Progress report for ENE17-147

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $47,107.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Maine
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Jason Lilley
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

In 2012, 33% of Maine’s farms were considered beginning farms (<10 years of operation), compared to the national average of 22% (NASS, 2012). Many of those farmers have a background in production, yet limited exposure to the financial and legal components of running a successful farm enterprise. This project was designed to 1) train and equip UMaine Extension staff on farm business information needed to support beginning farmers toward financial success, and 2) to develop and supply all of the resources and support staff need to offer regional business courses and personalized consultations to beginning farmers.

During the winter of 2017/2018, 18 UMaine Extension staff attended two interactive farm business management workshops. Session instructors included a diverse array of agriculture service provider presenters who specialize in each content area, and were primarily members of the Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine. Topics included:

  • Whole-farm-planning
  • Market research
  • Business planning
  • Evaluating farm enterprises
  • Land acquisition
  • Financial records keeping
  • And, identifying key service providers

Trainees attended three support webinars to provide further education and to facilitate the organization of five regional, 4-part, 12 hour So You Want to Farm in Maine Courses (SYWTFIM) (https://extension.umaine.edu/new-farmers/sywtfim/). Successful course participants are eligible for USDA FSA Borrower Training Credit. The planning resources developed to aid the participants are located under the “Resources for Course Organizers” tab at this site. https://extension.umaine.edu/new-farmers/resources/ (Password: SYWTFIM).

Afterwards, 15 UMaine Extension staff collaborated to offer five regional SYWTIFM courses in which 64 potential or beginning farmers learned about and developed the following documents:

  • Business plans,
  • Enterprise budgets
  • Farm mission statements
  • Soils maps
  • Regulations and permitting research,
  • Financial record keeping systems,
  • And, customer surveys.

45 of the farmers completed all of these documents, and 29 finalized the paperwork to receive USDA Farm Service Agency Borrower Training Credit. Of those, $1 million of operational loans was distributed as a result of this project.

Extension participants used resources from this project to offer 122 potential or beginning farmers consultations. After these meetings, the staff compiled resource lists, including referrals to other ag service providers, and followed up with relevant homework assignments. The consultation questionnaire and example resource list are located at the “Resources for Course Organizers” tab at this site. https://extension.umaine.edu/new-farmers/resources/ (Password: SYWTFIM).

Follow up with farmers who participated in these consultations showed that:

  • 11 reported conducting more research about their ideas before jumping in
  • 9 connected with USDA SCORE volunteers to develop more robust business management tools
  • 9 reported completing enterprise budgets for the first time
  • at least 15 farmers developed business plans
  • 9 conducted market research and developed marketing plans
  • 75 conducted soil tests and,
  • 4 have developed holistic goals as part of a Whole Farm Planning (Holistic Management) process, which they learned about during these consultations.

One beginning farmer sent a thank you message following a consultation stating, “(UMaine Extension Staff) and Allyn (Lamb from USDA SCORE) were a great help. Hav(ing) you both as a resource really increases my confidence in this endeavor.”

Project participants also coordinated 8 workshops on farm business management topics using the skills and tools gained from the SYWTIFM trainings. 72 farmers participated in these farm business management workshops that included Intro to Business Management for Sheep Producers, Basic Excel for Farmers, and 6 hands-on QuickBooks clinics. Farmer in the QuickBooks clinics (n=52) left those workshops having established their company in the QuickBooks program, developed a draft enterprise budget, and learned about farm taxes and risk management planning, including crop insurance policies.

Pre and post-program evaluation completed by the UMaine Extension Staff show that this program significantly increased their understanding of farm business management topics, their confidence to offer farm business management advice to farmers, and to coordinate and offer the SYWTFIM course. Overall, this project has supplied UMaine Extension educators with the tools and knowledge of farm business management topics and has prepared them with the content delivery skills to successfully share this information. Sharing these skills with a larger pool of key contact people for beginning farmers, will ensure that these farmers have access to the tools that they need to be successful.  Ultimately, resulting in a more robust and sustainable local farm economy.

 

Performance Target:

20 University of Maine Extension staff will collaborate to offer 4-6 (12-hour) trainings to 125 beginning farmers and 175 one-on-one consultations around Maine. These programs will assist in analyzing the feasibility of client farm operations.

200 beginning farmers develop business, marketing, and/or production plans as a result of the trainings/consultations.

