Building Vibrant Support Organizations for Beginning Farmers in the Northeast

Final Report for ENE13-129

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $127,487.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Anusuya Rangarajan
Cornell University
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Project Information

Summary:

Beginning farmer (BF) support programs have sprouted up across the Northeast aiming to meet the demand for quality resources, training and mentoring. Service providers, many not part of formal agricultural extension, need access to a growing wealth of resources and teaching approaches to train BF’s. The Northeast Beginning Farmer Learning Network provides a collaborative forum for service providers across organizations and agencies to help them advance BF training. This project has built capacity to support BF’s by 1) providing annual train-the-trainer programs in critical service provider knowledge gaps, 2) deepening the collaboration of professionals in the Northeast to share teaching methods and 3) helping service providers develop outreach strategies and programs that better serve diverse and underserved farmer audiences.

Over 3 years, our combined training activities served a network of 263 professionals providing support to BF’s. We held annual multi-day conferences that engaged 143 BF service providers (191 total participants) from 12 states with intensive workshops that increased their knowledge and teaching skills in program areas of business planning, vegetable production, financial analysis, labor management, marketing, and land access. Providers from non-profit organizations (65), extension services (40), state and federal agencies (16) and others (8) attended facilitated workshops that combined their experience with that of invited national experts to improve their capacity to serve BF’s. Technical skill building in program areas was complemented with cultural competency workshops helping educators create targeted outreach that increased program participation from underserved and diverse audiences. In year 3, we targeted military veterans interested in entering agriculture by hosting over 50 agricultural and military veteran service providers in an intensive workshop series.

At each conference, service providers set specific goals to incorporate learned ideas, resources, or methods into their BF training and increase engagement of underserved audiences. We designed 4 month and 1 year evaluations to track progress on and completion of these trainer-defined targets and their impact on farmers. Fifty one educators reported providing training services to a total of 1,820 farmers and indicated that 488 farmers made improvements to farm plans as a result of their training services. Forty percent (200) of the farmer changes reported by educators were related to developing skills and understanding in farm financials. Forty one educators expanded their outreach by assisting 256 farmers from underserved communities, including women (175), immigrant refugees (44), military veterans (12) and others (25). We broadened the impact of our trainings using webinars (5) on educator-prioritized knowledge gaps (record keeping, working with military veterans, wholesale market readiness, labor records, and cultural competency) to serve 221 participants across 21 states. Sixty five educators responding to post-webinar surveys indicated knowledge gained in content areas and intent to improve their training services for farmers.

Providing forums that foster a network of BF service providers can improve BF training, especially for non-traditional audiences, by connecting professionals across institutions of diverse expertise, fostering the sharing of teaching methods, and elevating the most effective training resources.

Performance Target:

After incorporating new curricula, resources and information gained through this PDP training, 45 BFSO participants report that 600 beginning farmers made changes to farm plans or management to improve sustainability.

As a result improved cultural competencies and engagement strategies learned through this PDP training, BFSOs report 100 new BF clients of diverse race, gender, age and ethnicity or military veterans are actively participating in their training programs.

 

Introduction:

When the phone rings at the Cornell Small Farms Program, it’s most often the inquiring voice of a beginning farmer. The voices in this rapidly growing audience are increasingly diverse- young, mature, recently graduated or retired- wanting to farm on city plots, the urban fringes, or in rural areas. Emerging among them are voices seeking role models and representation: minorities, veterans, and urban growers. As beginning farmer support organizations (BFSOs), we help transform the dreams of these diverse callers into successful businesses that contribute to a vibrant farm and food economy. Over the past several years, BFSOs have sprouted up across the Northeast, aiming to meet the need of beginning farmers (BFs) for quality resources, training and mentoring. It is no less critical that these organizations receive similar mentoring and access to the growing wealth of quality resources produced research and extension programs around the Northeast as well as the curricula and proven approaches of the entire collective of BFSOs. We created this collaborative learning platform in 2009, through the Northeast BF Learning Network.

While the Network has bolstered support and services to many BF audiences, BFSO’s continue to need advanced training and program development support to improve services to those farms operating for 2 to 7 years. Many BFSOs are not part of traditional extension ‘train the trainer’ programs, yet they provide critical support and education to new farmers. This NESARE PDP project advanced BFSO skills and abilities by: 1) providing advanced training in several critical BF knowledge gaps, (targeting business and financial management) as well as new BF resources and improved curriculum, and 2) provide unique learning opportunities that address BFSO priorities for enhancing service to underserved populations (e.g. minorities, women, youth and military veterans). This vibrant Learning Network of BFSOs will foster peer-to-peer learning, mentoring, resource sharing, and long term sustainability of efforts and improve skills and strategies for delivering effective training to all BFs.

Our educational approach included three multi-day conferences (fall of 2013, 2014, and 2015), training webinars, the collection and dissemination of resources, and facilitated networking among BFSO conference participants. We engaged educators in developing and implementing a post-training plan that outlined improvements in services to BF’s and then tracked change in farmer knowledge.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Tia Christopher
  • S. Tianna Dupont
  • Erica Frenay
  • Ryan Maher
  • Gail Myers
  • Mary Peabody

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Individual Milestone Accomplishments

  1. 250 service providers from 120 NE organizations, including BFSOs and those that work in food justice, urban agriculture, and supporting returning military veterans, learn about this new training program of the BF Learning Network. (Oct ‘13)

We announced the start of the BFLN conference trainings in August 2013 to over 250 BFSO contacts via the NE Beginning Farmer Learning Network Listserve, 75 Cornell Small Farm Program extension contacts, regional BF trainer contacts, and non-traditional BF organizations such as the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The announcement outlined the structure of the 2013 training program and also included details on the proposed 2014 conference. In August 2014, we recruited service providers for the yr 2 training program using the same networks, targeting over 300 NE service providers and also circulating to educators receiving the Cornell Small Farm Program E-news (6000 total members).

