Alternative Agriculture Strategies for Rural Community Sustainable Development Northampton County, Virginia

Final Report for LS96-080

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1996: $228,516.91
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $101,098.00
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Terry Thompson
The Nature Conservancy Virginia Coast Reserve
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Project Information

Abstract:

The keystone of this 3-year project was on-farm demonstration plots managed by a diversity of growers, coordinated with production, economic and environmental research to explore options for low-input alternative crops linked to value-added marketing and rural community development efforts. Sustainable production of crops coupled with value-added and regional marketing emphasizing the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s unique history and natural treasures offers hope for an economically and ecologically viable option for the survival of the historically family-owned farm. Initial successes include value-added marketing of Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ hayman potatoes and chips, new small enterprises with other crops, and community gardening project.

Objectives:

1) Establish communication network which explores and shares the benefits from and perceived barriers to adopting sustainable agriculture with growers on the Shore, reaching beyond the agricultural community to include other sustainable development and marketing efforts.

2) Identify and evaluate agricultural and economic opportunities including adaptation of sustainable techniques, identification of constraints, development of risk analysis, and evaluation of market strength and potential.

3) Facilitate implementation of on-farm demonstration sites exploring diversification.

4) Conduct research, analysis and feasibility studies to assist farmers in transition to alternative crops and/or technology and the production and marketing of value-added products.

5) Evaluate the success of this project by monitoring the farmers’ and the local citizens’ perceptions of sustainable agriculture’s role in this rural community’s vision.

Work Accomplished:

Agriculture and seafood have historically been the predominant sources of income for the environmentally sensitive Eastern Shore of Virginia. Located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay on the lower Delmarva Peninsula, the impact of land use decisions go beyond the farming community and affect the entire ecosystem and all local residents. Community sustainable development initiatives on the Eastern Shore promote economic vitality while protecting the environment and rural quality of life. This includes sustaining productive locally owned farms for the benefit of the community and future generations.

There is a vital need for crop diversification and value-added marketing to strengthen agricultural competitiveness and secure employment opportunities. An integrated, systems approach to explore this potential was developed at the request of growers. This approach examined production management, economic potential, marketing feasibility, new entrepreneurial opportunities, and environmental impact of both traditional crops and proposed alternatives. Both large-scale, agronomic crop alternatives, as well as small-scale high value crops are needed to promote environmentally sound, economically feasible crop diversification on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

This project used grower managed on-farm demonstration plots coordinated with site-specific sustainable production research, concurrent economic risk analysis, value-added market feasibility determination, ecological impact reduction, and rural community development to strengthen the role of the family farm. The participating growers were supported by an interdisciplinary technical team with expertise in extension service, sustainable agricultural production, niche crop experience, economic feasibility assessment, market development, sustainable community development, conservation, and socio-economic and ecological impact monitoring. The technical team provided support information, on-farm consultation of management skills for incorporating appropriate sustainable practices into each demonstration plot, and farm business planning and value-added marketing assistance.

An active effort was able to involve a broad range of diverse growers, including: from full-time to part-time farmers, from growers who own a family farm to those that lease land for production, from growers working at agronomic scale down to horticultural niche crop and market garden scale, from growers who employ farm workers to those who are themselves farm workers, from limited resource and minority growers to successful agribusiness people.

This project developed a diversity of grower-managed demonstration plots using alternative technology or producing alternative crops, within the context of the grower’s whole farm strategy and business plan. Despite the extreme drought conditions in 1997 and 1999 and hayman potato crop disaster in 1998, several of the demonstration plots provided important production information and enough crops for initial test marketing. This project has assisted growers in exploring economically and environmentally sound management strategies and improved marketing opportunities for several crops, including: hayman sweet potatoes, seedless watermelons, everlasting flowers, cut flowers, organic production, and deciduous holly buffer.

Complementary agriculture research station plots have developed important support information for the expansion of hayman production by additional growers. Economic computer model determined kenaf production was not currently feasible and identified conditions necessary to become economically viable for crop diversification. Coordinated computer modelling and research station plot production results identified fall broccoli and lettuce as potentially viable options. A interactive Excel file format computer model was adapted so growers and extension agents throughout Virginia will be able to use the interactive program to assess market windows and directly examine the impact of production and marketing changes to manage economic risk, extending the contribution beyond the Eastern Shore. Economic business analyses have provided information to support an entrepreneurial approach to niche and organic crop production with value-added marketing strategies as part of community-based sustainable development initiatives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Project Benefits to farmers and consumers:

The strength of this project’s impacts and contribution lies in the diversity of participating growers, the interdisciplinary team work of the technical team, and the connections to the local community. The project explored ways to protect productive family farms by involving diversification of crops, efficient production practices and value-added marketing strategies to give sustainable agriculture the necessary economic advantage and connection to the local community and environment.

The results and various “products” from this project have provided information, tools and methods growers can use to evaluate potential new enterprises which involve crop diversification and a transition to alternative agriculture strategies on the Eastern Shore. This project has made a good start by identifying production, socio-economic, and environmental barriers to sustainable agriculture and by establishing a network of local growers and resource professionals to share ideas and information. This project has also helped establish networking with value-added marketing and broader sustainable community development initatives.

The value-added, branded marketing of Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ Hayman potatoes and chips emphasizing the Eastern Shore’s unique rural culture and environment offers hope for an economically and ecologically viable option for the survival of the historically family-owned Eastern Shore farms. Crop specific “Best Management Practices” ensure environmental compatibility and consumer product quality as a pre-requisite to qualify for this marketing advantage. Other agricultural and aquacultural products also have a potential for this kind of marketing in the future. The publicity associated with the value-added Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ Hayman marketing campaign has also accomplished valuable outreach locally, regionally, and nationally related to the goals of this SARE project.

The Community Garden project demonstrates how sustainable agriculture can be incorporated into rural community development. The garden was started by this low-income community as a pilot project to produce mixed vegetables for distribution first to the community’s elderly and handicapped residents and then shared by the rest of the residents. The community garden has successfully fed about 30 people each year. The groundwork laid with the SARE grant Community Garden project is now in transition to a Community Farm project that can generate cash and income for the community and its residents, with the potential to include 130 acres for agricultural production and marketing through a community subscription program.

Lessons learned from this SARE project have been and will continue to be shared as a model for other rural communities, demonstrating a method where the transition to sustainable agriculture supports the preservation of the community’s rural life style and environment. Sustainable agriculture in general, and SARE projects more specifically, are presented to national and international visitors as a critical part of a landscape-level approach to community-based conservation.

The Green’s Creek watershed approach created an exciting landscape-level illustration of sustainable agriculture in action for farmland protection:

* environmental research in the agro-ecosystem
* best management buffer with potential for economic return
* hayman potato production linked to value-added marketing
* organic crop and livestock production
* and dried flower enterprise with niche marketing

Project Objectives:

1. Establish communication network which explores and shares the benefits from and perceived barriers to adopting sustainable agriculture with growers on the Shore, reaching beyond the agricultural community to include other sustainable development and marketing efforts.

2. Identify and evaluate agricultural and economic opportunities including adaptation of sustainable techniques, identification of constraints, development of risk analysis, and evaluation of market strength and potential.

3. Facilitate implementation of on-farm demonstration sites using alternative technology or crops.

4. Conduct research, analysis and feasibility studies to assist farmers in transition to alternative crops and/or technology and the production of value-added products.

5. Evaluate the success of this project by monitoring the farmers attitudes and perceptions of agricultural, environmental and quality of life issues and the local citizens’ perceptions of sustainable agriculture’s role in this rural community’s vision.

Introduction:

Sustainable agriculture is generally viewed as a range, spectrum or combination of strategies employed by farmers (Stinner & Blair,1990) and as an on-going process of replacing less sustainable practices with more sustainable ones (Hoiberg & Bultena,1995; Gardner, et al, 1995). Much research has focused on certain components of these sustainable systems (Edwards, et al, 1990). There has been a call for development and assessment of holistic strategies for whole-farm operations (Gardner,1995; Barrett et al,1990) and collaborative efforts actively involving farmers with experts from agricultural, economic, sociological and ecological disciplines (Rusmore, et al, 1995; Stauber,1995; Madden & Dobbs,1990). The results of a comprehensive assessment of grassroots agriculture research and education show the critical need to include marketing systems and rural development issues in Southern region research/education projects (Worstell,1995).

When implementing sustainable practices, there is a real need for site-specific application of technologies, rather than general adoption of practices developed successfully in other regions or from small scale research plots (Luna & House,1990). Various integrated practices have potential for successful application on the Eastern Shore. These sustainable strategies, however, require a higher information and management input (Hendrix et al,1990). The farmer is less likely to succeed without a method of insuring practical on-farm assistance during transition and the creation of marketing which rewards the use of environmentally sound practices. All components of this project’s combined strategy (grower-directed demonstration plots, site-specific production research, concurrent economic risk analysis and market feasibility determination, socio-economic and ecological impact analysis, and rural community development) were critical for success during the project and long-term, after the grant funding has ended.

Sustainable agriculture and local communities can support each other through purchase of local products and services, contributing to value-added activity. With flexibility in local community and agribusinesses, reduced input purchases typical of sustainable farms does not necessarily have adverse effects on economic and social trends in rural communities (Flora, 1994). Sustainable farms support development of local processors that add value to farm products (Chan-Muehlbauer et al,1994). Sustainable production of new crops or new uses for current crops grown with sustainable technology, coupled with value-added processing and regional marketing relating to the Eastern Shore’s unique history and natural treasures offers an economically and ecologically viable option for Shore agriculture, aquaculture, and community sustainable development. On-going research in Virginia is identifying alternative crops which have a potential for use in this sustainable approach (Bhardwaj, et al, 1995; Bhardwaj, et al, 1998).

Environmental concerns need to be considered as a component in the development of sustainable agriculture practices (Bendbrook,1990). On-farm management of fertilizer, herbicide and pesticide use is under scrutiny because of potential ground and surface water contamination (Schwizer,1988). On the Eastern Shore, several hydrological research projects have determined a higher than expected level of nitrate in the tidal creeks and groundwater (Hamilton et al,1989; Simmons,1988). While no data has been collected tracing the nitrate directly to agricultural practices, the prevalence of agriculture in these areas is used as indirect evidence (Sperian,1991; Smyth,1993) which then affects local perceptions. Shallow groundwater is the primary source of nutrients from agriculture and other land-use activities to the aquatic system on the Eastern Shore (Reay et al, 1992). Sustainable agricultural practices which involve better nutrient management strategies would improve the environmental situation and the community’s perception of the impact of agriculture.

Virginia’s Eastern Shore has a long history of low-intensity human uses and stewardship of the land, water, and natural resources (Badger, 1983). Soybeans and wheat are the predominant agronomic crops on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, while tomatoes, cucumbers, snap beans, potatoes and peppers are the primary horticultural crops (Virginia Agriculture Statistics, 1992). Vegetables are grown on 20% of the total crop acreage on Virginia’s Eastern Shore but account for over 50% of the total agricultural production, nurseries involve just over 1% of the total acreage but contribute almost 20% of the gross income, while soybeans cover almost 50% of total cropland and provide only 17% of total value of crops harvested (Sills, Alwang, and Driscoll, 1993). An estimated 75% of Virginia’s vegetable crops are produced in this area (Mapp, pers. comm.). There is a vital need for crop diversification with higher economic returns by Eastern Shore farmers to strengthen agricultural competitiveness and secure employment opportunities.

This rural community is facing many of the socio-economic stresses typical of rural America: declining economies, out-migration of youth, under-employment, no competitive advantage, and low capital investment. The Eastern Shore, a narrow peninsula of land with prime agricultural soils along both shores, ranks as one of the poorest areas in Virginia, with 9.4% unemployment, 27% of the population below poverty level, and 43% of those over 25 with less than a high school education (U.S. Dept of Commerce, 1989,1990; Center for Public Service, 1995). Agriculture and seafood have been the region’s predominant sources of income and employment (Schweke, 1991; Smutko, et al, 1993). In 1995, farm and agricultural services accounted for 14% of total employment and value of agricultural production (Center for Public Service, 1995). The economic agricultural contribution to this rural community includes other businesses such as farm-input purchases and local value-added products. For the Eastern Shore economy to grow, agricultural activity will have to play a major role.

