A Training and Educational Program to Ensure the South's Future

Final Report for ES02-062

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2002: $119,905.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: Southern
State: Oklahoma
Principal Investigator:
Jim Horne
Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture
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Project Information

Abstract:

The main goal of this project is to provide USDA, NRCS, Extension and FSA personnel, state farm and forestry leaders, and other key team leaders the opportunity to acquire training in the guiding principles of farmland and forestland preservation. Equipped with this knowledge, these teams of agricultural and natural resource leaders within each Southern Region State and protectorate can become central resource personnel and contact persons on the issues vital to preserving the Southern Region’s farmland and forestland for future generations. Through the project, agricultural leaders and educators can help communities face the challenges of sustaining agriculture in a rapidly changing Southern region.

In the past two years, curriculum was completed, three workshops were held, evaluations were completed, and additional information was distributed to all participants.

Project Objectives:

We had created an advisory committee consisting of representatives from each of the thirteen states and two protectorates in the southern region. The committee met on October 27, 2002 following the National S.A.R.E. meeting in Durham, North Carolina. Advisory Committee members present included: Zona Beaty, NRCS, Alabama; Bo Beaulieu, Southern Rural Development Center, Mississippi; Victoria Bhavsar, University of Kentucky Department of Agronomy and Soil Sciences; Ben Boozer, Clemson University, South Carolina; David Brauer, ARS, Arkansas; Adell Brown, Southern University, Louisiana; Alex Hitt, Farmer, North Carolina; Savi Horne, Land Loss Prevention, North Carolina; William Hubbard, Warnell School of Forest Resources, Georgia; Jim Joyner, Farmer, Tennessee; Martha Monroe, University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation; Mariette Hiu Newcomb, Farmer, Virginia; Jerry Pennick, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Georgia; La Rhea Pepper, Farmer, Texas; Rebecca Perez, Farmer, Puerto Rico; Carlos Robles, University of the Virgin Islands; Larry Sanders, Oklahoma State University; and Tom Trantham, Farmer, South Carolina. Others in attendance were: Jack Blair, Trust for Public Lands Oklahoma office; Jim Horne, Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Anita Poole, Kerr Center; Barbara Chester, Kerr Center; Matthew Scheidt, Trust for Public Lands Oklahoma office; Kevin Schmidt, American Farmland Trust; and Gerry Cohn, American Farmland Trust. Not in attendance were: Sherman Lewis, Langston University, Oklahoma; and Steve Carmichael, NRCS, Louisiana.

The first goal in this project was to build upon South Carolina’s SARE project from 2002. South Carolina’s project was led by Ben Boozer. The performance target for this goal was to receive information for the South Carolina project which could be used in helping formulate this project. We hoped to gain insight as to what information needed to be included in the curriculum and advice on how to increase attendance to maximize the benefits of the training sessions.

The second goal was to develop curriculum for the training sessions. The advisory committee addressed this objective. The performance target expected to flow from this goal was a user-friendly workbook and fully planned workshop agendas.

The third goal was to publicize the workshops to ensure that attendance was satisfactory. The performance target was to send press releases to all sustainable agriculture organizations; ask all state SARE Coordinators to disseminate information about the training opportunities; and to make other governmental agencies and forestry officials aware of this project.

The fourth goal was to hold three workshops. The attendance target was set at 50 participants at each of three sessions.

The fifth goal was to evaluate the program and to provide additional information to workshop participants to assist them in future planning activities. The performance target of this final goal was to receive information from each training session regarding the effectiveness of the materials and the presentation and to make contact with participants in the months following the training sessions to assist each with similar future projects.

Introduction:

The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture and its partners, American Farmland Trust, Land Legacy, Langston University and Oklahoma State University developed a training model utilizing a diverse advisory committee, to provide three workshops in three different cities across the South. This project sought to train professionals on issues of farmland and forest preservation in the South to enable the professionals to initiate future trainings in their own communities. This project was intended to increase the knowledge base of potential trainers of preservation efforts and tools including, but not limited to, conservation easements, agricultural districting, agricultural zoning and transfers of development rights.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

To meet the first goal, we asked Mr. Boozer to serve on our advisory committee to lend his guidance in putting together our training programs. He made a presentation to his fellow committee members to assist in building on the strong components of his farmland protection project, while hopefully avoiding anything that did not work as well. Gerry Cohn from American Farmland Trust had worked closely with Mr. Boozer on the South Carolina project and was able to incorporate the experiences learned from that project into this regional program. Mr. Boozer and Mr. Cohn informed the advisory committee that a ripe audience for this training was forestry professionals. Mr. Boozer also let the committee know that publicity for the South Carolina project, while adequate, did not result in as high of attendance as hoped. He suggested that additional efforts should be taken for the regional project.

