Building Capacity to Support Small Farm Profitability

Final Report for ENC01-059

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $57,644.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Gary Huber
Practical Farmers of Iowa
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Project Information

Abstract:

Farmers and ranchers in the North Central Region are increasingly seeking specialized production and marketing information. These demands for new information have meant that Extension agents are increasingly facing requests for cutting-edge information where little published materials exists.

A previously funded project (USDA IFAFS grant 00-52101-9624) supported the collection of information by project partners from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin on techniques, success stories, and experiences on specialized production and marketing topics. This previous project used this information to publish forty case studies that showcased specialized production and marketing strategies.

The partners in this previous project saw an opportunity to use these case studies to help agricultural educators successfully respond to requests from their clients. This led to an NCR-SARE grant that helped project partners convert thirty-two of these case studies into seven PowerPoint presentations. The grant also allowed project partners to compile auxiliary information and resources and conduct training so that agricultural educators could effectively use these materials when responding to requests from their farmer and rancher audiences. The project also distributed over 1,000 resource CDs to agricultural educators who did not receive the training.

Thirty-two case studies on specialized production and marketing topics were grouped based on themes and developed into seven PowerPoint presentations. These PowerPoint presentations included information, graphics, and photographs from each of the thirty-two case studies, as well as scripts for agricultural educators to use during their educational programming. A total of 1,500 CDs containing these PowerPoint presentations and the original case studies were produced. Supplementary materials and resource lists were also compiled. Training workshops on using the materials were conducted for 284 Extension staff and other agricultural professionals in Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri. Each attendee received a CD and supplementary materials that they could use in educational programming. Copies of the CDs were also distributed to Extension staff and other agricultural professionals in the North Central SARE Region and nationally.

Project Objectives:

The project’s short-term outcomes were:
1. Extension employees learn about seven categories of production and marketing topics that focus on cutting costs and reaching new markets;
2. Extension employees gain confidence in the feasibility of the ideas and practices presented;
3. Extension employees gain knowledge and materials to effectively discuss, promote and advise on these new production and marketing topics;
4. Extension employees use these materials for programming directed at agricultural clients, leading to increased farmer/rancher adoption of more profitable practices and higher farm/ranch profits.

The project’s intermediate outcomes were:
1. Extension delivers programs on these profitable, sustainable practices;
2. Extension accesses additional resources for further programming and self-education;
3. Extension incorporates sustainable concepts into mainstream programming for all clients.

The project’s long-term outcomes were:
1. Additional Extension, agency advisors and researchers advise or refine these strategies;
2. Programming and research routinely incorporates profitability alongside environmental issues.

Introduction:

Farmers and ranchers in the North Central Region are increasingly seeking specialized production and marketing information. These demands for new information have meant that Extension agents are increasingly facing requests for cutting-edge information where little published materials exists.

A previously funded project (USDA IFAFS grant 00-52101-9624) supported the collection of information by project partners from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin on techniques, success stories, and experiences on specialized production and marketing topics. This previous project used this information to publish forty case studies that showcased specialized production and marketing strategies.

The partners in this previous project saw an opportunity to use these case studies to help agricultural educators successfully respond to requests from their clients. This led to an NCR-SARE grant that helped project partners convert thirty-two of these case studies into seven PowerPoint presentations. The grant also allowed project partners to compile auxiliary information and resources and conduct training so that agricultural educators could effectively use these materials when responding to requests from their farmer and rancher audiences. The project also distributed over 1,000 resource CDs to agricultural educators who did not receive the training.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Wyatt Fraas
  • Mary Hendrickson
  • Greg Lawless
  • Margaret Smith

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

The University of Wisconsin, with support from partner groups, converted thirty-two of the forty case studies into the seven PowerPoint presentations. Considerable time and effort went into converting these case studies, including developing scripts for agricultural educators to use when presenting the information to client audiences. The seven topics of these PowerPoint presentations were:
1. NEW GENERATION COOPERATIVES
2. INNOVATIVE MARKETING STRATEGIES
3. ALTERNATIVE PRODUCTION PRACTICES
4. COOPERATIVE ARRANGEMENTS FOR EQUIPMENT SHARING
5. FARM SUCCESSION STRATEGIES
6. ON-FARM DIVERSIFICATION STRATEGIES
7. USING THE INTERNET TO MARKET PRODUCTS

Staff in Wisconsin included these presentations, along with the individual case studies that made up each, on an initial run of 1,000 CD-ROMs that were created for agricultural educators. A CD insert was also created and included to explain the materials and their usage.

