Progress report for ENE20-159

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $185,371.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2023
Grant Recipients: University of Vermont Extension; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

Problem and Justification:

Cooperative Extension staff, crop consultants, and NRCS personnel need research-based information to respond to questions coming from farmer clients to address hemp production issues. Given the region-wide expansion of the crop, it is imperative to train ASPs to become more knowledgeable on hemp production to meet the immediate needs of growers. The University of Vermont (UVM) has held events highlighting industrial hemp and over 50% of participants have been ASPs. These events lacked the breadth needed to understand all aspects of the hemp production system. Much of the scientifically backed information published on industrial hemp is tied up in research reports, making it difficult for growers, ASPs, and other stakeholders to easily access and navigate. 

Solution and Approach:

This comprehensive training program for technical service providers is a multi-year, interactive educational opportunity. Agricultural service providers throughout the Northeast will be encouraged to engage with regional experts, their peers, and farmers they work with. Those leading the training program will foster an environment where participants have the space to ask questions, actively participate in various aspects of this training, and share their own knowledge on industrial hemp production. Agriculture service providers will be provided with a plethora of educational resources, scientific research findings, webinars, and networking opportunities – both in person and online. The in-person field days will be open to individuals outside of this hemp training program, reaching a wider audience and providing additional opportunities for participants to meet regional hemp stakeholders. Participants will be invited to visit different types of hemp operations throughout the growing season in Maine, New York, and Vermont. Providing a comprehensive training designed for ASPs to learn technical aspects and current research on hemp production, as well as strategies for communicating effectively with farmers, will result in more acres of hemp being sustainably grown and successfully harvested and sold.

Milestones and Performance Target: 

The training program will include: a 12-part webinar series, an online classroom platform, 5 optional in-field intensive trainings at hemp farms/a processing facility, access to the UVM Industrial Hemp Conference (2021, 2022, 2023), access to a cross-platform designed virtual reality (VR)/computer-based decision making tool for hemp growers, virtual office hours with members of the advisory board, and Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) credit. We will connect with 100 ASPs for the training, with the expectation that a total of 75 will complete the training program in full.

Performance Target:

75 agriculture service providers (ASPs) to provide accurate technical assistance to 225 farmers who  implement 2,250 acres of sustainable industrial hemp for seed, grain, fiber, and flower in the Northeast. As a result 100 farmers will adopt a new practice with the intent of improving yield, reducing production risks, and/or increasing economic returns on 1000 acres of hemp in the northeast.

Introduction:

Hemp production is a rapidly growing industry in the United States with over 500,000  acres  of licensed hemp currently being cultivated. Hemp could be a significant economic driver and could help create new farming and business opportunities and potentially provide social and environmental benefits that  complement current agricultural production systems in the northeast.

As acreage of hemp  increases in the Northeast and growing practices are established, the impacts of crop loss due to lack of/or improper fertility, pest  and disease management, storage and drying are becoming more  evident. Clearly, the industry is growing rapidly and scientific-based research and education is critical to help farmers  succeed with this new commercial crop.

Cooperative Extension staff,  crop consultants, and NRCS personnel need  research-based information to respond to questions coming from farmer  clients to address hemp  production issues. Given the region-wide expansion of the crop, it is imperative to train agricultural service providers (ASPs) to become  more  knowledgeable on hemp  production to meet  the immediate needs  of growers.

Through this project a comprehensive training program a multi-year, interactive educational opportunity will be developed for ASPs. Agriculture service providers will be provided with a plethora of educational resources, scientific research findings, webinars, and networking opportunities – both  in person  and online. The in-person field days will be open  to individuals outside of this hemp  training program, reaching a wider audience and providing additional opportunities for participants to meet  regional hemp stakeholders. Participants will be invited to visit different types  of hemp  operations throughout the growing season in Maine, New York, and Vermont. Providing a comprehensive training designed for ASPs to learn technical aspects and current  research on hemp  production, as well as strategies for communicating effectively with farmers, will result in more  acres  of hemp  being sustainably grown and successfully harvested and sold.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Lauren Tonti (Educator)
  • Robert Perry (Educator)
  • Scott Lewins (Educator and Researcher)

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

2020 Report

Online Course
An online course incorporating webinars, videos, and other reference materials, was developed to provide research-based knowledge that includes both conventional and organic approaches delivered through the eXtension Online Campus platform. The online curriculum includes 13 modules that are being delivered over a  period. The direct link to the Industrial Hemp Training Program’s webpage on eXtension: https://campus.extension.org/course/view.php?id=1849.

