Value-added Sustainable Agriculture Initiative

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2006: $40,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Kathyln Chupik
Appalachian Sustainable Development

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, broccoli, cabbages, cucurbits, eggplant, peas (culinary), peppers, tomatoes, turnips


  • Animal Production: housing, free-range
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, risk management, value added
  • Pest Management: biological control, competition, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, flame, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulches - living, physical control, mulching - plastic, precision herbicide use, prevention, row covers (for pests), sanitation, smother crops, trap crops, traps, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, employment opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    This two year project got underway in March, 2007. In the first six months of the project, several important milestones have been reached, including the following:

    Extensive outreach and recruitment efforts enabled us to expand the Appalachian Harvest growers network from 37 in 2006 to 58 in 2007.

    Several workshops, farm tours and other training activities have noticeably improved farmers’ understanding of organic production and the quality of their produce.

    A “free-range” egg producers network was formed as a part of Appalachian Harvest, and launched in late May. A production protocol for free-range eggs was developed, along with branded cartons and a drop-off and delivery schedule. ASD has been shipping approximately 450 dozen eggs per week to one buyer (Ingles) since May.

    Sales with most of our supermarket buyers have increased significantly over 2006, although the destruction of our packing house on May 16th set us back in the early part of the season. Year to date sales are over $300,000.
    available below.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Increase the number of organic and sustainable farmers from 40 to 60 in 2007, and 75 in 2008 including those selling certified organic produce and free range eggs through the Appalachian Harvest network. Building the base of growers and adequately preparing and supporting them for the transition to organic is at the heart of this project.

    For 2007, we have increased the number of certified organic produce farmers to 53 and added 5 producing free-range eggs, for a total of 58 thus far. We are attempting to add another 3 – 5 egg producers as the year progresses.

    Outreach and training activities, including community meetings, farm tours and farm visits have already begun in an effort to recruit more farmers in 2008.

    Allen Straw, VPI fruit and vegetable specialist is overseeing an organic disease control research trial for cucurbits, to be completed in September.

    Objective 2: Expand income opportunities for 40 existing AH farmers, leading to an overall increase in organic farm sales to at least $550,000 in 2007, and $750,000 in 2008. With current demand more than double our supply, existing organic growers will be encouraged to expand acreage and diversify their crops.

    Year to date Appalachian Harvest sales stand at $310,000. Due to our packinghouse fire in May, and the challenges this presented for the first several weeks of the season, we will likely fall short of our goal of $550,000in sales for 2007. Currently, we project total sales for the year at $450,000 - $500,000.

    Crop diversification has been quite successful for several farmers for two new crops: eggplant and Carmen sweet peppers, both of which were grown on a small, pilot basis in 2006.

    Objective 3. Strengthen existing ancillary businesses – organic greenhouses, organic inputs – and add 2-4 additional enterprises built around local sustainable agriculture. As the acreage under production increases, so too will the demand for certified organic plants and, potentially, seeds from local producers.

    At least 2 additional farmers built or retrofitted greenhouses for certified organic production of transplants in 2007, bringing the total number to 10. One farmer’s organic seed and supply business has expanded steadily to meet farmers’ needs, while two traditional local farm supply stores (in Lee and Washington counties) have begun to stock organic supplies.

    Objective 4: Solidify partnership with existing buyers, by increasing sales and the consistency and quality of supply of organic produce and free range eggs. The major partners include: Food City (Abingdon), Ukrops (Richmond), Earth Fare (Asheville, NC), Ingles (Asheville, NC), Whole Foods, South (Duluth, GA), Lancaster (Landover, MD) and Kroger (Roanoke, VA). These buyers represent nearly 500 individual stores and are the key to continued expansion of markets for high value farm products

    Partnerships with most buyers have strengthened this year and sales are up substantially for some, including Whole Foods and Kroger. Buyers from Whole Foods visited our farms and packing house in the spring, solidifying our understanding of their needs and strengthening their commitment to Appalachian Harvest.

    Joint “local foods” events have been undertaken between ASD and Food City, ASD and Ingles and ASD and Ukrops.

    We have also begun selling free-range eggs to two local “natural foods” grocers and plan to supply East Tennessee State University with produce and eggs during their fall semester.

    Objective 5. Develop partnerships with East Coast Fresh Cuts and possibly other food companies to produce fresh salsas from local, organic produce. This partnership was begun in 2006, leading to $7,300 sales of AH produce, most of it the “seconds” that are difficult to market. We project a tripling in this business in 2007, and continued increase in 2008, improving income for many of the farmers in AH. Unlike a previous attempt at a “salsa partnership”, this venture is simpler and lower risk for ASD, as East Coast is already in the salsa business and is expanding and transitioning to more local and organic ingredients.

    ASD has just begun selling produce, including seconds, to East Coast Fresh Cuts (ECFC) for production of fresh organic salsa. ECFC has agreed to joint branding with Appalachian Harvest while our product is in season.

    We have also begun selling organic produce seconds to the SHARE food program, a large buying club primarily for low to moderate income people based in Pulaski, Virginia. SHARE has 2500 – 3000 participating households each month.

    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.