  1. 130 service providers submit applications to the training program, that include statements of learning goals, current clients from underserved communities, and letters of support from supervisors guaranteeing release time and commitment to the full three year program. (Nov ’13)

In the first year, 61 BF service providers submitted pre-registration materials for the 2013 conference. Feedback from service providers suggested that a 3 yr commitment (attending both yr 1 and yr 2 conferences) would not be the most effective structure to foster participation. The expertise, interests and training programs of service providers in yr 1 were not necessarily aligned with the training topics the following year. Instead, a separate announcement, registration, and commitment process was initiated in 2014 for the yr 2 conference training and follow up. By fall 2014, 53 service providers submitted pre-registration materials with stated interest in participating in the yr 2 training.

  1. 80 participants (50 accepted with partial travel support plus 30 able to cover their own travel, meals and lodging) sign commitment letters outlining requirements for the training. (Dec ’13)

In the first year, 49 participants submitted commitment letters with supervisor signature outlining their role as an active participant in our training program through 2014. Participants committed to attending the 2013 in-person conference training, participating in follow up webinars through 2014, assisting with the development of new evaluation tools, and gathering data to help document progress toward performance targets. In year 2, 52 participants (30% returning from 2013 training, 17 total) signed commitment letters to participate in the 2014 conference and assist with evaluation and reporting on actions to document progress toward performance targets over the 2015 training year. Training dates in both years were adjusted to late October to foster new program development and integration of materials and exercises in BF programs over the winter.

  1. 80 service providers attend Year 1 3-day training and begin revising their BF curricula focused on organic vegetable production or business planning, as well as start developing new outreach strategies to more effectively engage underserved BFs (Jan ‘14)

The 2013 conference was held from Oct 28-30th in Latham, NY and hosted 69 participants, including 49 trainers and 20 invited presenters/facilitators that reach BF audiences. Participants represented cooperative extension, non-profits, farm incubators, USDA-FSA, and others from 9 NE states. Two educational tracks ran concurrently while bringing all participants together around cultural competency objectives. Our Advanced Organic Vegetable Production track (23 participants) offered 5 workshop sessions and integrated recent NE organic agriculture research on crop rotations, weed management, soils and organic nutrients sources, and insect and disease management (2013 Org veg agenda). Over 90% of participants indicated that this training had good or excellent potential to impact their own beginning farmer curriculum. They identified gaps in their own training and shared plans for the future, which included more interactive winter meetings, new tools to guide compost applications, and one-on-one consultation on soil test results (2013 Org veg example actions).

The Farm Financial and Business Management track (41 participants) offered 5 workshop sessions: business planning, enterprise budgeting, market channel selection, record keeping and creative farm financing (2013 Financials agenda). Over 90% of attendees indicated that training in enterprise budgeting and market channel selection had good or excellent potential to impact their own curriculum. They shared plans to develop new BF training that included enterprise budgeting exercises, better access to financial planning resources, and improved record keeping templates (2013 Financials example actions).

Cultural competency workshops addressed how to effectively serve veterans, African Americans, Latinos, recent immigrants, and women farmers in their community (2013 Cultural competency agenda). Service providers outlined changes in both technical program content and outreach and communication to develop more inclusive programs (2013 Cultural competency example actions).

  1. 60 service providers attend the 4 follow-up webinars expanding resources or sharing curricula on the year 1 training topics (Feb ’14, Mar ’14)

The Cornell Small Farms program hosted 4 webinars (1 hr) with topics based on feedback from the 2013 conference and prioritized through an online survey circulated through the BF Learning Network. All webinars were recorded and archived on the NE Beginning Farmer Learning Network at the Trainers Toolbox to make them widely available (http://nebeginningfarmers.org/trainers/).

“AgSquared for Beginning Farmer Trainers” was offered on Nov 18, 2013 in collaboration with AgSquared. Attendees (31) received a walk-through training of how to use the AgSquared software to develop initial crop plans, keep better farm records, and learn about the resources that AgSquared can provide to BF training programs. Post-webinar evaluations (26% of participants) showed that their knowledge of how AgSquared works and the tools it provides for BF’s increased sharply (1.5 to 3.3; scale 1-4) and their understanding of how it can be included in BF training services also increased (1.4 to 2.4). These service providers also indicated an increased likelihood of adapting their curriculum to include AgSquared based on this training (1 to 2.5).

“The Language and Landscape of Working with Farmer Veterans” (Feb 27, 2014) was presented by Michelle Pfannenstiel, President of the Farmer Veteran Coalition- ME Chapter. Registered attendees (52) learned how BF service organizations can better support military veterans returning to or starting up farming. It focused on improving understanding of today’s veteran experience, learning how to navigate to the VA’s programs, and seeing examples of successful veteran farmer training efforts. Based on evaluations (28% of participants) trainers increased knowledge of VA programs and services, how the FVC supports veterans in farming, how they can better serve veterans in their programs (average 1.6 to 2.2; scale 0-3). Trainers also indicated a greater likelihood to support veterans in their work, including reaching out to local institutions (1.1 to 2.0), interviewing veterans in their own system to solicit feedback (1.3 to 2.1), and adapting their BF services to include veteran outreach (1.9 to 2.5).

“Valuing Time and Muscle- Working with Beginning Farmers in Labor Record Keeping” (April 17, 2014) was presented by Chris Blanchard, Flying Rutabaga Works, IA. Registered attendees (47) learned how to track and calculate labor inputs that translate into meaningful records and work with BF’s in designing recording keeping systems that lead to informed management decisions. Trainer evaluations (19% of participants) showed considerable knowledge gained around strategies to track, calculate, and value labor on the farm (1.3 to 2.4, scale 0-3). Attendees learned how to better serve BF’s in labor record keeping (1.0 to 2.3) and showed a greater likelihood of adapting their trainings to include strategies for tracking and valuing labor (1.4 to 2.6).

