- Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, focus group, networking, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: cooperatives
- Sustainable Communities: community planning, local and regional food systems, partnerships, community services, social capital, social networks
Across Appalachia farmers struggle to access appropriate equipment and resources that are critical to scaling up and creating sustainable farm businesses. Some farmers have reached a scale that has allowed them to purchase some equipment, but due to distances and transportation constraints, they have not been able to share resources or rent this equipment to other farms. Additionally, many farms are ready to scale up but do not have the capital necessary to invest in equipment . This project will work with four small farms, three established and one new farm, to explore the feasibility of farm equipment and resource sharing in rural Appalachian . The project leader will work with the pilot farms to develop a framework and develop methods for ensuring the safety, efficacy, and fair distribution of rental and shared resources along with strategies for acquiring new implements. The main component of this project will partner pilot farms in the spring of 2016 to test and implement the resource sharing program. This project will develop and implement a program that will use existing equipment from pilot farms to create a framework for equipment sharing. This model will be implemented in the 2016 growing season and a report on the outcomes of the project will be published and shared through local resources, website, and a presentation at the West Virginia Small Farms Conference in 2017.
Project objectives from proposal:
Proposed Solution: How can shared equipment networks be developed and maintained in rural Appalachian support small and new farms in reaching farm production goals? Can this type of model successfully increase farm profits in Southeastern West Virginia? The objectives of this project are to (objective 1) establish a network/partnership between existing farms to determine the most effective model for this region; (objective 2) implement the program in the 2016 growing season and modify framework as needed to adjust to unforeseen challenges; (objective 3) record and track the costs and benefits of the project to participating farms. Objective three will make sure that the available resources make a difference for the partner farms and that the project creates value; and (objective 4) create publicly available resources for equipment sharing in other Appalachian regions. Project development will consider specific ideas and challenges from partner farms to develop the starting framework for the project and allow partner farms and project leaders to test the developed framework and make adjustments to ensure efficacy. Project outcomes and lessons learned will be summarized and made available for replication.
Project Methods Downstream Strategies (DS) will provide consulting, guidance, grant management and reporting, and will be in charge of hiring the part-time equipment sharing manager. The Partner Farms (CPF) be involved with the planning process in February and March 2016 and will receive hourly compensation for their research and planning time. The Pilot Partner Farms(PPF) will be actively involved in the 2016 pilot program and will be active participants in utilizing and sharing the equipment throughout the year. These farms will have access to the program in the initial pilot phase before the project is opened up to the general farming population.
(Task 1) Start-up meeting with partner farms, Inventory of existing and needed equipment from partner farms completed. Begin research and model development (Objective 1). The project will begin by bringing together the core partner farms and Downstream Strategies (DS) to conduct an inventory of existing equipment and needed equipment and begin planning process. This will take place through in-person meetings at Downstream Strategies offices. Some of the topics covered in the meeting include: farm-supplied transport, project supplied transport,mentor/knowledge base associated with transport, and shared transport options (centrally located trailer to transport implements across a wider area). The project will identify the cost of transport per mile, along with baseline maintenance and wear and tear costs on equipment. These costs will be combined to show a baseline cost per use based on the rural area and time spent transporting.
(Task 2) Hire employee, Begin model development with partner farms, conduct larger needs survey of other area farms(Objectives 1 and 2) . The model includes a part-time position responsible for scheduling and management of the project, includes time to ensure that participants understand and can safely use and operate implements and equipment.The project team will hire an equipment manager. This person may be one of the partner farms or may be an outside employee. Position is 5-20 hours a week for the 2016 growing season starting April 1, 2016. The project team (partner farms and DS) will develop the framework through electronic communications and an in-person meeting. Ideas include tracking software to assist with scheduling and to show equipment availability. An online survey will be drafted with farm input that will be distributed via local email networks and at local marketing outlets. This survey will ask area farms specific questions related to their farm equipment needs, the type of implements needed or not needed, level of interest and some general cost and pricing questions about what is feasible for their farm business. The survey will be open March-April 2016.
