Source: OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY submitted to
DIVERSIFICATION STRATEGY FOR SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZED FARMS
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
EXTENDED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
1005447
Grant No.
2015-68006-23270
Project No.
OHO01118-CG
Proposal No.
2014-05479
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
A1601
Project Start Date
May 1, 2015
Project End Date
Apr 30, 2019
Grant Year
2015
Project Director
Hoy, C. W.
Recipient Organization
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
1680 MADISON AVENUE
WOOSTER,OH 44691
Performing Department
OARDC
Non Technical Summary
Large specialized farms that achieve economies of scale are common in US agriculture. Small and mid-sized farms, however, need a different kind of economy, an economy of scope. Diversified production systems have demonstrated ecological and economic benefits that could apply to small and medium-sized farms, but needed research on these benefits is lacking for US agriculture. We propose research to develop a decision-making framework for the transition from specialized commodity production systems to diversified crop and livestock production. Diversified production systems are likely to target differentiated local and regional markets where small and mid-sized farms compete more effectively, taking advantage of economies of scope. Our education component will integrate land grant and liberal arts college undergraduate students with research by graduate students and faculty, in both independent study and formal classroom teaching. The results will improve economic decision-making with respect to diversification on small and medium sized farms and contribute to their success and the health of rural communities. Results of both the on-farm experiments and surveys of diversified farmers, also will contribute to: evaluating and implementing strategies to enhance access to markets by small and mid-sized farms, strategies that will increase supply into local and regional food systems, and improved planning for new input costs, capital needs, and markets for diversifying small and medium-sized farms.
Animal Health Component
0%
Research Effort Categories
Basic
10%
Applied
70%
Developmental
20%
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
6016299310030%
8036030308030%
1312410107030%
1313299107010%
Goals / Objectives
Our overall goals are to develop a decision-making framework for the transition from specializedcommodity production systems to diversified crop and livestock production. The productionsystem targets differentiated local and regional markets where small and mid-sized farmscompete more effectively, taking advantage of economies of scope. We expect the advantages of diversification to include: 1.) greater output in new value chains; 2.) entry into new markets that bring new revenues; 3.) lower costs of production due to ecosystem services that derive from synergies between crop, animal, and farm energy enterprises; 4.) lower cost of capital because human, social, built, and natural capitals can be used as substitutes for more expensive financial capital in diversifying small and medium sized farms; and 5.) greater net revenue and return on investment for the farm.To address these goals we propose the following research objectives: Objective 1 - Establish controlled field experiments with early stage diversification on a mid sized farm and measure associated costs and returns.Objective 2 - Estimate the thresholds for entry into new markets for whicha diversified production portfolio offers potential foreventual penetration and expansion. Objective 3 - Examine the decision making, mindset and influences on diversification decisions for recently diversifying farmers using survey techniques. Objective 4. Integrate the research in each of the phases of the project described above into a decision making framework for small to medium sized farmers. Objective 5. Incorporate the research activities and results into coursework and student experience at both a public land grant university and a private liberal arts college.
Project Methods
We propose a two-pronged approach to the research needed to improve decision models for diversification on small and medium sized farms, both thoroughly integrated with undergraduate and graduate education. Using the earliest stages of diversification on a new research farm, we will develop metrics, a monitoring framework, and data needed for a decision model for farmers who are considering diversification of their production systems. Ecological and economic complementarities in the transitioning production system, i.e. ecosystem services, will be quantified according to metrics developed specifically for the decisions farmers will face. In complementary community level research, diversification alternatives and associated decisions made by farmers will be measured in a survey of small and medium sized farms that have recently diversified in the region.For new value chains created by the diversified production, we will conduct market research on entry thresholds into new local and regional markets; and explore the capital that the farmer would need for each diversification option. The influence of landscape characteristics will be quantified so that the results can be scaled and extended to new farm settings based on soil type, topography, land use and management histories. Analysis of the data will be based on variance and probability of receiving higher returns, rather than average point estimates. Education components of the project will be designed to educate future and existing producers interested in diversified production, educate those who could find careers throughout the food value chain including the many supporting industries, and develop awareness among new consumers regarding their potential roles as investors in and supporters of diversified production on small and medium sized farms.