“Diversifying Beyond Direct-Supporting Beginning Farmers in Exploring Wholesale Markets” (April 25, 2014) was presented by Anthony Mirisciotta, Deep Roots Organic Cooperative, VT. Registered attendees (53) learned the nature of wholesale relationships, terms of pricing and payment, and expectations for quality and packaging to help design education programs that prepare BF’s for these channels as their enterprises grow. Evaluations (10% of attendees) increased their knowledge of how to better serve BF’s in exploring wholesale markets (1.6 to 2.2, scale 0-3) and demonstrated a greater likelihood of learning about wholesale opportunities for their BF’s (1.0 to 2.3) and developing a needs assessment to adapt their programs (1.4 to 2.6).

  1. 30 educators report that they have connected with and are delivering programs to 30 BFs of underserved populations (June ’14)

After 1 yr, a total of 23 educators reported reaching 60 BF’s within underserved audiences, including African American, military veteran, Hispanic, immigrant refugee, and women. Training opportunities for BF’s in refugee communities (29) were successful in both urban agriculture programming and incubator farm training. Efforts to reach women in agriculture (21) included broad coalition building, engaging stakeholders in a RI women in agriculture conference, and a hands-on basic tractor maintenance workshop. Several educators reported reaching out to military veterans (5) to connect them with existing resources and available programs. Educators highlighted the importance of the BF Learning network to connect with and leverage the resources of partner organizations to start developing collaborative programming for these groups.

  1. 40 educators report that program evaluations indicate that 150 BFs have made changes to farm plans. (Dec ‘14)

After 1 yr, 22 educators reported assisting 620 BF’s with improved programs/services in farm business management and organic vegetable production. Farmer tracking by educators indicated that 210 farmers made changes to farm plans or management based on trainings offered. Educators successfully integrated new tools and skills in enterprise budgeting, assisting 117 BF’s with over 40% of those reporting changes to farm plans (52). Other specific trainings contributed to farmer changes in marketing (15), record keeping (11), and business planning (52). Educators working in vegetable production reported changes made by 80 BF’s through new BF programming (field days, one-on-one consulting, and organized discussion groups) on topics including pest scouting, soil test interpretation, and disease monitoring.  

  1. 80 service providers attend Year 2 3-day training and begin revising their BF curricula focused on whole farm planning or soil health, report on challenges with engaging underserved BFs, and receive peer mentoring on alternative approaches (Oct ‘14)

Our 2014 conference was held in Latham, NY from October 27-29, 2014 and hosted 66 participants, including 53 service providers and 13 invited presenters/facilitators that reach BF audiences (2014 Conference agenda). Participants represented cooperative extension, non-profits, farm incubators, state and local government agencies, industry consultants and others from 10 states (NY, RI, PA, NJ, MA, VT, ME, NH, IA, and MT). Collectively, these conference attendees have strong potential to increase farm viability for BF’s, providing more than 5000 training services over the previous year, including one-on-one consulting (1300), one-day trainings (3000), and in-depth, multi-day programs (880).

The conference, titled “Re-strategizing with advanced beginning farmers: supporting scale-up and farm investment decision-making”, offered all attendees five intensive technical workshops: Credit Readiness, Farm Financial Analysis, Labor and Equipment Decision-Making, Marketing through Wholesale Channels, and Whole Farm Decision-Making. All attendees participated in two Cultural Competency training sessions focused on strategies for working effectively across cultural differences.

A strong majority of attendees indicated that workshops had good to excellent potential to impact their own training services; identifying credit readiness (86%), farm financial analysis (100%), labor and equipment decision-making (96%), wholesale market readiness (60%), whole-farm decision making (85%). Provider action plans outlined how knowledge gained and teaching tools would be integrated in their own BF programs and services. Activities included creating mock loan reviews to evaluate loan preparedness, using whole farm planning filtering questions to make management decisions, and improving partial budget analysis templates to support better financial records (2014 Business example actions).

All participants and instructors attended the cultural competency training led by 4 invited facilitators representing under-served groups. Attendees participated in two workshops with presentations and discussions on how to effectively serve military veterans, Latinos, and recent immigrants. Over 75% of participants expressed good to excellent potential to change their own training services based on these sessions. Service providers outlined changes in outreach strategy, changes to improve capacity with their own organization, and efforts to develop cultural awareness and identity (2014 Cultural competency example actions).

We changed our approach and workshop topics for the 2014 conference based upon service provider feedback from the 2013 training. We structured the conference on one broad theme that would serve the greatest number of trainers, supporting scale-up and farm investment decision-making. Attendees from 2013 emphasized a need for further training on farm business and management topics and when presented with more than one track, it was clear that there was a greater need for training on this topic over production based workshops (two-thirds of the 2013 attendees participated in farm business training). Many also expressed a need for discussing more advanced business topics, along with whole farm planning, to serve beginning farmers that are facing a greater set of management challenges. After considering these factors, we decided to offer a program that more closely matched the needs of trainers across the region.

  1. 60 service providers attend the 4 follow-up webinars expanding resources or sharing curricula on the year 1 training topics (Nov ’14, Dec ’14)

We hosted a pre-conference Cultural Competency webinar to address the depth and complexity of learning about cultural competence, unconscious bias, and diversity. The webinar was announced to registered attendees and others throughout the BF Learning Network and a recording was also circulated in advance of the conference. An archived recording is widely available at our Trainers Toolbox website (http://nebeginningfarmers.org/trainers/).

