Across the U.S., and branching out into other places of the world, niche farming is growing into its own popular form of agriculture. From household botany lovers and horse breeders to industrial hemp producers and malaria researchers, niche farming is on its way to revolutionize the agricultural industry and potentially change the world.
In Marion County, which has produced 45 national thoroughbred champions, 20 Breeders’ Cup champions, six Kentucky Derby winners and six Horses of the Year awards, niche agricultural has become an essential part of the community.
According to the Ocala Star Banner, the Marion County Farm Bureau, along with state and local government officials, toured a variety of agricultural sites to announce the inauguration of a new covered arena at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion facility.
“Niche farming is a growing segment,” said Russ Randall, a farm bureau board member who helped organize the agricultural tour. “We want those who are in leadership positions and policy making positions to be informed about the real world issues agriculture deals with.”
Even the industrial farming market is beginning to rely more and more on niche farming. Although there are plenty of rules across the industrial agricultural industry, especially in regards to large machinery; the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that cranes, for instance, must be assembled on firm, drained, and sufficiently graded ground; industrial farmers are able to produce and distribute crops at a faster rate and even crops that couldn’t have been legally distributed in the past.
The State Journal reports that hemp farming is becoming an increasingly popular export for industrial farmers.
Since the Federal Farm Bill passed in 2014, allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp for research, the West Virginia Farmers Cooperative has been preparing to branch out from research to actual distribution.
“We’ve actually had it on the books since 2002 since we passed the legislation, so we were ready to implement the program in our state,” said J. Morgan Leach, president of the Farmers Cooperative. “That allows us to cultivate it for research and development and marketing purposes.”
The new legislation, House Bill 2453, will expand the list of organizations and farmers that can cultivate the industrial hemp for various uses and not just research.
Thanks to strong metals like tungsten carbide, which falls between 8.5 and 9 on Moh’s harness scale (falling just behind diamonds), industrial machines are not better equipped to handle stronger crops and perform tougher jobs, too.
“Tungsten carbide is extremely durable, long-lasting, and provides a more effective scraping edge,” said Rob Rouse, co-owner of Air Design Inc.
The newly designed durable machines can now provide assistance to all kinds of agricultural production farmers alike.
“We went though one season with very little wear,” said Bruce Freitag, a sunflower, wheat, and pulse crop producer who took advantage of the new tungsten machinery, “and they remained in place.”
Another helpful advantage of niche farming is the potential medical benefits.
Efforts to combat malaria across Africa have cut the rate of infections in half since 2000, per researchers at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and agriculture could contribute to those successes. According to EurekAlert, a $9.6 million grant is now funding a malaria control research project in Africa that will take a look at the effects of both natural agricultural processes and human-induced environmental modifications.
“Knowledge gained from this ICEMR [International Centers of Excellence for Malaria Research] will be important to malaria control, not only for the two countries studied — Ethiopia and Kenya — but also for other regions of Africa,” said Guiyun Yan, professor of public health and leader of the University of California, Irvine study.
Lastly, as indoor gardening becomes more and more popular, individual farmers and families will be able to produce their own niche products as well.
Digital Trends reports that indoor gardening, specifically in urban areas, could impact the overall agricultural market down the road.
As the global population continues to increase and the current agricultural production levels become unsustainable, indoor farms could allow people to grow food 24 hours a day, as well as protect against unpredictable weather conditions, and eliminate the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides.
As long as enough indoor farms are in densely populated cities, farmers could potentially mitigate shipping- and storage-related crop loss, as well as cut down on fossil fuel usage.
From small-town indoor farming to Malaria research in Africa, niche farming is on its way to completely change the way agricultural is handled.