By Casey Hoy, Agroecosystems Management Program, CFAES
Small and medium-sized farms have a tough time competing with larger farms when it comes to economies of scale. Yet the number of small farms has more than doubled in the last few years in Wayne County, the home of CFAES’ Wooster campus and its Mellinger Research Farm.
Working at the Mellinger farm, CFAES researchers are studying how smaller farms can maximize their unique strengths by diversifying their production and markets, a strategy termed economy of scope and an alternative to expanding the size of their farm.
CFAES’ 2019 Agricultural Diversification Research Tour, set for Aug. 21, will explore how farmers can increase profitability on smaller farms. The tour will feature results from the past three years of a project funded by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The event is a good opportunity for farmers to learn firsthand and share their interests in diversification with presenters from CFAES and The College of Wooster. Hours for the tour are 6-8 p.m. at the Mellinger Research Farm, 6885 W. Old Lincoln Way in Wooster.
Economies of scope
An economy of scope occurs when the average total cost of production decreases as a result of increasing the number of different goods produced. Small and medium-sized farms can take advantage of economies of scope by producing diverse goods to improve their bottom line. Some of the returns come from lower input costs required in production, which occur because of ecosystem services provided on the farm. Over the past three years, we have seen increased insect and plant species diversity in pasture plots. Yields of both poultry and vegetables have improved over time with no added fertilizer and minimal organic-approved pesticides.
The Mellinger farm is used in part for CFAES research, but most of the acreage is rented to a local farm that is currently diversifying its rotations and transitioning to organic production of hay and grains. Tour-goers will see the area surrounding the research plots in hay and corn following field peas in 2018.
CFAES’ Agroecosystems Management Program (AMP) and OSU Extension, the college’s outreach arm, are hosting the tour. Specialists participating in the event will come from the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, CFAES’ research arm; OSU Extension; Ohio State ATI; and The College of Wooster.
“The tour is important to farmers because they will learn about research on how to manage diverse production systems to lower input costs and access new markets,” said CFAES scientist Casey Hoy, Kellogg Endowed Chair in Agricultural Ecosystem Management and the leader of AMP.
Discussion topics during the tour will include:
- Scales of diversification and markets
- Ecosystem services in diversified production (pest control, soil improvement and fertility, pollinator support, biomass production)
- Pest pressures
- Diversified vegetable production
- Pastured poultry using chicken tractors (movable coops)
- Oilseed as an alternative crop in rotations
- Hull-less “naked” oats culture
- Pasture establishment and management for a diversified system
- Value-added products
The tour is free and open to the public, and there is no registration required to attend.