Introduction:

This project distinguished itself by training and equipping University of Maine Cooperative Extension staff to offer small-class and one-on-one personalized guidance to beginning farmers. This has allowed farmers to comprehensively explore, and continue working towards ensuring, the viability of their farm business ideas.

Processing all the information that is available to beginning farmers is often overwhelming and can render prospective farmers unable to know where to start. As a result of this project, UMaine Agriculture Extension staff are now equipped to provide guidance and resources crucial to these farmers’ success. These staff are now prepared to successfully offer small, local classes geared to specifically address the most pressing issues Maine’s beginning farmers have, and to offer one-on-one consultation for these farmers. Farmers have reported that access to these resources has been critical to help make the process of getting started in farming more accessible. This project equipped UMaine Extension staff to assist prospective farmers in bringing their farm business to fruition and provide the extra support and time needed in developing marketing, production and/or business plans for the farm.

Training was offered as a two-day, interactive workshop where Extension staff gained skills in supporting farmers with whole farm planning, business and financial plan development, record-keeping, marketing, and identifying other key service providers. By using a more personal, collaborative approach with our clients, we strive to develop business, marketing and/or production plans for their farms that are useful and utilized.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Instructional Methods

During the Winter of 2017/2018, 18 University of Maine Cooperative Extension Agriculture staff participated in interactive farm business management workshops. The project team and invited farm business professional instructors presented this workshop using hands-on and interactive methodologies – such as honing practical skills, group exercises, solicitation of feedback and just-in-time resources.  Specifically, this included evaluations of example farm enterprises, which provided experience for staff to draw on when walking a client through the process on their farms. The group exchanged experiences, feedback and resources with the goal being that staff will take these learned practices and resources and use them in conducting classes and one-on-one consultations in their local communities.  

Within a month after concluding this training, each staff member was expected to practice their newly acquired skills by meeting with at least one, previously identified, beginning farmer client for a one-on-one consultation. This gave staff a chance to reinforce their new knowledge, improve effectiveness in assisting clients and build confidence in handling these requests. Staff participants were also expected to form regional groups to offer farm business management courses throughout the state. This gave farmers the chance to work through preliminary ideas and plans in a supportive, interactive and one-on-one environment.         

Curriculum Topics

During the training, staff participants received an overview and discussed the essential elements of each of the topics listed below. These sessions were led by a diverse array of agriculture service provider presenters who specialize in each content area. The purpose of this was threefold – to take advantage of the speaker’s specific expertise, to expose the participants to different teaching techniques and to introduce students to the service providers (the instructors) who can assist them, and their farmer clients, in their work. Topics of these trainings included;

  • Whole farm planning – assessing resources, setting goals, creating plans
  • Market development – marketing plans, market research (targeting your customers, spotting market trends, identifying your competition and 4Ps worksheets)
  • Developing business plans – via course text, ‘Starting and Running a Small Farm Business’ by Sarah Aubrey, and AgPlan
  • Regulatory aspects of business – taxes, quality assurance, nutrient management, food stand regulations, etc.
  • Evaluating farm enterprises – enterprise budgets (using on-line enterprise budgets)
  • Land acquisition (acquisition goals, land transition planning and action plan worksheets) 

  • Production and financial records keeping
  • Identifying key service providers (resource identification)

Beneficiary Support

Extension staff received “So You Want to Farm in Maine” course plans and outlines, lecture slides, a searchable listing of key service providers, the course text, ‘Starting and Running a Small Farm Business’ by Sarah Aubrey, and handouts to use when offering their own Beginning Farmer classes and one-on-one consultations with clients.  The project leaders also provided e-mail and in-person support as requested, and quarterly conference calls with class members to share successes, new resources and ideas for more effective programming and assistance to clients.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

1. 43 University of Maine Cooperative Extension Agriculture staff will receive a project announcement and invitation to enroll in the ‘So You Want to Farm in Maine?’ staff development workshop

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
43
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
43
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 30, 2017
Accomplishments:

The program announcement was developed and distributed to all UMaine Extension Aggies and Home Horticulture staff. Several staff expressed concern over the time commitment required with project participation, resulting in lower than expected initial recruitment.

Farm-Business-Management-Professional-Development-Announcement 

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

2. 20 staff register for the workshop and complete a baseline assessment of current knowledge and note of commitment. This will be used for class evaluation and impact and to verify commitment.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
November 30, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
May 4, 2018
Accomplishments:

Due to the lower than expected registration for the program, the project team waited until January 16th to release the initial pre-program knowledge assessments. The initial assessment went out to 11 participants in the program. The project team decided to offer the training a second time and was able to get assessments and attendance from an additional 7 members of the UMaine Cooperative Extension team, bringing the total number of participants up to 18.