The pressures of rising property taxes, often assessed at waterfront fair market value, increasingly affect the long-term land-use decisions (Badger, 1987). Because of Eastern Shore geography, the impact of land use decisions go beyond just the farmer and affect the entire ecosystem and all local residents. Changes occurring in the next few years will determine the long-term role of the family farm in the development of a diversified sustainable economic development program. Failure to actively include the agricultural community in this process increases the risk of unwise land-use decisions which, once made, will be difficult to reverse.

It is important that farmers feel they have economically viable options for crop diversification using sustainable production to insure the survival of the historically family-owned Eastern Shore farms. Widespread adoption of these practices, however, will require more than mere management. There is a need for additional profit margin through value-added marketing. Production of value-added agricultural products will create economic conditions that foster locally owned businesses and employment opportunities. Several community-based initiatives are in place on the Eastern Shore of Virginia to encourage economic vitality which capitalizes on and protects the globally significant natural resources (Northampton Economic Forum, 1992; Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore, 1994, Northampton County Sustainable Development Task Force, 1993, 1994).

Farmers on the Eastern Shore recognize the need to implement effective, economically-feasible management strategies and longer rotations to enhance soil fertility, soil physical condition, and crop productivity. However, they can not sustain their family farms with the current marginal yield and profit from monoculture acreage in production. There is a consensus among extension specialists that farmers need to be able to better evaluate alternative enterprises and market their product for the Eastern Shore to gain the economic vitality it needs to “return local agriculture to its historic level in a manner which sustains the industry at its full economic potential and maintains productive locally-owned farms”(Northampton County Sustainable Development Task Force, 1993, 1994)

Research

Materials and methods:

The keystone of this project was grower managed on-farm demonstration plots coordinated with production, economic and environmental research to explore options for lower input and alternative crops linked to value-added marketing and rural community development efforts. An active effort was able to involve a broad range of diverse growers, including: from full-time to part-time farmers, from growers who own a family farm to those that lease land for production, from growers working at agronomic scale down to horticultural niche crop and market garden scale, from growers who employ farm workers to those who are themselves farm workers, from limited resource and minority growers to successful agribusiness people.

The participating growers were supported by an interdisciplinary technical team with expertise in: extension service, sustainable agricultural production, niche crop exploration, economic feasibility assessment, market development, sustainable community development, conservation, and socio-economic and ecological impact monitoring. The technical team provided support information, on-farm consultation and management skills for incorporating appropriate sustainable practices into each demonstration plot, and farm business planning and value-added marketing assistance. Grower assistance with sustainable production strategies included: Production (soil preparation, cover crops, rotation, plant/transplant/growing methods, sampling/record keeping, insect management/scouting, weed management, disease management, inputs, field practices, equipment, time line/schedule/calendar for each step); Harvest (method, quality control training, yield expected, sampling/record keeping, time line/schedule/calendar for each step); and PostHarvest (handling, transport, packaging, value-added processing, quality control training, equipment, sampling/record keeping, evaluation and planning for next year).

At the same time, the research team helped growers assess the economic risk and environmental impact of the potential new enterprises. Market feasibility studies, whole farm business plans and new enterprise crop budgets were conducted with growers for crops of potential interest. Information was provided about ways farmers could take advantage of existing resources and infrastructure on the Shore to support expansion to value-added markets, such as the Eastern Shore Farmers Market facility (marketing with professional brokers), “Shore to Store” and “Virginia’s Finest” programs (with local grocery stores), and direct marketing to local buyers and at a new community farmers market (road-side style direct marketing to consumers).

Complementary experiment station research plots were used to collect important sustainable production information for selected crops. Replicated trials examined varietal performance, yield and production potential, and effectiveness of biorational and environmentally-friendly cultural practices. Analysis of results focused on identifying time constraints and compatibility with other crops already grown, thus developing the data base growers will need to make choices and identify solutions to potential problems.
The technical team also facilitated sharing of information between participating growers and with other interested growers and organizations on the Shore, in Virginia, regionally, and internationally (see Sections G and H).

Hayman Potato:
The hayman sweet potato is an heirloom crop unique to the Shore. Through marketing as a premium product, the hayman was believed to have the potential to become the “Vidalia onion” of the Eastern Shore. Compared to regular sweet potatoes, its genetically limited yield potential, variable size and shape, and extra handling, curing and storage requirements have prevented this crop from becoming a commercially viable crop using traditional pricing.

Working with participating growers, the Virginia Eastern Shore Corporation, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, conducted a major value-added marketing campaign for the hayman in the Mid-Atlantic region. Because it looks and tastes different, promotion of Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ Hayman as a premium product required education and development of customer recognition and demand. The Corporation also completed product development research to complement the fresh-market sales of haymans. A specific business plan review for wholesale hayman potato and hayman potato chip business was conducted, including economics, margins, marketing, and distribution.

Agriculture research station work helped to evaluate influence of cultural practices on crop yield and size distribution and develop strategies for insect management in sweetpotato production. The 1998 cultural study was planted as a 2 x 2 x 2 factorial in a randomized complete block design with six replications. Factors included bed height (raised vs. flat), method of planting (vertical vs. horizontal or 2-4 nodes underground), and spacing (12 or 16 inches). Single row plots were 20 feet in length. In 1999, three planting dates (May 18, June 2, and June 24) were used with 9 and 18 inch with-in row spacing.

Entomological studies were planted in a randomized complete block design with six replications and consisted of 3-row plots 20 ft long with 3 feet between-row spacing in 1997 and 1999. Garlic Barrier was included in both trials to examine potential for alternative chemistry and as an option for organic growers.

Horticulture studies included 48 plots in 1997, 36 in 1999 for a total of 17,280 and 12,960 square feet, respectively. The entomological studies included 51,840 square feet in 1997 and 38,880 square feet in 1999. Treatments totaled 11 in 1997 (Beauregard only), 10 in 1999 (5 treatments each on Beauregard and Hayman cultivars). An additional 16-17,000 square feet is devoted to the production of prefoundation Hayman seed roots. At harvest, hill selections are made based on earliness, uniformity, and attractiveness of roots with a large root set that are free from strings or unenlarged roots.

Agriculture research station also supported the industry by providing prefoundation seed roots of three varieties, including Hayman, for state foundation seed program. To promote additional growers and increase acreage while maintaining seed quality, the limited foundation seed program required some growers become certified seed producers. Agriculture station provided support and inspections for this certification business. This offered yet another opportunity for a new enterprise by growing and providing certified seed sprouts to other interested Shore growers for future expansion.

Grower managed on-farm demonstration plots:
1996: 1 grower – 5 acres
1997: 3 growers – 15 acres
1998: 7 growers – 21 acres
1999: 9 growers – 55 acres; 1 grower of certified seed sprout production

Everlasting & Fresh Cut Flowers:

Both annual and perennial species of fresh cut and everlasting flowers were grown in an organic and a low-input management system to demonstrate production, marketing and economic returns to small and part-time farmers and market gardeners. The organic system used natural mulch, organic fertilizers and manure and cover crops while the low-input system used woven horticultural cloth and drip irrigation system to manage soil fertility, moisture and weed control. Soil fertility management each year was matched to results from soil tests. An experiment station entomologist provided on-farm insect scouting to facilitate biorational insect control methods. The organic system used manual insect control methods. The low input system used orthene and dithane for insect and disease control only when economic threshold was reached.

Test marketing and economic analysis provided information about the costs and returns of the fresh cut and everlasting flower production and accessibility of markets to small scale growers.

Grower managed on-farm demonstration plots:
1997: 3 growers – 15,000 sq. ft.
1998: 2 growers – 1 acre
1999: 2 growers – 2 acres

Seedless Melons:

Seedless watermelons were grown in an organic and a low-input management system to demonstrate production, marketing, and economic returns to small and part-time farmers and market gardeners. Use of natural mulch and flail-mowed legume cover crop were used in both systems to demonstrate an alternative to black plastic often used as weed control in melon production and an integrated method for providing nitrogen and soil moisture conservation for melon crops. Soil fertility management each year was matched to results from soil tests. An experiment station entomologist provided on-farm insect scouting to facilitate biorational insect control methods. The organic management system used hot pepper wax and horticultural oil as alternatives to synthetic pesticides. The low-input management system used Diazinon and Bravo only when economic threshold was reached.

Working with the Agriculture Research & Extension Station, local horticultural businesses were involved in growing seedless watermelon transplants from seed, which required learning special management to get reliable germination and meet organic certification requirements. This developed local expertise to permit the melon growers to continue after the grant and demonstrated keeping the economic benefit from inputs in the local community.

Test marketing and economic analysis provided information about the costs and returns of the seedless watermelon production and potential advantages of organic certification to small scale growers.

Grower managed on-farm demonstration plots:
1997: 2 growers – 10,000 sq ft
1998: 3 growers – 2 acres
1999: 4 growers – 3 acres

Organic Vegetable Production:

The technical team sponsored organic informational workshops (see Section H) and provided technical assistance to interested growers in whole farm planning, organic production methods, certification application process, and value-added marketing and business planning. This outreach was offered to both growers managing a SARE grant demonstration project and other interested growers from both Accomack and Northampton Counties on the Eastern Shore of Virginia not directly involved in the demonstration projects.

Bayview Community Garden:

Bayview is one of the poorest communities in Virginia, with 85% of its 52 family dwellings lacking indoor plumbing. During a site visit, the National office of the NAACP declared the conditions to be “worse than third world,” and Bayview made international headlines. Bayview Citizens for Social Justice, Inc. was organized in 1992 to empower residents and revitalize their neighborhood. Every adult in the community has participated in planning meetings, self-help workshops and educational training sessions. Through a 1997 U.S – E.P.A. Environmental Justice $20,000 grant, with the assistance of The Nature Conservancy, they completed the New Bayview Rural Village Plan which includes preservation of farmland as part of the community vision and hope for economic betterment. A “Skills Assessment” study done by the community revealed more than 70% of the residents were experienced in farming and food preparation and processing.

A small community demonstration garden was started as a pilot project and learning tool to produce mixed vegetables for distribution first to Bayview’s elderly and handicapped residents and then shared by the community. The Garden Committee was assisted with garden planning for multiple season cropping rotation and intensive crop production. The garden was managed organically, with soil testing guiding a composting system and mulching for soil fertility, weed control and water management. They started with familiar crops which the community agreed upon: peas, sweet corn, several varieties of tomato, onion and lettuce, string and butter beans, green peppers, eggplant, and melons.

The Bayview Community Farm project is a top priority for Bayview Citizens for Social Justice, and builds on a strong foundation of local skills, abilities and interests. The economic potential beyond the community was explored with a survey to assess the potential of a “Community Supported Agriculture” local subscription program with the broader surrounding community. The expansion to a larger market-garden and farming operation as an integral part of their community development strategy is a real potential if economically viable through local marketing and value-added production. Economic analysis and business planning assistance was conducted to help explore this potential expansion.

Grower managed on-farm demonstration plots:
1998: one garden site, 4250 sq. ft.
1999: two garden sites, 1/4 acre

Holly Buffer:

A demonstration plot with a deciduous holly orchard buffer strip was established to test the economic viability and environmental effectiveness of an innovative nutrient management buffer strategy to improve water quality. This agricultural nonpoint source buffer was down-slope from a grower-managed experimental BMP (best management practices) field with traditional soybean-wheat rotation.

