HIPPO — This winter has been a busy time for Floyd County farmer Todd Howard.
Like any farmer, he has been busy starting seeds in his greenhouse and plotting his strategy for the upcoming growing season.
He has been working with Appalachian Roots and Community Farm Alliance to conduct a local foods assessment that will identify strengths and weaknesses in Floyd County food production and consumption.
He is also preparing to conduct a workshop on organic gardening during “Growing Appalachia,” Kentuckians for the Commonwealth’s conference on small-scale sustainable agriculture, which will take place March 9 at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, in Prestonsburg.
And if that weren’t enough, he is also planning for this year’s Floyd County Farmers Market, which he manages. He expects this year’s market to be at least double in size over last year.
It’s all quite a lot, especially for someone who never planned to be a farmer.
“The one thing I’ve hated to do my whole life is to cut grass,” Howard said, with a laugh. “And then I replaced it with something even more strenuous, and that’s gardening.”
Howard grows a variety of vegetables across 10 acres of small plots, and has begun experimenting with some more exotic fare, such as shitake mushrooms, hops and ramps. He also also added livestock to the mix, including pigs and chickens, with plans to add dairy goats in the future.
With coal companies laying off miners and businesses suffering as a consequence, Howard believes small-scale farming can make a difference in the Eastern Kentucky economy. To promote that idea, his long-range plans include converting one of his fields into a demonstration farm, which he hopes will serve as both an educational and a tourist resource.
“You can generate a lot of produce and a lot of vegetables in the small area,” Howard said.
The demonstration farm will include a half-acre garden, which he says is a typical size for an Eastern Kentucky garden. He hopes to use the farm to demonstrate how Eastern Kentuckians can utilize limited flat space to grow food for a profit.