Final report for ES17-131

Transition to Sustainability in Small-Scale Vegetable Production: Hands-on training for agriculture professionals and educators

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $79,520.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Alliance of Sustainable Farms
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Keith Benson
Alliance of Sustainable Farms
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Project Information

Abstract:

The Alliance of Sustainable Farms (Alliance) and its partners will support the transition to sustainability in small-scale vegetable production by providing hands-on training for agricultural professionals, educators, providers, and farmer group leaders. Two half-day training sessions will be conducted on a quarterly basis at locations around the state. Project objectives include conducting field days/hands-on trainings and promoting the adoption of critical sustainable practices and appropriate technologies.

Expected measurable outcomes include: improved participant understanding and appreciation of topics/issues and participant willingness to incorporate project information into products and educational tools they share with farmers and others. After being trained, participants will help conduct the Alliance’s on-going field days/trainings for farmers, achieving the longer term outcomes of reaching farmers and gaining their commitment to adopt critical sustainable practices and appropriate technologies. Monitoring and evaluation will be an on-going process during the project; involving pre-and-post assessments completed by participants, trainers, and farmers, as well as, mid-project and final evaluations.

Project Objectives:

Objectives
Objective 1: To conduct 14 field days/hands-on trainings for 490 agricultural professionals, educators, providers, and farmer group leaders on critical sustainable practices and appropriate technologies; and
Objective 2: To demonstrate and promote the adoption of 7 critical sustainable practices and appropriate technologies.

Education

Educational approach:

Project partners are proposing to conduct 14 field days/hands-on trainings for 490 agricultural professionals, educators, providers, and farmer group leaders on critical sustainable practices and appropriate technologies. Two half-day training sessions will be conducted on a quarterly basis, with an average of 35 participants per sessions. Sessions will be held in different regions of the state on consecutive days to maximize participation and help with logistics.     

The Alliance and its partners started conducting monthly field days/training sessions for farmers and others in 2012. A curriculum and annual training schedule was developed with input from top experts, providers, farmer groups, and farmers. As field days continued, the curriculum was refined based on several “positive lessons” learned. Participants improved their understanding of subjects/topics; and applied new knowledge, principles, and practices to their farming operations. Farmers grew more, grew more sustainably, and increased sales. Field days demonstrated that farmers will respond positively to hands-on experiential learning opportunities and smaller group settings.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Education and Outreach Initiatives
Objective:

Project collaborators and farmer groups will help promote the project and ensure meaningful participation in field days/trainings.

Description:

FieldDay Flier 12-13-2019 FINAL PDF

FieldDayAgenda 12-13-2019 FINAL PDF

FieldDay Flier 2-3-2020 Draft PDF

FieldDay Flier 2-21-2020 Draft PDF

FieldDay Flier 2-22-2020 Draft PDF

ASF-SARETrainingsFlier DEC5and62017FINAL PDF

FieldDayAgenda 12-5-2017 PDF

FieldDayAgenda 12-6-2017 PDF

ASF-SARETrainingsflier MARCH6and72018 PDF

FieldDayAgenda 3-6-2018 PDF

FieldDayAgenda 3-7-2018 PDF

ASF-SARETrainingsFlier JUNE5and6 2018 PDF

FieldDayAgenda 6-5-2018 PDF

FieldDayAgenda 6-6-2018 PDF

ASF-SARETrainingsFlier SEPTEMBER4and5 2018 PDF

FieldDayAgenda 9-4-2018 PDF

FieldDayAgenda 9-5-2018 PDF

Planned project activities included conducting 14 field days/hands-on trainings for 490 agricultural professionals, educators, providers, and farmer group leaders on critical sustainable practices and appropriate technologies.  We were not able to complete all activities as planned due to an unexpected event host site closing, scheduling conflicts, and severe weather conditions.  However, we have conducted 8 field days/hands on trainings and have scheduled the remaining 6 field days/hands-on trainings.  Tranings conducted and trainings planned as as follows:

