Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture announced Wednesday an award of $75,000 from the United States Department of Agriculture to work with Green Edge Organic Gardens to educate state and national agriculture professionals on season extension over the next two years.
In a news release, the agency said the grant will fund Rural Action and Green Edge Organic Gardens in Amesville to educate agriculture and natural resource professionals on Green Edge's use of high tunnel structures to extend the growing season and create a fourth period of harvesting through the winter months.
Coordinator Tom Redfern partnered with Green Edge owners Kip and Becky Rondy over the past year to secure the grant from the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education initiative to implement a professional development program for agriculture and natural resource professionals, beginning April 4.
Rural Action has partnered with farmers and agriculturalists since 2009 to educate interested growers in high tunnel production, but this series of workshops will educate professionals including NRCS District Conservationists, OSU Extension Educators and others.
"Regional and site-specific adaptations of season extension models using high tunnels are often lacking, while specialty crop producers seek year-round market opportunities to keep their farms profitable," said Redfern. "This targeted approach to education will allow agriculture professionals to support adaptive farm production techniques and better serve diversified multi-season specialty crop production."
This project will give the Rondys and their staff a chance to share their experiences with the professionals charged with educating farmers and implementing Farm Bill programs.
Through the SARE funding, agriculture professionals will receive training over two years at Green Edge from owners and farm staff to understand, replicate and teach high tunnel production to farmers in their work regions. Professionals state and region-wide will have access to the workshops, which will take place seasonally.
RASA emphasizes education for both consumers and producers in order to grow the local food system both economically and spatially.
Longer growing seasons equate to increased production, meaning more money in farmers' pockets and more fresh, local produce on community members' plates.
Over the total two-year training curriculum, 80 individual agriculture professionals will be educated on high tunnel growing toward season extension by Green Edge personnel with RASA coordinating, developing educational packets, publicizing and evaluating the project.
Rural Action is a membership-based nonprofit organization promoting social, economic and environmental justice and working for sustainable communities, economies and environments in Appalachian Ohio. For information go to www.ruralaction.org. For information on Green Edge Organic Gardens, visit www.greenedgegardens.com.
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