Low Input Sustainable Agriculture Short Course
The number of farmers has declined in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area. There is also a lack of information supporting sustainable agriculture techniques for existing and prospective farmers. This grower proposes to address the decrease in the number of farmers by developing a workshop on sustainable agriculture that will help beginning farmers succeed.
Area supermarkets acquire nearly all of their fresh produce and meat through distribution systems that buy from suppliers all over the world. Not surprisingly, there are only two market farmers in the Chattanooga area. Both are certified organic growers who produce a variety of fruits and vegetables. A small number of specialty farmers continue to produce fresh fruit on a limited basis.
The grower will plan, market and conduct a comprehensive short course on sustainable agriculture in the Chattanooga area. Through this course he will emphasize intensive farming practices utilizing low inputs for small and limited-resource farmers.
This project will directly address the problem of the decreasing agricultural base in the area. By providing sustainable agriculture options for those wishing to enter agriculture as a career, he will expand the availability of fresh local food for the Chattanooga area.
1.) Conduct a 40-hour short course on low-input sustainable agriculture for existing large- and small-scale farmers and to potential farmers.
2.) Communicate issues linked to agriculture through farmers, land-use planners and conservationists.
The short course is designed to include information on plant physiology, soil texture and structure, crop planning and rotation, planting and tillage techniques, composting, organic pest management and marketing. The techniques are part of a total system showing course participants how to grow more food per acre.
The section on tillage practices demonstrated how to improve crop yield by increasing soil fertility, texture, structure and organic matter. It covered the use of compost and how to make it from animal manures and crop residues. The unit on pest control integrated biological controls with common cultural practices. The course also covered selective harvesting of hardwoods, preservation of habitat and use of native species.
The marketing section covered direct sales to consumers through farm stands, community supported agriculture (CSA) groups, farmers’ markets and value-added products. The course stressed the use of on-farm resources and the reduction of off-farm inputs to increase net farm income.
Information and results from the course is being distributed through press releases to local news media and by publication in each cooperator’s newsletter. Cooperators will also distribute information about availability of local produce and generate further interest in the course. Projects initiated as a result of the course will be used for annual farm tours and as demonstration sites.