“Cultural Competency 101- Working across cultural differences” (October 15, 2014) was presented by Eduardo Gonzalez Jr., Cornell Cooperative Extension, NYC). Attendees (40) were introduced to key terms and definitions of cultural competency, reviewed the multiple dimension of diversity – including their own, and learned key steps for becoming more culturally competent in order to effectively work across differences. Trainer evaluations (70% of attendees) showed that attendees learned actionable steps for becoming more inclusive in their work (1.7 to 2.5, scale 0-3) and were more likely to seek further cultural competency training, challenge their own biases, and engage others in their organization on issues of intercultural communication and outreach (average 1.7 to 2.4).

We decided not to offer follow-up webinars in 2015. In post-conference evaluations, participants expressed the unique value of our in-person training for fostering a network of BF trainers. At the same time, we had an opportunity to leverage this SARE sponsored work and acquired additional funding to expand our training and outreach efforts towards military veterans interested in agriculture. In response, we used our time and resources to develop another in-person conference training. We built a two day program based on the needs of service providers seeking to work with a veteran audience and the emerging technical knowledge gaps and teaching needs of BF service providers in the network. We conducted a pre-conference survey that prioritized training topics and identified presenters from within the network.

The 2015 conference was held in Latham, NY from October 26-27, 2015 and brought together 58 agricultural and military veteran service providers from across the NE (2015 Agenda).  Participants represented extension services, non-profits, state agencies, universities and farmers from 7 states (NY, RI, PA, CT, MA, NH, and CA). Based on 50% of trainers surveyed, these conference attendees had significant potential to increase farm viability for BF’s, providing more than 5,000 farmer training services over the previous year, including farmer participation in events and workshops (1344), one-on-one consulting (718), and in-depth, multi-day programs (315).

The meeting began with a focus on supporting NYS veterans in agriculture and invited traditional military veteran and agricultural service providers to identify how to best serve military veterans. We facilitated discussions on farmer-veteran pathways into farming, career resources available to help veterans, and how to create regional service provider networks to support veterans in NYS. The meeting then addressed technical knowledge gaps and teaching approaches. Educators shared strategies to help BF’s in acquiring and assessing land, with presentations on farmland access, farm transfer, land assessment and farmland rental rates. A session on building BF business and financial analysis skills highlighted using enterprise budget tools and meat production calculators with livestock producers to better understand cost of production, meat yields, and pricing. Eighty five percent of participants shared that the training had good to excellent potential to impact their services for BF’s and identified next steps for them to increase engage of veterans and to improve their programs and/or teaching methods (2015 Example actions). Since the meeting, all conference presentations with links to resources were made widely available at our Trainers Toolbox website (http://nebeginningfarmers.org/trainers/).

  1. 30 educators report that they have connected with and are delivering programs to another 40 BFs of underserved populations (June ’15)

After year 2, a total of 18 educators reported reaching 196 BF’s within underserved audiences, including African American, military veteran, Hispanic, immigrant refugee, Amish, Mennonite, and women. A majority of these efforts, almost 80%, were focused on reaching women in agriculture (154) including an urban agriculture meeting with representation from African American and Hispanic communities and a women farmer symposium that featured a diverse panel of African American, Vietnamese, Indian, Puerto Rican and Indian farmers. Additional training opportunities for farmers in Amish and Mennonite communities (17) were focused on supporting grazing operations and small dairy. New American refugee communities (15) were the target of incubator farm training. Several educators reported reaching out to military veterans (7) to connect them with existing resources and help find available apprenticeships or mentorships. Educators shared that BF Learning Network meetings helped them to identify ways to improve cultural competency within their organization by offering trainings for their own staff on cultural diversity and intercultural communication and outreach.

  1. 40 educators report that program evaluations indicate that another 150 BFs have made changes to farm plans. (July ‘15)

One year after the 2014 conference, 36 educators reported on their progress toward stated goals and activities, and 29 educators (80%) indicated they had made changes to their farmer trainings. These educators assisted over 1,200 BF’s with improved programs and services in advanced farm business skills. Through these BF services, 278 farmers make changes to farm plans and/or management. Sixty percent of the farmer changes reported by educators were related to developing skills and understanding in credit and farm financials (200). Other targeted trainings contributed to farmer changes in wholesale market development (71), record keeping (23), and whole farm planning (11). Educators shared examples of their improved programs, teaching strategies and how farmers were experiencing the benefits. Through one-on-one consulting, farmers gained knowledge in how a credit score can effect loan applications, land leases and rentals through one-on-one consulting. Others attended BF courses that incorporated partial budgeting approaches for understanding the cost of production and farmers learned whether a certain enterprise was making a profit. In one training, a farmer asked about evaluating the internalized cost of using seed produced on the farm for a subsequent years crops and now she has the tools to compare costs and see if the practice really is financially viable for them. Others spoke to how the development of produce quality guides have led to improved quality and fewer customer complaints, as producers are learning to harvest tomatoes less mature and not delivered overly ripe while practicing better washing and packing at farm.

  1. Through year 3 evaluations, surveys and interviews, performance targets are verified. (July ’15)

Our annual network conferences engaged 143 BF trainers to build educator knowledge and teaching skills and advance training programs that contribute to BF sustainability. We developed an evaluation framework for educators to revisit their goals and share progress, at both 4 months and 1yr post-conference, toward training changes they identified. Using these tracking methods, 51 educators indicated assisting 1,820 BF’s in improved training services with 488 reporting changes to farm plans/management. A total of 41 educators successfully reached 256 BF’s from underserved communities.

