Motivating Teams for Enterprise Facilitation

Final Report for ES98-038

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1998: $96,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. James Worstell
Delta Land & Community
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Project Information

Abstract:

Sustainable agriculture requires farmer-owned processing and marketing. By facilitating creation of the teams of skills needed for such efforts, agents helped farmers in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee start dozens of businesses in such areas as fresh vegetables, organic soybean export, fresh water shrimp, sucrose epoxy, hybrid rice, sweet potatoes, etc. Workshops, case studies, a handbook, the first Entrepreneurial Agriculture website, an annual multi-state conference, and a network of technical assistance providers were created to assist these efforts. These elements have been emulated by other agencies, adopted in states outside the South, and led to international recognition of the Delta Enterprise Network.

Project Objectives:

1. Create a social infrastructure for development of sustainable agricultural enterprises.

2. Develop agents’ skills in enterprise facilitation.

3. Develop a mechanism for self-sustaining multiplication of enterprise facilitation skills.

Introduction:

A west Tennessee farmer, working with Extension staff and non-profit staff has changed from conventional, chemically-intensive cotton production and converted nearly his whole farm to the far more profitable production of organic soybeans which he bags and ships direct to Japan. Another Delta farmer helped friends create a new business which has improved his soil, his yield and his crops’ drought tolerance though composted cotton “gin trash.” Recently he celebrated the conversion of the biggest farm in his county to use of composted gin trash.
These are just a few of the many examples facilitated by a growing network of facilitators and mentors of sustainable agricultural enterprises in the Delta. Facilitation and mentoring successes have also been achieved in organic cotton, kenaf, organic corn, and other environment-enhancing agricultural enterprises.
The problem these enterprises address, however, is immense. For example, total nitrogen flux into the Gulf of Mexico from the Delta region of western Tennessee and Kentucky and northeast Arkansas is 2072 kg/km2/yr while the rest of Kentucky and Tennessee average 437 kg/km2/yr and northwest Arkansas and Oklahoma average only 108 kg/km2/yr (Alexander, et al., 1996).
One Delta Extension leader estimates 95% of Delta farmers would change their production practices if marketing options were available (Bonner, 1995). Multiplying sustainable new enterprises throughout the region is the goal of our group of agency and non-profit staff and farmer/entrepreneurs in the northern Delta. This group is helping innovative farmer/ entrepreneurs not just to have successful enterprises, but to spread new attitudes, new skills and a new sense that change is possible in the Delta. As detailed on the web site (www.deltanetwork.org) results of many studies show that the dominant mental model or paradigm of the Delta has resulted in self-perpetuating cycle of pessimism, polarization and poverty.
Extension, NRCS, USDA/Rural Development and non-profit staff are well-positioned to catalyze a responsive, empowering network for environmental and economic change. In other regions, such supportive networks of facilitators have been key to both ecological and economic improvements in rural areas. Many agriculture and natural resource colleges in Australia and New Zealand have established curricula and degree programs for facilitation. The result has been reduction in environmental problems and vibrant agricultural economies despite removal of commodity support programs. Even though U.S. agriculture is facing some of the same challenges, there are no U.S. training programs for facilitation of agricultural systems.
The most experienced people in environmental and rural development circles note that a crucial need is more people who can organize and facilitate group efforts (e.g., Patrie, 1996). But actually learning these skills is much more than simply mastering the bodies of knowledge. These skills are best acquired through learning by doing, also called experiential education and “active learning systems” Bawden (1991).
This practical, holistic approach to facilitation has proven successful in several parts of the South (Savory, 1988; van Willingen and Absher, 1986). The University of Kentucky used these methods to facilitate group planning and found previously obstructionist farmers and community members were singing the praises of Extension in public meetings and in print. Absher (1995) contends that agricultural systems are in a state of transition where networks, collaboration, access and empowerment are the tools which will best serve Extension. The national strategic plan for extension released in 1994, encouraged extension agents to become facilitators of networks.
A vast literature exists on the success of networks of rural enterprises in coordinating manufacturing and marketing to increase profitability (e.g., Levin, 1993). Extension, NRCS and Rural Development agents could be a region-wide catalyst for the emergence of a new entrepreneurial agriculture, which, according to one College of Agriculture Dean, is the “next wave in agriculture” (Rogers, 1997).
Extension, not research, will have to take the lead in entrepreneurial agriculture. Holt and Schoorl (1993) note that two different perspectives in agriculture are required for different types of problems. The quantitative, laboratory-oriented “scientific” perspective is useful for physical and biological problems which can be replicated in controlled situations. However, creation of new agricultural enterprises requires the “professional” perspective, because there is “virtually no data” (Jones, 1995) amenable to replicable, laboratory analysis.
Southern agriculture has benefitted from visionary approaches of Southern Extension leaders since Tuskegee Institute’s Jesup wagon and Seaman A. Knapp’s demonstrations with farmers in Louisiana and Texas which led to the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. More recently, the South has been the site of some of the most successful educational efforts related to sustainable agriculture. Extensive promotion of IPM has led to a reduction in cotton pesticide use from 3 times more than corn to half that of corn (Hearn and Fitt, 1992).
However, bureaucracies and entrepreneurship usually mix about like oil and water. Gibbons and Sethi (1993) show how some conservative bureaucracies have managed to buck this trend and embrace innovation. How can Extension best help farmers become innovators, quit competing on cost alone, and begin creating the new production systems which anticipate consumer demand? The business management literature is clear and consistent. As Delaney (1993) shows, a key characteristic of successful small firms is seeking multiple sources of information in order to put together the industry-transforming innovations. In rural areas of the South, a key factor influencing rates of entrepreneurship, according to Reid (1988), is quality of communication and information flow–which is one factor Extension and NRCS agents are well-positioned to influence. Flora and Flora (1993) report that communities displaying high levels of local initiative for entrepreneurial activity have certain defined characteristics including: flexibility, continual learning, encouraging debate on multiple perspectives. They call this entrepreneurial social infrastructure. We propose to develop a cadre of agents in the Delta who will be the foundation for such infrastructure.
With financial assistance from a planning grant from SARE/PDP, the conference “Entrepreneurial Agriculture in the Delta” was held on November 13, 1997 in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Over 125 people attended. Pre-conference and post-conference questionnaires measured participants’ interests in and need for training in sustainable enterprise development. A number of local farmer/entrepreneurs and nationally known workers in value-added diversification led discussions. Results of this conference led to the following project.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