Progress 05/01/17 to 04/30/18

Outputs
Target Audience:Farmers, retail markets, institutional purchasing and food service, agricultural supply, lenders, undergraduate students Changes/Problems:Typical fieldwork challenges with weather and pests were addressed.We altered the mix of vegetable crops being planted based on the previous year's experience, and improved the deer and rodent protection before planting. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?Two Ohio State students were engaged in the field work on student wages. Two College of Wooster students were trained in methodological techniques related to conducting and transcribing interviews, and in data entry from hand written surveys. Agricultural and Technical Institute coursework offered by coPI Kumarappan is using the project as an example business. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?We have conducted quarterly meetings of the advisory committee for the research farm that is being used for the project, and have shared results at each of them. Both produce and chicken produced in the experiment were provided to OSU dining, informing institutional food purchase and in each case providing information on the research to share with students. Research on market entry by firms was submitted to the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics Research on the expenditure impacts of farm-to-school participation will bepresented at Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics annual meetings. We held a field tour on August , 2017, open to the general public and with approximately 40 participants touring the plots at Mellinger farm and discussing project results. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Year 3 of field plots will continue the rotations established in year one, including ongoing diversification of the vegetable production and improvements in timing and production technique for the broilers.Data collection will proceed along the same lines as those used during 2016 and 2017. In off-farm economic work, we will continue to examine additional diversification aspects of production as well as refining measures of output diversification using USDA-NASS data on production decisions. In off-farm interview and survey work, we plan to continue the process of contacting, visiting, and interviewing farm households, with a goal of reaching an additional 18 farms, for a total of 40 by the end of the project. Second, we plan to clean and verify the farm college survey data, run data analysis, and draft an article on the link between new and beginning farmers and farm diversification goals. Third, we plan to continue adding historical references to the farm newspaper database, perform quantitative as well as qualitative data analysis, and draft an article on the changing framings and motivations for diversification over time.

Impacts
What was accomplished under these goals? 2017 Field work: Plots were established in the first year of the project, 2016, including pasture (3 yr rotation), oilseed, grain, vegetables and pasture-raised poultry (broiler chickens) the last two in split-split plots with the pasture treatments.New pasture plots were established on April 25, 2017, and oats were planted the same day. The oilseed we planted was sunflower, on July 21, 2017.Soil samples were taken on August 21, 2017 on all plots, air dried and stored for analysis in our soil lab. Vegetables planted in 2017 were: 2 varieties of tomato (Celebrity, Rutgers), cucumber (Salad bush hybrid), squash (Zucchini dark), bush beans (Organic Jade), onions (red, white and brown), lettuce (Romaine), kale (Toscano), carrot (Var. sativus) and 5 varieties of pepper (Jalapeno, Carmen, Tricked You, Mariachi and Orange Blaze). Cucumber, squash, lettuce, kale, and carrot were obtained from commercial sources. All other vegetables were obtained as seedlings from local sources. Field plantings began during the fourth week of May and were completed by the second week of June, 2017. We installed the same drip irrigation system used during 2016 and new landscaping fabric for vegetable plots. In 2017, fencing was replaced with longer steel posts and steel wires were run with insulated couplings. Solar chargers were used to electrify the fence to prevent deer, rabbit and groundhog damage. During the 2017 growing season, no vertebrate pest damage was observed with the exception of occasional tomato damage by mice. Pests and diseases were observed and recorded on a weekly basis during the growing season. No fertilizers were used and only organic approved pesticides were used for slugs and insect pests. Harvesting was done regularly and harvested weights were recorded in separate plots for comparison.Three week old chickens were placed in pasture plots in 8 movable pens, 25 birds per pen, from August 15 until September 20, 2017.The broiler chickens were commercially processed and the weights were recorded.Records were maintained for all inputs used in the field plots including irrigation, labor, seeds, plants, and all field operations. We began formal survey data collection on several fronts. First, we validated and refined the questions on our interview questionnaire. Second, we made contact with, visited, and interviewed 22 farm households (sometimes this meant a single farmer; sometimes a farming couple or a set of siblings) on the challenges they face when diversifying, their learning patterns, and their decision-making strategies. Interviews were than transcribed using transcription software. These automatically generated transcriptions were then corrected, line by line. We did not begin the formal process of analyzing interviews because we had one more summer of interview fieldwork remaining. Third, we created a spreadsheet template and entered information from 578 surveys distributed at the OSU New and Small Farm College from 2007-2016. Fourth, we began to construct a database of historical references to farm diversification from farm newspapers spanning from the mid nineteenth century to the mid twentieth century. As with interview data, the data from the farm college surveys and the historical newspaper archive are slated for analysis during the 2018 field season. 2017 Results: Pasture species diversity was significantly greater, based on Shannon diversity index, in second than first year pasture plots(Ecosystem richness p=0.02).Vegetables grown after pastured poultry generally had higher average per acre yield compared with vegetables following pasture only, although the differences were significant only for cucumber (p<0.0481). Out of 11 vegetable crops grown, 6 (55%) had higher per acre yield than the US average in 2017.Broiler chickens were kept in the field for one additional week during 2017 compared with 2016, and the value of the frozen birds increased 103.1%.Arthropod and invertebrate abundance, particularly ground beetles, leaf hoppers, slugs and mites, were significantly more abundant in second year than first year pasture plots (p<0.0001).Soil quality, measured by microbial protein, respiration and permanganate-oxidizable C (POXC) did not differ between first and second year plots. We completed a manuscript based on our work determining thresholds for market entry among three of the most common farm-based direct-marketing operations including community-supported agriculture (CSA), u-pick operations, and farm stands. This paper is currently in review at the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.Additional work was undertaken to examine the potential for the national Farm-to-School (FTS) program to induce additional demand for local foods.An abstract based on preliminary results of the impact of FTS participation on expenditure on local foods was accepted and will be presented at the annual meetings of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in August, 2018.

