- Fruits: berries (strawberries)
- Vegetables: cucurbits, peppers, tomatoes
- Additional Plants: herbs
- Education and Training: extension
- Energy: bioenergy and biofuels, energy conservation/efficiency, energy use, solar energy, wind power
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, whole farm planning
- Pest Management: biological control, biorational pesticides, botanical pesticides, chemical control, cultural control, sanitation
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures
The purpose of this proposed Professional Development Program (PDP) is to enhance the skills and knowledge base of agriculture professionals from Colorado on small-scale commercial greenhouse production. To accomplish this goal a series of curricula, which can be accessed by agriculture professionals and educators, will be developed with supplemental training. The commercial greenhouse educational programs will be targeted towards small acreage farm and ranch owners whom are attempting to diversify their agricultural production using sustainable greenhouse practices providing year-round income, profitable self-employment, and an enhanced quality of life.
There is considerable financial variability among small-scale agricultural enterprises. The combination of increased mergers of food processing companies, loss of competitive markets, and reduction of government price stabilizing tools has made agricultural producers increasingly vulnerable. Small-scale farmers and ranchers have even less control over their economic security. Small-scale greenhouse production provides an opportunity for small-scale farmers and ranchers to exploit niche markets. This is especially important for those in close proximity to urban centers. Training including greenhouse production will empower small-scale farm and ranch owners to be more sustainable with less reliance on off-farm income.
The proposed greenhouse production training and educational programs will include both fresh market vegetable production as well as ornamental plant production targeted for distribution in local rural communities. Greenhouse production provides additional farming practices that will stimulate local rural economies through an expansion of niche markets. Local production of greenhouse products will serve to increase agricultural diversification in rural areas, which ultimately will help to ensure the viability and sustainability of rural communities.
Project objectives from proposal:
There is increased interest in small farm production in Colorado. Many local Extension offices field regular requests for information on small-scale farming practices. According to Colorado Local Sustainability (www.localsustainability.net) there are more than 120 local distributers of locally grown food in Colorado. Enterprise diversification, which may include greenhouse crops, is critical to risk management especially for small growers. However, the knowledge base in greenhouse production is very scattered and there is a lack of compiled training material and training opportunities directed to agriculture educators new to small-scale greenhouse production.
The concept of the proposed PDP plan is to empower local agriculture professionals with the tools and resources to deliver small-scale greenhouse training. It is assumed that the participating agriculture professionals will have access to internet-based educational platforms for training (Web 1.0 and 2.0).
Short-Term. Extension faculty, state and federal partners, and members of the commercial greenhouse industry will gain knowledge of the sustainable practices for small-scale greenhouse production supporting local agriculture.
Medium-Term. Extension faculty, state and federal partners, and members of the commercial greenhouse industry will have the knowledge and experience to deliver training in their counties and/or regions to those that are interested in sustainable greenhouse practices. Local small-scale greenhouse owners will have an increased awareness of sustainable greenhouse practices. Resource materials will be made available to future participants.
Long-Term. The commercial greenhouse educational programs will empower small acreage farm and ranch owners to build and operate small-scale greenhouses using sustainable practices. The expectation is that those owners whom are attempting to diversify their agricultural production, will gain year-round income, profitable self-employment, and an enhanced quality of life. It is anticipated that the success of an educational program on sustainable small-scale greenhouse production will provide future stimuli for participation and integration of sustainable farming practices in other agricultural systems.