This project made an important contribution to livestock product marketing education in the Southern Region. Extension and other educators gained knowledge and skills in addressing issues relevant to successful marketing of livestock products. They also were provided with and used a planned educational program in that area that was developed based on a Program Logic Model. It included an evaluation plan and tools The curriculum for the educational program was developed, field tested, revised and is being made available on the North Carolina SARE PDP website. Extension, Departments of Agriculture, non-government groups and farmers were actively involved as program planners, presenters and evaluators in the entire process.
The program covers six topics. Five are content. The other is process. The five content areas are: agro-entrepreneurship; food safety; regulations, permits and licenses; marketing; and business assessment. The process sessions covered the program logic model and reporting results.
After the workshop program participants returned to their states and territories and conduct training using the program materials. Four states/ territories (Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and North Carolina) reported impacts. The materials or design model were used in other states such as Texas and Tennessee as well and in the development of supporting materials for a WKKF project (NC Choices) and an additional SARE PDP project in North Carolina.
After participating in the regional workshop educational programs, at least 25 extension faculty, 20 other agricultural educator- partners will have become informed about issues relating to marketing livestock products. They will then return home and will conduct Extension in-service training and other educational programs in their states and territories so that 500 field faculty and information providers from across the region will become knowledgeable about marketing livestock during the coming year.
Of that number, after participating in the state level educational program, at least 10 extension faculty, 15 farmer partners and 3 non profit group partners who work specifically with limited resource farmers will demonstrate and report educational outreach programs in their counties or with their constituents so that 100 limited resource farmers will be knowledgeable about marketing livestock and livestock products in North and South Carolina, Virginia Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.
After participating in the educational program 15 sustainable agriculture coordinators or their designated representatives along with 15 partners will bring the information to their states/ territories for dissemination so that at least 2000 additional producers across the Southern region will be able to market livestock and livestock products in a more knowledgeable way or are able to dialogue with regulators and legislators about rules and regulations governing such marketing.
SARE awarded this grant to NCA&TSU to develop an educational program for Extension Agents to support producer managed marketing of livestock products. For small farmers, value adding and increased income from the marketing of livestock products shows great promise, but there are significant challenges to getting it all right. Livestock farmers need help learning about various and important issues in handling, processing and marketing their products. Frequently Extension agents are not knowledgeable about the permitting, licensing and regulatory aspects of livestock product marketing. They are not on top of the business issues that such producers face. Sometimes they might even discourage producers from exploring this path, rather than assisting them with educational support so that they make good informed decisions.
This project was designed to offer the planned educational program for the entire Southern Region. We spent considerable effort connecting with the state Sustainable agriculture Coordinators in order to inform them of the program and invite their participation or encourage them to provide contact names as appropriate. Several states seemed to decide that this was just not a priority area and did not nominate any program participants.
We selected a date for our regional conference in 2004 and announced it through several channels- such as the southern region PDP Coordinators meeting. Then Extension Administrators selected the same date for a regional meeting, forcing us to change that date. The new date for the workshop was September 13-15 2005. As it turned out, there were major hurricanes just prior to that date which took a toll on attendance. Finally there were several program participants who had planned to attend when the meeting was scheduled for June but were not able to attend because of teaching assignments. As a result there were four states which were not represented at the meeting and several states were represented only by the 1890 or by the 1862. This factor is the major reason why we did not spend all the funds we had requested in the project proposal.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
The project approach was a five-step process which replicated the steps taken for the highly successful SARE PDP “Southern Region Soils Project.” The first step involved gathering a core team composed of the project manager, workshop coordinator, and the evaluation specialist. This team worked together to lay-out and manage the project process.
The next step of the process involved convening an “expert panel” of key project stakeholders who assembled and focused on the issues and topics for the project. The expert panel occurred as follows. They began by listing all the possible topics pertaining to producer-managed livestock marketing and all the relevant questions for that topic. The next step involved focusing the list to a manageable mix that could be covered with available materials or materials that could be developed in the year prior to the workshop. Responsibilities for each topic were assigned and agreed to. These tasks were coordinated and reported to the program materials and workshop coordinator who assembled the materials. The evaluation coordinator was involved to ensure that the evaluation plan was incorporated with planned outcomes as the project proceeded.
The third step involved assembling materials. These were reviewed and tested with local educators to ensure usability and relevance. It was recognized that some of the issues that needed to be addressed were specific to each location (e.g. slaughter regulations for any specific state or territory). Part of the design was not just focused on specific regulations but on how to find out what the relevant regulations were and how producers could meet them. During this part of the project the details of the main workshop were developed and disseminated. Appropriate invitations were sent to potential program participants.