TRAININGS CONDUCTED:

(Two Sessions) Year-round Production: High Tunnels, Low Tunnels, Field Production, and Appropriate Technologies

Tuesday, December 5, 2017, MSU Beaumont Horticulture Unit, Beaumont, MS

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, Levee Run Farm, Greenwood, MS

 

(Two Sessions) Irrigation, Water Management, and Appropriate Technologies

Tuesday, March 6, 2018, Small Farm Training Center, Carriere, MS

Wednesday, March 7, 2018, Jumpertown High School, Booneville, MS

 

(Two Sessions) Integrated Pest and Disease Management; and Appropriate Technologies

Tuesday, June 5, 2018, Ole Brooke Organics, Brookhaven, MS.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018, MSU North Mississippi Research and Extension Center, Verona, MS

 

(Two Sessions) Expanding Market Opportunities, and Appropriate Technologies: Growing and Selling Directly to Consumers and On-line Presence/Social Media

Tuesday, September 4, 2018, NCAT Demonstration Farm, Piney Woods, MS

Wednesday, September 5, 2018, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Choctaw, MS                                            

TRAININGS PLANNED:

(Two Sessions) Practical Food Safety for Small-Scale Farmers, and Appropriate Technologies

Friday, December 13, 2019 – Mynelle Gardens, Jackson. MS

Monday, February 3, 2020 – Alcorn State University, Lorman, MS.

 

(Two Sessions) Growing Farm Profits: Recordkeeping, Data Collection, Analysis, and Appropriate Technologies 

Friday, February 21, 2020 – Ole Brooke Organics, Brookhaven, MS.

Saturday, February 22, 2020 – Ole Brooke Organics, Brookhaven, MS

 

(Two Sessions) Soil Health, Crop Selection, Seed Starting, and Appropriate Technologies

Friday, March 20, 2020 – Location TBA

Friday, March 21, 2020 – Location TBA

 

Even though the Alliance and its partners started and were proceeding to implement planned field days/trainings; we were not able to complete all activities as scheduled because of unexpected event site closings, scheduling conflicts, and severe weather conditions. In response, a 12-month no cost extension was requested and approved.

As project implementation continued, it was clear that some budget adjustments were necessary because of the no cost extension approved earlier. A budget revision requested by the Alliance to allow completion of project activities was approved. The budget revision allowed movement of funds between operating budget line items and did not change the scope of the project.

As previously reported, the Alliance and its partners scheduled the remaining six field days/trainings for: December 13, 2019; February 3, 2020; February 21, 2020; February 22, 2020; March 20, 2020; and March 21, 2020. (SEE ATTACHED FLIERS, AGENDAS, ETC.)  

The December 2019 SARE field day/training was conducted as planned, along with other Alliance events in December 2019 and January 2020. However, SARE field days/trainings scheduled for February 2020 and March 2020 were negatively impacted by the growing Coronavirus Pandemic. The Alliance and its partners completed all work to confirm host sites, trainers, agendas, and started promoting the events.  As Coronavirus virus infections climbed, Alliance partners and other institutions started postponing and cancelling events. Ultimately, SARE field days/trainings scheduled for February and March 2020 were planned, scheduled, and promoted; but had to be cancelled. It is also regrettable that even though the Alliance spent the last four months moving its demonstration farm and re-starting operations at a wonderful new location, its 2020 monthly field days/trainings have also been negatively impacted by the Coronavirus. The Alliance and farm workers at its new demonstration farm has been directly impacted by the Coronavirus.    

Outcomes and impacts:

Improved participant understanding and appreciation of topics/issues and participant willingness to incorporate project information into products and educational tools they share with farmers and others.  After being trained, participants will help conduct on-going field days/trainings for farmers, achieving longer term outcomes of reaching farmers and gaining their commitment to adopt critical sustainable practices and appropriate technologies.  

Educational & Outreach Activities

9 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

127 Extension
37 Others

Learning Outcomes

392 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
294 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

294 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
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.