Because demand for these CD-ROMs exceeded supplies, the University of Missouri made some slight revisions to PowerPoint presentations and CD insert and produced a second run of 500 CD-ROMs during the final year of the project.

Project partners also created supplementary materials and resource lists for use during the project’s outreach phase. Outreach included both training sessions for agricultural educators in Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa, as well as distribution of CD-ROMs to regional and national audiences.

Outreach and Publications

  1. The following publications were produced by the project for use during the outreach phase of the project. Copies of each are included as part of this final report.
    1. the CD-ROM with the PowerPoint presentations and original case studies
    2. a CD insert with information on the PowerPoint presentations and their use during training
    3. a guide to the PowerPoint presentations and individual case studies used during Iowa trainings
    4. a PowerPoint presentation used during Iowa trainings to introduce Extension staff to the project and the materials
    5. a flyer to recruit participants to the web-based Missouri trainings
    6. a listing of Missouri resources for community food systems and sustainable agriculture
    7. a listing of Missouri technical assistance providers for community food systems and sustainable agriculture
    8. a listing of Missouri resources on community nutrition
Outcomes and impacts:

A total of 284 agricultural educators were trained. Iowa’s training involved eleven in-service events for 238 Extension staff. Missouri’s training involved two web-based seminars that trained twenty-five people, including Extension staff, adult agricultural educators, and Missouri Department of Agriculture personnel. Nebraska’s training involved two training workshops that reached twenty-one Extension staff. Distribution of CD-ROMs occurred through a variety of means, including referrals by NCR-SARE PDP staff, displays at events such as the annual meeting of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents, and distribution to Extension staff in the four partners states who were unable to attend the training sessions.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Each state that conducted training for agricultural educators reported on the impacts of their training. Summaries of these impacts follow.

Nebraska: Participants completed evaluations that indicated they were: 1) likely to use the materials in the near future; 2) likely to modify the presentations to fit local issues; and 3) be more prepared to discuss a range of profitability topics.

In addition to becoming aware of more options to enhance farm profitability, educators also expressed increased knowledge of strategies for implementing those options. This resulted from the demonstration of the project materials and the simultaneous opportunity to hear details from practicing farmers and ranchers at the presentation sites.

Extension educators reported that they increased their information network in three ways at these sessions. First, they received informational materials that referred to national and regional information providers. Second, they met other Extension educators with common interests. Third, they met farmers and ranchers both as presenters and as observers at the two gatherings where the trainings were held.

Extension educators demonstrated language and terminology use associated with the specialized production and marketing topics during the presentations and discussion. They received further reinforcement from the producers at the sessions. The educators reported comfort with the CD materials that would allow proficient presentations using the PowerPoint presentations, the extensive notes included in the presentations, and the thirty-two case studies included on each CD-ROM.

Missouri: At least half of the twenty-five participants have used the materials for local programming efforts, and seventy-one percent have referred other extension specialists or agricultural professionals to the materials used during the training.

Using a scale of 1=Not at all to 5=Very Easily, mean scores of Missouri participants on four evaluation questions were as follows:
1. I can list and describe three areas for small farm profitability. 4.14
2. I can present a complete extension program on small farm profitability. 3.71
3. I know how to access information on seven different topic areas that are important to small farm profitability. 4.43
4. I can describe at least five Missouri resources for small farm profitability. 3.86

Participants felt that the training gave them good resources to assist farmers who are interested in marketing locally produced products and in setting their own prices instead of taking prices. In addition, all of the participants indicated that they would refer others to the resources presented in the training, as well as use the resources in their own extension programming. Overall, the participants felt that the CD and other materials were great resources for helping farmers who are looking for alternatives.

Three additional outcomes of this training will benefit small farm profitability in Missouri. First, a participant from the Department of Agricultural Education at the University of Missouri has already distributed 20 CDs to adult agriculture educators across the state who are responsible for adult education programs in agriculture. Second, the training led the Missouri State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to request that CDs be provided to all agricultural education teachers in the state, with this request subsequently fulfilled. Third, two participants from the Northeast Extension Region in Missouri have agreed to present a web seminar on the “Farm Succession Strategies” to offer to other extension professionals.

Iowa: The materials developed were very good and Extension staff expressed appreciation for receiving them. Iowa Extension staff are very interested in value-added agriculture, specialty products, marketing and business development for their farm clients. They realize that this kind of information sharing and education is part of their future.

Recommendations:

Future Recommendations

The project could be expanded to reach additional target audiences through more training opportunities. As well, feedback from participants could be used to focus future material development and training on topics that were not adequately addressed by the materials developed for this project. One example of the latter is a desire expressed by Extension staff for more economic data on the practices and techniques that were included in the case studies.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.