Cumulative Milestone Accomplishment Table

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

a. Performance target outcome data and discussion

Our combined training activities have served a network of 263 BF trainers to build and enhance support services for BF’s. Our BF Learning Network conferences alone engaged 143 BF trainers from 12 states in advanced training and networking activities that improved educator knowledge and teaching skills. Each attendee completed a plan that identified the specific changes they intended to make to their training services and how they would increase engagement of underserved audiences (Trainer action plan handout). Using these targets, we surveyed each service provider at 4 months and 1 year after the conference to gather progress on and completion of training targets and the impact of those changes on farmer decision-making (Trainer action plan evaluation). We broadened the impact of our trainings using webinars (5) on educator-prioritized knowledge gaps (record keeping, working with military veterans, wholesale market readiness, labor records, and cultural competency) to serve 221 participants across 21 states. Sixty five educators responding to post-webinar surveys indicated knowledge gained in content areas and intent to improve their training services for farmers.

A total of 51 educators reported that they provided improved training services to 1,820 farmers. Of farmers that received training and assistance, 488 farmers reported making changes to farm plans or management.

After one year, 22 educators reached 620 farmers with training in farm business management and organic vegetable production and 210 farmers made changes based on trainings offered. Almost half of these changes came with farmers integrating new tools in enterprise budgeting (52) and business planning (52). Other specific trainings contributed to farmer changes in marketing (15) and record keeping (11). Educators working in vegetable production reported changes made by 80 BF’s through new programs (field days, one-on-one consulting, and organized discussion groups) on topics including pest scouting, soil test interpretation, and disease monitoring. One educator reported success with a new, more hands-on workshop format: the first day included demonstration and discussion of enterprise budgets and then participants returned on a second day with budgets developed at home. In another example, after working one-on-one with producers, 3 growers had begun implementing Quickbooks for their farm operations. Another educator reported that two farmers started using cover crops for improved fertility and more closely monitoring soil nutrients after sharing soil and compost analysis tools.

After year two, 29 educators indicated they had made changes to farmer trainings and assisted over 1,200 BF’s with advanced farm business skills. Through these services, 278 farmers reported changes to farm plans or management. Sixty percent of the changes were related to enhanced skills and understanding in credit and farm financials (200). Other targeted trainings contributed to farmer changes in wholesale market development (71), record keeping (23), and whole farm planning (11). Educators shared examples of their improved programs, teaching strategies and how farmers were experiencing the benefits. Through one-on-one consulting, farmers gained knowledge in how a credit score can effect loan applications, land leases and rentals through one-on-one consulting. Others attended BF courses that incorporated partial budgeting approaches for understanding the cost of production and farmers learned whether a certain enterprise was making a profit. In one training, a farmer asked about evaluating the internalized cost of using seed produced on the farm for a subsequent years crops and she learned to compare costs and evaluate if the practice was financially viable. In another example, the development of produce quality guides have led to improved quality and fewer customer complaints, as producers are learning to harvest tomatoes less mature so that they are not delivered overly ripe while also practicing better washing and packing at farm.

A total of 41 educators reached 256 farmers from underserved communities, including diverse race and ethnicity, women, and military veterans.                            

After 1 yr, 23 educators reported reaching 60 BF’s within underserved audiences, including African American, military veteran, Hispanic, immigrant refugee, and women. Training opportunities for BF’s in refugee communities (29) were successful in both urban agriculture programming and incubator farm training. Efforts to reach women in agriculture (21) included broad coalition building, engaging stakeholders in a RI women in agriculture conference, and a hands-on basic tractor maintenance workshop. Several educators reported reaching out to military veterans (5) to connect them with existing resources and available programs.

After 2 yr, 18 educators reported reaching 196 BF’s within underserved audiences, including African American, military veteran, Hispanic, immigrant refugee, Amish, Mennonite, and women. A majority of these efforts, almost 80%, were focused on reaching women in agriculture (154). Activities included facilitating an urban agriculture meeting with African American and Hispanic communities and a women farmer symposium that featured a panel of African American, Vietnamese, Indian, Puerto Rican and Indian farmers. Additional training opportunities for farmers in Amish and Mennonite communities (17) were focused on supporting grazing operations and small dairy. New American refugee communities (15) were the target of incubator farm training and several educators reported reaching out to military veterans (7) to connect them with existing resources and help find available apprenticeships or mentorships.

b. Beneficiary outcome story

Service providers are providing growers with tips and templates for monitoring labor on the farm that can make record keeping manageable and relevant.  “I am setting up specific processes and labor systems to track and understand my farm better throughout the year. I now have the tools and examples from this workshop to help me bring it back to my farm and be successful doing it.”

Service providers are changing the teaching approach to impact farmer learning. “A small class, where I could have my questions answered on a more one-to-one basis helped answer my questions when it comes to business planning on our farm. I’m excited to calculate my cost of productions for the coming year

c. Additional outcomes discussion

Our SARE-PDP funded cultural competency efforts helped, in part, to acquire additional funding (USDA BFRDP) to engage and support New York state military veterans who are currently farming or interested in careers in agriculture. We are working with agency, extension, and non-profit partners around the state to provide education, farm training, and networking opportunities for veterans. In addition we are connecting agricultural service providers with traditional military service providers to learn from each other, identify priorities, and develop best practices for supporting veterans in agriculture.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Individual Milestone Accomplishments

  1. 250 service providers from 120 NE organizations, including BFSOs and those that work in food justice, urban agriculture, and supporting returning military veterans, learn about this new training program of the BF Learning Network. (Oct ‘13)

We announced the start of the BFLN conference trainings in August 2013 to over 250 BFSO contacts via the NE Beginning Farmer Learning Network Listserve, 75 Cornell Small Farm Program extension contacts, regional BF trainer contacts, and non-traditional BF organizations such as the Farmer Veteran Coalition. The announcement outlined the structure of the 2013 training program and also included details on the proposed 2014 conference. In August 2014, we recruited service providers for the yr 2 training program using the same networks, targeting over 300 NE service providers and also circulating to educators receiving the Cornell Small Farm Program E-news (6000 total members).

