, with sales dropping 80% by April. If local farmers picked up an additional 25% of the December sales, plus 75% of sales in January-April, they would sell an additional 300,000 pounds (8500 35-pound boxes). If sales volume also increased 20% from December-April, they would sell another 1700 boxes. At approximately $25/box, farmers selling to these markets would collectively gross an additional $250,000 each winter. These farmers wholesale to other markets that would purchase more local squash if available.
Smaller farms are increasingly focusing on winter marketing through CSAs, farmers markets, and restaurants as demand for year-round local produce increases. These farmers struggle to grow crops for sale in January through March. They have trialed varieties and experimented with storage to extend the squash season with little success as they don’t have reliable variety and storage information.
Identifying high yielding varieties with excellent winter culinary quality that are reliably long storing under fluctuating farm conditions is a research priority for these two farmer groups.
Project objectives:div style="margin-left:1em;">
Objective 1: Identify winter squash varieties that are profitable to grow and store for marketing from December to March in western Oregon
Objective 2: Describe taste (flavor and texture), marketing window (when they taste best) and best culinary uses (recipes) for varieties in Objective 1.
Objective 3: Develop marketing materials for varieties identified in Objectives 1 and 2. See Outreach Materials section below.
Objective 4: Engage farmers (and distributors, retailers) with results of Objectives 1-3 and other information on squash varieties, production, storage, sensory quality, and culinary uses.