- Crop Production: cropping systems, crop rotation
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, value added
Problem and justification
For land-constrained farmers in the Northeast, value-added grain production holds great potential for increasing farm profitability while growing crops that can enhance agroecosystem health. When the traditional small grains crops, which are largely grown in the region as feed or soil-improving cover crops, are managed organically and for food-grade quality, they and their exotic cousins, the ancient wheats spelt, emmer, and einkorn, can fetch retail prices comparable to those of high-value vegetable crops. However, a survey of farmers in PA, NY, and NJ showed that two constraints to the development of value-added grain enterprises are lack of expertise in food-grade grain production and processing and difficulty in finding affordable, scale-appropriate production and processing equipment.
Solution and approach
To address these constraints, the project will develop an intensive training program for PA, NY, and NJ growers that covers topics selected by the farmers themselves, including both management practices and equipment (such as seed cleaners and grain dehullers) critical for high-quality grain production and processing. The training program will also incorporate solutions generated by farmers to the problem of sourcing effective, affordable equipment, including refurbishing used equipment, modifying on hand equipment to perform a needed function, construction of low-cost versions of needed equipment, and equipment sharing. Results from research conducted by the project comparing effectiveness of farmer-built and commercial dehullers will be incorporated in the training curriculum. Instruction for the training will largely be provided by innovative, experienced farmers and entrepreneurs and will take place as much as possible on farms or at processing facilities. At the conclusion of the training program, farmers will be encouraged to develop individual equipment projects and to connect with mentors provided by the project to successfully accomplish their equipment goals. It is anticipated that this intensive, highly focused, and farmer-generated training program will result in a number of successful start ups and expansions of value-added grains enterprises.
Performance targets from proposal:
Thirty-five farmers repair, modify, build or purchase scale-appropriate grain production or processing equipment resulting in 20 new and 15 expanded value-added grain enterprises that lead to an average annual increase in sales of $3,000 per farm.