Publications


    Progress 05/01/16 to 04/30/17

    Outputs
    Target Audience:Farmers, retail markets, institutional purchasing and food service, agricultural supply, lenders, undergraduate students Changes/Problems:Typical fieldwork challenges with weather and pests were addressed. We altered the mix of vegetable crops being planted, and improved the deer and rodent protection before planting in 2017. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?3 students were engaged in the field work on student wages. Agricultural and Technical Institute coursework offered by coPI Kumarappan is using the project as an example business. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest?We have conducted quarterly meetings of the advisory committee for the research farm that is being used for the project, and have shared results at each of them. Both produce and chicken produced in the experiment were provided to OSU dining, informing institutional food purchase and in each case providing information on the research to share with students. PI Hoy hosted a class visit for coPI Kumarappan's class of the OSU Agricultural and Technical Institute (ATI) on 9/23/16, with approximately 25 students, during which the objectives and results of the experiment were shared. PI Hoy provided a presentation with results of the research to an ATI class on 9/12/16, approximately 30 students attending. The research on market entry by firms was presented at the Association of Agricultural and Applied Economics annual meetings in Boston, MA during July, 2016. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Year 2 of field plots will continue the rotations established in year one. Planned improvements include further diversifying the vegetable production, earlier implementation of the pastured poultry, and In off-farm economic work, we will continue to examine additional diversification aspects of production as well as refining measures of output diversification. Using USDA-NASS data on production decisions, we are expanding our initial analysis to include more measures of market access while accounting for heterogeneous diversification production decisions. The next reporting period will see the implementation of the first phase of survey data collection, which will consist of an interview track and a survey track. For the interviews, beginning with personal contacts and using the contacts of "gatekeepers" throughout Ohio (e.g., county extension agents, Soil & Water Conservation District personnel), we will reach out to farmers and ask for permission to come to their farms and sit down for a recorded, semi-structured interview. These interviews will then be transcribed and analyzed for themes relevant to our research questions. For the surveys, we will compile a list of email addresses for diversified and diversifying farmers throughout the state and send a brief description of the research project along with an internet link for taking the survey. Both of these tracks will be implemented with the help of 2 student research assistants from our college. In fall 2017, we will begin formally analyzing the data from both the interviews and surveys.

