Vegetable growers tapping into niche markets

When it comes to growing corn in California these days, it’s not all about dairy feed, or even ethanol.

One company based out of Salinas is betting that a food-grade corn will do much better than silage over the long run. CA West is growing and marketing a red hominy variety that is a staple in traditional Mexican dishes such as pasole.

“We saw the opportunity and we took it,” says Tyler Morgan CA West director of operations. “There is a very large Hispanic population in the U.S., and there are a lot of products they miss that are traditional and easily available south of the border, but not here.”

Traditionally, corn in California is grown for dairies. This year, growers are expected to harvest 190,000 acres for grain. That’s up 73 percent from 2006, the largest corn grain acreage since 2000.

Most of the CA West corn is contracted and grown in the Tracy area, where milder summer temperatures are well-suited for their venture into food grade corn.

“We had almost ideal weather during tassling this year,” says Morgan. “That, coupled with very little insect or disease pressure, is making for a very good outlook this year.”

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