This project began with recruitment of a Steering Committee which began an integrated planning/evaluation process with extensive input from attendees at a regional conference. The conference “Entrepreneurial Agriculture in the Northern Delta” held November 13, 1997 in Dyersburg, Tennessee. Forty-four of the 125 participants were Extension agents, 35 were USDA/NRCS and Rural Development agents and 23 were farmers.
Steering committee members include Lorna McMahon, farmer from Tiptionville, TN; Herb Lawrence, Director, Small Business Development Center, Arkansas State University; Chris Moyers, USDA/NRCS/RC&D, Jackson, TN; Dr. Robert Jenkins, University of Tennessee Extension; Keith Martin, University of Arkansas Extension, Blytheville, AR; Dr. Ari Mwachofi, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff; Dr. Tim Woods, University of Kentucky; and Dr. Jim Worstell, Delta Land and Community.
1. The committee released a Request for Business Proposals (RFBP) to Extension, NRCS and USDA/Rural Development staff in the Delta region of NE Arkansas and western Kentucky and Tennessee. The goal of the RFBP was to recruit agent/entrepreneur pairs to become an initial cadre of facilitators and mentors.
2. Selection of agent/entrepreneur pairs. Nearly half of participants in the Dyersburg meetings reported they knew an entrepreneur they could partner with to develop a business plan, so we expected scores of responses to the RFBP. Each pair was to receive $1000 to cover expenses incurred in achieving project objectives, training in key areas of sustainable enterprise development, and assistance in resource and information network development. In return, the participants were to agree to pass along their skills to other agents and farmers, develop case studies of 3 local agricultural businesses, and develop a presentation featuring the enterprise for the Delta Marketplace of Ideas. We found, however, that this process did not result in significant interest. So, instead, the case studies were conducted by staff in Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. The case studies focused on key early venture decisions made by farmer entrepreneurs. All cases followed a consistent format. Specifically, the cases investigated how the entrepreneurs (1) identify and develop their business idea, (2) develop their initial market, (3) capitalize their effort, (4) deal with regulatory issues relating to their specific venture, and (5) manage growth, particularly in the early stages following a successful launch.
The cases have become a valuable teaching tool now available as resources for educational programs targeted to develop other farmer entrepreneurs. They have each been peer reviewed by professional ag economics and extension specialists, made available in print and web format, and will ultimately be compiled as a collection in a farmer entrepreneur casebook.
of case studies will be presented. Before this next training, each selected agent will be responsible for exploring three existing agricultural businesses in his community. These case studies will explore how each business got started in the county. Special emphasis will be on mentors and facilitators of each business. Each agent will be encouraged to explore development of value-added businesses or businesses which diversified the agricultural economy in the county. Agents will describe these three businesses’ origins at the next meeting.
3. Training was conducted in all three states in five areas based on the results of the Dyersburg surveys. Directed dialogue and informal discussion sessions was a prominent feature of each training event. Each event will be preceded by an exchange of current needs among all project participants. Five general categories of training will be conducted.
1. Basics of business plans.
2. Financial and credit management
3. Facilitation of groups and networks.
4. Policy and government assistance.
5. Emerging markets and market strategy.

