New technology holds promise for America’s small farms and rural businesses, but public-sector involvement—such as for expanding rural broadband access—is needed for that promise to be realized. So said Doug Jackson-Smith, professor of water security and rural sociology with CFAES, in comments delivered Jan. 9 in Washington, D.C., to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business’ Subcommittee on Innovation and Workforce Development.
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’ 324-acre Mellinger Research Farm, whose roots go back two centuries, hosts an Agricultural Diversification Research Tour from 6–8 p.m. Aug. 21. Featured will be topics such as scales of diversification and markets; ecosystem services in diverse systems; ecosystem and landscape pressures on small farms; diverse vegetable production; oilseed crops; and pastured poultry and chicken tractors. Find the full list of topics and speakers.
Admission to the event is free and open to the public. Find the farm at 6885 W. Old Lincoln Way near Wooster. (Photo: Flax, grown as an oilseed crop, in bloom at the Mellinger farm, CFAES.)
Get ideas for the coming growing season at CFAES’ Small Farm Conference and Trade Show.
Set for March 29-30 at CFAES’ South Centers in Piketon and with a theme of “Opening Doors for Success,” the event will offer ideas for how your farm can work even better for you.
About 30 sessions in nine tracks will cover a variety of topics, from pawpaws to aquaculture, hydroponics to growing mushrooms, soil health to marketing to a produce cooler you can build yourself—“a cool bot system for the farm.” The first day offers a workshop on hops and a training session on meeting requirements of the Food Safety and Modernization Act.
CFAES’s Agricultural Diversification Research Tour runs from 6-8 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center’s (OARDC) Mellinger Research Farm in Wooster. Among the topics: Pastured poultry, chicken tractors, value-added products, hull-less “naked” oats, diverse vegetable production and oilseeds in crop rotations.
CFAES’s Small Farm Program is holding two conferences for the owners or aspiring owners of small farms. The Opening Doors to Success conference is March 10-11 in Wilmington in southwest Ohio. The Living Your Small Farm Dream conference is March 25 in Massillon in northeast Ohio. Find out more about both of them.
A program called Produce Perks, which CFAES’s outreach arm, OSU Extension, helped establish, is tackling northeast Ohio’s urban food deserts and boosting food security.
“Families can stretch their food dollars by utilizing Produce Perks to double their whole-food purchases,” says Veronica Walton, who manages Cleveland’s Gateway 105 Farmers’ Market (shown here last summer).
“The relaxed atmosphere at farmers markets is perfect for conversations about meal preparation, food storage and preservation, all of which decrease food insecurities.”
Next in the 2015 Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour and Workshop Series: Small-Plot Market Farming Master Class, June 21, at Carriage House Farm in North Bend in southwest Ohio. “This class,” the series brochure says, “is well-suited for serious gardeners looking to start a business or small-scale market growers interested in fine-tuning their operation.” For full details, click here and scroll to p. 20.