Methods used to meet the second goal included a great amount of communication between the project partners and the advisory committee. From April 1, 2003 until the first workshop was held in July, 2003, the advisory committee members assisted in the development of the workbooks to be distributed at the meeting, and in procuring speakers along with agenda development. The advisory committee met for a full day following the National SARE Conference in North Carolina. The committee worked to create an outline of the training sessions and curriculum. The minutes from that meeting are included in this report as an attachement. Gerry Cohn, Kevin Schmidt, and Andrew Brannen spoke with Anita Poole on numerous occasions by phone to finalize all details of the workbook and speaker line up. Committee meetings were held via telephone conferencing to plan special topic sessions including: farm tax and estate planning; minority land loss; and forestland loss. Anita Poole, Gerry Cohn, Kevin Schmidt, and Andrew Brannen incorporated input from advisory committee members Martha Monroe, Bill Hubbard, Jerry Pennick, Bo Beaulieu, and Adell Brown on such issues as formatting curriculum, forestry issues and recommendations of potential workshop participants.

To meet the third goal, press releases were sent to newspapers, universities, and organizations and through SARE contacts coordinated by Gwen Rowland. Gwen Rowland was extremely helpful in getting word out to the sustainable agriculture community. Advisory Committee members were very helpful in getting the word out about the training sessions, with some committee members being responsible for getting actual participants to the training session. Scholarships were available which enabled a larger amount of individuals to participate in the sessions. A brochure was mailed out to the target audience and was also posted on the Kerr Center website. Participants were even able to register online from the Kerr Center website and to pay the modest registration fee of $25.00 the proceeds of which were used to cover expenses that this grant could not cover. All of the publicity issued stated that scholarships were available. Contact was made with all SARE state coordinators, and with other governmental and forestry professionals.

The method used to meet the fourth goal was planning oriented. Originally, the workshops were planned for one day, but after considerable advice from the advisory committee, the workshops were lengthened to a day and a half. The advisory committee made recommendations regarding the cities in which training sessions would be held. It was decided that to spread the sessions across the South, the sessions would be held in Oklahoma City, Memphis area and Atlanta. Anita Poole and Barbara Chester searched for conference centers in those cities which would be adequate for the training needs while still economical. For the Atlanta meeting, Rosanne Minoravic was helpful in providing several possible locations. Negotiations were entered into with the facilities in each city and contracts were made. Setting the dates of the meetings also required a large amount of coordination between the partners. Anita Poole also spoke with the state SARE coordinators to make certain there were no other major training conflicts on the dates of the meetings. Additionally, speakers for each training session and their travel had to be secured. The end result was the offering of three training sessions each lasting one and a half days, in three different cities across the South.

To meet the final goal, more than one method was used. At each training session, written evaluations were collected which addressed the adequacy of the speakers and the materials provided. The evaluation surveys were compiled and the information analyzed. The compilation is included as an attachment to this report. In the weeks and months following the training sessions, many questions regarding further information were answered and information was mailed to participants. An overwhelming number of participants at each training session requested assistance in putting together proposals to fund future training, and for contact information from all three training sessions. Anita Poole wrote a guide to preparing a proposal based upon the proposal for this project that was mailed to all participants and project partners. The guide is included with this report as an attachment. Compact discs were mailed to all participants and project partners containing contact information for all participants, power point presentations from the training sessions. A copy of the compact disk is included in this report as an attachment.

Outreach and Publications

A workbook entitled “Ensuring the Future of the South’s Farmland and Forestland containing fact sheets and census data was compiled by American Farmland Trust upon the advise an counsel of the project partners and the advisory committee.

