Southern Region Educator Trainings in Eight Farming Systems using unique tools and approaches

Final Report for ES06-086

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $121,968.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Karen Adler
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
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Project Information

Abstract:

Two educational videos, Artisan Cheese Production and Marketing, and Pasture-Based Dairy Farming, were produced and have been used in trainings in a number of Southern states. Each twenty-minute video takes the viewer on a virtual farm/enterprise tour focusing on successful producers who show and discuss the key components of their operations in detail.
Materials and resources, including an enterprise manual, video teaching guide, and in-depth farm profile for each of these topics have been developed to accompany the video.

Eight in-person trainings for agricultural professionals including Extension and NRCS personnel, have taken place in the targeted states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The in-person trainings covered Organic Production and Marketing, in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana; Management Intensive Grazing, in Georgia (2 times), and Louisiana; Pastured Poultry, in Oklahoma; and Dairy Goat Fundamentals and Opportunities (including the Art of Fromagerie and Marketing Goat Cheese), in Alabama.

Two interactive web cast trainings for agriculture professionals have taken place on the topics of Management Intensive Grazing of Beef Cattle, and Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing, which incorporated the SARE-funded interactive web-based training modules in IPM for Organic Crops, released through Mississippi State University.

In addition to the activities funded by SARE, training events based on the new dairy-based training systems developed through this SARE PDP project have taken place throughout the Southeast under the auspices of Dr. Steve Washburn, who served as project consultant for the Pasture-Based Dairy Farming Video and supplemental educational materials.

Project Objectives:

• Expand the knowledge of at least 300 agricultural educators in one or more of eight different high-value, alternative farm enterprises, so that they can see the actual value of these enterprises for family farmers. Achieved
• Effectively train at least 300 agricultural educators in concepts, strategies, and applications of whole systems sustainable farming systems, focusing on one or more of eight different farm enterprises of prime interest to Southern producers. Achieved
• Equip at least 300 agricultural educators during the project period to effectively utilize farmer-centered, whole systems curricula, containing unique audiovisual tools in one or more of eight sustainable farm enterprises, in educating their clientele. Achieved
• Create two new multi-media curricula for sustainable dairy farming enterprises. Achieved
• Motivate at least 300 agriculture educators to provide the farmers they serve, and their colleagues who also serve producers, with cutting-edge educational information in one or more of eight sustainable farming systems for the South. Achieved
• Expand the knowledge and skills of at least 80 agricultural educators in the use of internet-based web casts for effective distance education. Achieved
• Provide agricultural professionals with a greater knowledge of available resources than that to which they have been exposed, yet which are available to agricultural professionals, regarding sustainable production and marketing in one or more of eight farming systems. Achieved
• Demonstrate the effectiveness of utilizing farmer trainers in educating agricultural professionals. Achieved
• Demonstrate the effectiveness of high-quality virtual farm tours in educating professionals. Achieved
• Demonstrate the effectiveness of utilizing a diverse Project Team to create effective training materials and trainings for educating agricultural professionals. Achieved
• Disseminate to all interested southern agricultural educators the availability of the curricula on the eight farm enterprise systems through appropriate electronic venues. Achieved

Introduction:

At the outset of this project, Southern SAWG brought six completed farm enterprise training packages to offer for professional development workshops:
Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing
Management Intensive Grazing
Pastured Turkey Production and Marketing
Cut Flower Production and Marketing
Pastured Meat Goat Production and Marketing
Pastured Broiler Production and Marketing

These packages include an educational video for each farming system, video teaching guides, and in-depth farm profiles designed to illuminate the benefits, challenges, and opportunities in each of the enterprises.

Over the course of the project, two new farm enterprise packages were created and produced, and offered to collaborating training hosts for workshops, and two web-based trainings were developed and presented to agricultural professionals.