 

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

3. 20 staff identify at least one beginning farmer client to sit down and consult with the staff member after the training.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
13
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
May 11, 2018
Accomplishments:

Identification of clients for one-on-one consultations was included in, and part of the letter of commitment form that went out on January 16th, and again on May 1st for the participants of the 2nd training. 

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

4. 20 staff attend an intensive, two-day workshop where they learned the essentials of whole farm planning, market development, business and financial plan development, business regulations, evaluating farm enterprises, land acquisition, recordkeeping and key service providers available for referrals/questions. The participants received comprehensive teaching resources to reference when assisting clients including class outlines, lecture slides, searchable listing of key service providers and Extension staff, handouts and the course text. At the training, participants also formed into 4-6 regional peer-educator teams for conducting collaborative training workshops for farmers.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
May 11, 2018
Accomplishments:

On February 27th and 28th, 2018, 11 UMaine Extension educators met at the Pineland Farm Conference Center in New Gloucester, Maine to discuss farm business management topics. This training covered the topics of;

  • Whole farm planning and goal setting
  • Evaluating farm enterprises
  • Development and utilization of business plans
  • Market research
  • Financial management tools
  • Farm regulations and land access issues

Participants also were able to meet and interact with a panel of ag service providers from the;

  • Maine Depratment of Ag, Conservation and Forestry
  • Austin Associates (an accounting firm with farm expertise)
  • Farm Family Insurance
  • USDA Farm Service Agency
  • Conservation Law Foundation (legal council for farmers)
  • Ag Mediation Services
  • Maine Farmland Trust

Due to the lower than expected turnout of the February training, a second, one-day training was coordinated and held in Bangor, Maine on May 9th, 2018. This training was attended by 12 Extension Aggies (5 repeat attendees from February meeting).

At this meeting we discussed;

  • Evaluating Farm Enterprises and Enterprise Budgeting
  • Financial and Production Record keeping
  • Market Research
  • Farm Business Plan Development
  • Farmland Property Taxes
  • and had a panel discussion with 6 ag service provider agencies.

Throughout both trainings, the groups discussed and compiled resources relevant to all of these topics and methods for encouraging farmers to utilize these resources. Although the content and time offered to each subject was different between these two trainings, the resources made available to attendees was the same. Participants of either of these workshops were equally supported and prepared to offer the course and the consultations. Program leaders were available to support everyone in these endeavors. 

Participants of both trainings committed to coordinating a “So You Want to Farm in Maine?” course and to collaborate with the project planning team to offer one-on-one consultations to beginning farmers over the next year.

Feb Training Agenda Lilley ENE 17-147

SYWTFIM-1-Day-Training-Agenda-5-9-182

Six regional teams were formed later via conference call (see milestone 7)

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

5. 20 staff workshop participants will consult with the beginning farmer client identified at the start of the project within one month of the two-day workshop. This gives staff an immediate opportunity to practice and gain confidence in their newly acquired skills.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
12
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
12
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2018
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
June 15, 2018
Accomplishments:

Seven of the project participants invited project coordinators and/or USDA SCORE volunteers to accompany them during their first one-on-one consultations with beginning farmers. 5 others were comfortable enough to conduct the meetings alone. The attached questionnaire is designed to be used as the foundation of those meetings. The form follows a logical progression prompting the Ag professionals to ensure that the potential farmer has thought about all of the most important components of starting a farming operation (financing, liability, price setting and marketing, regulations, record keeping, production practices, etc.). The Extension staff participants noted that the format provided by the questionnaire was extremely helpful and easy to follow. Everyone involved in the project expressed that their level of comfort working with beginning farmers increased significantly from before the project began.

 

New Farmer Questions BLANK 2.12.18-1

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

6. 20 staff commit to and offer 4-6 beginning farmer training series and one-on-one consultations with 300 beginning farmers around Maine within 10 months of the two-day workshop. The courses will offer assessment and guidance around the farmers’ farm business plans. Course participants will complete a business plan during the course. The project PI’s will attend trainings and consultations to offer technical assistance throughout this process.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
300
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
258
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
March 15, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 15, 2019
Accomplishments:

As a result of this program, 6 So You Want to Farm in Maine courses were coordinated across the state. https://extension.umaine.edu/new-farmers/sywtfim/, and 5 were conducted.