It was hypothesized that the holly orchard buffer would function in nutrient reduction levels in excess of a typical grass buffer, eventually approaching those levels typical of a forested buffer as the hollies grow. Because only the aerial portion of the deciduous holly is harvested, the perennial root system would remain intact within the stabilized vegetative cover buffer for multiple years to reduce both surface and sub-surface pollution, including soil erosion reduction. It was also proposed that the woody perennial buffer would provide an off-season economic return from an area traditionally taken out of agricultural production as a buffer.
The environmental benefit was monitored as part of a larger environmental impact research project for the agro-ecosystem in Green’s Creek watershed (see below). Production and management strategies were explored, but test marketing of harvested product was not possible within this grant time period.

Grower managed on-farm demonstration plots:
1997: 1 acre
1998: 3 acres
1999: 3 acres

Agriculture Research Station Plots:

Research kenaf plots were established in 1997 and 1998 in a split plot design with four replicates to examine the yield potential of kenaf as a fiber crop alternative for larger acreage and to determine the influence of planting date on crop yield. The main plot consisted of planting date with plant population as the subplot. In 1998, wet weather early in the growing season resulted in poor plant establishment that led to excessive weed competition and the fourth replicate was abandoned prior to harvest. Plot size was 9 ft by 20 ft or 180 square ft, with 24 total plots per year or 4320 square feet each year. In 1997, planting dates included May 7, May 21, and June 4. In 1999, planting dates included May 22, June 3 and June 15. Planting was delayed by cool, wet weather in the spring of 1999. Target populations were 75,000 or 150,000 plants/A. The kenaf was harvested on April 24, 1998 and March 19, 1999.

Broccoli research plots were established in 1997 and 1998 in a randomized complete block design with four replicates to evaluate yield potential of fall broccoli as an alternative vegetable crop for the Eastern Shore and to examine quality characteristics and identify those cultivars with high yield potential and heat tolerance. A total of 16 cultivars in 1997 and 15 cultivars in 1998 were evaluated. Twelve of those evaluated in 1997 were re-evaluated in 1998. Six cultivars were to be evaluated in 1999 in a split plot design with planting date (3) as the main plot and cultivar as the subplot. Plot size was 6 ft by 20 ft, with three rows of broccoli planted on each 6-foot bed. Total plot area included 7680 square ft in 1997; 7200 square ft in 1998. Plots were direct seeded on Aug 14, 1997 and August 11, 1998. In 1999, three early maturing and three main season cultivars were to be planted over three planting dates for a total of two plantings of each.

Boston and Romaine lettuce research trials were established in fall of 1996 and 1997 in a randomized complete block design with 4 replications to examine yield potential, to evaluate the influence of cultural management practices on stand establishment, and to determine effectiveness of cover crops in reduction of sand movement into the crown of lettuce heads. Treatments included either banded or broadcast/light incorporation of aged pine bark or composted peanut hulls, banded vermiculite (1996 only), or wheat straw spread over the seeded row. Three cultivars were planted in each plot in 1996 (iceberg varieties that were sent by seed company instead of Boston type lettuce). Esmeralda (Boston) and Ideal (Romaine) were planted on separate plots (three rows per raised bed) in 1997 and 1999. The spring 1999 study consisted of three treatments in a randomized complete block design with four replications. Rye or wheat established as a cover crop in the fall of 1998 and killed in March 1999 was compared to bare ground. Transplants were planted in a simulated strip tillage system. Plots consisted of 6-foot raised beds, 25 feet in length in 1996, 15 ft in 1997, and 18 feet in 1999. Total plot area in 1996 was 4200 square feet (21 plots). Area in 1997 was 4320 square feet (48 plots) and in 1999, 2592 square feet (24 plots). In 1996, each row was harvested in each plot. However, only the center row was harvested in 1997 and 1999 to reduce potential edge effects.

Watershed Environmental Analysis:

Green’s Creek, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, is a coastal watershed associated with upland agriculture activities, undeveloped wetlands and a coastal barrier island system. The water quality of Green’s Creek is controlled by mechanisms coupled to the watershed and the surrounding land uses. Several SARE demonstration sites were located within this watershed – hayman potatoes, holly buffer, everlasting flowers, and organic seedless melons. A soil and water sampling research project for this watershed was designed to document and evaluate the agricultural benefits and environmental impact of sustainable strategies that were implemented.

In order to understand the influence of land use activities on the health and productivity of the lagoon and coastal ocean, we must first understand the buffer zone that the watershed and lagoon represent. The volume of water exchange in Green’s Creek system per tidal cycle allows the nutrient composition of coastal water to be altered before it is transported back to the coastal ocean. Understanding the levels of nutrient enrichment in such a watershed will help determine the significance of terrestrial nutrient inputs into the coastal system.
Over a 3 year period, nutrient loading was evaluated with measurements of nitrogen and phosphorous (nitrate, ammonium, nitrite, and phosphate) at five groundwater and surface water stations in the watershed and of chlorophyll and plankton (total chlorophyll, fractionated chlorophyll, phytoplankton populations, rainfall, light regime, nutrients, salinity, temperature) at nine stations in the Machipongo River and Hog Island Bay. In coastal embayments not dominated by rivers, freshwater creeks influenced by groundwater and precipitation are the primary means by which nutrients are loaded into the system. Chlorophyll is a measure of the biomass resulting from primary production of phytoplankton and is therefore a fundamental indicator of the first order results of terrestrial influence on the marine ecosystem by water borne nutrients.

This research has far greater applications than merely a single watershed. The Green’s Creek nutrient distributions and subsequent phytoplankton production may be representative of other estuarine systems on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Northampton County alone has eight named and 13 un-named creeks similar to Green’s Creek flowing into the coastal lagoon system.

Economic Analysis

A linear economic model coupled with the Planetor(TM) environmental model (University of Minnesota) was developed to answer “what if…” questions for different options growers wanted to evaluate. This included expansion of a previously developed model to simultaneously analyze production and market information, resource availability, and realistic constraints on the whole-farm operation from an economic perspective (Sterrett, et al, 1996, Mundy, et al, 1997). The original model showed fall and spring lettuce, broccoli, and watermelons to be economically viable additions to the current crop production mixture on the Eastern Shore. However, the model imposed several restrictions on the amount of land that could be devoted to new vegetable production. Removing these constrictions allowed exploration of the full potential of such alternatives.

The new model was able to produce market window analysis to evaluate potential profitability, solve for different model assumptions and options to identify best crop mix and net returns, and compare potential environmental impacts for different scenarios. A mathematical programming model with general profit-maximizing framework subject to various constraints was used to conduct profitability analysis and identify those alternatives that provide higher earning potential. The market window analysis examined terminal market price data over 5 years from 4 terminal markets to evaluate potential profitability and risk of individual crops. The trade-offs between the economic value and environmental impacts of several scenarios were examined using PLANETOR(TM) computer program, after modifying the crop database specifically for the Eastern Shore and non-traditional crops not included in original program.

The Old Dominion University Entrepreneurial Center assisted two businesses with detailed business assistance and market analysis – Quail Cove Farms, a family-owned home delivery retailer of organically-grown fruits, vegetables, grains, meats and naturally-produced grocery items and Hard Shell LLC, a locally owned oyster aquaculture business. Feasibility studies were conducted for Specialty Cut Flower production and Organic Soybean production on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Cut flower analysis included overall market conditions, competition, and political situation with respect to international trade policies. The study also identified potential customers within 50 miles and barriers for a small grower to start a profitable business. The organic soybean analysis included production and transportation costs and expected yield figures to determine the minimum amount of acreage needed to be profitable. The study also identified available buyers within 400 miles and interviewed a current organic soybean producer to collect production, quality and certification information of use to anyone considering organic soybean production as an option.

Socio-economic Impact Analysis

Periodic technical team meetings, participating grower feed-back and periodic reports of preliminary production, economic and marketing results provided monitoring and documentation of project progress. During each winter of the grant period, participating growers and members of the technical team met to exchange results, experiences, and recommended modifications for the next growing season. In this small rural community, the participating growers also networked with other interested farmers and citizens to share the goals of the whole project, the methods being developed, and results to date. Community program participant statistics were collected to evaluate and monitor the extent of information dissemination and outreach associated with the project on the broader community.

A long and short survey tool was developed to measure attitudes toward and perceptions of the barriers to adopting sustainable agriculture on the Eastern Shore as part of our educational evaluation. Participating growers provided base-line information about their concerns, expectations from the project, and visions for their farm operations and rural community after implementation. Data was collected beyond the participating growers at the January 1997 & 1998 Eastern Shore Agriculture Conference. While the number of growers on the Shore would not provide a statistically significant sampling base, follow-up data collection with the interview would document any trends and changes in perceptions about these issues at the end of this three year grant project. (See results in Section H: Education and Outreach.)

Research results and discussion:

This project included a diverse group of grower-managed demonstration plots using alternative technology or producing alternative crops, within the context of the grower’s whole farm strategy and business plan. Despite the extreme drought conditions in 1997 and 1999 and hayman potato crop disaster in 1998, several of the demonstration plots provided important production information and enough crops for initial test marketing. This project has assisted growers in exploring economically and environmentally sound management strategies and improved marketing opportunities for several crops, including hayman sweet potatoes, organic seedless watermelons, and everlasting and cut flowers. Complementary agriculture research station plots have developed important support information for the expansion of hayman production by additional growers and varietal information for more traditional broccoli and lettuce crops, and experimental feasibility information for a non-traditional kenaf crop. Economic analysis, including interactive economic computer model and grower or crop specific business and market feasibility studies, have provided information to support an entrepreneurial approach to value-added marketing strategies as part of community-based sustainable development initiatives on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Hayman Potato:

A joint effort between growers, the Corporation and Eastern Shore Agriculture Research & Extension Center developed hayman “Best Management Practices” as a pre-requisite to qualify for this value-added, branded marketing of Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ haymans. These BMPs (see appendix III) included lower input and environmental impact strategies and specific practices for harvesting and storing haymans.

Current wholesale market development and distribution of the Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ haymans has expanded from 1996-97 with one retail grocery chain/13 stores in two states to 1999 with 6 retail grocery chains/245 stores in 9 states. The pounds of haymans marketed were 14,000 in 1996-97, 13,000 in 1997-98, and 70,000 in 1998-99, with final harvest figures unavailable for this year.

To expand market season beyond fresh market and explore value-added shelf-stable hayman food products, 1998-99 included production, marketing and distribution of Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ Hayman chips in 12 lb. tubs. The 1999-2000 season includes tubs and expansion to Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ Haymans chips in 5 oz. bags. The tubs are being distributed by direct-mail-order through publicity, Internet and specialty food distributors and the chips will also be tested in retail markets.

This branded Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ haymans marketing campaign and product development research includes many results (see samples in appendix III):

* terminal market research to determine optimum “Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢” size classification, which overlaps rather than corresponds directly with traditional size classes (US#1, canner, and jumbo) for sweet potatoes.
* development of hayman soup recipes for future value-added product expansion possibility, although market research indicated it was not economical profitable at this time
* hayman chip production/taste/quality testing, including different oils used and potato storage times
* nutritional analysis for “Nutrition Facts” labeling in accordance with NLEA 1990 and Federal Register specifications Vol 58, No.3, Jan. 6, 1993
* “Virginia’s Finest” Trademark Program standards for hayman sweetpotatoes determined by industry and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s Division of Marketing
* application for PLU (product look-up number), to assist retail stores in proper pricing at check-out; application denied due to small area and acreage of production, but encouraged to reapply in future
* production of store promotional materials: recipe cards, in-store signs, individually branded (stickers) potatoes , press kits mailed to food editors in store advertising area
* grocery in-store customer taste sampling for major retailers
* restaurant menu development for press luncheon in each city with new market introduction (Red Sage, Washington D.C., Nov. 14, 1996; Brasserie Perrier, Philadelphia PA, Dec. 15, 1997; Gramercy Tavern, NY, NY, Nov. 11, 1998; Salamander’s, Boston MA, Dec. 7, 1998),
* new market exploration with Internet Web page
* development of chip tubs and bags designs

A highly visible hayman demonstration plot in 1998 & 1999 offered opportunity to share the project with the local community and enlist additional growers for future expansion. A Hayman field day on Oct. 12, 1998 with 18 participants included: on-farm discussions of production and management – past, present and future; research station discussion of insect management, foundation seed program & hayman planting study; lunch meeting sharing economic potential of value-added marketing and opportunities for expansion. During 1998, when several growers new to hayman production joined the program, a grower-support informational newsletter series, “Hayman Heads Up!” was edited and produced by the Corporation and the Conservancy (see appendix III). This newsletter was shared with all participating hayman growers and others interested in the new enterprise. They will continue to provide a concise source of hayman-specific information for new growers in the future. A hayman crop budget was developed to help growers considering this new enterprise (see appendix III).

