Helping Agricultural Professionals and Mentoring Farmers to Train Previously Unreached Farmers about Sustainable Agriculture

Progress report for ES20-158

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $80,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Grant Recipients: Kentucky State University; Kentucky Center for Agricultural Development
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Cynthia Rice
Kentucky State University
Dr. Maheteme Gebremedhin
Kentucky State University
Dr. Buddhi Gyawali
Kentucky State University
Dr. Shawn Lucas
Kentucky State University
Dr. Marion Simon
Kentucky State University
Dr. Leigh Whittinghill
Kentucky State University
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Project Information


For this project, we will develop curricula and educational modules about sustainable agriculture. The training curricula and modules will be developed from research-based information and/or existing models and used to train Extension agents, local NRCS and state agricultural professionals, and mentor farmers in a “train-the-trainer” format. The goals are to develop the sustainable agriculture curricula and modules, train agricultural professionals and mentor farmers to use these materials, and pass the information to the targeted farmer groups through county meetings, one-on-one meetings, and multiple additional training venues. The targeted end users are new and beginning farmers; small-scale, limited-resource, and socially disadvantaged farmers; and farmers and their families who are low literacy and/or have limited English proficiency (LEP). Emphasis will be placed on the training needs of 1890 and 1862 Extension professionals and mentor farmers who work with beginning, Appalachian, women, low literacy, small-scale, socially disadvantaged, and underserved farmers. The modules will include training programs on best management practices, sustainable agriculture practices, organic production systems, soils, urban agriculture systems and opportunities, livestock production, pastured poultry production, and horticultural crops that are suitable for new, beginning, socially disadvantaged, and limited-resource farmers. Additionally, a limited number of production systems that were successfully used by farmers and farm families in the past will be tested and developed into educational modules if they appear to be sound sustainable agriculture practices.

Project Objectives:

Project Objectives

OBJECTIVE 1: Develop sustainable agriculture curriculums and modules (approximately 1.5 hours each) that are suitable for new and beginning farmers; women, small-scale, limited-resource, Appalachian, and socially disadvantaged farmers; low literacy and/or LEP farmers; and farmers who are traditionally underserved. Identify skill sets to be incorporated into the modules.


OBJECTIVE 2: Train 1890 and 1862 Extension agents, USDA and state agency professionals, and mentor farmers on the curricula and modules. Emphasis will be placed on the training needs of 1890 and 1862 Extension professionals and mentor farmers who work with beginning, Appalachian, women, low literacy, small-scale, socially disadvantaged, and underserved farmers.


OBJECTIVE 3: Assist 1890 and 1862 Extension agents and professionals to understand the special training needs of new, beginning, socially disadvantaged, low literacy, historically underserved, and limited-resource farmers with respect to implementing sustainable agriculture practices on their farms and utilizing the modules and curricula.

Project Activities

  1. Develop curricula, modules, and skill set training activities using existing, historical, and newly developed research-based materials for Extension agents, state and local USDA professionals, mentor farmers, and others.
  2. Refine and revise modules and curricula through evaluations and three focus group sessions composed of Extension agents, mentor farmers, and other agricultural professionals.
  3. Provide training on up-to-date sustainable agriculture methods, theory, and curricula and modules to Extension and other agricultural professionals and mentor farmers. Training activities include programs during three KSU Third Thursdays, two KSU Small, Limited Resource, Minority Farmers Conferences, two Kentucky Women in Agriculture Conferences, two Eastern Kentucky Farmers’ Conferences, two 1890/1862 district Extension agent trainings, two KSU quarterly agent training programs, and one-on-one training opportunities. From this, we expect all of the 1890 agriculture Extension agents, 40% of the 1862 agricultural Extension agents, and 25 mentor farmers to be trained on curricula and modules. The Kentucky Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (KCARD) will also provide mentor farmer training activities.
  4. Develop and administer a follow-up survey to assess whether the materials were used in farmer training activities.
  5. Conduct three focus group sessions to determine if agricultural professionals had a behavior change related to the targeted farmer populations or sustainable agriculture.


Educational approach:

There have been many focus groups from different grant endeavors who have asked for information in a more friendly, bite sized manner. Farmers and agricultural community particpants have voiced their need and desire for information. Many farmers are continuously muti-tasking but will find they have a few minutes here and there and would be interested in viewing short videos, including little animation shorts, YouTube, on site videos of farms and other short informative, internet-viewable formats including videos.  Everything from business hacks, latest best practices, historical and pioneering articles on current sustainable practices and buzzword explanations are all requests that farmers have made verbally and in written comments.

Many free and some paid conferences, workshops, videos and publications have been researched and are in the process of being developed into various formats for access.  Kentucky State University is in the process of allocating a resource page with possible subpages for the agricultural community (no matter if a new beginning farmer or a long-time farmer) to access to stay up to date on new practices, deeper info on lightly skimmed topics or historical information from the grassroots founding of today's common practices.

Everything from climate change and its impacts to the leaders of the organic and regenerative movement back in the late 1800s and early 1900s is being researched and gathered for conversion to short, informational, internet-delivered spots. PDFs and other handouts will also be available on the website as they are developed. These items are in addition to the traditional fact sheets and pamphlets available.

These tools will be exposed to the farming community for feedback and then incorporation into workshops and educational venues.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Workshops, Seminars and Professional (Extension agents, specialists and staff) training

To bring information to Extension professionals and agricultural leaders on current topics, historical support for today's practices, education on climate change/sustainability and permaculture to help farmers adopt practices beneficial to their operations.


Storymaps, PDFs, animation shorts and education on various internet applications for business operations, agricultural practices and marketing initiatives.

Many are start of the animations and storymaps but only the tests are included here. (Click on the hyperlinks.)

Hello Farmer (

Are you positive or negative (

Regeneration what about generation (

Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink (

What trees got to do with it (

In collaboration with other staff at Kentucky State University, products have been and are being developed for SAP (Summer Apprenticeship Program) STEM based (2020 & 2021), 4H summer camp (2021), Third Thursday presentations and individual support to the agricultural community, including outreach to schools.

Some fact sheets: in Publishers but won't let it be uploaded

Extension can help with that

Potting Mixes

Things to think upon - Learning from our forefathers


Due to COVID, these activities are in various states of completion.




Outcomes and impacts:

COVID has impacted the delivery of these activities to the public.

Educational & Outreach Activities

3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
4 Online trainings
6 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Other educational activities: COVID and social distancing prevented in-person contacts, and number of attendees for online presentations was unavailable.
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.