Locations included;

  • Penobscot County (Bangor) (19 Participants ?)
  • Cumberland County (Falmouth) (13 Participants)
  • Aroostook County (Presque Isle) (14 Participants)
  • Washington County (Machias) (Cancelled)
  • Kennebec County (Gardiner) (12 Participants)
  • York County -Farm Business Management for Youth (6 Participants)

The Washington County course was cancelled due to low enrollment. 15 UMaine Extension staff collaborated to offer these five regionally offered courses. 

All courses followed the outline and resources that were developed as a result of this project. Those planning resources are located under the “Resources for Course Organizers” tab at this site. https://extension.umaine.edu/new-farmers/resources/ (Password: SYWTFIM). The project team also shared presentation material and worked closely with each regional team to identify expert presenters from our partner organizations. Each of these partners are part of the Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine.

64 potential or beginning farmers participated in these courses. Of them, 45 developed the following; customer surveys, business plans for their current or proposed operations, reports on the regulatory requirements related to their operations, and Web Soil Survey data maps for their properties. Of the 45 who completed these assignments, 29 finalized the paperwork to receive USDA Farm Service Agency Borrower Training Credit, increasing their access to farm operation loans from the agency. Three of those who received this credit were youth, excited to improve their profitability from the 4-H programs. $1 million of operational loans was distributed to these farmers as a result of this project.

As a result of this project, 122 potential or beginning farmers consulted with UMaine Extension staff. These meetings usually last 1.5 to 2.5 hours and cover all aspects of farm business management. During the consultations, the producer is asked to explain their business ideas or current enterprises. The Extension staff then use a questionnaire to guide the conversation through all components of farm financing, regulation, business management, marketing, and production. After the meeting, the staff compile an extensive list of resources that are relevant to that producer, including referrals to other ag service providers. The questionnaire and example resource list are also located at the “Resources for Course Organizers” tab at this site. https://extension.umaine.edu/new-farmers/resources/ (Password: SYWTFIM) (New Farmer/Producer Questionnaire and SYWTFIM General Resources).

Through these meetings, Extension staff either encourage producers to continue on the current path with added resources to help increase their likelihood of long term sustainability, to step back and reevaluate their plans and to do specific research about the feasibility of the plan, or they are discourage from investing in their idea, if the staff deem that the producer is not prepared or fully informed about what they are proposing.

Follow up with farmers who have participated in these consultations show that;

  • 11 reported conducting more research about their ideas before jumping in
  • 9 connected with USDA SCORE volunteers to develop more robust business management tools
  • 9 reported completing enterprise budgets for the first time
  • at least 15 farmers developed business plans
  • 9 conducted market research and developed marketing plans
  • 75 conducted soil tests and,
  • 4 have developed holistic goals as part of a Whole Farm Planning (Holistic Management) process, which they learned about during these consultations.

One farmer sent a thank you message  following a consult stating, “You (UMaine Extension Staff) and Allyn (Lamb from USDA SCORE) were a great help. Hav(ing) you both as a resource really increases my confidence in this endeavor.”

In addition to the one-on-one consultations and the SYWTFIM Courses, participants of this project coordinated workshops on farm business management topics using the skills and tools gained from the spring “So You Want to Support Farms in Maine” trainings. 72 farmers participated in farm business management workshops including Intro to Business Management for Sheep Producers,  Basic Excel for Farmers, and 6 hands-on QuickBooks clinics.

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

7. 20 staff participate in quarterly conference calls throughout 2018 to plan and discuss workshops and consultations. In these calls the group will also share successes, new resources and ideas for more effective programming to clients. Individual team check-ins will also occur on this schedule. Basic Excel for Farmers,

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Proposed Completion Date:
January 31, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
February 25, 2019
Accomplishments:

There have been three conference calls and one final in-person check-in/ training since the project launch trainings.

On July 10th, 10 Extension Aggies joined the video chat. In that call, the team solidified regional teams to offer the So You Want to Farm in Maine (SYWTFIM) course throughout the state, and laid out all of the details needed for coordinating a class. Teams were developed in Presque Isle (Northern Maine), Machias (Downeast Maine), Gardiner (Mid-Coast Maine), Bangor (Central Maine), and Falmouth (Southern Maine).