Results from Agriculture Research & Extension cultural and entomological studies provided important grower support information (see appendix III). None of the cultural manipulations (bed height, vertical or horizontal sprout root planting, and spacing) have consistently resulted in increased marketable yield of Hayman. The early planting in 1999 was significantly lower in US#1 size roots compared to later plantings. This may be due, in part, to the deer feeding on the foliage early in the season when food was scarce or because of the cooler temperature that prevailed early in the vegetative growth stage.

Several combinations of pre-plant and layby treatments (including Lorsban 4 EC + Garlic Barrier) resulted in a lower percentage of damaged roots than the check in 1997. In 1999, using Garlic Barrier alone resulted in insect injury similar to the untreated check. G Lorsban + Garlic Barrier was less effective than other combinations in the 1999 trial. This damage results in unmarketable product, often even for chip production, so a viable alternative needs to be found before organic production of haymans becomes feasible.

Prefoundation seed roots given to the foundation seed grower resulted in 88 bu (50 lb.) of Hayman foundation seed available to local growers in 1997; 115 bu in 1998 and 93 bu in 1999. Foundation seed sprout used directly in market production fields produces a bottleneck for acreage expansion. An educational effort was made to explain the prefoundation-foundation-certified seed program to growers and marketers (see appendix III). One grower is expanding his enterprise to grow certified seed for certified sprout sales to other interested Shore growers. In the future, this may permit increased acreage by current growers or expansion to new growers, while protecting the genetic quality of the hayman crop. Availability of facilities for high quality curing and storage is another limiting factor. The Nature Conservancy was able to commit and adapt some farm buildings on one of its seaside farms specifically for this use by two different growers in the 1999 season.

The publicity associated with the value-added Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ Hayman marketing campaign has also accomplished valuable education and outreach locally, regionally, and nationally related to the goals of this SARE project (see sections G & H). The marketing of Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ hayman chips has also provided an opportunity for complementary marketing of another SARE demonstration product – everlasting flowers. The dried flower grower was able to produce small dried-flower bouquets (1500 in 1998; 4,000 projected for 1999) which are included in every tub shipment of Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ hayman chips. A gift tag tells the story of the SARE project, how hayman chips and dried flowers are adding value to crops grown using sustainable methods, and how consumer’s purchase is helping find creative ways to save the family farms that protect the unique natural ecosystem of the Eastern Shore (see appendix III).

Everlasting & Cut Flower:

The annual and perennial everlasting flower demonstration plot has provided an apparently viable new business opportunity as a second income for the participating grower. The grower increased production acreage cautiously, with business planning to avoid expanding too quickly. A technical team charette explored feasibility of coupling the dried flower enterprise to other marketing and separate value-added local enterprises, resulting in the linkage to Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ hayman chips mentioned above. The grower was able to develop some local and regional wholesale market contacts, with one potentially developing into an almost sole-buyer arrangement in the future. The grower was also able to market some of the flowers as fresh-cut to local florist shops.

The on-farm dried flower demonstration field day in 1997 taught interested people about specific everlasting species, production requirements (spacing, fertilization and irrigation, insect and disease problems, etc.), stage of harvest, bunch size for marketing, and drying requirements. Dried flower species included: celosia, yarrow, tansy, artemesia, sweet annie, strawflowers, annual statice, german statice, echinops, salvia, lavender, gypsophilia perfecta, globe amaranth, split personality amaranth, helipterum, xerathemum, ammobium, craspedia, lonas, nigella, pearl millet, chile peppers.

The cut flower demonstration grower was able, after an unsuccessful first year, to discover the production and management strategies for delphinium which would permit production specifically adapted to the Eastern Shore. Bed preparation was most important, to avoid hard pan which can easily occur with Eastern Shore soils. Good root establishment in fall transplants before winter and sufficient mulching to keep roots cool in spring/summer produced good results. The expected spring bloom in May produced short stems, but mulching and management into summer produced marketable 3 to 4 foot flower stems in June. Varietal trial demonstration plot of sunflowers has been coupled with customer feed-back market research and post-harvest quality determination. The two red sunflower varieties were in most market demand. Pollen drop was the biggest customer complaint from regular species, however, the non-pollen varieties would wilt too quickly. Of 10 put in water, 2 would wilt the first day, 3 the next and only 2 would last beyond that. Repeat customers were difficult to cultivate with this quick wilting. The grower will probably keep prado red sunflower as part of the whole farm product mix and would like to experiment with searing stems to seal the bottom. Research into why some flowers wilt and others don’t would be useful. Their part-time family flower farm operation may eventually expand into a full-time enterprise.

This grower has completed organic certification, 5 year business planning, conservation and wildlife habitat enhancement on farm, and is conducting direct marketing, including home delivery, special events, and road-side “day-old” sales. Cut flower species included: delphinium, larkspur, gladioullus, sunflower (variety trials – sundance kid, valentine, sonja, italian white, tohoku yae, sunbeam, prado red, pacino, velvet queen, autumn beauty).

Outreach helped develop community interest in this area, as demonstrated by local participation in sponsored programs (see section H) and development of networks with local artisans, garden clubs, and community-based groups. The filled-to-capacity dried flower arranging workshops, using this grower’s and another local flower farm’s crop, allowed participants to make their own dried flower arrangements or wreaths and learn how they could purchase more flowers locally to support sustainable agriculture The fee charged payed for most of materials, demonstrating a potential outlet for future direct marketing if participation would not decrease with a fee increase. Both the fresh and dry flower growers were able to successfully market some of their product at the newly established Nassawadox Farmer’s Market. Sample crop budgets were developed for both everlasting and cut flowers and may be useful to an entrepreneur considering this as a new enterprise (see appendix III).

Seedless Melons:

Grower records from the part-time grower managed seedless watermelon demonstration plots (low-input and organic) indicate an average of 95% survival of transplants with 43% of the plants producing marketable product. Production results from different growers on different years indicated the critical need for proper irrigation.

Marketing remains the biggest concern, with 63-70% of the crop being marketed successfully. The organic seedless watermelon grower was able to conduct local and regional test marketing, receiving a per-pound price advantage from organic certification. Premium price averaged from $2 to $4 organic versus $.50 to $1 for non-organic. “Test Marketing of Seedless Watermelons in Ukrop’s Supermarkets” by A. Hankins, (see section G and appendix I) provided growers with vital information about consumer demands, transportation costs, and specific retailer details like use of PLU stickers, delivery bins, etc. Large tomato plasticulture production agri-businesses on the Eastern Shore also produced seedless watermelons in the second year of the demonstration plots, creating a local road-side market glut by field laborers. This made local market development more difficult than anticipated for this crop when first selected as a SARE demonstration product.

Sample crop budgets were prepared for organic and low-input watermelon production (see appendix III). The budgets are a multi-year, multi-grower compilation and average, so they are intended only as a guide for an entrepreneur interested in this as a new enterprise. The inclusion of both low-input and organic seedless watermelon production demonstration plots provided important comparative production and economic information. An informational extension publication on “Organic Production of Watermelons” was also produced by A. Hankins during this grant project (see appendix III). It explains organically certifiable insect, disease and weed control and fertilization strategies, which will be useful for anyone else considering this enterprise.

Organic Vegetable Production:

Five growers obtained Virginia State Organic Certification for their farms during this project. Other growers were managing organically without certification. Organic crops included seedless watermelons, mixed vegetable and herb production, cut flowers, soybean, wheat, and organic pastured natural beef production.

Business analysis for Quail Cove Farm showed that their business has the potential to become a high-volume, vertically-integrated, source-based, “farm-centered” provider of organically-grown and naturally-produced grocery items to an ever-expanding customer base (see appendix III). They have a solid base of intensely loyal customers, home-schooled families scattered throughout Washington D.C., Virginia, and Maryland. They are unique in also offering home-delivery via a network of volunteer “host homes.”

Quail Cove Farm has provided a vital marketing link for the other organically certified and organically growing farmers involved in this SARE project. They and another organic buyer in Virginia Beach have provided value-added pricing for seedless watermelons (up to $4 per melon compared to $1 to $2 per melon), natural beef, soybeans, wheat (up to $4 per bushel compared to $2 per bushel ), and other vegetables grown by these growers.

The economic analysts on the technical team feel this success demonstrates the need to further explore and develop marketing efforts on the Eastern Shore of Virginia for the individual middle man – flexible and personal distribution systems. They believe these are the systems that can handle specialty and value-added products by exploiting a personal client base with very specific purchasing needs and wants. By limiting the number of people and profits involved between the farming and the retailing stage, the system allows for better margins and control for the limited number of parties involved and better quality product for the end consumer.

Bayview Community Garden:

The Community Garden harvest has been very successful, feeding about 30 people in the community each year. The garden also provided valuable organizational information by determining the residents’ ability and willingness to plan and operate the community garden and distribute the vegetables. They also identified equipment needs and established a partnership with local farmers and agri-business to contract for services beyond the scope of community labor.

Crop data spreadsheets, garden layout diagrams, garden tasks calendar with linkages to other community events, and plant-harvest table with successional plantings were developed to guide the community garden management (see appendix III). The spreadsheets and tables were developed into a linked Excel computer file so changes and future planning will be easy. The technical team also provided assistance during all stages of garden management. A research review of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) models was conducted to help the community consider its options for organization and expansion.

The “Economy…Sustainable Agriculture… and You!!” survey was distributed with 650 “Shoreline” newsletters by a local grass-roots organization, Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore (see appendix III). Bayview Citizens for Social Justice received about 12% response from the mailing. The results indicated 55% of the respondents were willing to pick up their own produce, 33% were interested in more information, and 41 % were interested in attending an organizational meeting. The average family size was 2.1 people. The top six crops preferred by respondents were: strawberries, tomatoes, asparagus, sweet corn, leaf lettuce and cantaloupe (see appendix III). In response to these results and community interest, economic analysis of strawberry and asparagus establishment costs and marketing potential was completed to help the community make decisions for best use of limited resources (see appendix III).

Bayview Citizens for Social Justice now has a mailing list of over 75 potential customers for a subscription-type program. Additional surveys continue to come in slowly. Other partnering grass-roots organizations’ membership can also be surveyed in the future. The results also indicate the need to reconsider the crops produced, since the survey results differed some from the community selected initial plantings.

The Nature Conservancy and Bayview Citizens for Social Justice has just received a $40,000 General Motors Community-Based Conservation Fellowship Grant to implement a working example of community-based conservation and grass-roots compatible development on a large scale commercial farm operation. The groundwork laid with the SARE grant community garden project was instrumental in successfully competing with other communities across the country for this community-based conservation grant. The new grant will help with the transition from the small community demonstration garden supported by this SARE grant. On the larger scale, there is also potential for linking to the hayman value-added marketing (above) since several residents have previous experience in labor required for hand-planting and -harvesting haymans.

The Bayview Citizens for Social Justice leadership is also experienced in, and skilled at, communicating their experiences and inspiring others with the benefits of compatible economic development and community-based conservation. They have already inspired another nearby community, Sunnyside, to start its own small community garden in the spring of 1999. They will continue to participate in outreach to the local community, state and national agencies and organizations.