  1. 130 service providers submit applications to the training program, that include statements of learning goals, current clients from underserved communities, and letters of support from supervisors guaranteeing release time and commitment to the full three year program. (Nov ’13)

In the first year, 61 BF service providers submitted pre-registration materials for the 2013 conference. Feedback from service providers suggested that a 3 yr commitment (attending both yr 1 and yr 2 conferences) would not be the most effective structure to foster participation. The expertise, interests and training programs of service providers in yr 1 were not necessarily aligned with the training topics the following year. Instead, a separate announcement, registration, and commitment process was initiated in 2014 for the yr 2 conference training and follow up. By fall 2014, 53 service providers submitted pre-registration materials with stated interest in participating in the yr 2 training.

  1. 80 participants (50 accepted with partial travel support plus 30 able to cover their own travel, meals and lodging) sign commitment letters outlining requirements for the training. (Dec ’13)

In the first year, 49 participants submitted commitment letters with supervisor signature outlining their role as an active participant in our training program through 2014. Participants committed to attending the 2013 in-person conference training, participating in follow up webinars through 2014, assisting with the development of new evaluation tools, and gathering data to help document progress toward performance targets. In year 2, 52 participants (30% returning from 2013 training, 17 total) signed commitment letters to participate in the 2014 conference and assist with evaluation and reporting on actions to document progress toward performance targets over the 2015 training year. Training dates in both years were adjusted to late October to foster new program development and integration of materials and exercises in BF programs over the winter.

  1. 80 service providers attend Year 1 3-day training and begin revising their BF curricula focused on organic vegetable production or business planning, as well as start developing new outreach strategies to more effectively engage underserved BFs (Jan ‘14)

The 2013 conference was held from Oct 28-30th in Latham, NY and hosted 69 participants, including 49 trainers and 20 invited presenters/facilitators that reach BF audiences. Participants represented cooperative extension, non-profits, farm incubators, USDA-FSA, and others from 9 NE states. Two educational tracks ran concurrently while bringing all participants together around cultural competency objectives. Our Advanced Organic Vegetable Production track (23 participants) offered 5 workshop sessions and integrated recent NE organic agriculture research on crop rotations, weed management, soils and organic nutrients sources, and insect and disease management (2013 Org veg agenda). Over 90% of participants indicated that this training had good or excellent potential to impact their own beginning farmer curriculum. They identified gaps in their own training and shared plans for the future, which included more interactive winter meetings, new tools to guide compost applications, and one-on-one consultation on soil test results (2013 Org veg example actions).

The Farm Financial and Business Management track (41 participants) offered 5 workshop sessions: business planning, enterprise budgeting, market channel selection, record keeping and creative farm financing (2013 Financials agenda). Over 90% of attendees indicated that training in enterprise budgeting and market channel selection had good or excellent potential to impact their own curriculum. They shared plans to develop new BF training that included enterprise budgeting exercises, better access to financial planning resources, and improved record keeping templates (2013 Financials example actions).

Cultural competency workshops addressed how to effectively serve veterans, African Americans, Latinos, recent immigrants, and women farmers in their community (2013 Cultural competency agenda). Service providers outlined changes in both technical program content and outreach and communication to develop more inclusive programs (2013 Cultural competency example actions).

  1. 60 service providers attend the 4 follow-up webinars expanding resources or sharing curricula on the year 1 training topics (Feb ’14, Mar ’14)

The Cornell Small Farms program hosted 4 webinars (1 hr) with topics based on feedback from the 2013 conference and prioritized through an online survey circulated through the BF Learning Network. All webinars were recorded and archived on the NE Beginning Farmer Learning Network at the Trainers Toolbox to make them widely available (http://nebeginningfarmers.org/trainers/).

“AgSquared for Beginning Farmer Trainers” was offered on Nov 18, 2013 in collaboration with AgSquared. Attendees (31) received a walk-through training of how to use the AgSquared software to develop initial crop plans, keep better farm records, and learn about the resources that AgSquared can provide to BF training programs. Post-webinar evaluations (26% of participants) showed that their knowledge of how AgSquared works and the tools it provides for BF’s increased sharply (1.5 to 3.3; scale 1-4) and their understanding of how it can be included in BF training services also increased (1.4 to 2.4). These service providers also indicated an increased likelihood of adapting their curriculum to include AgSquared based on this training (1 to 2.5).

“The Language and Landscape of Working with Farmer Veterans” (Feb 27, 2014) was presented by Michelle Pfannenstiel, President of the Farmer Veteran Coalition- ME Chapter. Registered attendees (52) learned how BF service organizations can better support military veterans returning to or starting up farming. It focused on improving understanding of today’s veteran experience, learning how to navigate to the VA’s programs, and seeing examples of successful veteran farmer training efforts. Based on evaluations (28% of participants) trainers increased knowledge of VA programs and services, how the FVC supports veterans in farming, how they can better serve veterans in their programs (average 1.6 to 2.2; scale 0-3). Trainers also indicated a greater likelihood to support veterans in their work, including reaching out to local institutions (1.1 to 2.0), interviewing veterans in their own system to solicit feedback (1.3 to 2.1), and adapting their BF services to include veteran outreach (1.9 to 2.5).