The project team shared their past course programs, speaker lists, syllabi, homework assignment lists and due dates, course evaluations, and other details for offering a successful course. The participants also offered a list of potential topics to cover in future meetings.

On October 2nd, 9 members of the SYWTFIM team joined a video chat to confirm details to everyone’s courses. This meeting was designed as a final check-in and was held 1 to 2 weeks prior to most of the courses starting. The group also heard from a USDA SCORE volunteer about the resources that that organization has available for farmers, and general business management tools that SCORE usually directs farmers towards.

On October 19th, the team had a call with the project participants / course coordinators from Presque Isle to discuss the specifics of their course, and help prepare resources specific to their course. The team also decided that a member of the project leadership team would attend and participate in the first session of the Presque Isle course, which happened on November 6th.

On the morning of February 25th, 14 Extension staff met in-person to debrief about the courses, this project, and to discuss further needed resources and the future of this model for the SYWTFIM course. All of the regional teams agreed that the courses had a huge impact on the financial sustainability of the participating farmers. They also noted a continued professional relationship with several of the participants in the courses or consultations. All of the regional teams expressed interest in offering the course in the future as long as there is continued expressed need from their clients.

Immediately following that morning check in on February 25th, 8 additional Ag Service Providers from other agencies joined the UMaine Extension group for in a 3/4 day intensive. This training focused on Farm Business Management from a Holistic Management Perspective. Cornell Extension Specialist, Crystal Stewart, facilitated a very well received, hands-on workshop. The participants received an overview of Holistic Management (HM) and how HM can be applied to all aspects of financial management. Participants developed their own enterprise budgets, and then used one participant’s farm as a case study to apply enterprise budgeting and her personal goals to a farm decision making process. Participants from the Farm Service Agency and Farm Credit East both expressed excitement to utilize this new framework when discussing financial planning with farm owners.

SYWTFIM ’19 CS Training Agenda

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

8. 20 staff complete surveys, which report on their educational workshops and consultations with farmers and any new farmer actions that result. An on-line reporting form will be developed for centralized data collection.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
January 31, 2019
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 4, 2019
Accomplishments:

The survey was developed and distributed on February 14th. Additionally, a spreadsheet was developed to collect details about each one-on-one consultation and educational program offered. Blank SARE PDP SYWTFIM Farmer Contact and Impact List -Project End(1). The aggregated data from this is reported in Milestone 6.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:

14 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Online trainings
1 Published press articles, newsletters
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Workshop field days

Beneficiaries who participated in the project’s educational activities and events:

18 Extension
4 NRCS
5 Nonprofit
8 Agency
12 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
47 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

48 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
200 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
35 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

While this project was targeted towards UMaine Extension Aggies (n=18), each of our training opportunities and workshops offered as a result of this project included agriculture service providers from several other agencies. In total, there were 47 agriculture service providers who participated in training activities for this project.

The members of the UMaine Extension Aggies team who participated in this program completed pre-program evaluations (n=14) to assess their comfort level in various business management topics and their knowledge of business management resources that are available to Maine farmers. Following the initial trainings of the program, a follow up survey was distributed (n=10). From these surveys we found that 42% of participants had been unfamiliar with enterprise budgets and learned what they are, and how to utilize them, as a result of the trainings. When asked about their level of understanding about 7 farm business management topics listed in the pre-program evaluation, 10 of 91 participant responses reflected "no knowledge of the topic" prior to the training. The post-training evaluation showed only one response stating a lack of familiarity with one topic. Overall, the level of understanding of all listed topics increased significantly. Pre-program results showed that 50% of respondents had none or minimal knowledge of the programs offered from their local NRCS Service Center compared to 90% of respondents being moderately familiar with their programs after the training.

Pre-program survey results were compared to a post-program evaluation that was distributed Mid-February, 2019. Comparisons of the two surveys show that the program participants significantly increased their confidence to offer farm business management advice to farmers. All respondents (n=5) reported increased confidence to coordinate and offer the SYWTFIM course as well as an increase in understanding of farm business management topics. Respondents also reported a clearer understanding and confidence in responding to inquiries from beginning or perspective farmers.

