By DOUG GRAVES
PIKETON, Ohio — It’s called the Aquaculture Boot Camp, or ABC. There are no push-ups, chin-ups or jumping jacks at this boot camp – but those who survive this one-year tour of duty will be armed with the knowledge of hands-on experience to successfully operate a fish farm.
The Ohio Center for Aquaculture Research and Development at Ohio State University South Centers has received an award from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to develop the ABC program, for training new and beginning aquaculture farmers in production and business in Ohio and adjacent states.
“The ultimate goal of this program is to utilize a multifaceted approach, including classroom and hands-on training paired with industry mentoring, to improve the success rate of new and beginning aquaculture farmers,” said Laura Tiu, aquaculture specialist at OSU.
“This will be accomplished through the establishment and delivery of an ABC in which participants gain the skills and knowledge required to successfully own and operate a fish farm.”
Twenty-five participants will be selected to participate in this yearlong aquaculture program. There will be no charge to participate, as the USDA will fund the program. During the year participants will take part in 12 one-day training sessions that will include aquaculture workshops, farm tours, homework and study assignments and the opportunity to work on an operating fish farm.
Operators of small farms play a vital role in agricultural production in Ohio and contiguous states. One-third of U.S. and Ohio farm sales originate from small farms.
Many small-farm owners and beginning farmers in traditional agriculture are seeking new enterprises and opportunities to increase revenues and maintain the family farm. Aquaculture, Tiu said, “presents a great opportunity for both rural and urban small and beginning farmers in Ohio.
“Aquaculture has diversified and supplemented farm income for many small farm operations. Aquaculture can have a significant impact on Ohio’s family farms and can allow more farmers to maintain their current operations. The growing aquaculture industry has also allowed for the conversion of small, unprofitable veal, swine and poultry operations to become profitable aquaculture operations.
“Students will complete the program with business plans for their operations,” Tiu added, “and participants will also have access to trainers and mentors in the field.”
The goal of ABC is to provide tools for new and beginning farmers to enhance their aquaculture production success by developing and delivering production curriculum and hands-on practices. The program will enhance the financial viability and success of beginning aquaculture farmers by delivering business management and marketing strategies.
Roughly 40 percent of aquaculture producers in Ohio have been in business less than five years. Instructors will include college and university educators, government specialists, business professionals and experienced aquaculture producers. The instructors will key in on business planning, marketing and aquaculture production.
For more information, contact Estefania James at 740-289-2071 or 800-297-2072. Applicants will be notified of selection by Dec. 15 and the first day of ABC will be Jan. 12, 2013, at OSU South Centers, 1864 Shyville Rd., Piketon.