Adding Value to Oilseed Crops by Producing Food Quality Oils

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $143,131.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Grant Recipient: Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Douglas Schaufler
The Pennsylvania State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: canola, flax, rapeseed, safflower, soybeans, sunflower


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: technical assistance
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, value added
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal abstract:

    Research shows that oilseed crops such as canola and sunflower can be grown commercially in the northeastern United States. These crops are pressed for oil that is used either directly for fuel or processed into biodiesel fuel. Meal, a byproduct of pressing, is used as a high protein supplement in animal feed. New uses for the meal under investigation include fertilizer, weed suppressant, organic mulch, or as a biomass fuel source. Edible oils are used for frying, salad oil, and deep fat frying throughout the United States. These oils, purchased at grocery stores and through food service supply houses, are generally produced in large operations. This food product has the potential to provide both food and fuel from the same crop on a regional basis. Edible oils that are used in deep fat fryers may be processed into biodiesel after being used in the fryer. This regionally produced oilseed crop will produce both food and fuel as a part of the regional development of food and energy systems. Penn State University and the University of Vermont have been working with oilseed crop growth and processing for over six years. Efforts have focused on the growth of oilseed crops and the pressing of the oilseeds for fuel. With little upward movement in fossil fuel prices, it has become evident that oilseed growth only for the production of fuel may not always be profitable. The addition of edible oils to the oil marketing choices could support oilseed production as a profitable enterprise for some farmers. Currently producers in Vermont and Pennsylvania are growing various oilseed crops, primarily sunflower and canola. Pressing for food oils is done by approximately 10 producers, with the largest growing 400 acres and the smallest growing fractional acreage. These producers use cold pressing, either on-site or contracted, to produce the oil from their crop. Crops are grown both as certified organic and under conventional cropping systems. Information on small scale production of edible oils is not readily available and, based on recent activities,farmers are seeking this information. This proposal fills this gap, and provides the information and guidance necessary for oilseed producers to investigate edible oil production as a part of their overall marketing scheme. Working with farmers interested in producing edible oils, fact sheets on the various processing steps will be developed directed at small scale producers. Research into some of these processes on a small scale, for example the degumming and bleaching of oils, and storage life of raw oils, will be carried out so that these fact sheets are based on data relevant to small scale producers. Current information on edible oil production is mostly proprietary or available only to commercial oil facilities. Workshops held at current oilseed press facilities will demonstrate the different processes involved with producing edible oils, and food safety and sanitation requirements will be an integral part of these programs. Often safety and sanitation requirements are not written in user-friendly language, so they will be deciphered and explained in plain language. Webinars and YouTube video on the major processing steps will be produced, allowing farmers convenient access to this information. By the project end, 200 farmers will learn how to safely and profitably produce edible oils, and 20 of these farmers will engage in edible oil production increasing the value of their product $10.00/gallon resulting in a profitable enterprise documented with the oilseed calculator.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    12 of the current 35 oilseed producers will harvest 50 acres of edible oilseeds (5 acres average per farm) producing a total of 75,400 pounds of seeds (1500 lb average per acre) and 3,000 gallons of oil (60 gallon average per acre), that will sell for $60 per gallon and increase the value of the oil by $20 per gallon.

    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.