Source: OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
May 1, 2015
Project End Date
Apr 30, 2018
Grant Year
Project Director
Hoy, C. W.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
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
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
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 05/01/16 to 04/30/17

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.

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.


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

    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.

    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.