Project Participants:
Steve Washburn, North Carolina State University
Geoff Zehnder, Clemson University, Clemson, SC
Julie Sexton, Mississippi State University
Vicki Dunaway, Lady Bug Micro Creamery, Willis, VA
Al and Desiree Wehner, Green Hill Dairy, GA
Jessica and Jeremy Little, Sweet Grass Dairy, GA
Mark Cain, Dripping Springs Garden, Huntsville, AR
Ken Dawson, Maple Spring Gardens, Cedar Grove, NC
Mike Walters, Walters Hatchery, Stillwell, OK
Paul and Alison Wiediger, Au Naturel Farm, Smith’s Grove, KY
Alex Hitt, Peregrine Farm, Graham, NC
Blair and Kim Sanders, Black Hollow Dairy, Dublin, VA
Ann Wells, Springpond Holistic Animal Health, Prairie Grove, AR
Julia Gaskin, University of Georgia
Carl Motsenbocker, Louisiana State University AgCenter
Owusu Bandele, Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA
Daniel Parson, Parson Produce, Clinton, SC
Mark Crenshaw, Mississippi State University
Franklin Chukwuma, Alcorn State University
Terry Holder, Mississippi State University
Josh Payne, Oklahoma State University
Kefyalew Desta, Oklahoma State University
Robert Spencer, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Steve Tate, Goat Lady Dairy
Ron Morse, State Grazing Lands Specialist USDA-NRCS for Arkansas
Jim McNitt, Southern University

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

The primary methods used were targeted in-person and web-based (webinar) trainings developed in collaboration with coordinators in each of the selected states, using existing and newly-developed materials in the Southern SAWG sustainable educational arsenal.

The in-person trainings were planned and produced with state SARE coordinators based on Southern SAWG training materials. We worked with the host coordinators to design each training to meet their specific needs, sometimes with multiple collaborators, and bringing in experienced farmer/educators/agriculture professionals. By working closely with the Project Team and state collaborators, we adapted the materials and curricula to best meet the needs of those agricultural professionals expected to attend. For several of the trainings, state collaborators obtained additional support to expand the audience to area producers and students as well as agricultural professionals.

Southern SAWG provided educational materials for participants that included a video and enterprise manual, with video teaching guide and farm profiles. A range of eight available topics was offered and coordinators chose the ones best suited to their needs. Two of the offered topics were modules that were newly developed under this project.

To create the two new education farming systems videos, Southern SAWG utilized expertise already developed in the production of seven previous videos. Working in partnership with the Project Team, which included a noted Extension professional consultant in each of the fields, along with a seasoned filmmaker and producer, and agricultural producers on their farms, scripts were developed to maximize information to be filmed and shared. The thorough research and high-quality production, combined with careful selection of the on-screen farmers and artisans resulted in two highly-acclaimed virtual farm tour videos.

The Project Team consultant for each of the new topics worked with the project coordinator to create farm profiles and video teaching guides to accompany the new videos utilizing pertinent facts gathered from the subject producers combined with their knowledge of the enterprise. Enterprise manuals for both new topics were also developed by the consultants utilizing their storehouse of materials, including research results, articles, and publications from universities, ATTRA and SARE, and appropriate producer organizations.

The presenters for the two webinars worked with the existing presentations and resource materials to select the key topics to feature for the 2-hour format. The presenters and project coordinator were trained in the use of the web-based technology by Webex personnel. The Webex producer provided support throughout the presentations to ensure successful high-quality delivery.

Outcomes and impacts:

The main intended outcome for this project was to equip a minimum of 300 educators with new training methods and valuable tools for long-term use in educating producers in sustainable systems. One projected impact was that agricultural professionals who attended the trainings would be prepared to confidently and creatively assist their clientele to safely enter or significantly improve on these systems and enterprises. These have both been achieved over the course of the project.

Each event was evaluated on-site by participants, and in follow-up evaluations, to help us gauge the effectiveness and impact of the curriculum and training materials (enterprise manuals and videos). The overall evaluation record shows that the curriculum and training materials were very well-received, and have been used effectively in a number of ways by participants to assist and educate their constituents. Regarding the use of web-based trainings: the feedback we have gathered from participating educators indicates that webinars are a highly effective and accessible medium for training.

Attendance for in-person workshops totaled 309 people; 171 of these were agricultural professionals. Through the webinars an additional 105 agriculture professionals have received training. At least 200 additional agricultural professionals have been reached through more than 20 events, including the Southern SAWG Annual Conferences, the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference, Shenandoah Valley, VA, October, 2008, and 20th National SARE Conference, Kansas City, MO, March 2008.

