The Agriculture Opportunities in Missouri Hub offers a unique set of tools to help producers assess opportunities for 16 alternative and specialty crops. Designed as a resource primarily for MU Extension Specialists, the Hub offers everyone from lifelong producers to beginning farmers easy-to-use assessment tools that gauge crop opportunities based on:
- Local market opportunities
- Level of producers’ expertise
- Crop suitability in producers’ area (down to street address), and
- Available agronomic and machinery resources
“The site is tailored for folks who have never grown the crop previously; beginning farmers who want to grow specialty crops or something with a higher value. It boils down key questions people would ask an expert,” said Joe Parcell, Ph.D, Professor and Department Chair of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources (CAFNR) at the University of Missouri.
The site is made possible because of the 22,000 layers of data sets provided by the Center for Applied Research and Environmental Systems (CARES), a mapping and data visualization center at the University of Missouri. Few states have access to this kind of local data. According to Dr. Parcell, “If I was anywhere else but Missouri, I wouldn’t be able to do this.”
An overview of resources available on the site is below.
“What Should I Grow?” Crop Decision Tool
MU Extension crop experts were asked to list 5 questions they would ask if someone called and said “I want to grow [xyz]. What do I need to consider?” The questions are dynamic and dependent on the crop – scores are calculated based on answers provided. The icons next to each question link to further resources and information to help you determine what crop you should grow. Click the image to explore the Crop Decision Tool.
Crop Suitability Tool
The next step is to explore the suitability maps to determine if the crop is suitable to grow in your area. The area below shows Kirksville, MO, but you can type in a specific address to determine suitability for any area in the state. It’s recommended to only choose suitable or highly suitable areas to grow your crop. Check out the Crop Suitability Tool to see what crops will do well in your area.
Food Marketing Tool
Now, say you’ve decided to grow Sweet Sorghum and have a suitable area to grow in Kirksville, MO. The next step is to determine the market opportunities for your crop. The Food Market Evaluation Tool can help you get a general idea of opportunities in your area by providing demographic info, purchasing power of potential customers, competitors, and more.
Assess Your Management Capabilities
Once you’ve identified good market prospects, one final consideration is to assess your management capabilities. Are you able to fix broken down equipment? Are you comfortable with a debt/asset ratio above 50 percent? Are you comfortable managing labor? Do you have access to the necessary equipment? There’s a number of managerial concerns to address depending on the crop you want to grow, and the Management Assessment Tool will help you identify your strong areas and areas for improvement. It will determine your capabilities based on a skills survey and will provide tips and resources to further prepare you for your operation.
Agriculture Resource Guide
The Resource Guides provide additional information on certain crops, like Sweet Sorghum. Under each crop are specific production, marketing, machinery and equipment guides to help you determine suitable crops, plan, and maintain your production.