“Sustaining Agriculture through Community Partnerships” provided a resource notebook and training in sustainable production methods to agricultural and extension educators and service providers. Project participants will use these resources and training to conduct sustainable agriculture programs in their own communities. The goal of this project is to increase awareness among growers, educators and other agriculture professionals of the opportunities in sustainable agriculture and to provide ample access to information and resources.
17 participants, from 2 states, including farmers, Cooperative Extension agents and agriculture educators attended the training in October 2002. This training was a two-day workshop at the Sustainable Farming Program, Central Carolina Community College, in Pittsboro, North Carolina and included two farm visits to area sustainable producers.
The following objectives were outlined in the “Sustaining Agriculture through Community Partnerships” project proposal.
Twenty eight (seven teams of four) 1862 and 1890 land-grant university extension professionals, Natural Resource Conservation Service conservationists, farmer educators, and vocational agriculture educators from community college and high school programs will be trained to conduct workshops in sustainable agriculture.
Using tested methods of experiential learning in sustainable agriculture, participants will learn how to demonstrate the hands-on approach and combine it with lecture and field trips to effectively deliver the desired results and the skill and knowledge to use it.
Seven interdisciplinary teams from counties/regions expressing an interest in sustainable agriculture will participate in the training that will foster collaborative partnerships. Teams will continue to work together in their own communities to provide training in sustainable agriculture.
The multidisciplinary teams will be provided resources for sustainable agriculture professional development programs.
A resource notebook will be developed for use in sustainable agriculture workshops. This notebook will contain lesson plan outlines, recommended resource lists and suggestions for utilizing local resources. Participants will be encouraged to use these notebooks as a resource when conducting local training programs.
Agriculture professionals will be able to further multiply their learning in sustainable agriculture and conduct training programs using resources from CFSA sponsored workshops.
This project will strengthen support for existing professional development programs in sustainable agriculture by providing tuition assistance to attend Sustainable Farming Program workshops, regional organic production schools and other appropriate conferences and workshops.
The Sustainable Farming Program was created using a collaborative model that emphasized the strengths of sustainable agriculture organizations and resource persons located in the same community. Experience has shown us that successful programs in teaching sustainable agriculture philosophy and practices can be the result of such alliances. Experience in developing sustainable agriculture courses has also shown us the need for resource materials that are current and applicable and that lend themselves to a hands-on approach to learning.
The “Sustaining Agriculture through Community Partnerships” project was designed to address both of these issues, first by creating a sustainable agriculture resource notebook and secondly presenting the notebook at a training workshop intended to foster collaborative partnerships.
The Project team, comprised of representatives of two sustainable agriculture focused NGO’s, cooperative extension and NRCS and one representative from each of North Carolina’s 1862 and 1890 LGU’s, chose to highlight eight topic areas for development in the resource notebook. These topics are: Soil Ecosystems and Management, Farm Planning, Sustainable Insect, Weed, Disease and Livestock Management and Marketing. In the notebook, each topic is developed into a module that is suitable for use in creating workshops and trainings in these focus areas.
Recognizing the strengths that research and practical application partnerships bring to trainings we sought to connect sustainable farmers with other agriculture professionals to create regional teams that would train others in sustainable farming methods. This effort began with recruiting interested agriculture professionals in both North and South Carolina, and then asking them to help create a team in their region who would attend the training together. Participants were then charged to hold future sustainable agriculture trainings in their own regions of North and South Carolina.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
“Sustaining Agriculture through Community Partnerships” project design is based on the train the trainer model. Project participants were recruited through a variety of avenues:
Statewide announcements made through Cooperative Extension e-mail (both NC and SC)
Contacts made prior to the initiation of this project
Announcements of the project at the Sustainable Agriculture Conference sponsored by Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (500 attendees)
To encourage further training in sustainable agriculture, project participants received tuition reimbursement (a portion of project funds) to regional sustainable agriculture conferences and workshops. (One third of the participants took advantage of this opportunity)
The Project team met to select topics for the training/resource notebook, provided recruiting assistance, assisted with editing and modification of modules, and assisted during the train-the-trainer workshop.
The curriculum team created and modified modules as needed.
The Project coordinator is part of the curriculum team, and recruited participants. The Project coordinator traveled to visit teams to introduce and get feedback on module creation.
The teaching team represented the desired composition of our participant teams, including a farmer, a Cooperative Extension agent, an NGO representative and a college instructor.
The two day training provided opportunity for workshop-style instruction, with facilitated discussion, three field trips to local examples of sustainable agriculture and two meals featuring local food.
The Project evaluator attended the two day training, and attended a follow-up training hosted by a participating team. Evaluation consisted of (1) a pre-conference survey to characterize attendees and measure their attitudes, knowledge and expectation of the workshop; (2) attendance and observation at the workshop; and (3) a post-conference survey to evaluate attitudes and opinions of attendees, as well as obtain specific feedback on workshop components. The complete evaluation report is included with the print copy of this document.
Outreach and Publications
A copy of the resource notebook developed for this project is included with this final report.
Outreach included two presentations at regional sustainable agriculture conferences. The project coordinator presented to 15 participants at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 2002 conference in Boone, NC and to 30 participants at the 2003 SSAWG meeting in Mobile, Alabama. Twenty eight additional resource notebooks were distributed as a result of these outreach efforts.
At the conclusion of the two- day training, participants were asked to evaluate the program by completing an evaluation survey. Participants were asked to rate the quality of the workshop components. The overall ratings ranged from “good” to outstanding”, with a median response of “excellent”.
Participants were also asked to rate the amount of knowledge gained as a result of the training, all modules were rated as “some”, except for Soil Management and Ecology which received a rating of “much”.
Open-ended comments provided by participants as part of the evaluation yielded a general consensus that the workshop/training was enjoyable and provided a wealth of resources and contacts for the participants.
The varied format, particularly field activities, was cited as part of the training process that contributed to the value and enjoyment of the workshop.
Utilizing the training and resource notebook provided by “Sustaining Agriculture through Community Partnerships” a workshop was held by Clemson University, on December 6, 2002. “Principles of Organic Farming” was a one-day workshop designed to introduce organic principles to agriculture professionals. 20 persons attended the workshop. Additional workshops were held in Watauga County, NC and in Florence, SC.
Eight modules were developed and the “Sustaining Agriculture through Community Partnerships” resource notebook was created. In addition to sustainable agriculture topics discussed at length, each module also contains handouts that can be reproduced for future trainings as well as an exhaustive list of web and print resources.
Power Point presentations were created to accompany each module.
Because several workshops were given subsequent to the Pittsboro workshop, the train-the-trainer model employed to diffuse information to communities in North and South Carolina was judged to be effective.
Thanks to SARE funding, the resource notebook containing sustainable agriculture curriculum and web and print resources, and the training to use them, has been placed in the hands of almost 50 educators in at least six states.
Continued encouragement of partnerships with community colleges, local growers and cooperative extension as a means of reaching new and transitioning farmers with the ideas and practices of sustainable agriculture is recommended based on our experience.
Continue to update the resource notebook and use it for additional trainings.
One of the resources that was underutilized by participants of this project was the tuition reimbursement for further training either through conferences or workshops. While this was attractive to participants, many cited a lack of time as a reason why they could not take advantage of this enticement.