Emerging markets and their potential to affect Oklahoma’s cucurbit producers will be one focus of the 2006 Oklahoma Cucurbit Vegetable Production and Marketing meeting Dec. 15 in Chickasha. The no-cost event is slated from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Grady County Fairgrounds.

“As Oklahoma City and Tulsa become more international cities, demand for different types of vegetables will rise,” says Jim Shrefler, area horticulture specialist for the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension Service.

The keynote speaker will be Francis Mangan of the University of Massachusetts’ department of plant and soil sciences. Mangan has extensive experience with the production and marketing of the many exotic cucurbit crops used by various ethnic groups in the northeast region of the United States, and he will discuss production and marketing of tropical pumpkins for the large and growing ethnic markets.

Merrit Taylor, director of the Wes Watkins Research and Extension Center, will present a program titled “How the Increasing Hispanic Population is Changing the Demand for Crops Being Sold in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma’s Farm-to-School Program, farmer’s markets and organic produce are also on the agenda for the meeting.

“Due to recent issues with pathogens on vegetables, people are more and more interested in buying locally grown produce,” Shrefler says, which is something Oklahoma growers could capitalize on.

Cucurbit vegetable pest management strategies and irrigation scheduling are among the production topics that will be covered.

“Cucurbits offer gardeners and farmers a wide variety of production and marketing opportunities on both large and small scales. This event should be of interest and value to anyone who grows or markets pumpkins, melons, cucumbers and other cucurbits,” Shrefler said. “It is intended for all growers, ranging from farmer’s markets to produce stands to shippers.”

Shrefler requests that people interested in attending the meeting pre-register by contacting him at (580) 889-7343 or jim.shrefler@okstate.edu.