Holly Buffer:

Because of the time required to produce marketable holly berry stems when starting with bare-root or small pot plants, we were unable to test market product during this grant period. A deciduous holly buffer budget compiled from grower-managed records includes only cost of establishment (see appendix III). Some regional test marketing has been done and can be conducted when this demonstration plot begins to produce marketable berry branches (Hankins, pers. com.).

This demonstration plot identified a major production problem — deer nibbling on young holly plants and stripping of berries off older plants. A variety of “deer deterrent” methods were tried, all with minimal success, often providing deterrent initially but deer quickly became adapted. Deer fence was not tried, since its use in a limited holly orchard might be economically feasible but not in an extensive buffer strip application, which was the intent of this demonstration. This barrier would need to be overcome before this method could be applied more broadly as an economically viable buffer strip.

However, in Virginia, the production of holly has been identified as a potentially profitable new horticultural crop and locally, new sources of cut holly are needed (Bhardwaj, et al, 1996; Appleton, et al 1996). In theory, marketing of annual or biennial pruning (harvesting) of aerial portions of the holly could still provide an economic incentive for other farmers to use this type of buffer as part of their integrated nutrient management strategy. By helping offset the expense of maintaining the conservation buffer and loss of crop production acreage, growers might even establish holly buffers at widths in excess of minimum legal requirements.
The direct nutrient surface and sub-surface reduction (above and below buffer) was not monitored, again because of time required to establish a full-grown buffer. The results from indirect environmental monitoring within this watershed (see below) indicate sufficient buffering is occurring in the agro-ecosystem.

Agriculture Research Station Plots:

Agriculture station research kenaf trials were developed to support the economic evaluation of kenaf as a potential new crop for the wheat/soybean segment of the two crop scenarios developed by the linear economic model. In 1998, there was a significant difference between plantings in total yield, with the estimated yield for the first planting, second and third planting being 2.2, 2.1, and 2.0 tons/A, respectively. Neither planting date or plant population had a significant effect on the proportion of bass to core fiber. In 1999, plant population but not planting date affected the yield. Estimated yield was 6.2 tons/A at the low population; 9.0 tons/a for the high population in 1999. Yield was appreciably higher in 1999 but was still substantially below the target of 17 tons/A needed to make kenaf a viable option as calculated by the economic model.

Several broccoli cultivars have shown good yield potential combined with acceptable stalk quality. The cultivar Nomad has exceptional stalk quality and appears to have heat tolerance (germination) as well. Results from 1997 & 1998 were published in VA Cooperative Extension Vegetable Growers News. One grower has increased production of broccoli for local sales. Another successfully grew broccoli in 1998 for a lightly processed product. However, he tried three times to establish direct-seeded broccoli in fall of 1999 without success. Estimates of broccoli head quality and yield for early and main season cultivars in 1999 were anticipated from agriculture station research trials.

Unfortunately, the planting schedule could not be met because of hot weather in early August and multiple hurricanes in late August and September. This study will be replanted in fall of 2000 to address grower concerns.

The 1999 spring lettuce trial was to be repeated in the fall, using two target populations of pearl millet as the summer cover crop, with lettuce direct-seeded rather than transplanted. However, adverse weather conditions delayed planting for more than a month. The fall study was abandoned since lettuce is a 6-week crop and the results would not be applicable to commercial conditions. In 1996, differences in plant establishment were noted for the three lettuce cultivars, but no significant differences were found between treatments. Top-dress or banded treatments, particularly straw and vermiculite tended to be scattered by wind after planting, which may have reduced effectiveness. Sand movement into the crowns of the plants early in the growing season resulted in grit in the harvested heads. In 1997, Boston lettuce tended to be more difficult to establish from seed than Romaine lettuce, but response to treatment was inconsistent. Marketable yield was not significantly influenced by pre-plant treatments. Grit in the crown was a serious concern for Boston lettuce that has a more flattened growth habit than Romaine. Under prevalent conditions on the Eastern Shore, stand establishment of direct-seeded lettuce is a concern, particularly in the spring. Strip-tillage was simulated prior to hand planting transplants in the 1999 trial. For Boston lettuce, the greatest yield was noted for bare ground, but sand continues to be a problem in all treatments. Either killed rye or wheat cover resulted in greater marketable yield of Romaine lettuce than bare ground. Less sand was found in heads grown in rye cover. The potential for growing commercially acceptable Boston lettuce on the Eastern Shore appears to be questionable. However, with careful management to minimize sand movement, the potential for Romaine and other leaf lettuces with an up-right growing habit is more promising. Cover crops have been planted to repeat the 1999 spring study in 2000.

Watershed Environmental Analysis:

From the three years of studying chlorophyll we have only a rough framework of how and why chlorophyll varies temporally and spatially. Daily phytoplankton production was strongly correlated with ambient nitrate concentrations and inversely correlated with salinity, emphasizing the importance of freshwater inputs as a nutrient source in this system. While chlorophyll concentrations were normally lower than more northerly coastal lagoons in Delaware and Maryland, the level varied by two orders of magnitude caused by the complex interaction of tidal dilution, rain events, coastal ocean weather, fertilizer application to surrounding watershed, and tide-sunlight interactions. Only on one occasion, in the three year sampling, was a large direct effect of fertilizer addition measured when the fertilizer coincided with a record, three-times normal rainfall event.

This research suggests that Green’s Creek is capable of assimilating further nutrient inputs and produce even larger phytoplankton standing crops (see appendix III). The chlorophyll in the waters of the lagoon represent the food source for the grow-out of aquaculture produced clams and oysters, as well as other harvestable resources from the bays and coastal waters.
However, caution must be taken since increases in biomass and plankton community structure could favor toxic bloom species. Thus control of nutrient inputs from freshwater sources remains an important management issue for the Green’s Creek and other seaside watersheds. Further implementation of sustainable land-based agriculture will thus help protect the vital water quality which supports the growing business of aquaculture, which is another sustainable agriculture product from Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Economic Analysis

The earlier economic model was modified and provided the necessary tool for fully evaluating the potential economic and environmental impacts of introducing new crop production alternatives. One goal was to examine the demands on resources, the economic potential and the environmental impact of two specific cropping systems – wheat / soybean and selected vegetable crops with wheat / soybeans. Several scenarios were generated, and the two models which maximized net returns to land and management were evaluated for environmental impact. The vegetable / wheat / soybean model economically exceeded the potential increased environmental impact, with recommendations to utilize nutrient management, crop rotation and integrated pest management to manage these impacts (see appendix III).

Market window analysis proved a valuable tool in identifying the potential profitability of individual commodities. Another goal was to identify crops with highest profit potential given terminal market prices over the last five years. Romaine and Boston lettuce were consistently selected as the most profitable alternatives while the traditional crops offered little competition. However, marketing and product quality (sand accumulation) need to be carefully considered before production of lettuce on the Eastern Shore (see complementary research station trials above).

Kenaf was thought initially to be a crop that could offer both high profits and have low impact on the environment. Application of the model showed that currently, kenaf is unfeasible for production on the Eastern Shore and offers only marginal environmental benefits (see appendix III). This evaluation saved growers from a trial-and-error economic loss with experimental crop production and identified the price, yield and transportation to processing necessary to make kenaf financially viable for Eastern Shore growers (see complementary research station trials above).

Economic modeling predicts that the adoption of new vegetable crops can be a substantial part of the efforts to ensure economic and environmental sustainability. As the profit margins of traditional vegetable crops have declined, many farmers have shifted production into wheat and soybeans. The model shows that this shift can hardly be sustained economically, given low profitability, nor environmentally, with regard to pesticide leaching and runoff. Some of the new vegetable crops studied have shown a good potential for changing the direction of this shift. They appear to provide good economic and environmental incentives to revive vegetable production in the region and assure long term sustainability. However, the introduction of new vegetable crops is not an easy undertaking. It requires a careful marketing strategy, as well as knowledge of the production process. The assumption that the farmer is both willing and able to produce the crop is the main assumption implicit in this economic analysis.

With funding by Virginia Farmers’Market Board, this model has been further adapted and extended into an Excel file format for use by extension agents and growers directly (see appendix III and disk). The program can be used interactively or used as a “read only” resource for all of Virginia, not just the Eastern Shore. Since all options are linked, growers can examine the impact of changes on the whole economic analysis. A manual is being developed for distribution with the disk as a REAP publication. Exhibition at the January 2000 Eastern Shore Agriculture Conference will provide publicity and facilitate hand-on demonstrations to familiarize growers with its potential as a tool to manage economic risk.

As mentioned above, under individual crops, results from participating growers’ production and marketing records were used to develop sample enterprise budgets. Evaluation of enterprise budgets from these demonstration plots is limited, but they do provide important risk assessment so that these growers can more confidently consider expanding beyond the demonstration plot level as part of their farm operation. They also provide realistic input information for other growers interested in exploring these crops as a new enterprise.
Also mentioned above, under organic production and hayman sections, specific, in-depth business planning was conducted for some businesses. All participating growers were encouraged to complete a farm business plan. A “Step-by-Step Guide for Eastern Shore Farmers” was developed (see appendix III). Additional economic and marketing research information was gathered by graduate student projects covering diverse topics of interest to the growers: asparagus, chickens, corn, cover crops/green manure, flowers, ginseng, herbs, hogs, holly, kenaf, mushrooms, organic grapes, organic farming transition and certification, organic fruits, rare essences, small woodlot income alternatives, sorghum, soy, sustainable agriculture organizations and networks, sustainable vegetables and sustainable beef. Some information was shared with interested participating growers while remainder was compiled as a “Topic Resource File” for the local extension agent office.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:
Publications

[The following articles relate to this project:]

