Southern Ohio alternative energy development

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2007: $9,652.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Ohio
Project Leader:
John Hemmings
Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans, sugarcane
  • Vegetables: sweet corn
  • Additional Plants: trees, ornamentals


  • Crop Production: forestry, municipal wastes
  • Education and Training: technical assistance
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels, energy conservation/efficiency, energy use, solar energy, wind power
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, leadership development, new business opportunities, partnerships

    Proposal abstract:

    Note to the reader: This project is part of SARE's 2006-2007 Appalchian Initiative, which is administered by the Northeast region. Direct inquiries about this project to and reference project CNE07-035. The 12-county OVRDC target area of southern Ohio is primarily an economically distressed rural and small town region. Out of our 11 Appalachian counties: 2 are designated distressed and 5 are designated as at-risk in the 2007 designation by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). One of the most significant problems to be addressed is to raise the incomes and create more job possibilities for a region with low per capita income and with average salaries in all sectors running significantly lower than the state and national averages. These trends are true of the farm sector with farm size and farm income being significantly less than state averages. According to the 2002 Agriculture Census, total cropland acres harvested for OVRDC region was 883,506 acres (11 percent of Ohio). The market value of agricultural products sold in 2002 for the region was 248,518,000 (17 percent of Ohio). However the market value per farm is almost 50 percent less in the region compared to Ohio ($26,018 compared to $50,462). In addition, one of the small farm cash crops, burley tobacco, is being undermined by decreasing demand and the loss of quotas. OVRDC’s major partner in this application, OSU South Centers, which is part of the state extension service, has been working to educate farmers to develop more interest in specialty crops such as berries and herbs as well as aqua culture and the production of fresh water shrimp. Some progress has been made, but there is no significant production in these crops. One of the other major resources of the area has been hardwood and the region has significant numbers of sawmills and lumber producers. OVRDC has focused on the lumber industry for several years and one of the significant problems is that much of the lumber is shipped out as logs or green undried lumber with very little value added and we are, therefore, missing some of the potential increased income and jobs that could be developed. One of the other problems of this industry is that generally they are not getting much value out of their wood waste (sawdust, chips, less desirable wood). This project will start to address this issue by identifying better alternatives for this waste, thus helping to increase the income potential for this sector.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    OVRDC’s Executive Director, as President of the Development District Association of Appalachia (DDAA), has been involved in some of the discussions the last few months that led to ARC developing Appalachia’s Energy Blueprint, which was released in October 2006. We also started discussions with staff at the O.S.U. South Centers on how we could possibly advance economic development in southern Ohio through promoting alternative energy usage. We decided that one of the barriers toward advancing the use of alternative energy was the lack of information in the region about the technology and what was happening in the field.

    After some of us attended an alternative energy workshop which focused on some of the major developments happening in the fields of wind, solar, bio-diesel and fuel cells; we decided that we needed to bring a similar seminar to the southern Ohio region. A follow-up meeting took place between OVRDC and O.S.U. South Centers staff to discuss the basic objectives and activities of this proposal. We decided to address the issue of low farm income and low income in the saw mill and related businesses by a two-fold approach: 1) increase the income for farm produce and waste and wood waste by developing new markets for use as alternative energy resources and 2) assist farmers and businesses in reducing their energy costs in their own operations.

    We will begin to address these two objectives by planning a project that will have one educational/ outreach component. We will plan and conduct a comprehensive alternative energy seminar for the southern Ohio region. The seminar will target farmers, chambers of commerce, economic development staff, saw mills, lumber yards, and other small businesses. The seminar will include presentations on all the major alternative fuel sources including wind, solar, bio-diesel, and fuel cells, as well as presentations about possible grant, loan, and venture capital sources available for alternative energy. A survey assessment of the level of interest by farms, sawmills and others in pursuing alternative energy options will be conducted at the seminar. There will also be some follow-up technical assistance provided for those who attended the seminar.

    The project also plans two specific follow-up field visits each for 20-30 business/farmers who are interested in more detailed information about significant alternative fuel sources in the state of Ohio. One field visit will be planned with a bio-diesel manufacturer (Nexsol) in the Cincinnati area and the other field visit will be planned with a fuel cell manufacturer (Technology Management) in the Cleveland area. This will provide much more detailed information about these two potential resources.

    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.