    Impacts
    What was accomplished under these goals? Field research on the project was initiated at the Mellinger Farm, OARDC, in early spring 2016. Plot treatments in established in the experiment include pasture (3 yr rotation), oilseed, grain, vegetables and pasture-raised poultry (chickens). The oilseed planted was sunflower, planted on June 27, 2016 when the plots were dry enough for planting. Plot boundaries were documented using a Trimble GPS system on 8/2/16. Soil samples were taken in all plots and sub-plots on 11/22/16, air dried, and stored for analysis in the laboratory. Vegetables planted in 2016 were - 4 varieties of Summer Squash (Cocozelle, Black Beauty Zucchini, Sligo F-1 Hybrid, Tatume/tatuma; round zucchini; Mexican zucchini; calabash/calabacita), Bush bean, perpetual spinach,Tokyo Bekana, Pole Bean, Kale, Cabbage, Tomato. Seeds and plants were obtained from commercial sources. Beans were planted at the same time as the squash, but greens planting ran July 1 - 5. A drip irrigation system was established in the vegetable plots to be used for the duration of the field research. The vegetable plots were enclosed with 30# test monofilament fishing line strung tightly around metal posts to deter deer. Damage from rabbits, ground hogs and deer was extensive. Pest incidence in the vegetable plots was strictly descriptive. The IACUC protocol was completed and approved by August 2016. Pasture poultry were released into moveable pens, 25 birds/pen, on September 14, 2016, and were harvested 3 weeks later. Records were maintained for all inputs used in the field plots including irrigation, labor, seeds and plants, and all field operations. We developed economic models of firm entry using a national dataset of local direct marketing firms and farms. We analyzed three of the most common farm-based direct-marketing operations including community-supported agriculture (CSA), u-pick operations, and farm stands. Results show that heterogeneous population thresholds are needed for market access across each type of direct marketing venture. For CSAs, market entry is viable when populations exceed approximately 15,000 individuals in a county. For u-pick operations the population required to sustain a typical operations is 54,000 and for farm stand operation only a population of 5,000 is required. During the reporting period, we began laying the groundwork for the dissemination of surveys to farmers and the in-person interviewing of farmers, which consisted of four distinct activities. First, we consulted with a colleague at Rutgers University who was finishing a comprehensive survey to a large set of farmers throughout Ohio and Michigan. Second, we began assembling and reading a large literature on the social, cultural, and economic parameters that influence diversification decisions among farmers. Third, we completed the IRB application at the College of Wooster for research with human subjects. Finally, we worked on multiple revisions and drafts of both the survey instrument and the interview script. Final outputs from the reporting period included complete rough drafts of the farmer survey and the interview script and an approved IRB application. We did not work with students during the reporting period on survey aspects of the project.

    Publications


      Progress 05/01/15 to 04/30/16

      Outputs
      Target Audience:The target audience for this period was internal, as the project is just beginning. Changes/Problems:As noted above, because the funding was delayed until well into spring 2015 and plots needed to be established before that, the project timeline has shifted for one year. We don't expect any other significant issues as a result of the delay but will likely have to request an extension at the end of the project to complete the remaining project objectives. What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided?A graduate student in the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics has been incorporated work on the project into his graduate degree program, and a recent graduate from the College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, who will begin a graduate program during fall 2016, was hired to provide technical assistance to the project in March 2016. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? Nothing Reported What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals?Field work on the project has begun, plots have been established on OARDC land to measure the soil and other biophysical changes resulting from diversification, estimate their new costs and benefits, and estimate the yields and costs of diversified production of vegetables, diverse agronomic crop rotation and pasture poultry. Preliminary work will begin on survey methods and populations during 2016 in preparation for survey work during summer 2017.

      Impacts
      What was accomplished under these goals? Because the funding was significantly delayed into spring of 2015, we elected to establish the field plots during spring of 2016, so the project timeline has been shifted by approximately 12 months. The accomplishments during 2015-2016 have been in planning and preparation for the field and survey work. A literature review was contributed to project PI's by cooperators at Rutgers university.

      Publications