Sustainable Food and Energy Model Farm

Eldon Everhart, Horticulture Field Specialist, Southwest
A growing number of people in southwest Iowa are interested in investigating the feasibility of sustainable, alternative agricultural ventures including year-around commercial horticulture crop production and marketing.  No research and demonstration projects related to this need were located in southwest Iowa at the beginning of this year.
The Wallace Foundation for Rural Research and Development, in cooperation with Iowa State University, applied for a grant from the Iowa West Foundation for the Sustainable Food and Energy Model Farm project.
The first phase of the Sustainable Food and Energy Model Farm project at the ISU Armstrong Research and Development Farm was funded with a $74,619.14 grant from the Iowa West Foundation.  The project is a partnership between the Wallace Foundation for Rural Research and Development and Iowa State University.
The Sustainable Food and Energy Model Farm project will include research and demonstration related to high tunnels, greenhouses heated with locally produced bio-energy, and field production for year-around supply of high value horticulture crops to local markets.  The research and demonstration projects will verify the cost of producing crops locally in season-extending structures (high tunnels, greenhouses, and row covers).  For other parts of the mid-west, cost of production varies from about $.70 per pound to $1.00 per pound.  The average selling price for vegetables produced with this technology will also vary.  For example, the income from tomatoes will vary from around $1.25 per lb. to $2.50 per lb.  Consequently, net income is expected to average around $1.00 per lb.  Production is normally calculated in pounds per square feet (# psf) of greenhouse or high tunnel area.  Research in other states indicates that tomatoes should average about 9.0 # psf (range 6.0 # psf to 12 # psf) per year.  Thats a net profit of around $27,000 per year for each 3,000 square foot season-extending structure.
Use of locally produced corn grain to heat these structures will be less expensive than fossil fuels and will further reduce the cost of production and stimulate local economies.  Crops that can be produced in season-extending structures include not only vegetables but also cut flowers, dried flowers, small fruits, tree fruits, and other high value horticulture crops.  Many of these crops can be produced organically in high tunnels which would increase their profit margin even further.
Based on interests expressed by clients, this project is expected to result in at least 40 new commercial season-extending structures being built in and around southwest Iowa.  The net income from these new enterprises is estimated to be over $1,000,000 per year (40 X $27,000).  The owners of these new enterprises would buy and sell products and supplies locally.  This would have a multiplier effect that would stimulate local economies.  The real economic impact of this project will probably exceed $1,000,000 per year.

December 22, 2005
106 - Green Industry (Commercial Horticulture and Forestry)

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