“Valuing Time and Muscle- Working with Beginning Farmers in Labor Record Keeping” (April 17, 2014) was presented by Chris Blanchard, Flying Rutabaga Works, IA. Registered attendees (47) learned how to track and calculate labor inputs that translate into meaningful records and work with BF’s in designing recording keeping systems that lead to informed management decisions. Trainer evaluations (19% of participants) showed considerable knowledge gained around strategies to track, calculate, and value labor on the farm (1.3 to 2.4, scale 0-3). Attendees learned how to better serve BF’s in labor record keeping (1.0 to 2.3) and showed a greater likelihood of adapting their trainings to include strategies for tracking and valuing labor (1.4 to 2.6).

“Diversifying Beyond Direct-Supporting Beginning Farmers in Exploring Wholesale Markets” (April 25, 2014) was presented by Anthony Mirisciotta, Deep Roots Organic Cooperative, VT. Registered attendees (53) learned the nature of wholesale relationships, terms of pricing and payment, and expectations for quality and packaging to help design education programs that prepare BF’s for these channels as their enterprises grow. Evaluations (10% of attendees) increased their knowledge of how to better serve BF’s in exploring wholesale markets (1.6 to 2.2, scale 0-3) and demonstrated a greater likelihood of learning about wholesale opportunities for their BF’s (1.0 to 2.3) and developing a needs assessment to adapt their programs (1.4 to 2.6).

  1. 30 educators report that they have connected with and are delivering programs to 30 BFs of underserved populations (June ’14)

After 1 yr, a total of 23 educators reported reaching 60 BF’s within underserved audiences, including African American, military veteran, Hispanic, immigrant refugee, and women. Training opportunities for BF’s in refugee communities (29) were successful in both urban agriculture programming and incubator farm training. Efforts to reach women in agriculture (21) included broad coalition building, engaging stakeholders in a RI women in agriculture conference, and a hands-on basic tractor maintenance workshop. Several educators reported reaching out to military veterans (5) to connect them with existing resources and available programs. Educators highlighted the importance of the BF Learning network to connect with and leverage the resources of partner organizations to start developing collaborative programming for these groups.

  1. 40 educators report that program evaluations indicate that 150 BFs have made changes to farm plans. (Dec ‘14)

After 1 yr, 22 educators reported assisting 620 BF’s with improved programs/services in farm business management and organic vegetable production. Farmer tracking by educators indicated that 210 farmers made changes to farm plans or management based on trainings offered. Educators successfully integrated new tools and skills in enterprise budgeting, assisting 117 BF’s with over 40% of those reporting changes to farm plans (52). Other specific trainings contributed to farmer changes in marketing (15), record keeping (11), and business planning (52). Educators working in vegetable production reported changes made by 80 BF’s through new BF programming (field days, one-on-one consulting, and organized discussion groups) on topics including pest scouting, soil test interpretation, and disease monitoring.  

  1. 80 service providers attend Year 2 3-day training and begin revising their BF curricula focused on whole farm planning or soil health, report on challenges with engaging underserved BFs, and receive peer mentoring on alternative approaches (Oct ‘14)

Our 2014 conference was held in Latham, NY from October 27-29, 2014 and hosted 66 participants, including 53 service providers and 13 invited presenters/facilitators that reach BF audiences (2014 Conference agenda). Participants represented cooperative extension, non-profits, farm incubators, state and local government agencies, industry consultants and others from 10 states (NY, RI, PA, NJ, MA, VT, ME, NH, IA, and MT). Collectively, these conference attendees have strong potential to increase farm viability for BF’s, providing more than 5000 training services over the previous year, including one-on-one consulting (1300), one-day trainings (3000), and in-depth, multi-day programs (880).

The conference, titled “Re-strategizing with advanced beginning farmers: supporting scale-up and farm investment decision-making”, offered all attendees five intensive technical workshops: Credit Readiness, Farm Financial Analysis, Labor and Equipment Decision-Making, Marketing through Wholesale Channels, and Whole Farm Decision-Making. All attendees participated in two Cultural Competency training sessions focused on strategies for working effectively across cultural differences.

A strong majority of attendees indicated that workshops had good to excellent potential to impact their own training services; identifying credit readiness (86%), farm financial analysis (100%), labor and equipment decision-making (96%), wholesale market readiness (60%), whole-farm decision making (85%). Provider action plans outlined how knowledge gained and teaching tools would be integrated in their own BF programs and services. Activities included creating mock loan reviews to evaluate loan preparedness, using whole farm planning filtering questions to make management decisions, and improving partial budget analysis templates to support better financial records (2014 Business example actions).

All participants and instructors attended the cultural competency training led by 4 invited facilitators representing under-served groups. Attendees participated in two workshops with presentations and discussions on how to effectively serve military veterans, Latinos, and recent immigrants. Over 75% of participants expressed good to excellent potential to change their own training services based on these sessions. Service providers outlined changes in outreach strategy, changes to improve capacity with their own organization, and efforts to develop cultural awareness and identity (2014 Cultural competency example actions).

We changed our approach and workshop topics for the 2014 conference based upon service provider feedback from the 2013 training. We structured the conference on one broad theme that would serve the greatest number of trainers, supporting scale-up and farm investment decision-making. Attendees from 2013 emphasized a need for further training on farm business and management topics and when presented with more than one track, it was clear that there was a greater need for training on this topic over production based workshops (two-thirds of the 2013 attendees participated in farm business training). Many also expressed a need for discussing more advanced business topics, along with whole farm planning, to serve beginning farmers that are facing a greater set of management challenges. After considering these factors, we decided to offer a program that more closely matched the needs of trainers across the region.

  1. 60 service providers attend the 4 follow-up webinars expanding resources or sharing curricula on the year 1 training topics (Nov ’14, Dec ’14)

We hosted a pre-conference Cultural Competency webinar to address the depth and complexity of learning about cultural competence, unconscious bias, and diversity. The webinar was announced to registered attendees and others throughout the BF Learning Network and a recording was also circulated in advance of the conference. An archived recording is widely available at our Trainers Toolbox website (http://nebeginningfarmers.org/trainers/).