4. Network building. Enterprise-specific networks were established to meet particular needs of each enterprise. Two types of state-level networks were established: networks of farmer/entrepreneurs and networks of facilitators and service providers. A third level is regional and national networks for cross-fertilization of ideas across state and market boundaries.
5. North Dakota Marketplace visit. To obtain first-hand knowledge, state representatives of the project attended the yearly “Marketplace” event in Bismarck, ND, which helped catalyze value-added diversification in the Northern Plains and has already been copied in Northern states. In addition to attending organizing sessions the night before and the event itself, Delta participants met with organizers, former Agriculture Commissioner Sara Vogel and present Deputy Commissioner Jeff Weispfennig in addition to “Marketplace” coordinator Marilyn Kipp.
6. Institutional buy-in from all states in region. Each state coordinator recruited all major agricultural organizations (e.g., Department of Agriculture, Farm Bureau, commodity groups) to participate in the “Delta Marketplace”.
8. Delta Marketplace of Ideas. “Entrepreneurial Agriculture” conferences were held in late fall 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001. In addition, two states spun off their own conferences in early 2002. Tennessee organized and produced the “Marketplace of Ideas in Agriculture” Conference on January 3, 2002 and Kentucky organized and held the Kentucky Opportunity Marketplace on January 28-29 in Frankfort, KY. Both of these followed the model of the North Dakota Marketplace of Ideas and were planned by staff of this project along with others sent to visit North Dakota by this project.
9. Establishment of a directory and central clearinghouse. In conjunction with the Delta Marketplace of Ideas, each state involved in the project released summary publications describing resources available to facilitate sustainable enterprises in the Delta. These publications provide basic contact and background information needed to keep the network strong and growing and assist in forming sub-networks. Included are be governmental and non-profit sources of information and assistance organized by state. Each publication is distributed throughout each state.

Outreach and Publications

Farmer Entrepreneur Cases
A series of case studies were developed in collaboration with project partners in Tennessee and Arkansas. The case studies focused on key early venture decisions made by farmer entrepreneurs. Specifically, the cases investigated how the entrepreneurs (1) identify and develop their business idea, (2) develop their initial market, (3) capitalize their effort, (4) deal with regulatory issues relating to their specific venture, and (5) manage growth, particularly in the early stages following a successful launch.

The cases have become a valuable teaching tool now available as resources for educational programs targeted to develop other farmer entrepreneurs. They have each been peer reviewed by professional ag economics and extension specialists, made available in print and web format, and will ultimately be compiled as a collection in a farmer entrepreneur casebook.

The cases developed, reviewed, and published to date include the following:

Iowa Soy Specialties, M. Ernst & T. Woods
Green River Preconditioned Cattle Sale, M. Ernst & W. Mattingly
Pecans in Paducah, M. Ernst
Red Barn Farms, M. Ernst
Little Mountain Apple Butter and Jellies, B. Sanders
The Pumpkin Patch at Limoland, R. Holland & B. Sanders
Bee Cliff Cabins, R. Holland & B. Sanders
Jones Orchard & Fine Fruit Products, R. Holland & B. Sanders
R-Grow Organic Soil Conditioner, R. Holland & B. Sanders
Purity Foods, M. Ernst & T. Woods
Fairview Produce Auction, M. Ernst

Several other cases are in the development stages and should be added to this collection soon. These cases have attracted wide attention amongst farmer entrepreneurs. The Green River Preconditioned Cattle Sale case is being translated into Spanish at the request of producers in the South U.S. and South America. The Purity Foods and Iowa Soy Specialties cases are being submitted for publication in academic journals.