Brochures were developed to advertise the training sessions.

A guide to putting together a proposal for farmland and forestland preservation was mailed to participants.

Outcomes and impacts:

The workbooks were completed in early July 2003 and were mailed to each of the workshop sites prior to each workshop. A complete workbook and resource guide is included with this final report. Copies of the workbook are available by contacting Anita Poole at 918-647-9123 or by email at apoole@kerrcenter.com.

Publicity for the workshops went out through newsletters, brochures, emails and the Kerr Center’s website at www.kerrcenter.com. Advisory Committee members also helped to distribute brochures, and fliers and to direct people interested in registering for the conference to the website.

The first workshop was held on July 24-25, 2003 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Presenters were Andrew Brannen and Kevin Schmidt from American Farmland Trust, Jack Blair and Robert Gregory from Land Legacy, Michael Meinders who is an Oklahoma Attorney specializing in estate planning, and Jim Horne and Anita Poole from the Kerr Center.

The second workshop was held on August 5-6, 2003 in Memphis, Tennessee. Presenters were Gerry Cohn and Kevin Schmidt from American Farmland Trust, Miesha Thomas and Jerry Pennick from the Southern Federation of Cooperative, the Holland family and Jim Horne and Anita Poole from the Kerr Center.

The third workshop was held on August 12-13, 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia. Presenters were Gerry Cohn and Kevin Schmidt from American Farmland Trust, Dr. William Hubbard from Cooperative Extension, Athens, Georgia; Liz Crane of the USDA’s Forest Legacy Program, in Atlanta, Georgia, Richard Manning of the Farm Service Agency of Dekalb County, Alabama and Jim Horne and Anita Poole from the Kerr Center.

A complete list of attendees for all workshops is included in this final report as an attachment.

The Kerr Center has maintained contact with workshop participants through both the postal service and email. The Kerr Center developed compact disks which were mailed to all conference participants in the early part of 2004. Included on the disks was the power point presentations utilized by the workshop speakers, the contact lists of all conference participants, and other materials requested by participants during the workshop meetings.

The Kerr Center also surveyed each participant regarding the planning, content and delivery for each workshop. The Kerr Center has compiled all of those research results and is providing the same in this final report as an attachment.

The Kerr Center developed a guide to putting a proposal together which was mailed to all participants.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

We gathered a significant amount of information from advisory committee members regarding issues that need to be discussed at each of the meetings to ensure the relevancy of the trainings. For example, discussion of issues that need to be included were:

  • how to identify barriers to accessing land trusts

    intergenerational transfer and limited resource farming

    estate planning, property rights and heir property

    federal law vs. state law in territories because land ownership is different

    how to get university “buy in,” and methodology

    units to be viable farms

    census of minority farms

    agriculture zoning, and tax incentives

    legislation, and population growth

    rural/urban interface

    new farmer programs and aging farmer income

    better understanding of agriculture issues by state governments

    strategic training with strong curriculum

    forestry/urban interface

    ability of landowner to continue in business

    PDR programs and other economic opportunities

    encourage land trusts to invest in small land holdings

The advisory committee suggested that the trainings be held in a one and one half day format to encourage networking between the participants. Following that advice, all training were scheduled over a two day period each. The dates set were July 24-25, 2003 in Oklahoma City, August 5-6, 2003 in Memphis, TN, and August 12-13, 2003 in Atlanta, GA.

The resource notebook/curriculum was developed by AFT with the assistance of three subcommittees specializing in three special topic areas including: minority and territorial issues; forestry issues; and farm transfer issues.

113 participants received training on farm and forest land preservation as well as the special topic sessions. Several participants have since requested assistance in putting together a proposal to submit to SARE to do trainings in their state based upon the information they received at the training sessions. The Kerr Center will continue to assist those who request it until the end of the grant period.

All participants now have in their possession the tools and resources necessary to assist their community in farm and forestland preservation planning. The Kerr Center and American Farmland Trust stand ready to assist these community leaders in taking training steps necessary to protect their local communities.

At least three organizations have made or are currently making plans to form land trusts as a direct result of this project!

Recommendations:

Future Recommendations

Project participants recommended that future training sessions last longer than a day and a half considering how much information was provided.

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.