Land program

Downstream Strategies offers expertise in land-based issues ranging from rural economies to food systems. Our services include land use planning, food system assessments, and economic and policy analyses for a variety of issues related to agricultural science and policy, energy, and food systems.

Project spotlight

Hub Connectivity Feasibility Assessment (2015)

West Virginia has made great strides in redeveloping the local food economy over the past decade. Locally grown food is now available in most counties and there are over 25 food hub and aggregation projects devoted to connecting West Virginia products to consumers. A question that remains is how to support partnerships within the existing food infrastructure? What are the opportunities in creating potential consortia and efficiencies in local food distribution? This study builds on existing research and a distributor survey—conducted in summer of 2015—to provide an overview of inter-food-hub and distributor relationships. The results identify communities in West Virginia that show high probability for success in ongoing and future local food development efforts and includes a case study of how a new strategy for local food consortia could work.

Our services and skills

Economic and policy analyses

  • Economic impact of existing and potential agricultural development
  • Market barriers assessment
  • Energy, environmental, and agricultural policy analyses
  • Policy development
  • Economic and fiscal policy studies

Tygart Valley Growers and Food Safety (2011)

The Food Safety Modernization Act increases regulation of the US food system, generally requiring increased documentation of food safety measures. The Tester Amendment was intended to decrease the regulatory burden for small farms, although its efficacy depends on federal and state rule promulgation. This project is to assist Tygart Valley Growers in navigating West Virginia rulemaking under this law.

Trail design and creation

  • Sustainable trail system planning, design, and construction
  • Heavy equipment operation and permit compliance
  • Community coordination and leadership
  • Stream and wetland restoration

Cheat Mountain Trail System

Downstream Strategies experts are working with the U.S. Forest Service in the Monongahela National Forest to restore sections of Cheat Mountain that have been impacted by coal mining practices. Part of this restoration effort includes building up to 20 miles of new multi-use trails, including some trail sections converted from disused logging and mining roads. All trail segments are being constructed with sustainability in mind, with the goal of reducing long-term maintenance needs and minimizing the impacts to hydrology and wildlife. The trails will tie into the current and planned trail system in the Forest.

Farm and energy evaluations

  • Greenhouse gas inventories
  • Distributed energy production feasibility studies
  • Biofuels production capacity and impact analyses
  • State and federal policy analyses
  • Alternative future scenario development
  • Technical assistance
  • Vulnerability analyses
  • Mitigation plans

Food and farm sustainability characterization

  • Identification of supply chain efficiencies
  • Market barriers assessments
  • Feasibility studies of alternative ownership models
  • Ecosystem services and non-market valuation
  • Sustainability consulting

Overcoming Market Barriers to Organic Production in West Virginia

West Virginia is 49th out of 50 states in the US for its amount of certified organic acreage. Downstream Strategies is working with researchers from Earlham College in Indiana to evaluate the market barriers to organic specialty crop production in West Virginia. This project, funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, surveys organic, in-transition, and conventional farmers to identify barriers to successful organic production.

Food systems assessments

  • Quantitative and qualitative data collection and analyses
  • Economic impact analyses and market assessment
  • Linked market and consumer studies
  • Region-based development initiatives
  • Farm to institution-based plans
  • Food system visioning and plan development
  • Interactive web-based mapping

Land use planning and assessment

  • Ownership patterns related to land, forestry, water
  • Infrastructure assessments
  • Case studies
  • Ecosystem services and non-market valuation
  • Economic impact and market assessment
  • Index development
  • Visualization
  • Database and geodatabase development
  • Field monitoring
  • Outdoor recreation planning
  • Outdoor recreation use and impact studies
  • Outdoor recreation management and visitor education
  • Natural resource planning such as wilderness management
  • Community-based planning
  • Brownfields and community revitalization: asset-based community visioning

Forest Assets in Appalachia (2011)

On behalf of the Appalachian Regional Commission, this project will inventory and score the forest assets within the Appalachian region based on forest quantity, quality, access, and benefits, both market and non-market in nature. The project team includes a variety of researchers and forest professionals.

Rural economy diversification and support

  • Identification and support of economic transition opportunities
  • Agri-tourism development
  • Identification and planning for value-added opportunities
  • Identification of niche markets and strategic partnerships
  • Feasibility analyses and development of multi-benefit development opportunities

Feasibility Study: Poultry Litter Composting in the Potomac Valley Conservation District, West Virginia (2012)

The health of the Chesapeake Bay — the largest estuary in the United States — is directly tied to activities on land within its watershed, and the over-application of poultry litter on farm fields contributes to excess nutrients in the Bay. At the same time, poultry farmer livelihoods are challenged by the increasing burden of complying with water quality standards and finding cost-effective uses for their manure. This feasibility study evaluates one potential solution: a commercial-scale poultry litter composting facility, which would produce environmental benefits by reducing nutrient loads, and which could also create a revenue stream for farmers. The report was produced for the blue moon fund.

Geographic Information Systems

  • Natural resource analyses and quantification
  • Land use and ownership analyses
  • Agricultural planning, management, and mapping
  • Land-use and resource assessments
  • Best management practice project development, implementation, and monitoring
  • Soil survey analyses and characterization
  • USDA project and GIS tool integration
  • NEPA project support and analyses
  • Site investigations
  • Urban planning

Greenbrier Valley Local Foods: The Possibilities and Potential (2011)

How much room to grow? This project evaluates the possibility of expanding the Greenbrier Valley local food system, based on the land-based potential and existing agricultural knowledgebase of the region. This report, completed for the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation (GVEDC), a local development agency, offers ideas and resources for those interested in entering farming or expanding their business. In the Greenbrier Valley-Greenbrier, Monroe, and Pocahontas counties-there are more than 336,000 acres of suitable agricultural land. With the aid of best management practices and improved techniques-like season extension with high tunnels, for example-the region could expand food production. The GVEDC's Greenbrier Valley Local Food Systems Project is eager to work with the community and explore next steps.

Stakeholder involvement and perspectives

  • Qualitative research such as interviews, focus groups, content analyses, and case studies
  • Quantitative social science research such as survey design, execution, and analyses
  • Facilitation
  • Visioning as a foundation for food system planning
  • Education and outreach in the classroom and field
  • Training and technical assistance