PRIMER
A farm diversification decision tool was developed for related training by Tim Woods and Steve Isaacs. This workbook has been used in over a dozen training settings and has been published both in print and on the web. The six point evaluation process includes user-friendly worksheets to aid the farmer to evaluate important dimensions to a diversification decision; Profitability, Resources available and needed, Information sources, Marketing, Enthusiasm of the producer (and key partners) for the enterprise, and Risk. Over 2000 of these workbooks have been distributed and expanded training using this tool is anticipated to begin this winter in Kentucky.

Woods, Timothy and Steve Isaacs, “A PRIMER for Selecting New Enterprises for Your Farm” Agricultural Economics Extension Series No. 00-13, U Kentucky, College of Ag, August, 2000.

Ideas to Enterprise
A business planning workbook for farmers was developed by Tim Woods. Several training programs were provided in Kentucky based on these materials. The training specifically matched a county extension agent with a farmer entrepreneur of the agent’s choosing. The team worked through the intensive business plan development together with a view toward building the agent’s confidence in facilitating the development of future business plans. A total of fifteen teams completed the training and number of new farm-based enterprises were successfully launched as a result.

The worksheets developed in this program have been utilized in some of the subsequent coop development initiatives and as a resource for county agents to hand out to farmers that need direction in this area.

Additional Publications and Presentations
Woods, Timothy and Heath Hoagland, “Diversifying Agricultural Systems: An External Analysis of State Value-Added Programs”, Journal of Food Distribution Research, 31(1):204-214, 2000.
Woods, Timothy and Heath Hoagland, “Diversifying Agricultural Systems: An External Analysis of State Value-Added Programs”, research report presented at the Food Distribution Research Society meeting, San Antonio, TX, October, 1999
Woods, Timothy, Steve Isaacs, S. Darrell Mundy, and William Givan, “Educational Programs to Address the Economic Adjustments Facing Tobacco Farms and Rural Communities”, invited paper selected for presentation at the 1999 SAEA meetings, published in Journal of Agricultural & Applied Economics, 31(2), 1999.
Hoagland, Heath, Identifying Key Success Factors for Successful Farmer Entrepreneurs, A Multi-Case Study Methodology, Master’s Thesis, Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, forthcoming Fall, 2000

Outcomes and impacts:

The primary results of the project were: new and expanded sustainable agricultural enterprises in the Delta, support networks for facilitation of such enterprises at a variety of levels, and ongoing mechanisms [conferences, website, (www.deltanetwork.org) to support the network. The website showcases sustainable enterprises, training resources, and service providers throughout the region.