(Task 3) Plan for program model developed and ready for implementation (Objectives 1-2). Once the pre-season planning has been completed, the pilot project will start. The Core partner farms, DS and Equipment manager will finalize the plan for 2016 and prepare for implementation by aggregating the tools and resources necessary, and by developing the scheduling/transport processes.
(Task 4) Begin implementation of farm resource sharing influenced by Farm Survey (Objective 2) The Equipment Manager and DS will work to plan the schedule for equipment sharing among Pilot partner farms for the spring season. The pilot project will consist of the four pilot farms and any interested farms identified in planning. This project will measure 1) how often each implement is utilized, total cost of transport for each implement, feasibility for farms to use, time and costs associated with maintenance, any scheduling challenges and how they were caused and remedied.
(Task 5) Facilitate the resource sharing and transportation (Objective 2) Equipment Manager will facilitate and manage the sharing and transportation of the physical equipment. In case of trouble or issue, the manager will receive assistance from DS staff to manage and remedy the situation. In case of needed modification, the manager will consult with DS staff and pilot partner farms to modify and shift the model as necessary.
(Task 6) Mid-season Evaluation (Objective 3). June 2016, DS will conduct a mid-season evaluation of the participating farms. This evaluation will cover the costs incurred due to the project, cost and time savings due to the project, if they have expanded or modified their planning due to available equipment, why or why not, If they feel the compensation is adequate for the lease of their equipment, If they have had any damage, and any comments. This evaluation will be conducted via online/word document survey. The data from this evaluation will be used to make any additional changes to the process.
(Task 7) Post-season evaluation survey of added costs/benefits (Objective 3) Downstream will conduct a post-season evaluation survey using the same metrics used in the mid-season evaluation. This will be completed in September of 2016. Results from this evaluation will be used in the final report.
(Task 8) Report from survey results and disseminate results and final model (Objective 4). Pilot Partner Farms, DS and the Manager will conduct a meeting to go over the project’s success, evaluate the findings and conduct a de-brief on the project. The Sprouting Farms project will also examine the project and incorporate it into their ongoing project development. Based on the results and discussion, DS will compile a report outlining the process taken to develop the project, framework and techniques used, equipment used and costs, and results and impacts on the project farms from the first season. This report will be disseminated via the DS website, and through local marketing outlets MFM and ACFH, and through local food mailing lists and working groups.
(Task 9) Outreach at conference via documents and presentation (Objective 4).DS will develop a presentation on the project and work to secure a workshop space at the WV Small Farms Conference to present the findings. If possible a partner farm will be a partial presenter in this project. The survey results will be analyzed to show the total costs by the participating farms, the estimated total time saved, and the cost-effectiveness of the project overall.
Task 1: March 1, 2016. (15 days)Downstream Strategies(DS) and core partner farms. Start-up meeting with partner farms, List of existing and needed equipment from partner farms completed, Begin research and model development
Task 2: March 15, 2016,(15 days) DS, Partner farms. Hire Equipment Manager, begin model development with core partner farms, conduct larger needs survey of other area farms(30 days).
Task 3: April 1, 2016(10 days). DS, Partner farms and Pilot Partner Farms, Equipment Manager. Plan for program model developed and ready for implementation
Task 4: April 15, 2016. DS, partner farms, Pilot Partner Farms , Equipment Manager. Begin implementation of farm equipment sharing
Task 5: April 15- Sept 2016 (5 months). Equipment manager, DS. Facilitate the resource sharing and transportation. Task 6: June 15, 2016(15 days). DS, Equipment Manager. Mid-season evaluation.
Task 7: October 15, 2016(15 days) DS, Equipment Manager. Post-season evaluation survey of added costs/benefits Task 8: November 30, 2016(30 days). DS, Equipment Manager. Develop report from survey results and disseminate results and final framework via publication, website, and through 25 print copies.
Task 9: February 27, 2017. DS and Pilot Project Farm representative. Outreach at Small Farms Conference via documents and presentation