Developing and Disseminating Legal Issues Curricula to Educators Who Assist Sustainable Farmers

Final Report for ENC13-138

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $70,714.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


In year two of this project  we worked with Ann Williams to conduct surveys of farmer training program facilitators and learned about out how they integrated the materials into their programming.

In year one of the project we  researched, created, and delivered legal issues curricula to agricultural educators and service providers in Illinois. The core target audience of this project were the organizers, presenters, and facilitators of farmer training programs aimed at sustainable farmers. With our consultant at Farm Commons, attorney Rachel Armstrong, we successfully held training workshops at four locations in Illinois (Springfield, Champaign, Carbondale and Grayslake) in September 2014. Our other main deliverable for the first year of the grant period was a complete Legal Issues curriculum guide for our audience, which was distributed to all participants at the workshops, and then placed on The Land Connection’s website with additional video resources in October 2014.

Project Objectives:
  1. 90% of the 120 (minimum) educators and service providers who attend the workshops will increase their knowledge of legal issues affecting sustainable farmers, and will be more motivated to seek opportunities to help farmers to proactively address legal issues.
  2. At least 2500 unique visitors will access the online materials and resources in the first 6-9 months
  3. At least 12 educators will integrate the legal curriculum or reference materials in their professional activities with colleagues and clients in training peers, advising clients, delivering presentations or when authoring articles, fact sheets and web pages.

Workshops were offered in September 2014 at five Illinois sites: Springfield, Champaign, Carbondale and Grayslake. Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons presented the material.  A total of 60 persons participated.

An online evaluation was conducted at the close of the last workshop, and an online follow-up evaluation was conducted in late March 2015. The purpose of the evaluation was to assess:

  • The format and presentation of the workshop
  • The curriculum
  • The level of legal knowledge gained by participants (pre/post measurement)
  • The effectiveness of online legal resources provided
  • Application of knowledge acquired from the workshops

Fifteen participants (15) completed the post-course evaluation and 16 completed the follow-up evaluation. The results of the two evaluations are summarized below. Tabulations of individual question and responses to open-ended questions are included in the Appendices at the end of this report.


This project, Developing and Disseminating Legal Issues Curricula to Educators Who Assist Sustainable Farmers, was designed to research, create, and deliver legal issues curricula to agricultural educators and service providers in Illinois. The project was a collaboration between The Land Connection and Farm Commons. The core target audience was the organizers, presenters, and facilitators of farmer training programs aimed at: sustainable farmers, University of Illinois and Extension personnel, community college instructors, and nonprofit sustainable agriculture personnel.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Rachel Armstrong
  • Magdalena Casper-Shipp
  • Cara Cummings
  • Jeff Hake
  • Akshita Siddula

Education & Outreach Initiatives



A Survey instrument was developed by Ann Williams and was distributed to all of the participants from the four workshops that were held in year one. (Full report attached)

Legal Isses Survey

Outreach and Publications

The materials that were developed were submitted in our first annual report.

Outcomes and impacts:

Immediate Post-Training Evaluation

The workshop was well-received by the participants. Ninety-four percent (94%) felt the workshop was a “good use of my time” (rated 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale). Most respondents (94%) “learned things about farm law that I did not know,” and 67% anticipated using material from the workshop in their professional setting. The anticipated uses for the workshop content were:

  • For personal interest (53%)
  • For inclusion in a new farmer training program (33%)
  • For inclusion in an existing farmer training program (27%)
  • As a stand-alone farm law class/classes (27%)
  • In advising farmer-clients from a legal perspective/as an attorney (20%)

Presentation. The presentation itself was highly rated by all of the participants (100%).  One participant commented, “I thought the material was covered in a timely and engaging manner, and the presenter was extremely knowledgeable. . . .I feel there are few people who are able to keep the attention of the room for as long as our presenter did.“

Class Activities. Participants generally found the in-class activities (87%) to be useful. One comment read, “ . . . from a teaching perspective, the presenter used a variety of activities that kept the class lively while also using excellent methods for gathering class feedback to insure that everyone was learning and staying focused.”

Course Materials. The course materials were highly rated by 93% of the attendees. The binder included in the workshop was described as “interesting and impressive.” The homework sent out in advance of the class was rated less highly, with only 30% of the participants finding it useful. One attendee suggested the page numbering in the binder was difficult to follow.

Farmer Panel Discussion. A number of participants commented that they appreciated the farmer-panel discussion. One person said, “I really enjoyed the panel discussion with the farmers, and having farmers as part of the group. It helped a lot with my understanding of the issues and materials, since I am not a farmer. Even though I'm a lawyer, I found some of the issues difficult to grasp until I heard a farmer give an example.” One participant commented that the panel might have been moderated to be more focused on learning points.

Follow-Up Evaluation/Outcomes

Pre/Post Knowledge Change. Most of the professionals attending the training had at least some prior knowledge of farm-related legal issues. But, only 25% rated themselves as being “extremely knowledgeable” (5 points on a 5-point scale). The group reported an average 1.88 point gain in knowledge, progressing from a pre-course average of 2.00 to a final level of 3.88 on a 5-point scale.

Incorporation of material in professional activities. All (100%) of the participants reported incorporating at least some of the material from the workshop in their work. Sixty-three percent (63%) used “a lot” (rated 4 or 5 on a -point scale). The material was used in a wide variety of ways. A full list of comments on uses of the material is included in the Appendix.

Use of website materials. Thirteen percent (13%) of the participants accessed legal training material via the Land Connection website. Others had gone directly to the Farm Commons website and some had accessed the materials on the USB key/flash drive.

Ratings of individual topics. Attendees were asked to rate the “helpfulness” of each of the 6 workshop modules on a 5-point scale. The results were as follows:

  1. On-farm events (4.31)
  2. Workers and employees (4.25)
  3. Organizing a farm business (business entities) (4.19)
  4. Sales and taxes (4.0)
  5. Land matters (zoning and leasing) (3.88)
  6. Food safety (3.88)

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The full results are in the uploaded report.


Potential Contributions

The survey was developed and distributed by Ann Williams.

Future Recommendations

A few suggestions for improving the workshop were offered:

    • Video updates to the training (legal changes) could be uploaded to YouTube.
    • The page numbering in the workbook/modules could be simplified.
    • More information on GAP and FMSA is desired.*
    • A bit more direction to the farmer panel to focus their remarks would be helpful.
    • Discontinue the use of the webinar materials in the workshop; the transition between in-class activities and the webinars is disjointed.

Overall all the training was very well received. One person commented, “This is one of the best continuing ed trainings I’ve attended.”  Another characterized it as “very thorough, practical and easy to use.” In summary, the participants felt that presenter and the presentation was excellent, and the workshop content was useful for their work.

* Now that the FSMA rules have been/are being written, we are continuing to offer education to farmers on how the rules will affect their operations. 

Information Products

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.