Resource-Use and Partial-Budget Analysis of a Transition to Reduced-Input and Organic Practices and Direct Marketing: A Student-Farm Case Study
Keywords:Direct Marketing, Grass-Finished Beef, Low-Input Farming, Organic Farming, Outdoor Hog Production, Student Farm, Value-Added
AbstractThe Berea College student farm undertook a transition to alternative practices in an effort to improve the sustainability of its operations, which included an expansion of organic crop production, a transition to reduced-input cattle and hog production, and a shift toward local marketing and sales, particularly of value-added products. The changes, developed and planned by students, staff and faculty in 2007, were implemented in 2008–2009 and fully in place by 2010. The plan required a reduction in livestock herd sizes, creating less dependence on purchased off-farm inputs, such as livestock feedstuffs and fertilizers for growing animal feed-crops. Third-party certifications, including USDA Certified Organic and Animal Welfare Approved, facilitated access to price premiums and new markets. Selling more meat and fewer live animals resulted in financial gains for the livestock enterprises, but the greatest returns were generated through organic horticultural production. Questions remain about the environmental, social, and animal-welfare trade-offs from the transition, but it clearly resulted in financial improvements and reduced dependence on off-farm inputs. This paper quantitatively documents the effects of the initiatives and illustrates the interdependencies among the changes to the whole-farm system.
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