Overall evaluations have rated the curricula in a range from 3.9 to 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as the highest. The materials have been rated from 3.9 to 4.7 on the same scale. Each evaluation measures many elements; responses were used to make changes and improvements, and will also be utilized for future projects.

The vast majority of participants report that the workshops and materials are very useful for their service to farmers and producers, and that they have gained significant knowledge and/or skills from the trainings. Approximately 45 percent have shown the video to colleagues and farmers, and many have used the materials in trainings. Many are also using the materials and knowledge gained to help farmers, and the majority of participants report that they are more willing and likely to provide information and support on sustainable farming systems as a result of the training.

Representative comments:
Cheese Making:
– “Liked the organization and presentation of practical information”; “Liked the basics of goat cheese/any type cheese production on small scale’; “Liked actual producer presenting.”
Pastured Poultry:
– The content was good and timely; Liked free-range topics; Provided information on a subject that is not readily available; Concept presented in a professional way.
Organic Production and Marketing (Mississippi):
– “[presenter was] very knowledgeable about the subject”; “Good and practical”; “Liked the marketing”; “Lots of good info and publications to read later”; “Liked cover crop information”; “Good notebook.”
Management Intensive Grazing:
– “It has enriched my professional knowledge such that I have to consider the importance of stocking rate and the frequency of rotational grazing in my future research”; “I have found that the farmers I work closely with have all benefited”; “I will teach grazing techniques”; “Learned examples of effective teaching techniques”; “Provided new information and reinforced grazing management principles.”

Management Intensive Grazing of Beef (webinar):
– “Presenter has first hand experience. Frequency of rotation portion was especially well presented”; “Very practical. Information that is very needed.”
– “Having a better understanding of the concepts allowed me to explain the concepts to landowners more effectively.”
– “I have used this program to show that there is another way to graze and get better forage utilization.”
– “Already been practicing and educating rotational grazing. I have used the information from the presentation with beef, sheep, and goat farmers.”

Organic Production and Marketing (webinar):
– “Great slides and well-organized. I really enjoyed the format”; “Well presented in the time frame and good overall discussion of organic veg. production.”
– “Need more! I would have loved to have the show on a DVD to use with producers.”
(75 percent of participants have referred back to materials for a refresher and to make sure the information was understood.)

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Two Virtual Farm Tour Videos
o Artisan Cheese Production and Marketing—Sweet Grass Dairy, GA
Released August 2007
This video featuring Jessica and Jeremy Little, owners of Sweet Grass Dairy, provides information about start-up and development of a handcrafted cheese enterprise. It highlights the importance and value of milk production practices, use of refurbished and adapted equipment, and a diversified marketing strategy. It provides an overview of everything from cheese making regulations and techniques to financial accounting and business management.

o Pasture-Based Dairy Farming—Black Hollow Dairy, VA
Released November 2007
Blair and Kim Sanders, owners of Black Hollow Dairy, near Dublin, VA, decided seven years ago to switch their enterprise from a conventional system to a pasture-based seasonal grazing system. In this video they share their knowledge and expertise on many aspects of their seasonal grazing system, including calving; milking; feeding; breeding; fencing; pasture management; equipment, featuring their efficient milking parlor; and recordkeeping (with the help of their computer-savvy children). For the Sanders, the advantages of this type of operation far outweigh any challenges; they have been able to stay in business, be profitable, and enjoy a high quality of life.

To demonstrate the need we met by producing these videos, in addition to the 8 trainings Southern SAWG conducted with SARE funds during this project, these videos have been used in several other trainings already. Steve Washburn, our video and training materials consultant, utilized the Pastured-Based Dairy Farming video at the 2-day dairy grazing conference held in Memphis, TN, February 11-12, 2009, sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of America milk producers cooperative. There were about 270 people in attendance. Dr Washburn has also shown the video and shared educational information at a number of additional events, including:
 North American Veterinary Conference, Orlando, FL, January 2008
 20th National SARE Conference, Kansas City, MO, March 2008
 Dairy Farm Pasture Walk, Frankford, WV, April 2008
 American Association of Bovine Practitioners, September 2008
 Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference, Shenandoah Valley, VA, October, 2008
 Exploring Alternatives for Milk Production and Processing, Live Oak, FL, October 2008
 On Cowabunga trip with ~35 veterinary students in December 2008, on the bus traveling to VA and PA.
 North Carolina Dairy Conference, February 2009.

