Assessing yields of organic vegetable of small-scale producers in California and Mexico

Supervisor

Johannes Scholberg (FSE Wageningen UR)

Introduction

Jacobs Farm, a successful organic farm operation in Southern California, used its skills for developing niche markets to support struggling small-scale subsistence-level farmers in Mexico by forming the Del Cabo organic cooperative (http://www.delcabo.com) This idea of farm- and community-centered production supported by international market opportunities proved to be successful. This cooperative provides over 400 farming families in the Baja California region with needed training in organic growing, harvesting, and handling, as well as start-up funds, farming technology, administrative training, and consistent distribution channels—ensuring the best return for small-scale farms. The company is striving for a sustainable approach to agriculture, using sound business practices and organic farming methods. We are proud to have helped many individuals and communities prosper through an unwavering vision geared toward social change. The production planning and marketing of perishable fresh market vegetables for such large group of small farmers can be challenging therefore there is a need for planning tools to assess crop yield and harvesting time.

Objective

This project aims to develop management and planning tools to improve projections and production results for locally produced commodities in close collaboration with local farm managers in the Baja California region.

Experiences gained

  • Becoming familiar with a commercial community-based organic farm cooperative located in the US and Mexico
  • Gain practical experience with development and use of planning and production tools
  • Assess effect of management and environmental condition on crop production and yield
  • Become familiar with state-of-the-art modelling tools for assessing growth and production of organic tomato (e.g. DSSAT)
  • Gain experience with the use of the NDICEA model for assessing soil organic matter and nutrient dynamics
  • Interact with scientists at both Wageningen University and the University of Florida
  • Develop professional contacts and be part of a commercial network
  • Writing a MSc thesis

The thesis would take 6 months (1 month in Holland writing thesis proposal and developing a work plan and presenting the thesis proposal 3-4 months of field work, and 1-2 months of writing). Students participating in the program will do field work in southern California and Mexico and will also collaborate with scientists at both Wageningen University and the University of Florida on the development and implementation of simple regression models and more complex modeling tools for assessing fresh yield of tomato and other fresh market commodities. This thesis may also be combined with an internship program and based on qualifications students may be eligible for partial reimbursement of travel and housing costs.