Windswept Farm, in partnership with the American Chestnut Foundation and Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources is seeking financial assistance to allow participants to explore the feasibility of chestnut cooperatives for aggregation, processing and niche marketing opportunities for producers in the Northeast. The concept has been brought to light through lesson learned during the Northeast SARE funded Northeast Advanced Agroforestry Training for Natural Resource and Agricultural Educators professional development project implemented over the last two years.
This project aims to serve the growing agricultural community focused on sustainable perennial cropping systems, while supporting the conservation efforts of the American Chestnut Foundation through developing resources and a business model for regional scale chestnut processing facilities. Through our visits to existing chestnut cooperatives, we will learn about how to establish a cooperative, different approaches to accessing aggregating and processing equipment, what business relationships and contracts are needed, and about lessons learned on network building among producers. We also seek to better understand the niche marketing opportunity of American chestnut species, in comparison to non-native chestnut and European species to gauge whether or not an economic avenue is suited to enhancing their American chestnut species restoration throughout much of the United States.
The development of a viable cooperative business model and educational offerings will not only aid in the economic sustainability of Windswept Farm, but also provide regional cohorts resources needed in creating their own enterprises, while increasing the viability of perennial based agroforestry systems across the northeast region.
Project objectives from proposal:
The goal of this project is to create a model for a regional processing and marketing system for chestnuts that can help farmers optimize their production and income from their chestnut crops while encouraging the implementation of perennial agricultural systems throughout the Northeast.
Chestnuts are already being grown throughout the northeast, as incidental trees on farmsteads; in restoration and experimental plantings; on small farms; and in alley cropping and silvopasture systems where they are grown as fall mast for livestock. However, there is little support for famers who wish to expand their market reach. This project aims to begin to develop enhanced access to markets and processing facilities in the northeast by reviewing existing models in the Midwest and by beginning to develop a processing center at Windswept Farm for the Central Pennsylvania region.
In addition to providing economic benefits to farmers in the region, this project seeks to discover the niche marketing opportunities of American chestnut species as compared to Asian and hybrid varieties as an economic means towards enhancing the preservation of this once vastly dominant and culturally important tree species.