The advisory team started to meet in July of 2020 to develop the course curriculum. The advisory team included individuals from ME, NY, MA, and VT. The course curriculum as mentioned above includes 13 modules that involve a “live” webinar held over a course of four months. The series began November 3, 2020. Each webinar hosts a different expert practitioner/researcher presenting on a topic related to industrial hemp. Topics include: business planning & economics, general hemp agronomics, integrated pest management, all things organic, hemp propagation & seeding production, modern hemp policy, resinous hemp production, grain hemp production, fiber hemp production, processing resinous hemp, processing hemp for grain, processing hemp for fiber, and a hemp panel. Each webinar ends with a question and answer period, giving service providers the ability to ask questions and facilitate discussion with advisors and guest speakers.

The online course includes the recorded archived webinars, educational videos, factsheets, URLs to informational hemp websites, mini-quizzes, forums, research reports, and other reference materials to provide service providers with additional research-based and practical information. Through participating in the webinars and completing the quizzes, participants can earn up to 13 Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) continuing education credits. The performance targets and expectations have been clearly shared during “live” webinars and within the course materials.

The advisory group began planning for the in-field intensive portion (set for the 2021 growing season), however, this portion may need to be modified to follow the U.S. Center for Disease Control/State COVID-19 guidelines/restrictions. This portion of the program is designed to focus on hands-on learning activities which allow service providers to learn practical tools to utilize with farmers. The in-person series plans to visit four farms and one processing facility. Participants will be eligible to earn CCA credits for each in-field intensive training they attend but are only required to attend one. Participants also gain access to the 2021, 2022 and 2023 Industrial Hemp Conference hosted by UVM Extension. The UVM Extension hemp conference will be virtual in 2021 and held on February 26th.

Milestones

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

The Industrial Hemp Training Program will be developed and reviewed by an advisory board comprised of hemp growers, researchers, ASPs, and outreach experts headed by Dr. Heather Darby. The board will determine common obstacles to implementing a successful hemp program, address these issues through field-proven technical knowledge, and develop a training plan that will best enable the ASPs to support their farmers in sustainably growing industrial hemp.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
2
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
7
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
2
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
9
Proposed Completion Date:
August 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 3, 2020
Accomplishments:

The Industrial Hemp Training Program’s curriculum plan was completed and reviewed by the advisory board. The board determined common obstacles to implementing a successful hemp program, addressed these issues through field-proven technical knowledge, and developed a training plan that will best enable the ASPs to support their farmers in sustainably growing industrial hemp. Advisors also brainstormed potential speakers for each topic and planned for contacting those individuals. The full webinar schedule was finalized by the advisory group and an advertisement flyer was created by the UVM team which included logos and information on how to register. The UVM team began pulling together and organizing hemp-related resources, and building the Industrial Hemp Training Program’s online platform via Extension’s online campus at campus.extension.org. The direct link to the Industrial Hemp Training Program’s webpage on eXtension: https://campus.extension.org/course/view.php?id=1849.

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

600 ASPs receive recruitment invitations to participate in the hemp training program. Recruitment will begin by advertising to participants from the No-Till Training Program (79 ASPs), 2019 and 2020 UVM Industrial Hemp Conferences (139 ASPs in 2019). Additionally, Certified Crop Advisors (338 CCAs), and other ASPs engaged with our program’s social media, listservs, and newsletters (1,350) will be contacted. Recruitment resources will be detailed and enable the participants to learn about the project, its goals and performance objective.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
600
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
940
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
956
Proposed Completion Date:
August 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 15, 2020
Accomplishments:

Recruitment began by advertising to participants from the current PDP No-Till Training Program (79 ASPs), 2020 UVM Industrial Hemp Conferences (139 ASPs in 2020). Additionally, Certified Crop Advisors (338 CCAs), and other ASPs engaged with our program’s social media, listservs, and newsletters (1,350) were contacted. Recruitment resources (advertisement flyer, emails, website postings) were detailed and enabled the participants to learn about the project, its goals, the schedule/expectations, and performance objective. The Hemp PDP Course Recruitment advertisement was shared through the aforementioned distribution channels.

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

100 interested ASPs will apply for the PDP program through a designated website designed to collect basic information about the student as well as ability/interest in attending complete PDP training.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
72
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
144
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 6, 2020
Accomplishments:

There was considerable interest in the Hemp Course from around the globe. Parties from Vermont to Australia applied to participate in the program. Interested participants applied for the Industrial Hemp Training Program though Eventbrite.com. Through registration we collected basic information about the students as well as their ability/interest in attending the complete and participate in the entire training program. Registration for the training program was advertised as previously mentioned. Although the training was clearly advertised for service providers many farmers contacted our program interested in the attending the type of program being offered. Clearly there is a demand for high quality hemp information from a large variety of stakeholders. Participants that indicated their ability to participate in the entire program were registered for the program. There were a total of 103 individuals that met the criteria.

