Establishing a Service Provider Network for Alternative Grain Crops in Pennsylvania

Project Overview

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $44,408.00
Funds awarded in 2018: $43,565.00
Funds awarded in 2019: $44,695.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Pennsylvania State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
State Coordinator:
Dr. Kristy Borrelli
The Pennsylvania State University


  • Agronomic: barley, corn, soybeans


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cropping systems
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, Craft Beverage Industry

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and justification

    Increasing consumer demand for local sources of craft beverages, specialty flours, and organic animal products offers multiple opportunities for Pennsylvania (PA) farmers to supply alternative grain crops and meet local demand for high-value markets. Currently, local supplies of grains for these products are not meeting demand (Becker, 2016; OTA, 2015; Ciulla, 2014) and many of these products are imported (OTA, 2015; Reaves and Rosenblum, 2014; Mainville et al., 2009). Meanwhile, prices of conventional corn, soy, and milk are decreasing rapidly (USDA-NASS, 2015) and challenging farmers’ abilities to profit on PA’s main market enterprises. The need for diverse grain-based products across industries allows opportunities for farmers and service providers in different PA growing regions (Roth, 2016) to supply various markets. Interest among service providers and farmers about alternative grain crops in PA is demonstrated by strong participation in ongoing activities. Conferences addressing related topics are also increasing in number and experiencing high attendance. Despite these ongoing efforts, information is insufficient among service providers and interdisciplinary collaboration is needed to bridge the gaps of knowledge between marketing and production potentials for these crops

    Solution and approach

    This NE-SARE State PDP aims to address needs and opportunities associated with alternative grain crop production and marketing in collaboration with service providers across disciplines. Engaging various practitioners who are involved in production, processing, and marketing will strengthen collective knowledge about associated opportunities and challenges for alternative grain crops in the region. We will develop two main market assessments (heritage grain and animal feed grain) that will highlight opportunities for education and production. Field demonstration plots throughout PA will be established to address production questions identified as learning needs to enable service providers to develop a cohesive understanding that can be incorporated into outreach programs with farmers. This PDP will result in an interdisciplinary network of informed service providers who are prepared to assist farmers, businesses, and consumers address local concerns about alternative grain crops.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    a. 10 agricultural service providers collaborate with state coordinator to host 5 informative workshops about alternative grain production that include information about marketing/quality and crop/animal production considerations for 100 service providers and 80 grain farmers.

    b. 5 agricultural service providers specializing in agronomic crop production and animal science establish field demonstrations featuring regionally appropriate alternative grain crops and partner with 5 agricultural service providers to present information about grain marketing/quality at 5 farms that will serve as field tour stops where 80 farmers and 100 service providers learn of regional opportunities for producing alternative grain.

    c. 10 agricultural service providers who are actively involved in data collection (performance targets a and b) synthesize information collected from demonstration plots, workshops, and other activities into written and digital Extension outreach materials that are shared with 100 farmers and 150 service providers via meeting presentations and individual consulting sessions with farmers.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.