“TNC Gets $228 SARE Grant.” The Islands – the Virginia Coast Reserve newsletter, fall/winter 1996-97.
“Is the World Ready for Haymans?” The Islands – the Virginia Coast Reserve newsletter, fall/winter 1996-97.
“Eastern Shore Effort Yields First Products.” Briefs, Nature Conservancy Reporter, Fall 1996.
“Preliminary Observations on the Variability of Chlorophyll in the Machipongo Watershed and Hog Island Bay.” W.M. Dunstan & C.L. Lajoie, ODU, Proceedings – Second Eastern Shore Natural Resources Symposium, 10/96.
“Impacts of External Nutrient Loading on the Water-Column Dynamics of a Coastal Watershed.” C.L. Lajoie & W.M. Dunstan, ODU, Abstracts – AERS & SEERS Annual Conference, Pine Knoll Shores, N.C., 11/7-9/96.
“Shore Thing.” Carol Horton, Port Folio Magazine, 11/12/96.
“Not Just Another Pretty Potato.” Steve Smith, Eastern Shore News, 11/16/96.
“Beat the drum for turkey.” Sue Shuman, Temp, Food and Home section, The Fairfax Journal, 11/20/96.
“A Different Potato from the Eastern Shore – Second Helpings.” John Rosson, Food Section, The Washington Times, 11/27/96.
“Hayman Potatoes Are Good to Eat and Good for Virginia’s Economy.” Holiday Celebration Guide, Sun Gazette, 11/28/96.
“Gobble up these Harvest Statistics: Consumption of Turkey, Sweet Potatoes Soars.” Mary Bastille, Richmond Times Dispatch, 11/28/96.
“In Va, New Life for an Old Potato.” Candy Sagan, Food Section, The Washington Post, 12/11/96.
“Virginia Eastern Shore Corporation.” Shore Line – Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore newsletter, 12/96.
“Pursgloves on Food and Drink.” Ruth and David Pursglove, The In Towner, 12/96.
“Homely Haymans are a hit.” Steve Smith, Eastern Shore News, 1/18/97.
“Sustainable Ag Focus of Eastern Shore Effort.” Carol Kinsley, The Delmarva Farmer, 1/21/97.
“All hail the Hayman” Guy Friddell, The Virginian Pilot Metro News, 2/15/97.
“Virginia Eastern Shore Corporation Markets the very best of the Shore.” Judy Nordstrom, Eastern Shore News, 5/7/97.
“Cornpone or Caviar? Fine Dining a Matter of Perspective.” Guy Friddell, The Virginian-Pilot, 5/26/97.
“Gourmand Syndrome Can’t Hit Lovers of Southern Cooking.” Guy Friddell, Richmond Times Dispatch, 6/13/97.
“Fall Broccoli for Eastern Virginia – 1997.” S. B. Sterrett & C. P. Savage Jr., Vegetable Growers News 5(3): 4-6.
“Shore Leave.” Nancy Chapman, Portfolio, 8/12/97.
“Farm Notes.” Fred Diem, Eastern Shore News, 9/3/97.
“Potatoes for Conservation.” ONE Conservancy, 10/97.
“Sweet Rewards.” Sebastian Weiss, San Antonio Business Journal, 10/3/97.
“Processes Controlling Chlorophyll Levels in a High Turnover Coastal Lagoon.” W.M. Dunstan & C.L. Lajoie, ODU, Abstracts – 14th Biennial Estuarine Research Federation International Conference, Providence RI, 10/12-16/97.
“Factors Influencing the Behavior of Dissolved Nutrients in a Coastal Creek.” C.L. Lajoie, ODU, Abstracts – 14th Biennial Estuarine Research Federation International Conference, Providence RI, 10/12-16/97.
“Test Marketing Begins with Farm Products.” The Islands – the Virginia Coast Reserve newsletter, fall/winter 1997-98.
“Dried Flower Workshop.” Eastern Shore News, 11/1/97.
“Farm Notes.” Fred Diem, Eastern Shore News, 11/5/97.
“Layby applications and foliar sprays in combination with Lorsban at planting to control insects in sweetpotatoes, 1997.” J. Speese III and B. A. Nault, Proceedings of the 26th Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Vegetable Worker’s Conference, 11/11-12/97.
“Limited Supply of Sweet, Succulent Hayman Potatoes Available for Holidays.” Fresh News, 12/97.
“What’s New Local Boutique Potato.” Washingtonian, 12/97.
“This Spuds for you – hayman potatoes spur Va Shore efforts.” The Nature Conservancy Magazine, 12/97.
“One Hot Potato.” Elaine Tate, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/28/97.
“Tid Bits – No Need for Marshmallows.” Elizabeth Large, Baltimore Sun, 2/4/98.
“Analyzing the Economic and Environmental Impacts of Agricultural Alternatives – the case of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.” Altin Kalo, Virginia Tech Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, MS thesis, 4/21/98.
“Layby Applications and foliar sprays in combination with Lorsban at planting to control insets on sweet potatoes, 1997.” J. Speese III, B. A. Nault, Arthropod Management Tests, Vol. 23, 1998.
“Fall Broccoli for Eastern Virginia” S. B. Sterrett & C. P. Savage Jr., Commercial Horticulture Newsletter, May-June 1998.
“Company Markets Shore’s Food, Arts.” Richard Stradling, Daily Press, 7/1/98.
“No Pickin’ or Spittin.” Dave Goode, The Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va & area), August 13, 1998.
“Test Marketing of Seedless Watermelons in Ukrop’s Supermarkets.” A. Hankins, Va. Cooperative Extension publication. Petersburg. Va., August 10-22, 1998.
“Fall Broccoli for Eastern Virginia – 1998.” S. B. Sterrett & C. P. Savage Jr., Vegetable Growers News 6(6).
“Bayview Eastern Shore, Virginia.” Maurice Cox, RBGC-Architecture, Research, Urbanism, Charlottesville, VA 9/98.
“Seedless melon growers could see sweet profits.” The Delmarva Farmer, Sept. 8, 1998
“Eastern Shore Select Hayman Chips go on Sale.” The Islands – Virginia Coast Reserve newsletter, 11/98.
“Evaluating the feasibility of adopting Kenaf on the Eastern Shore of Virginia: Implications for two distinct cropping systems.” A. Kalo, S.B. Sterrett, P.H. Hoepner, D.B. Taylor, abstract & poster at New Crops and New Uses: Biodiversity and Agricultural Sustainability, AAIC, Phoenix AZ, Nov. 8-11, 1998, p. 59.
“Where History Lives, a Special Thanks.” R.W. Apple Jr., New York Times, 11/18/98.
“Dried Flower wreath making Workshop to be held Dec. 8.” Fred Diem, Eastern Shore News 11/98
“An Eastern Shore Treat, Sweet potato chip company building market for delicacy.” Sonda Dawes, The Delmarva Farmer, 12/8/98.
“VESC Marketing Hayman potato chips.” Eastern Shore News, 12/9/98.
“Coffee Break: Pride of Virginia now comes in a bag.” The Wilmington News Journal, 12/14/98.
“Morsels: You can’t eat just one.” Marcia Mangum, Virginian Pilot, 12/16/98.
“A chip off the ol’ shore – Home plate.” Tracy Sahler, The Daily Times – Salisbury MD, 12/16/98.
“Shore Chips turn out to be tasty Hayman sweet patooties.” Guy Friddell, Virginian Pilot, 12/26/98.
“A New Chip to Dip – Hayman Potatoes now offered as chips.” Leslie Aylsworth, The Nature Conservancy Magazine, 1/99.
“All eyes are on new sweet Virginia Spud.” Clara Silverstein, Boston Herald, 1/13/99.
“A Sweeter potato, Pick of the week.” Isabel Forgang, NY Daily News, 1/31/99.
“Virginia’s Farmers use a secret weapon to save their farms.” The Osgood File Program, CBS Radio, 2/5/99.
“Hayman Potato Chips are latest Shore Farm Product.” Al Edmonds, Eastern Shore News Farm & Garden, 3/10/99.
“Virginia Sweet Potatoes touted in other states.” Johanna Miller, Virginia Farm Bureau News, 4/1/99.
“Biological Availability of Groundwater and Precipitation as Nutrient Sources for Coastal Phytoplankton,” C. Lajoie- Jenkins & W.M. Dunstan, ODU, Abstracts – South Eastern Estuarine Research Society Spring 1999 Meeting, Jacksonville, FL, 4/8-9/99.
“Va’s Water Ways: Up Close and Aquacultural on the Eastern Shore.” Amy Brecount White, The Washington Post, 5/12/99.
“The Nature Conservancy Goes to Market on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.” Natural Assets, 5/99.
“Adding Value creates marketable products.” Eric Miller, Virginia Farm Bureau News, 6/99.
“Eastern Shore Select – the world’s best chips.” Assateague Coastal Trust Newsletter, 6/99.
“Virginia Shore Diversification.” Sonda Dawes, The Delmarva Farmer, 24, #15, 6/29/99.
“Estimation of environmental impact of two cropping systems using PLANETOR(TM) A. Kalo, S.B. Sterrett, P.H.Hoepner, J.F. Diem, abstract in Hortscience 34:469,and poster session at American Society of Horticultural Science annual meeting, Mineapolis, MN, 7/28-31/99.
“Feasibility of adopting Kenaf on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.” A. Kalo, S.B. Sterrett, P.H. Hoepner, D.B. Taylor, in Perspectives on New Crops and New Uses, J. Janick (ed), American Society of Horticultural Science Press, Alexandria VA. 1999, pp. 311-315.
“On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Striving for a Global Model of Community-Based Conservation.” Malcolm G. Scully, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 10/8/99.
“Harvest for the senses food, wine experts come together at Cakebread Cellars’ Annual Workshop.” Diane Peterson, The Press Democrat Santa Rosa, CA, 11/3/99.
“Green Sweet Potato?” The Virginia Gardener, 11/12/99.
“Sweet Potatoes gain wider appeal.” Dail Willis, The Sun, Baltimore A la Carte section, 11/17/99.
“The Impacts of External Nutrient Sources on Marine Phytoplankton in an Eastern Shore Sea-Side Estuary.” Claudette Lajoie Jenkins, Old Dominion University Department of Oceanography, PhD thesis, 12/99.
“Hayman potato.” in Brooklyn Garden Horticulture Newsletter, Fall 1999 (copy not available).
“Kenaf as an alternative crop for Eastern Shore of Virginia.” Impact Statement prepared for USDA/CSREES, Sterrett, S. B. and D. B. Taylor, 11/ 1999 (prepared, but not up on the web site yet – www.ext.vt.edu/impacts/).
“Managing Soil Insect Pest of Sweetpotatoes, 1999” B. A. Nault & J.Speese III, Arthropod Management Tests Vol 25, In Press 2000.
“Manual for Market Analysis Program.” A. Kalo, et al., REAP publication, In Press.
“Hayman sweet potato products.” Janet Bachmann & Holly Born, in press, NCAT/ATTRA marketing bulletin for Sustainable Agriculture Network; interviewed 4/99 and 9/99.

Meetings & Workshops with Participating SARE Growers & Technical Team

June 7, 1996 – Initial Planning Meeting – technical team and growers – introductions, tour, defining needs & objectives, tasks and roles – 21 people
July 22, 1996 – Technical Team Meeting – discuss business planning assistance to growers & value-added marketing of grower products – 5 people
August 9, 1996 – Technical Team Meeting- develop action plans, prioritize implementation plans for grower assistance and demonstration plots – 14 people
September 12-13, 1996 – Technical Team Meeting – review plans for demonstration plots, establish communication, prioritize tasks, develop socio-economic evaluation tool – 8 people
November 7, 1996 – Tour Chesapeake Farms sustainable agriculture program, Chester, MD – 5 people
November 12, 1996 – Technical Team Meeting – discuss socio-economic tool – 3 people
December 9-10, 1996 – Annual Meeting – growers & technical team – share results, business and whole farm plans, questions and answers – 21 people
March 21, 1997 – Tour Kenaf Growing & Processing, Dover DE – 7 people
April 9, 1997 -Technical Team Meeting – discuss demonstration plots and team member roles – 5 people
April 16, 1997 – Technical Team Meeting – discuss economic/marketing assistance for growers- 3 people
May 13-14, 1997- Technical Team Meeting – discuss demonstration plots – 5 people
May 29-30, 1997 -Technical Team Meeting – discuss economic/marketing & production assistance – 7 people
August 18-19, 1997 – Technical Team Meeting – share info about demonstrations & team member results-to-date, share concerns & successes, plans for future – 12 people
September 19-20, 1997 – Annual Meeting – growers & technical team – share results, business & whole farm plans, questions & answers – 12 people
October 8, 1997 – Technical Team Meeting – discuss marketing of organic produce – 5 people
November 14-15, 1997 – Technical Team Annual Work Session – share information for annual report, review results, plan for next season – 13 people
February 9, 1998 – Dried Flower Marketing Charette – discuss value-added marketing strategies for new dried flower enterprise – 6 people
February 21, 1998 – Bayview Community Garden Planning Meeting – 7 people
March 27, 1998 – Bayview Community Garden Committee Meeting – 9 people
August 12, 1998 – Bayview Community Garden Meeting – 5 people
December 10, 1998 – Annual Meeting – growers & technical team – share results, business & whole farm plans, questions & answers – 21 people
June 23, 1999 – Bayview Community Garden Meeting – 7 people
September 20-23, 1999 – Technical Team Meetings – share info about demonstrations & team member results-to-date, plans for final report – 7 people

Outreach and Educational Programs with Eastern Shore of Virginia Growers and Broader Rural Community