These videos were also shown at Southern SAWG’s 2008 and 2009 Practical Tools and Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms Conferences.
Video clips may be viewed at http://www.ssawg.org/virtualfarm.html. Links to the accompanying video training guides and farm stories can also be found on that page. Videos, training guides, and farm stories are provided to participants in events produced under this project; videos can also be ordered at http://www.ssawg.org/order.html.

Trainings
Professional development trainings have taken place in six targeted states: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

o Organic Production and Marketing – Spartanburg, SC 4/9/2007
Produced in cooperation with Dr. Geoff Zehnder, of Clemson University. The workshop presenter was Alex Hitt, North Carolina farmer and educator, with additional materials presented by Geoff Zehnder. Topics covered included: Introduction to whole farm system planning; farm design considerations and crop scheduling; soil building and crop rotations; in-field soil preparation, seeding, and transplanting; marketing; and recordkeeping. There were fifty-three attendees, including fourteen agriculture professionals. Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing Enterprise Manuals were reviewed and updated, and provided to participants, along with the Southern SAWG Organic Horticulture videos.
Evaluations:
Presentations (average) 4.7 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Enterprise manual 4.7
(Corresponding video was provided to participants but not shown as part of the training.)

o “Grazing Georgia” Grass-Fed Ruminants Workshop – Tifton, GA 4/25/2007
Produced in cooperation with Julia Gaskin, University of Georgia, SARE Coordinator in Georgia, in Tifton at NESPAL (National Environmentally Sound Production Center). Other collaborators included the American Grassfed Association, and The Animal Compassion Foundation (a Whole Foods Market Foundation). Ann Wells, DVM and livestock producer, presented on behalf of SSAWG. Other presenters included Dennis Hancock of UGA, Dennis Chessman of NRCS, Dwight Fisher of USDA-ARS, Will Getz of Fort Valley State University, and farmer/educators Will Harris and Bill Hodge. The Southern SAWG video on Management Intensive Grazing Systems was shown. Topics covered included: What Does Grass-fed Mean?; Forages and Grazing Management; Paddock Design and Fencing; Water Sources and Riparian Management Animal Health, Animal Handling, and Body Condition Scoring; Integrated Livestock Systems; Emergency Pasture Supplementation; Economics of Grass-fed Production; Putting the System Together – Panel discussion and Q & A; and Pasture Walk and Discussion on forage types and diversity, tools for monitoring pasture forage value, deciding when to move animals, watering systems, soil quality, and body condition scoring, and a demonstration of overgrazing effects on roots. Enterprise manuals were reviewed, adapted, and expanded, and provided to participants, along with Southern SAWG Management Intensive Grazing of Beef videos.
Evaluations:
Presentations (summary of nine aspects of the presentation): 3.9 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Notebook materials (summary including usefulness): 4.1
Video (summary including usefulness) 4.1

o “Grazing Georgia” Grass-Fed Ruminants Workshop – Watkinsville/Athens, GA 5/16/2007
Produced in Georgia, at the J. Phil Campbell Natural Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville (Athens), also in collaboration with Julia Gaskin and UGA, the American Grassfed Association, and the Animal Compassion Foundation. Topics covered were the same as in the 4/25/07 training. Resources and materials were provided, including the Southern SAWG MIG Beef video, and updated enterprise manuals.
Evaluations:
Presentations (summary of nine aspects of the presentation): 4.2 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Notebook materials (summary including usefulness): 4.4
Video (summary including usefulness): 4.4

o Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing – Raymond, MS 10/29/2008
Produced in cooperation with Dr. Franklin Chukwuma of Alcorn State University and Dr. Terry Holder and Dr. Mark Crenshaw of Mississippi State University. The presenter was Daniel Parson, South Carolina farmer and educator. Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing Enterprise Manuals were reviewed, updated, and provided to participants, along with the Southern SAWG Organic Horticulture videos.
There were 21 attendees, all agriculture professionals; affiliations include Alcorn State University, MSU-ES, State Office, and one 4-H Agent.
Topics covered included: Introduction to Whole Farm System Planning; Farm Design Considerations and Crop Scheduling; Soil Building and Crop Rotations; In-Field Soil Preparation, Seeding and Transplanting; Marketing; and Recordkeeping.
Evaluations:
Presentations (average): 4.3 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Enterprise manual: 4.7

o Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing – Baton Rouge, Louisiana 11/12/2008
Produced in cooperation with Dr. Carl Motsenbocker of Louisiana State University AgCenter and Dr. Owusu Bandele of Southern University. The presenter was Paul Wiediger, farmer and educator. (Paul Wiediger and his wife Alison Wiediger own and operate Au Naturel Farm, the subject of one of Southern SAWG’s two organic horticulture videos.) Enterprise manuals were reviewed, updated, and provided to participants, along with one of Southern SAWG’s twp Organic Horticulture videos.
There were 85 attendees, including 41 agricultural educators and professionals, plus a number of students and farmers.
Topics covered included: Introduction to Organics; Soil Health & Soil Building; Cover Crops & Compost; Marketing; Planning for Production—Recordkeeping; Planting: Seeding, Transplants, Field Prep; Drip Irrigation; Challenges to Organic Production: Weeds, Pest, & Disease Control; Rotations; Equipment; Harvest & Post Harvest Handling; and Season Extension.
Participant response to the workshop was overwhelmingly positive.
Evaluations:
Presentations (average): 4.3 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Enterprise manual: 4.5

o Pastured Poultry Workshop – Sallisaw, Oklahoma 11/19/2008
Produced in cooperation with Dr. Josh Payne and Dr. Kefyalew Desta of Oklahoma State University. Mike Walters of Walters Poultry was the presenter. (Mike Walters and his wife Teresa own and operate Walters Poultry, the subject of Southern SAWG’s pastured turkey video.) Resources and materials were provided, including the Southern SAWG Pastured Turkey video. A Pastured Poultry enterprise manual was created by updating and compiling materials from the Pastured Turkey and Pastured Broilers manuals.
There were 18 attendees, including 15 agriculture professionals and 2 farmers.
Topics covered included: Feed; Health Issues; Genetics; Hatchery Selection; Pasture Management; Brooding; Free Range Issues; Shelters: Predators; Business Planning; Marketing/Labeling/Working with Customers; and Processing.
Evaluations:
Presentations (summary of 13 aspects of the presentation): 3.9 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Poultry Enterprise Manual: 3.9 on a scale of 1 – 5.

o Dairy Goat Fundamentals and Opportunities (including the Art of Fromagerie and Marketing Goat Cheese) – Montgomery, Alabama 11/20/2008
Produced in cooperation with Robert Spencer, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Resources and materials were provided, including the Southern SAWG Artisan cheese Production and Marketing video, and newly created enterprise manual. The presenter (for Southern SAWG) for the Art of Fromagerie and Marketing Goat Cheese was Steve Tate, of Goat Lady Dairy. Alabama Cooperative Extension staff provided presentations on Dairy Goat Production, Value-Added Opportunities, and Dairy Fundamentals and Regulations. There were 16 attendees, all agriculture professionals.
Evaluations:
Presentations (summary of the two cheese-making segments of the workshop): 4.4 (on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest)
Artisan Cheese Enterprise Manual: 4.2 (on a scale of 1 – 5).

o Management Intensive Grazing – Baton Rouge, Louisiana 5/27/09
Produced in cooperation with Jim McNitt, Southern University Agricultural and Research and Extension Center, and Carl Motsenbocker, Louisiana State University AgCenter. The presenter was Ron Morrow, Beef Cattle Rancher and State Grazing Lands Specialist, USDA-NRCS, Arkansas.
Topics covered included: frequency of rotation; influencing the intake of the grazing animal; grazing preferences of various species; controlling stock density and production per acre; cowboy arithmetic; grazing challenges; planning a program and choosing expenditures; soil livestock; conservation principles/management of access; layout and design of a grazing system; shortcuts to fencing; and water distribution.
There were 55 attendees; 34 ag professionals, plus students and producers.
Evaluations:
Presentations: 4.5 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Enterprise manual: 4.7
MIG Video: 4.5

