Soil to Market Project's Purpose
The Soil to Market project is based out of the USDA-NIFA funded grant, “Taking the Next Step as a Small and Medium Sized Farm: Understanding the Integration of Production, Food Safety, and Profitability,” which will address farmer decision making with respect to appropriate scale management strategies and technologies to enhance economic efficiency and sustainability. The Soil to Market project stands to address those issues with three pillars of curriculum in economics, production, and food safety. The critical output of this project is a research-based program that is based on the interdependence and unification of applied research and Extension from each pillar. More on each pillar below.
Research has shown that small and medium-sized farms have lower profit margins. In Indiana, only 16% of vegetable farmers had sales over $50,000. Our goal is to improve the profitability of small and medium-sized vegetable farms by developing a research-based Extension program that increases strategic soil to market decision making by farmers titled Soil to Market Decision Making.
Program Pillars & Objectives
Pillar 1 Objectives
Improve farm management practices of small and medium-sized vegetable farmers by:
- assessing farmers' current soil to market planning processes,
- evaluating barriers to integrated soil to market strategic planning,
- calculating the increased profitability of integrated soil to market planning, and
- developing a Vegetable Farm Strategic Planning Extension program that increases farmer awareness of how profitable farm planning is an integrated process.
Pillar 2 Objectives
Increase farm production capacity and produce quality by enhancing the farmers' ability to comprehensively manage soil health and plant nutrient availability while using appropriate genetic materials by:
- assessing soil health variables to determine best management practices (BMPs) for optimal vegetable production,
- evaluate how the best features of organic and conventional production systems can be utilized to improve soil health, nutrient availability, productivity, and produce quality,
- increase understanding of how different commercially-available compost sources affect soil health and productivity,
- evaluation and selection of appropriate vegetable varieties suitable for use during spring, summer, and fall production in each region,
- develop and evaluate nutrient management strategies for optimized vegetable production in different soil types in each region, and
- develop an Intensive Sustainable Production Extension program to assist small and medium-sized farms to improve yield and produce quality, while taking care of their most valuable resource, soil.
Pillar 3 Objectives
Increase farmer profitability by enhancing their understanding of consumer food safety expectations and use of food safety practices by:
- assessing consumer expectations of quality and safety of produce from small and mid-size farms and identify consumer preferred communication strategies;
- evaluating small and mid-size produce farmers' attitude change toward food safety, and organic practices after exposure to consumer expectations on produce quality and safety; and
- developing and evaluating a food safety Extension program to assist small to medium-scale farmers to better compliance with Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations titled Vegetable Food Safety and Quality Extension Program.
The Soil to Market Team
Betty Feng is Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Sciences at Purdue University. For the Soil to Market project, Betty will focus on Pillar 3.
Petrus Langenhoven is a Horticulture and Hydroponic Crop Specialist in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University. For this project, Petrus will focus on Pillar 2.
Nathan Shoaf is the Urban Agriculture State Coordinator for Purdue Extension. For this project, Nathan will focus on Pillar 2.
Renee Wiatt is the Family Business Management Specialist in the Purdue Institute for Family Business, housed in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University. For this project, she will focus on Pillar 1.