Final Report for ES10-102

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $98,850.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Leonard Githinji
Tuskegee University
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Project Information

Abstract:

This project was implemented by a team of experts drawn from multi-institution and multi-state to offer an effective hands-on education program in organic agriculture. The cooperating institutions were Tuskegee University (lead institution), Auburn University, North Carolina State University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network. The overall project goal was to enhance organic agriculture knowledge-base and practical skills of Extension personnel, mentor farmers and NRCS personnel, from three SSARE states including Alabama, North Carolina and Arkansas. The specific objectives were to: i) conduct a basic organic agriculture workshop during the first year and an advanced, hands-on training during the second year; and ii) to develop and disseminate organic agriculture educational resources suitable for the southeast region of the US. A two-day basic organic agriculture workshop was hosted by Tuskegee University from May 17-18, 2011. The advanced hands-on training was hosted by North Carolina State from June 17-19, 2012. The impact of the training workshop was evaluated by Tuskegee University using pre- and post-tests, self-reporting, as well as follow-up interviews. The results revealed positive short-and medium-term impacts of the educational program with majority of participants reporting increased awareness, increased knowledge and confidence in teaching about organic farming practices.

Project Objectives:

The overall goal of this project was to enhance the organic agriculture knowledge-base and practical skills of target audience that included the Extension personnel, mentor farmers and NRCS personnel from the southeast region of US. The specific objectives were to 1) Organize and conduct in-class workshops and advanced hands-on training exercises and 2) Develop educational resources accessible to the educators in the SSARE Region States. The objectives were accomplished by the project collaborators drawn from the five cooperating institutions, Tuskegee University (lead institution), Auburn University, North Carolina State University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network.

Introduction:

The overall project goal was to enhance organic agriculture knowledge-base and practical skills of Extension personnel, mentor farmers and NRCS personnel, from three SSARE states including Alabama, North Carolina and Arkansas. This was achieved by conducting a two-day workshop hosted by Tuskegee University from May 17-18, 2011 and a three-day advanced and hands-on training hosted by North Carolina State from June 17-19, 2012. For the basic workshop, a total of 55 trainees attended where the following topics were covered: General Principles of Organic Production; Overview of the Organic Farming Industry; Healthy Soils and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) as the Foundation of a Good Organic System; Insect Pest Management in Organic Farming Systems; Organic Farming and Food Safety; Economics of Organic Farming and Related Issues; Marketing of Organic Products; and Organic Standards and Certification. The workshop also included a roundtable discussion on the viability of organic farming in the Southeast. The workshop concluded with a field visit to a successful certified organic farm in Barbour County, Alabama. A total of 48 participants were involved in the advanced and hands-on training in North Carolina, where a wide range of topics, including the art of composting, cover crops assessment, organic pest control methods, and organic tillage were covered. The hands-on exercises included visiting three farms, an educational farm, a tailgate market, and four restaurants who buy from local farmers. It also included moderated discussions so participants could share what would work best in their own programs and states.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Jeanine Davis
  • Dr. Leonard Githinji
  • Dr. Charles Mitchell
  • Dr. Obadiah Njue
  • Karen Wynne

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

To accomplish the first objective of organizing and conducting a series of in-class workshops and hands-on training exercises, professionals from the five cooperating institutions gathered research-based knowledge and presented it to the target audience covering the following topics: General Principles of Organic Production; Overview of the Organic Farming Industry; Healthy Soils and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) as the Foundation of a Good Organic System; Insect Pest Management in Organic Farming Systems; Organic Farming and Food Safety; Economics of Organic Farming and Related Issues; Marketing of Organic Products; and Organic Standards and Certification. The two day workshop was hosted by Tuskegee University on May 17-18, 2011 where a total of 55 trainees attended. Educational resources developed by the professionals were used during the training workshop. The workshop included a roundtable discussion on the viability of organic farming in the Southeast and a concluded with a field visit to a successful certified organic farm in Barbour County, Alabama.

A teleconference meeting of collaborators was conducted in July 2011 to discuss the outcome and feedback from the training workshop. The lessons learnt were used for planning and improving the advanced workshop and hands-on experiential learning in North Carolina State. Preparation of organic demonstration plots for the advanced hands-on experiential learning at North Carolina State University was accomplished between October 2011 and April 2012. A three-day advanced and hands-on training was hosted by North Carolina State from June 17-19, 2012, where a wide range of topics, including the art of composting, cover crops assessment, organic pest control methods, and organic tillage were covered. A total of 48 participants were involved in the advanced and hands-on training. To get the most of this training, participants were encouraged to actively participate; ask questions, give opinions, challenge practices and statements that they didn’t agree with, and share their knowledge and experiences. There were group assignments where participants were divided into six groups and assigned one problem per group to work on and create an appropriate extension solution for it. After working the problem, each group gave a 10 minute presentation with their solutions followed by 5 minutes for discussion.

The second objective of compiling and distributing educational resources was achieved during the period May to September 2011. Each collaborator contributed in their area of expertise in organic agriculture while tapping research based knowledge from several sources, including the USDA National Agricultural Library, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM), Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Rodale Institute, ATTRA- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, and The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, among others. Each collaborator was assigned 1-2 topics for compiling educational resources that were posted on Tuskegee University homepage. Educational resources developed were disseminated to the target audience including posting them on Tuskegee University homepage. The impact of the training workshop was evaluated by Tuskegee University using pre- and post-tests, self-reporting, as well as follow-up interviews.

Outreach and Publications

  1. Githinji, L., J. Davis, O. Njue, K. Wynne, F. Quarcoo, N. Tackie, D. Fields. Organic Agriculture Training Materials for the Professionals in the Southeast. http://www.tuskegee.edu/about_us/outreach/cooperative_extension/organic_agriculture_hands-on_training/organic_resources.aspx

    Taylor, D., L. Githinji. 2012. Soil Management Guide. Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (TUCEP).

    Taylor, D., L. Githinji. 2012. Poultry Litter Compost. Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (TUCEP).

    Taylor, D., L. Githinji. 2012. Transplanting Blueberries. Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension Program (TUCEP).

Outcomes and impacts:
  • A total of 55 Extension personnel, mentor farmers and NRCS personnel received extensive basic training in organic agriculture.

    A total of 48 Extension personnel, mentor farmers and NRCS personnel received advanced hands-on training exercise.

    Several educational resources were developed and disseminated to the target audience including posting them on Tuskegee University homepage.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The results revealed positive short-and medium-term impacts of the educational program with majority of participants reporting increased awareness, increased knowledge and confidence in teaching about organic farming practices.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

This program was very well received by the Extension personnel, mentor farmers and NRCS personnel. We anticipate a potential for increasing the number of organic farmers and certified organic operations in the southeast, particularly the three states-Alabama, Arkansas, and North Carolina.

Future Recommendations

Following the success of this project, we recommend additional funding to extend it to other SSARE states including Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and South Carolina.

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.