Heirloom Vegetable Production Strategies to Improve Family Farm Income

2007 Annual Report for FNC05-576

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2005: $17,730.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:

Heirloom Vegetable Production Strategies to Improve Family Farm Income


The project was started in the spring of 2007 due to funding received in late 2006. In addition, two of the participants declined to participate due to changes in their farming operations. New farmers, Andrew Read and Margot McMillen took their places. Funds from the grant were spent in the following line-items:

• Mileage for research to Bradford Farm to visit with Lewis Jett and James Quinn regarding project input
• Seeds for various heirloom vegetables seeds from Baker Creek Heirlooms, Heirloom Acres, Territorial and Johnny's Seeds
• Soil amendments and mulches
• Irrigation equipment and supplies
• Site preparation of the greenhouse.
• Test market inventory and supplies.
• High tunnels (partly paid from grant funds
• Labor to construct hoop houses
• Mike Denehy and Graphic Illusions to secure server space for the project website.
• Farm production data labor expenses

Some of these items were more expensive than originally thought, and the members paid for the remaining balance out of their own pockets.

After one year of production and monitoring to check heirloom yields and disease resistance, the variety list is still in process and being refined from 2008 data. 2007's successful varieties included:

• Porter
• Black from Tula
• Mortgage Lifter
• Black Plum
• Green Zebra

Project participants found good markets for #1 fresh-market tomatoes. Tested recipes for #2 tomatoes in sauces. Taste-tested recipes with consumers in the Mid-Missouri market.
The project team developed more thorough plan for web marketing and marketing design. Also spent significant time and effort performing market research for future web marketing efforts.

In 2008, there is significant process being made with a spring and fall crop of tomatoes. There is also experimentation occurring with intercropping of lettuces to improve short-term cash flows. There has also been heirloom onion production in greenhouses over winter for spring marketing. The major work for the 2008 year includes website development and marketing roll-out. This phase should be complete for late summer and rolled out by the 2008 Holiday Season. The labels and marketing component are in development. USDA requirements are being collected and adapted.

Project participants were involved with Schafly "Slow Wednesday" in June of 2008, with lecture and talking points.

[Editor’s Note: Wednesday, June 11 Slow Food St. Louis and Schlafly Bottleworks presented SLOWednesdays, featuring the Root Cellar farm. The program description from the Slow Food St. Louis website: (http://www.slowfoodstl.org/) read: “Since 1997 Kimberly Griffin and Walker Claridge have been farming in Millersburg and, more recently, Hatton, Missouri. Between the two locations they farm seven acres and have three greenhouses. They grow just about any vegetables and herbs that can be grown in these parts, and in 2001 opened the Root Cellar Grocery and Cafe in Columbia, MO.

“Come shop at the Maplewood Farmer’s Market and stick around to hear about their farm and what it takes to get their wonderful, fresh, local produce to our markets and our tables. And enjoy some delicious specials using ingredients provided by Root Cellar prepared by Bottleworks Chef Matt Bessler. Or, order from the full menu.
7-7:45 p.m. Settle in in the Crown Room and place your orders if you’re dining
7:45-8:45 Guest farmer presentation
8:45-9:00 Q&A”]

Participants gave a talk at Big Canoe (Columbia urban agriculture organization) meeting about possibilities in urban heirloom market gardening.

[Editor’s Note: The Big Canoe website (http://www.bigcanoemo.org/index.htm) describes the organization as “a grassroots organization dedicated to building economic and environmental sustainability in communities throughout Mid-Missouri. Our goal is to nurture and participate in local projects, educational efforts and grassroots campaigns that promote the values of ecological health, economic fairness, social justice and local democracy.

“Big Canoe prioritizes issues involving public space preservation, sustainable agriculture, affordable housing, transportation, renewable energy and broad-based local ownership of economic resources.”]

Will do a presentation at the 2008 Farmers Forum at the National Small Farm Trade Show & Conference in Columbia, MO at 3:30 pm on November 8. The event involves lots of information sharing between farmers and others. Will have project information posted on the web and available at the Columbia Farmers Market. Will sponsor a booth in October or November.