- Additional Plants: herbs
- Crop Production: new crop
- Education and Training: demonstration, technical assistance, workshop
Problem and Justification: Rhode Island farmers are always looking for new crops to diversify their farming operations. A University of Rhode Island researcher in the Plant Sciences Department has been researching saffron production at URI’s Agronomy Farm. After nine years of growing saffron in Iran and three years of saffron production in Rhode Island, he is ready to teach local farmers and Agricultural Service Providers (ASP) about growing, harvesting, processing, and marketing saffron. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world and could fit into the cropping cycle of many existing vegetable farms in RI. Small acreage is needed to grow saffron, so saffron could easily be grown on urban farms. Much interest has been generated by farmers and the general public about growing saffron in Rhode Island. Since Rhode Island farmers will be growing saffron starting in 2020, these farmers will need ASP to assist in their efforts.
Growing saffron is very different than growing most crops. Corms are planted in the summer, flower stigmas are harvested October to November, leaves continue growing until June, then plants are dormant through the summer until October. Plants are perennial and flowers can be harvested for up to six seasons. Growing saffron is much different than introducing a new type of vegetable or fruit to a farming operation.
Solution and Approach: A University researcher has science-based knowledge that needs extending into the farming community and to ASP. That’s what Extension is all about. Ag Service Providers and farmers will learn how to grow, harvest, process, and market saffron in Rhode Island by attending 2 workshops, one conference, and visiting saffron fields at URI and commercial farms in RI. There are not many ASP in RI since it is so small (50 miles by 35 miles) so it’s easy to communicate with all of Rhode Island’s ASP. To get ASP to the saffron education opportunities, they will receive email notifications about workshops and the conference, and also get personal invitations by phone and separate, personal emails. Saffron production in Rhode Island has received a lot of media attention and ASP needs to learn about this new crop.
Performance targets from proposal:
Six Agricultural Service providers will educate 25 growers in production practices, harvesting, processing, and selling saffron locally.