Two interactive Web cast trainings (webinars):
The two-hour trainings, based on Southern SAWG educational programs, were on the topics of Management Intensive Grazing of Beef Cattle, chosen through an electronic survey of Southern NRCS and Extension agents; and Organic Horticultural Production and Marketing, incorporating the SARE-funded interactive web-based training modules in IPM for Organic Crops, released through Mississippi State University. Each participant received a copy of the MIG or Organic Horticulture video, and was able to view and download the enterprise manuals for their topic.
The trainings were recorded, with the recordings made available to participants to view again and share.

o Management Intensive Grazing of Beef Cattle 12/11/2009
Presenter was Ron Morrow State Grazing Lands Specialist USDA-NRCS for Arkansas. Dr. Morrow’s research contributed to much of the original educational material for Southern SAWG’s MIG course, and he adapted the materials for this two-hour webinar presentation.
Forty-eight Extension agents, NRCS personnel, and other agriculture educators throughout the South participated. Approximately 50 percent reported that this was the first webinar they had attended.
The presentation got high marks. Most participants rated the effectiveness of the training method as well as the materials from Good to Excellent. Twenty-seven out of twenty-eight respondents said that they found the workshop useful for their service to farmers/producers.
The ease of access to high-quality training without the time and expense of travel was cited as a significant benefit.

o Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing 12/16/2008
Presenter was Daniel Parson, educator and farmer, Parson Produce, South Carolina. Mr. Parson had presented the daylong Organic Vegetable training in Mississippi in October 2008, and adapted the materials for the two-hour online format.
Fifty-seven Extension agents, NRCS personnel, and other agriculture educators throughout the South participated. Approximately 50 percent reported that this was the first webinar they had attended. All responding participants rated ease of use and effectiveness of training method from Good to Excellent.
The presentation received high ratings. Many participants said that they found the speaker to be very effective and knowledgeable. All twenty-four who responded to the question said that they found the workshop useful for their service to farmers/producers.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Here are some of the ways participants will use materials and what they have learned:
o “My knowledge about this enterprise (Dairy Goat/Cheese Making) has been significantly expanded. This will allow me to better answer questions from clientele and direct their questions to the appropriate person.”
o “Develop workshops.”
o “Introduce producers to alternatives.” (Pastured Poultry)
o “Will use handouts, copies of training materials, and verbal recommendations.”
o “I will use this information to pass on to farmers.” (Organic Vegetable)
o “Conduct workshops for farmers and other Extension staff.” (Organic Vegetable)
o “Will use to deal with a niche group that has shown an interest in organic crop production.”
o “Demonstrations and workshops with small groups.” (Organic Vegetable)
o “Will be used to answer producer questions.” (Organic Vegetable)
o “Helping small farmers keep in business.”
o “I will pass along ideas to producers, especially the rotation frequency and layout principles (MIG webinar).”
o “[Encourage] Intensive grazing to decrease the amount of fertilizer application than compared to a continuous grazing system.” (MIG webinar)
o “I plan to use this information in the form of a workshop to educate individuals who are thinking of transitioning to organic systems. Great info!” (Organic Vegetable webinar)
o “Share IPM training materials with growers.” (Organic Vegetable webinar)

Here is a sample of comments on how the training has contributed to and/or changed participants’ professional attitudes:

o “Learned that the lack of pesticides in organic production is not a major disadvantage.”
o “I can add marketing techniques for my farmers to use in direct setting.”
o “Enlightened me on organics.”
o “Aided in some best practice management tips in horticulture production.”
o “Cover crop information, rotation emphasis will be incorporated into my work.”
o “Always be open minded for new ways to make money for farmers.”
o “Brought opportunities to light for me.”
o “I’m more open to pastured poultry production and recommending it to producers.”
o “Expanded knowledge base.”
o “[Learned] ways of producing value added products.”
o “Makes me a better educator.”
o “I am more aware of issues facing organic producers and appreciate what our clients go through on a daily and seasonal basis.”
o “Makes me better able to serve clients.”

