The Specialty Crops Program (SCP) will focus on crops -native and introduced- grown for human consumption that show potential to generate income for small farmers and producers. Specialty crops also can be grown for seed and nursery production, floral industry, landscaping and conservation practices including those essential for pollinators' survival. In addition to improving biodiversity, native plants could advance the ways of life of low income and other underserved communities by bringing back edible plants with historical and cultural significance. Many Missouri native edibles consumed in the past by Native Americans are gaining popularity but knowledge on how to grow them, what to harvest and preparation is limited or forgotten.
The SCP will promote nutritious plants that provide health benefits and potential income and ensure food security for underserved populations. Studies will be conducted on native edible plants in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team to continue the work done by the former Native Plants Program (NPP). At present, a big part of the SCP is to enhance the FINCA (Families Integrating Nature, Conservation and Agriculture) Project, created in 2014 with funds from a NIFA-CBG (National Institute of Food and Agriculture-Capacity Building Grant) by offering online and in-person training across the state and beyond, including international collaboration in El Salvador and other Latin American countries.
The Lincoln University - Cooperative Extension Specialty Crops Program (LU-SCP), through outreach and education, promotes specialty crops -native and introduced- grown for human consumption and for their value-added uses and products by growing them for seed and for nursery production, for the floral industry, landscaping and in conservation practices including those essential for pollinators' survival. Through the FINCA Project, the Native Plant Academy, launched in 2020 with funding from the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Prairie Foundation and others, this program works to educate and increase awareness about the importance of conservation agriculture that includes maintaining a permanent soil cover with perennial crops, mostly native plants, to reduce soil disturbance to help improve soil health and diversify micro and macro, fauna and flora.
The mission of the LU-SCP is to develop, coordinate, and implement high-impact, evidence-based educational programs in the areas of specialty crops including native and non-native species. Programs are offered online, in-person and one-on-one to assist the underserved and underrepresented populations in the state of Missouri to improve environmental equity and food security by increasing knowledge about growing resilient specialty crops to be used for human consumption with potential to generate income. This could help residents live healthier lives. This program works in partnership with local, state, and national agencies, as well as academic institutions and non-profit organizations.