The project participants recorded farmer learning outcomes through direct observation and work with the producers. The 64 farmer participants of the SYWTFIM course completed several assignments related to their business management. Those assignments were submitted to the UMaine Extension staff for review, to ensure comprehension of the material. The 122 farmers who participated in the one-on-one consultations worked directly with the Extension staff to develop plans and conduct research relevant to their operations. There were also several hands-on workshops offered as a result of this project. Farmer participants at those workshops developed financial management systems in the classes.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
20
Target: actions the service providers will take:

20 University of Maine Extension staff will collaborate to offer 4-6 (12-hour) trainings to 125 beginning farmers and 175 one-on-one consultations around Maine. These programs will assist in analyzing the feasibility of client farm operations.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
300
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

6000 acres.

Verified: number of service providers who reported taking actions to educate/advice farmers:
18
Verified: number of farmers the service providers reported educating/advising through their actions:
258
Verified: amount of production these farmers manage:

7380 acres.

Activities for farmers conducted by service providers:
  • 1 Curricula, factsheets and other educational tools
  • 122 Consultations
  • 1 Online trainings
  • 3 Published press articles/newsletters
  • 5 Study circles/focus groups
  • 5 Webinars/talks/presentations
  • 14 Workshops/field days
  • 1 15 University of Maine Extension staff collaborated to offer 5 (12-hour) trainings.
18 Total number of agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
258 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

15 UMaine Extension staff collaborated to offer five regionally offered “So You Want to Farm in Maine” (SYWTIFM)  courses in which 64 potential or beginning farmers participated. All participants also consulted individually with 122 potential or beginning farmers, with consultations typically lasting 1.5 to 2.5 hours. In addition to the one-on-one consultations and the SYWTFIM Courses, participants of this project coordinated workshops on farm business management topics using the skills and tools gained from the spring SYWTIFM trainings. 72 farmers participated in these farm business management workshops including Intro to Business Management for Sheep Producers, Basic Excel for Farmers, and 6 hands-on QuickBooks clinics. Educators responding to the follow-up survey reported also providing education and outreach to farmer through additional activities listed above.  

The milestone 6 report contains more details about the SYWTFIM courses, business workshops and consultations. Follow-up actions by farmers who participated in these educational offerings are described below.

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Target: number of farmers who will make a change/adopt of practice:
200
Target: the change or adoption the farmers will make:
200 beginning farmers develop business, marketing, and/or production plans as a result of the trainings/consultations.
Verified: number of farmers who made a change/adopted a practice:

185
Verified: size/scale of farms these farmers manage:

7380 Acres
Performance target outcome for farmers narrative:

Farmers who benefited from this program include those who participated in the SYWTFIM course, the one-on-one consultations, and the additional farm business management workshops that program participants coordinated.

45 of the 64 SYWTFIM course participants developed the following; customer surveys, business plans for their current or proposed operations, reports on the regulatory requirements related to their operations, and Web Soil Survey data maps for their properties. Of the 45 who completed these assignments, 29 finalized the paperwork to receive USDA Farm Service Agency Borrower Training Credit, increasing their access to farm operation loans from the agency. This work was verified at a 5th session, which was an individualized meeting between each farmer participant and the course instructors. Some course locations also included FSA loan officers in these final meetings. 

SYWTFIM_homework-assignments-_18

UMaine Extension Aggies conducted one-on-one consultations with 122 beginning or potential farmers. Over the course of these 1.5 to 3 hour meetings, Extension staff get to understand the operations or aspirations of the producers, and get a chance to form a working relationship with those producers. Extension staff usually assign the producer “homework assignments” based on the producers needs and what the Extension staff think will help to improve the sustainability of the operation. Often times the producer will share drafts of those assignments with the Extension staff for input. Verification of completion of various documents is done through these informal check ins.

Follow up with farmers who participated in these consultations showed that;

  • 11 reported conducting more research about their ideas before jumping in
  • 9 connected with USDA SCORE volunteers to develop more robust business management tools
  • 9 reported completing enterprise budgets for the first time
  • at least 15 farmers developed business plans
  • 9 conducted market research and developed marketing plans
  • 75 conducted soil tests and,
  • 4 have developed holistic goals as part of a Whole Farm Planning (Holistic Management) process, which they learned about during these consultations.

One farmer sent a thank you message following a consult stating, “You (UMaine Extension Staff) and Allyn (Lamb from USDA SCORE) were a great help. Hav(ing) you both as a resource really increases my confidence in this endeavor.”

Farmer in the QuickBooks training opportunities (n=52), coordinated by participants of this program, left those workshops having established their company in the QuickBooks program, developed a draft enterprise budget, and learned about farm taxes and risk management planning, including crop insurance policies.

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.