From Seed to Sale: Market-Driven High Tunnel Production Education for West Virginia Agricultural Providers

Project Overview

ENE20-163
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $112,771.00
Projected End Date: 06/01/2023
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Lisa Jones
West Virginia University

Commodities

  • Vegetables: broccoli, greens (leafy)

Practices

  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: extension
  • Farm Business Management: cooperatives
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem & Justification:

    The Guyan and Monongahela Conservation Districts have over 150 new high tunnel producers.  Most of these growers have not found the most efficient or profitable crop selections for local markets. Moreover, the growers are not organized into cohesive producer or marketing groups. There is a viable market for winter leafy greens in West Virginia based on the results from a previous SARE Partnership Project. Training a team of USDA-NRCS, Extension and Agricultural Science personnel who interact with high tunnel producers in both districts will result in expanded winter leafy green production and stronger grower organization.  The training program in these two conservation districts will serve as a template for further training across West Virginia.

    Solution & Approach:

    We will train a team of educators, service providers, and grower learning partners to guide new specialty crop high tunnel growers on production and marketing of winter leafy greens in two conservation districts. Asset mapping will determine specific capacity and market opportunities within each district. Creation of agricultural leaders through leadership and cooperative training programs will be incorporated into the production and marketing training. This professional development project will connect new growers with USDA-NRCS personnel, Agriculture Extension and Agricultural Science instructors to create a coalition of learners and trainers who will expand winter production and marketing of leafy greens.

    Milestones & Performance Target:

    Building on the output from complementary SARE grant projects in West Virginia during the past 10 years, we will create an education and training program within each conservation district.  The Monongahela District will increase the size of their marketing cooperative as a result of this project while growers in the Guyan District will form a new producer cooperative within 1 year of the completion of this project. Growers will be trained by the participants in this project on Best Management Practices for winter leafy green production and marketing. By the end of the professional development project 4 additional growers within each targeted conservation district will be growing and marketing winter leafy greens. Connections between producers and Agricultural Science faculty and students will be established to create a new generation of food producers in each district. Twelve Agriculture Service Providers within each district who received training on winter leafy green high tunnel production and marketing will use the skills and resources acquired through the training to establish eight total new winter leafy green producers that matches market demand within the districts or marketing region.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    USDA-NRCS personnel, West Virginia University Extension, West Virginia State University Extension, and Agricultural Science Instructors will join with grower learning partners in 2 Conservation Districts in West Virginia for collaborative learning. The project will identify regional assets, train 30 service providers to provide advice or demonstration on winter high tunnel leafy green production and marketing to 100 farmers, increasing their knowledge, while establishing 8 new producers, and increasing soil sample submissions by 50 producers.

    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.