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

75 successful ASPs will be notified of acceptance into the program. Students will be asked to complete a baseline survey to identify their current knowledge and experience with hemp production as well as areas that they would like additional education/training.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
103
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
November 3, 2020
Accomplishments:

There were 103 participants registered to participate in the Hemp PDP Training Program. The project expects some attrition and allowed more than the planned 75 participants.  All of the 103 participants completed the Pre-Training Survey hosted through SurveyMonkey.com. This survey set a baseline which we will use to evaluate the effectiveness of the training program, and gathered more-detailed information about individual ASPs. A 4-page ‘Welcome Letter’ was created by the UVM team and emailed to participating ASPs. This comprehensive document contains course contacts, funding credits, expectations/requirements of participants, training program schedules, and directions on how to access the training program’s webpage. The pre-course survey and the ‘Welcome Letter’ can be viewed at the following links:

Pre-course Survey for Hemp Professional Training

Welcome Letter Industrial Hemp Intensive Training Program

The pre-course survey results indicated that the ASPs were working with a total of 927 farms that were currently or considering growing hemp. The majority of the farmers were growing hemp for flower production. Nearly 40% of attendees were independent consultants and the remaining fell among a range of other sectors including university, bankers, organic certifiers, fertilizer dealers, and government or non-governmental organizations.

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

75 participating ASPs will attend the online hemp training course. The ASPs will complete 12 modules held over a 5-month period. There will be quick-poll surveys after each webinar to document knowledge gained by the ASP. At the end of the online training TSP knowledge will be re-assessed and additional learning needs recorded. This information will help further shape the field intensives.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
103
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Participating ASPs attend the online hemp training course through active participation in a live winter webinar series. The ASPs are required to complete at least 7 of the 13 modules held over a 4-month period. There are brief surveys after each webinar to document knowledge gained by the ASP. At the end of the online training portion, ASP knowledge will be re-assessed, and additional learning needs recorded. This information will help further shape the in-field intensives.

As of January 15, 2021, the first seven webinars in the series have been hosted live. Business Planning & Economics on 11/3/20 had 89 live participants, Agronomics on 11/10/20 had 82 live participants, IPM on 11/17/20 had 58 live participants, All Things Organic on 12/1/20 had 66 live participants, Propagation & Seedling Production on 12/8/20 had 59 live participants, Modern Hemp Policy on 12/15/20 had 54 live participants, and Resinous Hemp Production on 1/5/21 had 53 live participants. All webinars are recorded, edited, then posted on the training program website within one week of the live presentation.

Each webinar has accompanying hemp-related resources for added education opportunities and a forum to promote networking and discussion amongst ASPs. The webinar series will end on February 16, 2021.

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

The 75 ASP project participants and 500 attendees at the 2021 Hemp Conference learn how to use VR technology to improve hemp production skills and knowledge.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
350
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

75 ASP participants attend at least 1 of the 5 hemp in-field intensives that are hosted by collaborating farms and organizations. These hands-on workshops will foster a stronger working knowledge of hemp production systems, business models, agronomics, pest management, irrigation, soil management, and equipment, . These workshops will provide the hands on training necessary for the ASPs to properly instruct clients on how to produce a successful hemp crop and/or enterprise. Regulatory compliance will also be discussed.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Proposed Completion Date:
November 30, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

The 75 ASP project participants will attend the 2022 Hemp Conference and at the end of the conference develop a plan and timeline on how they will implement the information they learned in the program with farmers that they work with in 2022.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Following the training, 75 project participants will be provided with various communication tools to be able to ask questions, share information, and support their learning throughout the project period. First virtual office hours will be available that allow participants to ask experts questions that they may be having as they work with farmers to adopt hemp production. In addition, a project listserve will be created so all participants can communicate with each other, ask questions, and share ideas or experiences.

Lastly a quarterly survey will be sent to participants to record interactions with farmers, knowledge shared, and practices that the farmers implemented or adopted. These tools will be used to support participants throughout the project period and assist with performance target verification

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Proposed Completion Date:
January 31, 2023
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Project participants will be supplied a final survey to record the impact that their work with farmers has had on the farm's hemp operation. The goal will be to document if the farmers adopted new practices (highlighting specific practices) and the intended impact that those practices would have on the farming operation (yield, marketing, economics, etc).

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
75
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2023
Status:
In Progress

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
75
Target: actions the service providers will take:

75 agriculture service providers (ASPs) to provide accurate technical assistance to 225 farmers who  implement 2,250 acres of sustainable industrial hemp for seed, grain, fiber, and flower in the Northeast.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
100
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

As a result 100 farmers will adopt a new practice with the intent of improving yield, reducing production risks, and/or increasing economic returns on 1000 acres of hemp in the northeast.

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Target: number of farmers who will make a change/adopt of practice:
100
Target: the change or adoption the farmers will make:
Farmers will adopt a new practice or strategy with the intent to improve one of the following a. yield/quality of hemp b. business risk c. economic returns
Target: total size/scale of farmers these farmers manage:
It is estimated that the 100 farms would manage at least 1000 acres of hemp.

Additional Project Outcomes

3 New working collaborations
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.