June 23, 1996 – Virginia Eastern Shore Economic Empowerment & Housing Organization sponsored – Opportunities with Alternative Crops, by Andy Hankins- 10 attending
January 7-8, 1997 – 8th annual Eastern Shore Ag Conference & Trade Show – hayman presentation by John Hickman; alternative crops by A. Hankins; survey participants with socio-economic tool by H. Jersild – 222 attending
March 4, 1997 – Organic Production & Certification Informational Meeting – share information and forms for obtaining certification and assistance available from Technical Team – 14 people
June 23, 1997 – ESAREC Vegetable Field Day – shared potato, broccoli, lettuce & kenaf research plots during ag station tour – 48 attending
September 13, 1997 – Flower Field Day – at SARE demonstration field site – from this event interested people were able to learn about specific everlasting species, production requirements (spacing, fertilization and irrigation, insect and disease problems, etc.), stage of harvest, bunch size for marketing, and drying requirements – 25 people
November 13, 1997 – Dried Flower Arrangement Workshop – participants made own dried flower arrangements using product grown in SARE demonstration site; learned how they could purchase more flowers locally to support sustainable agriculture; fee charged payed for materials, demonstrating another outlet for direct marketing – 26 people
January 13-14,1998 – 9th Annual Eastern Shore Agriculture Conference – overview of SARE project by T. Thompson & J.F. Diem; sweetpotato insect update by J. Speese, III; hayman production update by S.B. Sterrett; hayman value-added marketing by J. Hickman; survey of participants with socio-economic tool by H. Jersild – 245 attendance
March 2, 1998 BuyGreen Project – participants learned more about program which provides information to farmers and consumers to help them make regional environmentally friendly choices & how it might fit as a marketing tool for Eastern Shore growers; also discussed proposed National Organic Standards – 12 people
June 22, 1998 – Eastern Shore Agricultural Research & Extension Center Field Day -shared potato, broccoli, lettuce & kenaf research plots during ag station tour – 30 attending
October 12, 1998: Hayman Sweetpotato Field Day – at SARE demonstration field site & Ag Extension Center – hayman production by J. Tankard & B. Tatum, farmers; insect management in sweetpotatoes by B. A. Nault; foundation seed program & hayman planting study by S.B.Sterrett & C.P.Savage; value-added marketing by J. Hickman, D. Schrieber, T. Thompson – 18 people
December 8, 1998 – Dried Flower Wreath Making Workshop – participants made own dried flower wreaths using product grown in SARE demonstration site and other local flower farm; learned how they could purchase more flowers locally to support sustainable agriculture; fee charged payed for most of materials, demonstrating potential outlet for future direct marketing with fee increase -14 people
January 12-13, 1999 – 10th Annual Eastern Shore Agriculture Conference -broccoli varieties for the Eastern Shore, hayman appearance & production techniques by S. B. Sterrett; B.A. Nault – sweetpotato insect update by B.A. Nault; hayman potato value-added marketing by J. Hickman, D. Schreiber, B. Nottingham, B. Mapp. – 270 attending
January 25, 1999 – Organic Certification Workshop – at Baycliff Farm by T. Thompson; share information and forms for obtaining certification and assistance available from Technical Team – 5 people
February 27, 1999 – Nassawadox Farmers Market Organizational Meeting – shared information and available resources through Technical Team – 16 people
March 27, 1999 – Organic Vegetables – at Little Italy Restaurant – presentations including by SARE participating growers G. Turner, B. Jardine to community & potential consumers and other growers – 18 attending
September 24, 1999 – Northampton County Farm Field Day – day long event for every 3rd grade student in Northampton County (200+); 20 stations presented all aspects of farming including overview of sustainable agriculture & agro-ecosystem biodiversity by T. Thompson; hayman sweetpotatoes by S.B. Sterrett & C.P. Savage; as well as economics, field and horticultural crops, livestock, horse-drawn hayride, and hayman potato pie tarts for lunch – 236 children and 44 adults attending
January 11-12, 2000 – 11th Annual Eastern Shore Agriculture Conference – planned presentations on demonstration plot and variety trial results, value-added marketing and hands-on demonstrations of economic computer model for use by growers & extension agents

Professional Presentations at Multi-disciplinary Conferences & Site-visits

October 1996 – Second Eastern Shore Natural Resources Symposium, Cape Charles, VA; Preliminary Observations on the Variability of Chlorophyll in the Machipongo Watershed and Hog Island Bay, by W. Dunstan & C.L. Lajoie
November 7,1996 – Southeastern Estuarine Research Society, Atlantic Beach, NC; Impacts of External Nutrient Loading on the Water-column Dynamics of a Coastal Watershed, by C.L. Lajoie & W. Dunstan
February 24, 1997- Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Conference. Madison WI – Diversification: to grow or not to grow – by S.B. Sterrett
April 25, 1997 – The Volgenau Foundation visit – share overview of SARE grant projects with Washington D.C. Foundation board members as part of community-based conservation program – by S.B. Sterrett, T. Thompson
June 10, 1997 – James C. Penney Foundation visit – share overview of SARE grant projects with New York City Foundation board members as part of community-based conservation program – by S. Parker, T. Thompson, C. Robinson
July, 1997 – Eastern Shore Water Quality Consortium, Nassawadox, VA; Green’s Creek – an overview, by C.L. Lajoie & W. Dunstan
September, 1997 – Southeastern Estuarine Research Society, Islamorada, FL; Biological factors influencing the behavior of dissolved nutrients in a coastal creek, by C.L. Lajoie & W. Dunstan
October 12, 1997 – Estuarine Research Federation International State of Our Estuaries Symposium, Providence, RI; Biological factors influencing the behavior of dissolved nutrients in a coastal creek, by C.L. Lajoie-Jenkins & W. Dunstan
October 12, 1997 – Estuarine Research Federation International State of Our Estuaries Symposium, Providence, RI: Chlorophyll variability in a dynamic coastal watershed, by W. Dunstan & C.L. Lajoie-Jenkins
November 4, 1997 – SARE Communications visit – share progress of SARE grant projects and visit with participating growers at demonstration sites for SARE publication, B. Nottingham, G. Turner, P. Smith, J.F. Diem, S.B. Sterrett, T. Thompson
December 11-13, 1997 – Conference organized by VA Sustainable Ag. Conf. Planning Committee. Natural Bridge, VA.- Seven step to a marketing plan. Farm diversification: from planning to profit – by S. B Sterrett, K. Mundy, and C.W. Coale
February 2, 1998 – The Osgood Files – phone interview sharing SARE project and interviews with participating hayman growers for NPR radio story, T. Thompson, J. Hickman, B. Nottingham
February 9, 1998 – Direct marketing for Southeast Virginia/Northeast North Carolina., Marketing Strategies by S. B Sterrett, K. Mundy, and C.W. Coale
March 5-7, 1998 – USDA’s Ten Years of SARE National Conference – Building on a Decade of Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education – Austin Texas; Alternative Strategies for Rural Community Sustainable Development by S.B. Sterrett, T.A. Thompson, J.F. Diem, A. Hankins, A. Kalo, P. Hoepner and D.B. Taylor
April 1-2, 1998 – Center for Compatible Economic Development Workshop – community participants from all over country learn about SARE and sustainable agriculture as part of community-based conservation program on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, by T. Thompson, J. Hickman, S. Parker, P. Rowe – 23 participants
April 27, 1998 – Mary Flaggler Cary Trust visit – share overview of SARE grant projects with Washington D.C. Foundation board as part of community-based conservation program, by S.B. Sterrett, T. Thompson
May 20, 1998 – EPA -Va. DEQ States Region III Joint Meeting, Hampton, VA – share overview of SARE grant projects as part of community-based conservation program, by T. Thompson
August 12, 1998 – Va Tech Provost visit – powerpoint presentation giving overview of SARE grant and visiting Bayview community garden project, by J.F.Diem
September 17-18, 1998 – Sustainable Agriculture Development Tour for Virginia Extension Agent ins-Service Training – presentation, overview of flower, hayman, melon projects, broccoli, lettuce, kenaf & hayman, by J.F. Diem, T. Thompson, S.B. Sterrett, C.P. Savage, et al -26 participants
October 26-27, 1998 – Broadwater Summit – share overview of SARE grant projects with various Foundation board members as part of community-based conservation program, by J. Tankard, J. Hickman, T. Thompson, S. Parker – 20 participants
November 1-4, 1998 – VA Tech Hort 4764 – sweetpotatoes lecture by S.B. Sterrett
November 6, 1998 – EPA Small Town Task Force Advisory Committee visit – share overview of SARE grant projects with various Foundation board members as part of community-based conservation program, by T. Thompson, T. Hayes, T. Harris – 28 participants
November 8-11, 1998 – New Crops & New Uses: Biodiversity & Agricultural Sustainability Conference; Sponsored by AAIC, PUCNC & NUC; Phoenix Arizona – poster session & abstract in proceedings by A. Kalo, S. B. Sterrett, et al.
November 18-20, 1998 – Center for Compatible Economic Development Workshop – community participants from all over country learn about SARE and sustainable agriculture as part of community-based conservation program on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, by T. Thompson, J. Hickman, S. Parker – 28 participants
July 28, 1999 – American Society of Horticultural Science Conference, Madison, WI – Estimation of environmental impact of two cropping systems using PLANETOR by A. Kalo, S.B. Sterrett, P.H.Hopener, J.F. Diem
September 24, 1999 – Forum for Intercultural Communication visit, Wash. D.C. – delegation from Haiti learn about SARE and sustainable agriculture as part of community-based conservation program on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, by J.F. Diem, T. Thompson, S.B. Sterrett, C.P. Savage
Scheduled, January 25-27, 2000 – Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Growers Convention, Hershey, PA -Up and coming varieties of broccoli by S.B. Sterrett

Student Involvement & Internship Projects:

Because of community concerns over out-migration of youth and lack of information about employment opportunities directly or indirectly related to agriculture industry on the Shore, we ensured inclusion of the younger generation in programs. In addition to Farm Field Day event for local school students (see above), this project provided opportunities for more in-depth involvement for a variety of students.

The Nature Conservancy employed twelve local high school student interns over two summers and one college intern. This program was funded with a grant from James C. Penney Foundation, Monsanto Fund and Lucent Technologies Foundation. These interns worked on a variety of conservation and community related projects, including assisting several participating growers on their SARE demonstration plots. Their experiences included hands-on work with organic and low-input sustainable techniques, the community garden, and interacting with the growers and agricultural professionals to learn more about career related opportunities.

This grant also actively involved graduate students from a range of disciplines – with environmental, economic and more traditional agricultural approaches to the project. One graduate student successfully completed their Ph.D. thesis and another their M.S. thesis associated with this project. Another graduate student completed his M.S. work in sustainable agriculture while working on this project to support value-added marketing and community garden development during a three year summer internship. Additionally, 4 graduate students participated in economic feasibility and business planning projects with participating growers over the grant period. The in-depth training and exposure to a holistic project beyond the scope of their individual fields of study provided a valuable learning experience for these future professionals.

Community Garden Project Background:

The idea of researching African-American community farming practices developed to gather information to study the perceptions, interest and barriers to incorporating sustainable agriculture in low to moderate income communities. Community gardens have been established throughout U.S. history as a response to socio-economic stress. With very little written history from the Bayview community, the 1997 interview project was conducted to gather cultural and historical information on the Bayview using personal interviews and storytelling as the principal method of collecting information. Information gathered with this method gives a sense of Bayview’s character and community origins, its current state and residents’ view for the future of their community.

A good cross-section of residents in and around the community were interviewed. Conclusions drawn from the interview reveal a definite pattern in their immediate concerns and concerns for the future. It became apparent that in the Bayview community their food supply is supplemented through a system of sharing among neighbors. Those that work on the farm or know farmers, bring home surplus produce and divide it among friends. Local growers sell additional vegetables at low cost and ride through the community quite frequently. Food stamps, though cut dramatically, represent yet another means of supplementing food for many residents. There was also concern expressed that any project should include some method of youth involvement because of lack of recreational opportunities.

One initial concern with outside assistance in establishing a community garden project was that, whatever idea was implemented, it would have to be valued and guided by the people of Bayview to be successful. All the residents interviewed approved of the idea for a community garden. Most residents have a strong history in agriculture, pointing out that skills, expertise and land are present in the community. They were enthusiastic over the idea that someone was taking interest in their life, and their stories. Secondly, they were enthusiastic about the idea of cooperative economics among the residents. There was a feeling that this idea, if successfully implemented, would provide a sense of empowerment and fulfillment for the community.