The main effort of the project was to bring together Extension and other interested partners from North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, and southern regions in a two day workshop. The program initiated with a train-the-trainer program. The train-the-trainer conference was held on September 13th through September 15th 2005, in Greensboro, North Carolina, to present materials to representatives from the Southern Region. The conference consisted of six sessions. These were: 1) Entrepreneurship and Vision, 2) Food Safety and Security, 3) Permits, Licenses and Food Handling Regulations, 4) Customer Centered Marketing, 5) Business Planning and Management, and 6) Evaluation and Reporting. During this conference, materials and information were shared that could then be used in local and regional meetings directly with producers. It was expected that the program materials and information would be used in local meetings. Representatives from across the South were invited to participate in the workshop on the condition that the materials and information shared would be brought back to other states and territories and be replicated. The program staff discussed issues of producer managed processing, slaughter, and marketing. Materials in the form of a conference manual, web resource links, and other useable training materials such as checklists and Power Points were shared.
The final step of the project was for the program participants to return to their home states and territories to use what they learned at the workshop to implement a program in their own work. Materials were then revised and uploaded to a the NC SARE PDP website for general use.
Outreach and Publications
John O’Sullivan (Project Director). Producer Managed Marketing of Livestock Products (Manual, CD and web accessible).
Susan Jelnick Mellage, Project Director of NCChoices, a W. K. Kellogg Foundation Grant. Frequently Asked Questions about Processing and Marketing Beef, Pork, Lamb and Goat Meats. (in collaboration with Heifer International).
Also used in the program:
Neil Hamilton. The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing. (Drake University Law School and SARE).
Jan Holder. How to direct market your beef. (SAN)
Eighty-five extension faculty and twenty other agricultural educators- partners became informed about issues relating to marketing livestock products. Twenty-five additional Extension in-service training and other educational programs were held in five states and territories across the South with materials from the project.
Two of the workshops (beyond those held in North Carolina) focused on the needs of limited resource producers. They were held with Extension participants from Alcorn and Tuskegee. This was in addition to workshops for Extension representatives from Tuskegee, NCA&TSU and Southern University who attended the original project meeting in 2005. These Extension staff work specifically with limited resource farmers. In North Carolina and South Carolina alone, 250 limited resource farmers gained knowledge concerning food safety, regulations, licensing and other marketing livestock and livestock products in meetings conducted by Extension alone or in partnership with Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project.
At least 650 additional producers across the Southern region are able to market livestock and livestock products in a more knowledgeable way or are able to dialogue with regulators and legislators about rules and regulations governing such marketing.
Sixty- five agricultural educators (17 field faculty, 6 NGO members, 3 departments of agriculture staff, 39 state level extension faculty, 1 school of agriculture department head) from eleven state/territories (AL, AR, KY, LA, MS, NC, PR, SC, TN, TX, VI) in southern region participated in project workshops and received materials for use in their own train-the-trainer efforts.
Forty five program participants reported changes in attitude.
Forty five program participants reported increased knowledge on the topics covered.
Several reported experiencing the unintended consequences of gains in networking and understanding of what others were doing in the area of producer managed marketing of livestock products.
Income increases for producers working with Extension staff who participated in the program were reported in three states (AL, NC, PR). While all the change can not be attributed to the project, income in niche specialty livestock product market is strong.
Having an evaluation person pursue responses from the program participants was a worthwhile use of project funds since it kept the project connection well after the workshop itself.
This project broke new ground in focusing on marketing, agro-entrepreneurship and food safety as topics for agents with livestock responsibilities. It offered information on and ways of obtaining information on rules, regulations and permits. These are major topics-of-interest in livestock product marketing but are sometimes often as being beyond the purview of Extension by county staff because of lack of information in these areas. A discussion with one of the agencies responsible for regulations and permits led to a conversation in which the agency representative commented that he saw Extension agents as being “part of the problem” claiming that he thought that agents did not offer useful information on these topics. He said he did not believe that issues of food safety and consumer health were being communicated adequately by some field Extension staff. He became an enthusiastic supporter of our project work when he understood the educational focus we were providing to our target audience.
Include evaluation and use it. Including the outside evaluation person in the program design and implementation process was very worthwhile. Pursuit of outcomes in the Extension system can be challenging- especially when those outcomes are generated from specially funded projects. Extension reporting systems do not necessarily facilitate the tracking of results unless they come from mainline extension programs in mainstream program areas.
In addition, there were noticeable unexpected outcomes that were worth observing. These included impacts from this SARE PDP project to a Kellogg funded project at the partner university as well as enhanced collaboration with NGOs. The first occurred because of the collaboration in project design and implementation. The second occurred because, through the grant work, we had additional informational resources to provide to the NGO.