As weather warms and days grow longer, California will start shipping a greater variety of specialty vegetables, everything from baby carrots to unique lettuce varieties.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is projecting increased acreage for California’s winter carrot production to 16,000 acres for the harvesting through March when the spring season starts.

That’s an increase of about 500 acres over 2008 and 2009 production levels. Bell pepper acreage also grew in California last year, up to 20,500 acres in 2009 over 20,000 in 2008, according to the USDA, and squash acreage was also up last year.

With production picking up this spring at Baloian Farms, Jeremy Lane, sales manager for the company, said core production is peppers, which starts shipping, along with a variety of other commodities, by mid- to late April.

Lane said production also increases as the weather gets warmer for zucchinis and other squashes, sweet red onions, and, toward May, yellow peppers.

No major acreage or program adjustments are planned, Lane said, as the company continues to serve a mix of clients from retail to foodservice.

“Right now we’re just going to be steady and maintain our programs,” he said.

Additionally, the company’s organic program, which is zucchini, acorn squash, spaghetti squash and butternut squash, among others, will also remain on last year’s level for acreage and volumes for spring, Lane said.

Ande Manos, sales and marketing for Babé Farms, Santa Maria, said spring means the arrival of specialty items like colored baby carrots and unconventional radish varieties ordered by many foodservice customers.

Manos said the spring radish pack is popular because it is available with nine varieties, and the baby carrots can also be packed in a range of colors.

“Their color really changes the produce section,” Manos said.

Donnie Blanton, director of sales for Sunnyside Packing Co., Selma, said eggplant is among the company’s big spring and summer commodities, along with cherry tomatoes, a wide variety of squashes including butternut, and bell peppers.

Blanton said acreage and volume will be in keeping with last year, though the company’s bean program will grow this year.

Sunnyside sold about 25,000 cartons two years ago and is selling more than 100,000 cartons now, with more retail chains asking for the product.

“Beans are one of those things that if they are good you get business,” Blanton said.