The success of the community garden project (see section E) indicates the changes that have occurred as a result of the education, outreach and support for implementation provided by this SARE grant. Plans for expansion are now integral in the community’s vision for sustainable development. The community’s success has also had a positive influence on another neighboring community which began its own community garden. The potential for long-term implementation provides a valuable evaluation of the success of this SARE grant in affecting the local citizen’s perceptions of sustainable agriculture in this rural community.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The strength of this project’s impacts and contribution lies in the diversity of participating growers, the interdisciplinary team work of the technical team, and the connections to the local community. The project explored ways to protect productive family farms by involving diversification of crops, efficient production practices and value-added marketing strategies to give sustainable agriculture the necessary economic advantage and connection to the local community and environment.

One goal was to identify viable options for alternative crop and/or technologies which growers could incorporate into their farm operation and business plan. This project has made a good start by identifying production, socio-economic, and environmental barriers to sustainable agriculture and by establishing a network of local growers and resource professionals to share ideas and information. This project has also helped establish networking with broader sustainable community development initatives.

The agricultural production and economic analysis research results and various “products” from this project have provided information, tools and methods growers can use to evaluate potential new enterprises which involve specific crops for diversification, production strategies for transition to sustainable agriculture, and value-added marketing and entreprenurial business approach. The expansion and adaptation of the economic computer model developed during this project extends the contribution beyond the Eastern Shore. Growers and extension agents throughout Virginia will be able to use the interactive program to assess market windows and make economically viable production and marketing decisions. The program could serve as a model for other states to develop similar user-friendly economic tools for growers.

The future of organic production as part of sustainable agriculture on the Eastern Shore needs additional research and support. One barrier to expanded organic agriculture is transportation to markets typically associated with urban areas, complicated by distance and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel toll. Other real or perceived barriers identified include increased labor requirements, access to knowledgable consultants, the certification process, consideration of organics as an alternative lifestyle, and financial investment needed by farmers to make the transition in production. Local agricultural professions do get requests for information about organic farming and are interested in working with a group of growers to cooperatively market and obtain the margin of economic benefit promoted with organics. A major organic production question remains: how feasible is organic production in an area enguaged heavily in traditional commercial agricultural production. Some predict organic fields will only provide a safe haven for insects migrating from sprayed fields. Limited organic tools for weed control also present a management problem for growers with more traditional expertise. A research project designed to compare on-farm commercial and organic production with insect scouting and weed monitoring, coupled with experimental trials to identify viable management options would be an area for future research funding. The addition of organically grown haymans to the Eastern Shore Selectâ„¢ hayman marketing campaign would be interesting. The production of more organic products would also permit further exploration and development of marketing strategies involving specialized grower to consumer distribution systems.

The results of this project directly support the Northampton County’s Sustainable Development Action Strategy’s ambitious vision for the “return of local agriculture to its historic economic level in a manner which sustains the industry at its full economic potential and maintains productive locally-owned farms for the on-going benefit of all citizens and future generations.” Continued community outreach about sustainable agricultural practices which involve better environmental management strategies should improve the community’s perception of the impact of agriculture.

Community awareness will help generate support for and promote purchase of products from locally-owned, value-added sustainable agriculture enterprises. In turn, successful production of value-added agricultural products will create economic conditions that foster locally owned businesses and employment opportunities for sustainable development in this rural community.

The Community Garden project demonstrates how sustainable agriculture can be incorporated into rural community development. The talents and abilities of Bayview’s residents, building on their initial success, have just launched the Community Farm project. They are begining a process that builds toward a large scale farming operation that can generate cash and income for the community and its residents. Combined with Bayview Rural Village Plan’s land protection strategy that will make over 130 acres available for agricultural production in the next few years, preservation of farmland as part of this community’s vision offers hope for economic sustainability.

Lessons learned from this SARE project have been and will continue to be shared as a model for other rural communities, demonstrating a method where the transition to sustainable agriculture supports the preservation of the community’s rural life style and environment. Sustainable agriculture in general, and SARE projects more specifically, are presented to national and international visitors as a critical part of a landscape-level approach to community-based conservation. The Green’s Creek watershed approach, with its concurrent environmental research, best management buffer, hayman potato production linked to value-added marketing, organic crop and livestock production, and dried flower enterprise with niche marketing created an exciting landscape-level illustration of sustainable agriculture in action.

The value-added, branded marketing of hayman potatoes and chips emphasizing the Eastern Shore’s unique rural culture and environment offers hope for an economically and ecologically viable option for the survival of the historically family-owned Eastern Shore farms. But other agricultural and aquacultural products also have a potential for this kind of marketing. The Nature Conservancy has recently formed the Conservation Business Alliance, a formal registry of Eastern Shore businesses whose goal is to work with the Conservancy in a relationship that both protects the Virginia barrier island ecosystem and generates a profit. The overall purpose of the business agreement is to promote the mutual goals of economic development and environmental protection. Individual agreements, however, will be customized for each business and can take many different forms – everything from the marketing, licensing and “branding” of products to land or facility leases to commitments for the purchase of goods and services. One future example may be with the farming of oysters, where aquaculture growers might find that because their product is “branded” as having been grown in the protected waters of The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve, market value can be enhanced. Initial business analysis conducted as part of this SARE grant estimates that such a direct marketing plan should be twice as profitable as current wholesale oyster business. The marriage of business and conservation interests is of special importance at the local community level. There have been a number of economic success stories in the support of conservation by large corporations at the national level. However, there is a crying need for real working examples of conservationists teaming with local business to bring new economic prosperity to local communities. The goal of the Conservation Business Alliance is to work with businesses to demonstrate that protection of a world-class natural area is not only the right thing for a community to do, but a profitable act as well.

Economic Analysis

Socio-economic Impact Analysis

In order to assess participating growers’ attitudes toward sustainable agriculture and perceptions of environmental and quality of life issues, the technical team developed a one page survey and longer one-on-one interview tool (see appendix III). The process of creating these tools involved reaching agreement from the diversity of disciplines and approaches reflected in our technical team. The result was a working consensus definition of “sustainable agriculture.”

Since sustainable agriculture is a goal rather than a rigidly defined set of practices, this process included delineating an extensive list of practices that could all be considered “sustainable” within the context of the Eastern Shore agro-ecosystem and socio-economics. Creating this “common working language” was a meaningful learning process for the technical team members.

The survey provided a short method of collecting information about perceptions of sustainable agriculture from a group broader than grant participants. The participating grower interview served several purposes: collecting general background information; providing a tool to monitor growers’ perceptions of sustainability; serving as a basis for conversations regarding sustainable technologies; discovering growers’ past experimentation with new technologies and past barriers/successes from these efforts; establishing personal communication to best match technical team expertise to interests of individual growers.

The participating grower survey took about half an hour to complete, but in all circumstances the questions led to longer discussions and prompted many questions on the part of the growers. Both surveys were designed to be useful statistically if applied to a large group of participants. The small number of growers in this grant were not statistically significant, but the survey did provide descriptive results. The survey instruments developed during this grant, however, could be of use to other SARE projects by adapting and modifying them for use on a larger scale.

Some descriptive trends were revealed from these surveys. The major problems facing the farmer and keeping farmers from implementing sustainable agriculture in this region were described as labor, markets and risk/cost of changing. Most growers felt confident about the technologies they are using and where to get information. They most wanted help with marketing and developing value-added products. When asked about technologies currently used (from list of “sustainable practices” developed above), composting, mulching, on-farm processing, organic production, and biological insect control were very infrequently cited. However, most did report using soil testing, cover crops, reduced tillage or no-till, insect scouting, crop rotation, threshold based application of chemicals, and split fertilizer application – all considered integral parts of sustainable agro-ecosystems. The survey process did help growers begin to understand that they may already be using sustainable agriculture technologies and it did not require a complete change in their farming practices to move more towards sustainability.

Farmer Adoption

Cooperative efforts

Northampton County Participating Growers:
The team of participating growers represented a diversity of growers interested in exploring the potential benefits of sustainable agriculture for their own farm operation. Participating growers selected sustainable technologies and/or alternative crops appropriate for their farm operation, expertise, and interest. Each grower managed a demonstration site, hosted a field day at their site and/or participated in other venues of information sharing. Growers conducted record keeping for all stages of production and marketing and were assisted with business/whole farm plans.

Bayview Citizens for Social Justice:
This small, low-income community group initiated a community garden as a demonstration first to produce mixed vegetables for community residents and then to explore expansion to a larger market-garden and farming operation as an integral part of their community economic development strategy. The garden committee managed the site, hosted visitors and participated in other venues of information sharing. They conducted record keeping for all stages of production and marketing and were assisted with business and garden plans.

Northampton County and its Sustainable Development Task Force:
The Task Force played an active guidance role during development of project proposal and helped with outreach to the broader local rural community. Several Agricultural Task Force Members also participated as growers or technical team members.

Northampton County Cooperative Extension Service:
Responsibilities included: assisting growers with best management practices including soil testing, cover crops, nutrient and pest management; disseminating research information to growers; conducing outreach through annual agricultural conferences, farm and conservation tours, field days and community workshops, regular newspaper column and radio reports.

Eastern Shore Agriculture Research and Extension Center:
Responsibilities included: conducting production feasibility research using appropriate experimental designs in replicated trials to identify constraints, test cultural management strategies, assess varietal trials, and address growers’ production concerns; based on this and on-going research and expertise, providing growers with recommendations for pest management and facilitate their transition to the production of alternative crops through assistance with available specialized equipment, on-farm support, and insect scouting; conducting soil sampling of selected demonstration sites to evaluate environmental impact of nutrient management programs; assisting with linear economic programming model.

Virginia State University, Cooperative Extension:
Responsibilities included: assisting Eastern Shore growers in developing small farm demonstration projects for niche crops such as specialty melons, fresh and dry cut flowers; assisting in organic certification and management; providing recommendations of potential crops; assisting in information dissemination to other regions of the state.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Department of Agriculture & Applied Economics Responsibilities included: extending previously developed mathematical programming model to simultaneously analyze production and market information, resource availability, and realistic constraints on the whole-farm operation from an economic perspective (Sterrett et al, 1996); developing a linear economic model and adapting a “Planetor” environmental model; assist in information dissemination through publication of results and participation in outreach.

Entrepreneurial Center, Old Dominion University:
Responsibilities included: evaluating market potential for value-added agricultural crops; conducting market strategy research and cost/benefit analyses; conducting socio-economic impact tool development and evaluation.

Old Dominion University, Department of Oceanography:
Responsibilities included: working closely with Eastern Shore Agriculture Research and Education Center to design complementary watershed research project; conducting water sampling of demonstration watershed to evaluate environmental impact of nutrient management programs.

Virginia Eastern Shore Corporation/Eastern Shore Selections:
Responsibilities included: marketing specialty agriculture products (e.g. hayman potato); developing a branded label which meets specific quality criteria; assisting with the evaluation of market potential and product acceptability; identifying new market opportunities for a variety of potential value-added agricultural products (e.g. hayman chips).

Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services – Marketing Division:
Responsibilities included: advising and assisting in the identification of potential markets and determining product quality requirements needed to address these opportunities.

Small Farmer Outreach Assistance Program :
Responsibilities included: working with growers to develop business plan, including assessing economic risks, long-term planning, and marketing strategies.

The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve:
Responsibilities included: coordinating project with Technical Team to ensure effective team strategy; assisting participating growers, one-on-one, as local liaison with Technical Team; building on existing community and institutional partnerships; coordinating and facilitating the local and state outreach components of this project and expanding outreach regionally and internationally; as the coordinating agent for this project, providing on-going project management, budget management and internal audit for administration of this grant and assuring products are completed to meet time line.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Bibliography

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.