Sustainable agriculture and forestry demonstration project
Rapid farm loss in Greene County, combined with a declining coal industry, have triggered economic development concerns in southwestern Pennsylvania. The project leader will conduct demonstration projects in sustainable forestry, free-range poultry, a community kitchen for food processing and adding value, and curriculum for youth in sustainable agriculture and environmental education. The overall goal is to make sustainable approaches to agriculture a part of the economic development plan in the region and to reclaim agriculture as a viable source of income. Outreach will be through e-mail lists, extension, and a display to be set up at fairs, meetings, and other local events.
Sustaining Greene County (SGC) seeks to promote agriculture as a viable source of income for local farm families.
Central to this effort will be Tally Hollow Farm (THF), an agricultural and sustainable forestry demonstration farm. Free range poultry production as well as side by side demonstration plots featuring different woodlot management practices will be prominently featured.
In addition, SGC will begin to examine the viability of establishing a community kitchen for use as a central location for value added processing of local products.
A community outreach program featuring a professionally produced portable display will be utilized at local fairs, festivals, and meetings to raise awareness of and partipation in SGC projects. Ties to local FFA and vo-ag programs as well as numerous agricultural agencies and organizations will be strengthened. In addition SGC will work to establish an environmental education curriculum for use in the community. The curriculum will further advance the concept of sustainable agriculture as economic development thoroughout the community.
Despite some unexpected delays, there have been some noteworthy milestones. Unforeseen circumstances delayed finalization of the agreement with Consol Energy for use of the property until late September. In addition, there continues to be additional delays in receipt of matching funds due to late passage (December 03) of the state budget, temporarily removing some of the matching funds.
SGC is pleased to have completed the agreement with Consol providing access to the property. Work is progressing on establishing an outdoor classroom and outside funding has been secured to help complete construction during the winter of 03-04. Classroom site location has been determined, and with the assistance of volunteers preparation has begun. The site has been selected for the free range poultry project, and a retired local poultry producer has donated suitable housing. A certified counsultant forester has visited the site and a preliminary report has been filed with SGC. Follow up visits will take place in early 04 to complete the inventory and evaluation of the woodlot. These additional visits will be instrumental in completion of the planning process conducted by the consultant.
SGC is fortunate to have secured funding to purchase a professionally designed traveling display for use in outreach activities. In addition, funding has been secured through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to support the forestry component. Volunteers from Waynesburg College and West Virginia University while small in number have contributed greatly to start of the project.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
One of the more unexpected impacts came in the form of publicity as a result of local and regional newspaper coverage of our efforts. These articles while reaching several thousand subscribers have also resulted in additional outreach provided by several web sites. SGC has received email from as far away as New Zealand in recent weeks inquiring about the project.
A local farmer has donated poultry housing, and a state organization is discussing the possiblity of partnering with SGC to establish a mobile poultry processing unit. We are pleased to discover that interest within the local community has been high and supportive.