Increasing the Product Supply of Ramps via Enhanced Plantings and Educational Farm Programming

Project Overview

ONE21-383
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $29,876.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2024
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
David McGill
WVU Appalachian Hardwood Center

Commodities

  • Vegetables: other
  • Additional Plants: other
  • Miscellaneous: other

Practices

  • Crop Production: forest farming

    Proposal abstract:

    Ramps are considered part of the cultural heritage in rural Appalachia, and are typically considered a spring ephemeral delicacy derived from laborious forest foraging. They are enjoyed by people on both ends of the economic spectrum, from local foragers to niche grocers, which can sell whole plants for up to $15 / pound. As such, ramps are commonly harvested from wild populations for profit, and has even resulted in legislation by some states to protect from overharvest, specifically on public lands.

    The commercial production of ramps is limited by their life-history characteristics, as long maturation periods (up to seven years prior to seed production) and laborious harvesting create economic challenges that may dissuade farmers from deliberately growing these as part of their operations. These logistical hardships, coupled with the diminishing stocks of wild populations (from overharvesting), represent a financial opportunity for farms engaging in proactive planning.  Our partnerships with Sprouting Farms will evaluate two methods to produce ramps at commercial capacity to support on farm profitability; breaking down the production into: 1) the cultivation of seeds to nursery stock (transplants, bulbs), and 2) transplanting of nursery stock to form mature beds for harvest. 

    This project seeks to highlight ramps as an opportunistic, secondary crop on existing farms with under-utilized timber resources by determining the best ways to propagate ramps that results in a reduction of overall labor resources to spur the creation a steady and sustainable market that can reliably help increase on farm profitability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our project seeks to quantify potential return on investment of ramps as a specialty crop with multiple market entry and exit points for ramps that can be integrated with existing operations to create additional revenue opportunities. Our objectives will answer: can we develop a propagation and management model that can create an opportunity for farms to boost income? This partnership will demonstrate a viable plan to create revenue that will encourage farms to add ramps to their portfolio of offerings, and in turn alleviate pressure on wild populations.  

    This project seeks to capture the labor and financial resources needed to prepare both ramp transplants and mature ramp bulbs for market by comparing two methods of seeding to generate transplant bulbs (designated greenhouse space and direct seeding), and two methods of planting transplant bulbs to mature ramp plants (for harvest or seed collection).  These comparisons will be integrated into outreach programming, specifically Beginner Farmer Training Program, to educate farmers on avenues to profitability in producing ramps. While this funding cycle is too short to evaluate all aspects of ramp production for market, this project will provide baseline financials to spur additional cooperative investment (grant or private dollars) for ramp cultivation.

    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.