Input from Local Growers Helps Shape Farm Hub Plans
The winter months have been extremely productive for us as we shape plans for the Hudson Valley Farm Hub! Conversations from January through March with the Rondout Valley Growers Association and our partner organizations have centered around a multitude of topics ranging from the challenges of climate change to the mechanics of wholesale markets.
Throughout these sessions we’ve been exploring important questions that will inform program design. How will the farm business incubator relate to local markets? How can we build on the already deep knowledge base that exists in the region? What specific research projects will be most valuable to established farmers?
All of these meetings have generated ideas for applied research which will help inform our program. On a wintery Saturday in early March, Mike Hoffman, Associate Dean at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, joined LEP and Cornell Cooperative Extension at the Hudson Valley Laboratory to discuss applied research at the Farm Hub with area growers. The brainstorming session focused on areas for research such as: crop stress management, seed saving, farm labor, flood mitigation, soil enhancement, innovations in pest management, and more.
We are pleased to be engaged in the first phase of our comprehensive planning process which will continue over the course of the spring and summer. A search for a Hudson Valley Farm Hub Director is in process under the guidance of our selection committee. Meanwhile, over at the Farm Hub, John Gill and staff are busy getting ready for spring and summer projects.
Gearing Up for Spring Research Projects…
We’re gearing up for the 2014 spring season with cover cropping on a substantial amount of acreage at the farm, and the initiation of our first applied research projects in conjunction with Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County. These two projects, the Small Grains Research and Processing Trials and the Heritage Grain Rotation Trial, will mark the beginning of what promises to expand into a dynamic broad-based research program on the farm in the years to come.
Small Grains: The grains project is designed to provide Hudson Valley farmers with the information they need to meet the emerging market demand for locally grown grains in the food and beverage industry. Artisan bakers, culinary specialists, and brewers are increasingly looking to source local grains, but local production has long been limited by economic factors and a lack of on-farm experiential knowledge. Identifying types of grains that are best suited to the climate, seed sourcing, successful growing methods, post-harvest handling…these will be incorporated into field research that will help guide interested growers.
It all begins in April and May with the creation of small plot trials for multiple varieties of wheat and barley on the farm. Over the course of the four-year project, additional grains and varieties will be tested on new small plots, while large field trials will be launched at the Farm Hub and on other “host” farms. These scaled-up trails are intended to yield quantities large enough for use in processing trials with area millers, bakers, brewers and distillers.
Findings will be shared on grower field days and through educational materials and grain evaluations, all of which will be made available to farmers and local processors. We are truly excited to have this land-based opportunity to support the growth of a sustainable small grains economy here in the Hudson Valley. For more information on grains, see our recently released study “Reviving Grain in the Hudson Valley” by LEP Program Manager Sarah Brannen.
Heritage Grain Rotation: This project will focus on developing a field crop rotation to support a cash crop of grain corn for distilling. An important research objective is to help regional growers find new markets for heritage corn grown with fewer inputs. Next month we’ll be establishing long term field scale trials aimed at producing a model profitable crop while promoting long term soil health, managing disease and insects, and using organic approaches over the long term.
This corn variety, known for its deep red color, is an heirloom dent corn variety that dates back to the 1800s and is now sought after by distillers producing specialty Bourbon. Distillers also can sell the corn’s byproduct, otherwise known as “mash,” as a highly nutritious animal feed.
And the Farm Stand in Summer…
The Farm Stand on Route 209 will be open in July with fresh produce (including sweet corn) and other Hudson Valley delights. Stay tuned for details!