Agriculture Innovation Center to support value-added agriculture in northeast Ohio

One of Ohio’s most vibrant agricultural regions will be the recipient of a “one-stop shop,” developed by CFAES to help value-added agricultural (VAA) producers set themselves up for success.

The Northeast Ohio Agriculture Innovation Center (NEO-AIC) is the result of an almost $1 million new grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development, with matching in-kind funds of nearly $500,000 from Ohio State. The three-year investment was awarded through the USDA Agriculture Innovation Center.

“Northeast Ohio is a great agricultural region and is home to a diversity of businesses and farms, including the highest concentration of women farmers and small and medium farms in Ohio,” said Shoshanah Inwood, CFAES program director and rural sociologist.

The NEO-AIC will hire four new staff members, including two new Ohio State University Extension positions focused on VAA business planning and market development. The area is also home to a large Amish population who make up a substantial proportion of the region’s farms. For this reason, the NEO-AIC will bring on the first national and regional Amish and plain people community liaison to help bridge the cultural gap and provide technical assistance to this important sector of the VAA economy.

“We found that the services available to support VAA producers are disconnected and dispersed throughout the region,” Inwood said. “By connecting the resources, promoting their availability, and cutting down on hurdles, we will make the process more efficient and be better able to support their growth, development, and economic prosperity.”

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is also a proponent of the Agriculture Innovation Center.

“When we give Ohio farm and food businesses more tools to sell their products, we can strengthen local supply chains, bring down prices, and allow small producers to better compete with large corporations,” said Brown.

The NEO-AIC board of directors includes representatives from Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, Ohio Proud, Ohio Produce Growers & Marketers Association, Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, Ohio Dairy Producers Association, Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, and Green Field Farms of Wooster, Ohio.