Here are some examples of how participants are using the trainings and materials in their work with farmers:

o “I have used the information gained from the training to help farmers who are interested in pursuing these types of enterprises understand both the production and economic aspects of start-up.” (Dairy Goat Fundamentals/Artisan Cheesemaking.)
o “Used it as an example to educate other farmers on opportunities with sustainable production.” (Dairy Goat Fundamentals/Artisan Cheesemaking.)
o “Incorporating crop rotation/cover crops was a very important element I began sharing with those interested in sustainable production when interested in soil building and pest control; also nonsynthetic fertilizers that are now available in many forms at convenient retail locations if you can not generate them from local farm/farmers. Great Success!” (Commercial Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing.)
o “We are moving away from commercial fertilizer and using natural materials.” (Management Intensive Grazing of Beef.)
o “I give more thought to agricultural processes and farming systems when visiting with producers. I am also more proactive about suggesting sustainable farming practices when I am assisting producers with corrective practices in solving producer problems.” (Pastured Poultry.)
o “Broadened my knowledge base and given our program another tool to use in meeting the needs of our producers.” (Pastured Poultry.)

And for something a little bit different:
o “I am a 4-H Agent, and attended to learn more about sustainable and organic methods since this is important to me to learn about. I do not work with large farmers in my job, but try to promote and share information and make available to those who come in the office. I ordered a few copies of each to share with local clients and friends who farm.
”I share information with my 4-Hers on a level that is relevant to them. Educate them on what organic is, how they can improve soil by composting, and how people farm without pesticides, etc.”

Future Recommendations

Thorough evaluations were conducted, pinpointing effectiveness of key aspects of each training, as well as the materials provided, in order to understand the impact and usefulness.

A large majority of participants said that it was important to have a knowledgeable producer as presenter, and expressed that it had a positive impact on the effectiveness of the training. We recommend this practice in the future. A number of participants expressed the need for more hands-on experiential/on-farm segments. Several simply said, “We need more of these trainings,” with one participant recommending that more such trainings be offered through extension so that it would become “as common as pesticide trainings.”

One aspect we would like to see for future projects is to include more pedagogical segments to work with agricultural professionals to not only understand the particular sustainable farming system, but to provide methodology and coaching on how to use the materials for them to work with their farmer constituents. It would also be productive to follow up for troubleshooting, refresher sessions, and to provide additional resources as needed.

Based on the success of the collaborative approach to developing and producing professional development trainings and materials, it is strongly recommended to continue and expand the activities of this project. The recently implemented Organic Initiative being administered through the NRCS speaks volumes to the need for this kind of training, for which those experienced in operating successful sustainable farming enterprises as well as making effective presentations, are well suited. The concept of the diverse Project Team, having strong non-profit organizations such as Southern SAWG working in tandem with farmer/educators, university educators and researchers, and NRCS personnel, has proved to be one of the best ways to create a network of agriculture professionals who are knowledgeable in sustainable agriculture practices and successful sustainable agriculture enterprises in the South.

The positive response to Southern SAWG’s comprehensive training packages that include video, an enterprise and resource manual, teaching guide, and farm story, indicate that the development of these packages in additional enterprises would be very useful. Having a storehouse of resources creates the basis for efficient training opportunities in a variety of venues, with diverse participants.

The use of web-based training (webinars) was well-received and highly effective in this project, as well as cost- and time-efficient. The webinar can be recorded and used many times, achieving a wide reach while maintaining a high impact. It is recommended that this technology be used extensively in professional trainings, where issues of “digital divide” are not prevalent, with continued development of training modules that are broad-based, as well as those that are very specific and in-depth for a variety of sustainable agriculture practices.

Webinars can not, however, take the place of in-person trainings. As noted, participants also strongly requested hands-on training. In the words of one participant: “Talking is good, but seeing is understanding.” The recommendation is to utilize all of these tools with the collaborative approach of the Project Team.

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.