The Farm Micro-Enterprise Development Program in the mid-Ohio Valley: Can extended season high tunnel production increase agricultural self-employment?

Project Overview

ONE14-211
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,996.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Lauren Kemp
Unlimited Future Inc

Annual Reports

Information Products

Commodities

  • Vegetables: cucurbits, tomatoes

Practices

  • Crop Production: crop rotation, continuous cropping, multiple cropping
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    Although local buying gained momentum in metropolitan areas across the country as early as 2005, local food in West Virginia is just blooming as a trend in eating and economics. Unlimited Future, Inc. a business incubator and resource center for small businesses; seeks to help farmers capitalize on this economic opportunity. With over one billion dollars in yearly food sales in the Mid-Ohio Valley, even a small percentage of dollars redirected to local farmers could make a significant impact. 

    Farming in the Mid-Ohio Valley is practiced for self-sufficiency, nostalgia and recreation rather than as a primary career path. Demand for consistently available local produce from individual consumers and volume buyers is creating opportunities for self-employment in agriculture. Like many industries, farming is a type of job that is best taught by experience and apprenticeship. Unlimited Future, Inc. is in the process of creating an extended season high tunnel training program that will serve aspiring farmers and established farm businesses. The Farm Micro-Enterprise Development Program will provide hands on high tunnel production experience accompanied by a curriculum that will train farmers in three main areas, crop management, business management, and indirect product marketing. 

    The Farm Micro-Enterprise Development Program will be the anchor for research and education for extended season high tunnel production in the Mid-Ohio Valley. The program goal is to increase self-employment and annual farm income in order to improve the quality of life of local farmers. 

    UFI, has created a new tab on their website for the Farm Micro-Enterprise Development Program which will serve as an information hub as the project develops. The website will feature multi-media updates including photos, videos, blog style updates that will also be shared on social media and a badge with SARE logo and link to more information. The business management webinar will be available online. UFI intends to spread information through collaborations with other group’s newsletters or email listservs, as well as our own 600+ member email list. In addition, UFI has a close relationship to local print media; regular updates about the high tunnel project will be published in the Herald Dispatch based in Huntington. The Herald Dispatch has published three articles about the Farm Micro-Enterprise Program’s high tunnel since September and 100+ articles about local food and farming activity in the last year. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    There are three important questions for this project that will be the focus of the Farm Micro-Enterprise Development Program’s investigation. These questions will be evaluated using yield and sales from each business.

    • How are the available crop yield and planting models affected by variations in environmental conditions and farm infrastructure in the Mid-Ohio Valley?
    • What advantages do High tunnels provide in controlling the supply, quality and consistency of specialty crops?
    • Does an extended season high tunnel system generate enough revenue to meet personal earning goals and create self-sustaining employment?

    This project will create a baseline data set about the profitability of high tunnels for the Mid-Ohio Valley.  The project will engage three different businesses The Potager,a sole proprietor certified organic farm;  Call Farm,a multi-generational family farm; and Perennial Favorites an established greenhouse that employs 4 people. The three high tunnel test sites will use available crop planting schedules and expected yield data provided by the West Virginia University Extension Service. UFI will perform an assessment with each owner or manager to identify earning goals and strategies that suit their target market, budget and schedule. 

    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.