“Cultural Competency 101- Working across cultural differences” (October 15, 2014) was presented by Eduardo Gonzalez Jr., Cornell Cooperative Extension, NYC). Attendees (40) were introduced to key terms and definitions of cultural competency, reviewed the multiple dimension of diversity – including their own, and learned key steps for becoming more culturally competent in order to effectively work across differences. Trainer evaluations (70% of attendees) showed that attendees learned actionable steps for becoming more inclusive in their work (1.7 to 2.5, scale 0-3) and were more likely to seek further cultural competency training, challenge their own biases, and engage others in their organization on issues of intercultural communication and outreach (average 1.7 to 2.4).

We decided not to offer follow-up webinars in 2015. In post-conference evaluations, participants expressed the unique value of our in-person training for fostering a network of BF trainers. At the same time, we had an opportunity to leverage this SARE sponsored work and acquired additional funding to expand our training and outreach efforts towards military veterans interested in agriculture. In response, we used our time and resources to develop another in-person conference training. We built a two day program based on the needs of service providers seeking to work with a veteran audience and the emerging technical knowledge gaps and teaching needs of BF service providers in the network. We conducted a pre-conference survey that prioritized training topics and identified presenters from within the network.

The 2015 conference was held in Latham, NY from October 26-27, 2015 and brought together 58 agricultural and military veteran service providers from across the NE (2015 Agenda).  Participants represented extension services, non-profits, state agencies, universities and farmers from 7 states (NY, RI, PA, CT, MA, NH, and CA). Based on 50% of trainers surveyed, these conference attendees had significant potential to increase farm viability for BF’s, providing more than 5,000 farmer training services over the previous year, including farmer participation in events and workshops (1344), one-on-one consulting (718), and in-depth, multi-day programs (315).

The meeting began with a focus on supporting NYS veterans in agriculture and invited traditional military veteran and agricultural service providers to identify how to best serve military veterans. We facilitated discussions on farmer-veteran pathways into farming, career resources available to help veterans, and how to create regional service provider networks to support veterans in NYS. The meeting then addressed technical knowledge gaps and teaching approaches. Educators shared strategies to help BF’s in acquiring and assessing land, with presentations on farmland access, farm transfer, land assessment and farmland rental rates. A session on building BF business and financial analysis skills highlighted using enterprise budget tools and meat production calculators with livestock producers to better understand cost of production, meat yields, and pricing. Eighty five percent of participants shared that the training had good to excellent potential to impact their services for BF’s and identified next steps for them to increase engage of veterans and to improve their programs and/or teaching methods (2015 Example actions). Since the meeting, all conference presentations with links to resources were made widely available at our Trainers Toolbox website (http://nebeginningfarmers.org/trainers/).

  1. 30 educators report that they have connected with and are delivering programs to another 40 BFs of underserved populations (June ’15)

After year 2, a total of 18 educators reported reaching 196 BF’s within underserved audiences, including African American, military veteran, Hispanic, immigrant refugee, Amish, Mennonite, and women. A majority of these efforts, almost 80%, were focused on reaching women in agriculture (154) including an urban agriculture meeting with representation from African American and Hispanic communities and a women farmer symposium that featured a diverse panel of African American, Vietnamese, Indian, Puerto Rican and Indian farmers. Additional training opportunities for farmers in Amish and Mennonite communities (17) were focused on supporting grazing operations and small dairy. New American refugee communities (15) were the target of incubator farm training. Several educators reported reaching out to military veterans (7) to connect them with existing resources and help find available apprenticeships or mentorships. Educators shared that BF Learning Network meetings helped them to identify ways to improve cultural competency within their organization by offering trainings for their own staff on cultural diversity and intercultural communication and outreach.

  1. 40 educators report that program evaluations indicate that another 150 BFs have made changes to farm plans. (July ‘15)

One year after the 2014 conference, 36 educators reported on their progress toward stated goals and activities, and 29 educators (80%) indicated they had made changes to their farmer trainings. These educators assisted over 1,200 BF’s with improved programs and services in advanced farm business skills. Through these BF services, 278 farmers make changes to farm plans and/or management. Sixty percent of the farmer changes reported by educators were related to developing skills and understanding in credit and farm financials (200). Other targeted trainings contributed to farmer changes in wholesale market development (71), record keeping (23), and whole farm planning (11). Educators shared examples of their improved programs, teaching strategies and how farmers were experiencing the benefits. Through one-on-one consulting, farmers gained knowledge in how a credit score can effect loan applications, land leases and rentals through one-on-one consulting. Others attended BF courses that incorporated partial budgeting approaches for understanding the cost of production and farmers learned whether a certain enterprise was making a profit. In one training, a farmer asked about evaluating the internalized cost of using seed produced on the farm for a subsequent years crops and now she has the tools to compare costs and see if the practice really is financially viable for them. Others spoke to how the development of produce quality guides have led to improved quality and fewer customer complaints, as producers are learning to harvest tomatoes less mature and not delivered overly ripe while practicing better washing and packing at farm.

  1. Through year 3 evaluations, surveys and interviews, performance targets are verified. (July ’15)

Our annual network conferences engaged 143 BF trainers to build educator knowledge and teaching skills and advance training programs that contribute to BF sustainability. We developed an evaluation framework for educators to revisit their goals and share progress, at both 4 months and 1yr post-conference, toward training changes they identified. Using these tracking methods, 51 educators indicated assisting 1,820 BF’s in improved training services with 488 reporting changes to farm plans/management. A total of 41 educators successfully reached 256 BF’s from underserved communities.

Cumulative Milestone Accomplishment Table

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.