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.
This project distinguishes 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 will allow 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. Being able to attend small, local classes geared to specifically address the most pressing issues Maine’s beginning farmers have, and/or to take advantage of the one-on-one consultation that the Agriculture Extension staff will be equipped to provide after this training is crucial to their success. It will help make the process of getting started in farming more accessible, 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 is proposed to be a two-day, interactive workshop where we will train Extension staff in 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.
A two-day, interactive workshop in Winter 2017/2018 will be offered for 20 University of Maine Cooperative Extension Agriculture staff. We will present this workshop using adult audience teaching methodologies – such as honing practical skills, group exercises, soliciting feedback and just-in-time resources. Specifically, this will include things such as staff evaluating a farm enterprise so they can then walk a client through the process, using a group activity to exchange experiences to the benefit of all in the class and gathering feedback to learn how to improve future classes. It is intended that staff, in turn, will take these practices that they’ve become familiar with in class, 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 will start practicing their newly acquired skills by meeting with at least one, previously identified, beginning farmer client for a one-on-one consultation. This will give staff a chance to reinforce their new knowledge, improve effectiveness in assisting clients and build confidence in handling these requests. Farmers will have the chance to work through preliminary ideas and plans in a supportive, interactive, one-on-one environment.
During the training, we will give an overview and key in on the essential elements of each of the topics given below by utilizing a diverse array of speakers to teach. The purpose of this is threefold – to take advantage of the speaker’s specific expertise, be exposed to different teaching techniques and to introduce students to the service providers who can assist them in their work.
- Whole farm planning – visioning, assessing resources, goals, creating plan (visioning, resource assessment and setting goals worksheets)
- 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
- Regulatory aspects of business – taxes
- Evaluating farm enterprises – enterprise budgets (using on-line enterprise budgets)
- Land acquisition (acquisition goals and action plan worksheets)
- Keeping production and financial records
- Identifying key service providers
Extension staff will receive class 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 work on with clients to be easily accessed when offering their own Beginning Farmer classes and one-on-one consultations with clients. The project leaders will also provide e-mail and in-person support as requested and quarterly conference calls with class members to share successes, new resources discovered and ideas for more effective programming and assistance to clients.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
Beneficiaries who participated in the project’s educational activities and events:
The members of the UMaine Extension Aggies team who participated in this program completed pre-program evaluations to assess their comfort level in various business management topics and their knowledge of business management resources that are available to Maine farmers.
From these surveys we found that 42% of participants learned what enterprise budgets are and how to use them, who were not familiar with them before the program began. We are in the process of developing the post-survey to evaluate other knowledge and behavior changes, and will release that this March.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
- 1 Curricula, factsheets and other educational tools
- 45 Consultations
- 1 Online trainings
- 3 Webinars/talks/presentations
- 1 9 University of Maine Extension staff collaborated to offer 3 (12-hour) trainings.
This data is being collected.