This project will research innovative practices of intercropping in order to make small scale CSA farm operations more economically and ecologically sustainable. While CSA models are socially beneficial to farmers and communities because they create a direct relationship between farmers and consumers, CSA farms often struggle with managing a large diversity of crops in a financially viable way. This problem is particularly acute for small farms that try to grow space consuming crops like sweet potatoes, winter squash, and broccoli. Because these crops need many days to reach maturity and a lot of space, many CSA farms abandon growing these crops and focus instead on more short day small crops such as salad greens. This can reduce the value of CSA shares to consumers; research consistently shows consumers highly value hearty vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash and broccoli. This project will demonstrate that these crops can be grown profitability on a small scale if they are intercropped with short day small crops. We will research the combination of sweet potatoes with onions, winter squash with garlic, and broccoli with lettuce. Our research will provide farmers with specific information about an intercropping growing system along with the supporting economic data.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Research and record the yield per acre of three intercropping systems: broccoli/lettuce, sweet potatoes/onions, and winter squash/garlic
- Determine return on investment for each of the intercropping pairings by recording materials and labor expenses, and comparing market value to the yield recorded for each separate pairing
- Produce a digital document outlining the spacing and timing of each intercropping system along with two short videos documenting project results
- Share project results through a field day, conference presentations, and through social media