The results of the conferences are illustrated by what happened during and after one of them: Delta Opportunity Day in Dumas Arkansas. Evaluations by participants have been extremely positive. Some have said it was the best agriculture and best rural development conference they have ever attended. One hundred and fifty people signed in or registered at the conference and several others attended without registering. We highlighted eight industries with enormous potential to transform the Delta: fresh water shrimp, hybrid striped bass, healthy home insulation from cotton and kenaf, recycling using cotton gin equipment, identity-preserved grain, ethanol/feed plants which can accept aflatoxin-infected corn, sweet potato and aromatic rice. In addition to twelve speakers on these topics (hailing from Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas) we also had speakers on financing value-added diversification and presentations by several politicians, including Rep. Jay Dickey, Lt. Gov Rockefeller and numerous state legislators and state and federal agency staff..
In addition to recruiting potential partners for new industries for the Delta, a second purpose of this event was to continue increasing awareness of the opportunities presented by value-added diversification in rural areas. All mayors, county judges, radio stations and newspapers in the Arkansas Delta received at least two notices of the event. All media outlets received a follow-up press release. Several papers gave extremely high levels of visibility to the project. We are continuing to receive positive feedback from our Dumas Delta Opportunity Day, including requests from representatives of other new industries to participate next year.
Other activities immediately following the conference were individual meetings of principals in these industries with Delta communities and farmers. One result is the development of business plans for these key industries with local farmers, businessmen and communities. Two formal site visits have examined two communities as possible locations for new plants based on these industries.
Our initial goal of awareness-building has exceeded our expectations. The awareness-building process has taken on a life of its own. Notice of our project has been appearing in farm magazines and local papers without any contact from us. The resulting increased awareness of our project, added to the worsening farm economy, has led to a steadily increasing number of requests for assistance from a wide variety of local businesses. On the average recent day, following the conference we were contacted by two or more persons or groups seeking to set up new businesses and at least one agency with a new business possibility, in addition to the businesses we are already working with.
This work resulted in several very exciting new projects and several expansions of existing enterprises.
One new project is a venture to produce healthy home insulation from cotton gin trash, kenaf and recycled polyethylene (commodities all readily available in the region) and an epoxy adhesive made from sugarcane. In conventional insulation, the documented health problems attributed to fiberglass (increased levels of allergies and asthma and other respiratory problems in children) are accompanied by equally well-documented, but less well-known, enlargement of prostate glands and possible prostate cancer caused by the industry standard adhesive used to affix the fiberglass to the insulation backing. Research by ARS scientists shows conclusively that all allergenicity and carcinogenicity problems of conventional insulation are alleviated by creating insulation from the materials noted above. In addition, these materials can increase markets for cotton, create a new market for kenaf and remove the growing problem of waste polyethylene (the material of choice for irrigation tubes in the region). Finally, the nature of the commodities used requires that any new manufacturing facility be located close to sources of cotton and kenaf. This means that jobs created by manufacture of this healthy home insulation will be located our region.
Using the process described above we established partnerships between communities and entrepreneurs and developed initial business plans for an epoxy plant and a healthy home insulation plant for Phillips County. We have continued to assist several emerging industries previously identified and we have identified and begun to assist another emerging industry with huge untapped potential for the Delta.
Our efforts to recruit new industries and expand existing industries continue to bear fruit. Several producers are expanding production and adding jobs based on information we have supplied about new markets (e.g., in sweet potatoes, watermelons and blueberries). The curing required for sweet potatoes has enabled us to create a new collaborative venture with Chicot and Desha County farmers and a bank in Lake Village. These new and emerging industries (in addition to the three with initial business plans mentioned above include: recycling using cotton gin equipment, identity-preserved grain, ethanol/feed plants which can accept aflatoxin-infected corn, and aromatic rice) each have the potential to create hundreds of jobs in the Delta.
Recently we recruited to the Delta Enterprise Network a new industry: crawfish. In Moro, Arkansas, a family has combined wholesale crawfish production with a Cajun restaurant. The woman-owned restaurant uniquely benefits from the culinary skills of the owner, but crawfish production has potential for many rural communities in the Delta. We are working with the owners of this business to develop cost analyses, cash flow analyses and market analyses to assist this industry in expanding in one of the poorest parts of the Arkansas Delta region. To meet the need for capital for both the retail and production aspects of these interlocking businesses we have facilitated interaction with Good Faith Fund and the new Women’s Entrepreneurial Center.
Initial work has begun with an engineering firm regarding feasibility analysis for expansion of rice dryer activities, facilities for identity-preserved grain.
We have helped new blueberry and watermelon growers find production and marketing contacts and assistance.
We also conducted a feasibility analysis with Lee County residents regarding establishment of an Internet Service Provider for their area. This is a rural business with high levels of impact on quality of life and opening opportunities for job creation. Many rural areas of Arkansas are in need of such a business. We were able to connect Lee County residents with officials in several agencies which enabled them to overcome this hurdle and establish an ISP in their area.
Involvement of University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University in these efforts led to a partnership between these two institutions to assist emerging Delta businesses. Unfortunately, the University partners have decided to focus their efforts on non-agricultural businesses in the Jonesboro area. This will not assess the interlocked problems of rural poverty and agricultural crisis in southeast Arkansas.
These specific efforts have attempted to respond where enthusiasm is greatest to assist individual businesses. The process of developing whole industries, as opposed to individual businesses, requires the process detailed above. The emerging industries with most potential (fresh water shrimp, hybrid striped bass, healthy home insulation from cotton and kenaf, recycling using cotton gin equipment, identity-preserved grain, ethanol/feed plants which can accept aflatoxin-infected corn, sweet potato and aromatic rice) each has been addressed with several meetings between entrepreneurs, communities and industry experts. Potential for realization of additional new businesses in each of these industries is extremely high.
Most recent accomplishments of the network are:

1. Three new sweet potato businesses have begun,
2. Five new fresh water shrimp businesses are constructing facilities,
3. A bank commitment for capital for a sweet potato curing facility,
4. The first blueberry business in Southeast Arkansas has been established,
5. A new LLC has been established to commercialize the healthy home insulation technology,
6. Three new greenhouses are under construction for salad green production,
7. A new aromatic rice business has been created,
8. A watermelon production and marketing partnership has been established.
9. A new business to produce hybrid rice has been established.

This conference was so successful that Extension in Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri have combined efforts and made the conference an annual event. The success of this annual conference has resulted in two spin-off conferences using the same theme and approach. Tennessee Extension, Department of Agriculture, USDA/Rural Development and other agencies have joined with host University of Tennessee-Martin to conduct what appears to be the first of a new set of annual “Marketplace of Ideas in Agriculture” conferences in Tennessee. The first was held in Martin on January 3, 2002.
Kentucky held its spin-off, the Kentucky Opportunity Marketplace, based on a plan developed by this project’s staff, on January 28-29, 2002. This event was sponsored by the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board with participation from Extension and all other agricultural agencies in Kentucky.

New Collaborative Projects

The stress on collaboration with a variety of agencies has resulted in a number of new ventures in the region.

Cooperative Development
Cooperative development in the Delta area of Kentucky and other parts of the state has been a product of training and development efforts in facilitating new ag-based enterprises. UK, KDA, Commodity Growers Coop, and USDA Rural Business have partnered to form a coop development center. This center is the product of a one year planning grant that has successfully procured additional USDA funds to provide director and manager training, feasibility study & business planning assistance, industry strategic planning, and development/organizational support for new coops being launched. Outside expertise has been brought in to support the work of the members from the partner institutions to help with training programs, legal assistance, and with other special topics. Additional partnerships have been developed with private marketing agencies to help develop promotion and merchandising. The center currently partners with 16 other coop centers and development agencies around the country in Cooperation Works, a resource and information sharing network. Cooperatives or producer groups that have been actively served with direct assistance include those marketing produce (Eastern Kentucky Veg, Cumberland Farm Products, Central KY Veg, Green River Produce), aquaculture products (catfish), sorghum syrup (Appalachian Sweet Sorghum), herbs, ginseng, nursery, crafts, hogs, fruit, processed corn products, and chestnuts.

Market Research and Development for Value-added Products
Selected intensive entrepreneur development efforts have been undertaken with a view toward establishing a development model for other related efforts, particularly focusing on product development and marketing. Product market research has been increasingly requested from individuals and producer groups within agriculture. These products include various new aquaculture products (freshwater shrimp, paddlefish, largemouth bass), a fried green tomato product, value-added dairy products, food-grade soybean products, and processed meat products. This research has involved consumer sensory testing, attribute preference measuring, and market development needs within several market channels (restaurant, retail supermarket, wholesale, etc.). Each of these initiatives involved working through the steps of market research and product development with county extension agents persons from other service agencies with a view toward equipping them to help other entrepreneurs in their areas. Several major market development efforts have involved partnerships with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

New Crops Center- Horticulture
A New Crops Center is in the development stage that will emphasize a variety of horticultural and field crops. Small fruit (blackberries, red raspberries, etc.) specialty peppers, greenhouse floriculture, and native landscaping materials are the focal points of the first enterprises being examined by horticulture. The economics of production, including an evaluation of alternative production systems, as well as market development play an important role and are included as part of this initiative. Four ag economics faculty are affiliated with this project currently on both the horticulture and field crop efforts. This Center effort could be expanded greatly but has an opportunity to at least get started with some funds made available with the help of Senator McConnell.

This initiative has complemented the SARE farmer entrepreneur project as several cases and entrepreneur training clients have emphasized some of these high value horticultural crops (blackberries marketed at the Fairview Produce Auction, chestnut marketing, Red Barn Farms retail produce sales, etc.). The New Crops Center has leaned on the economics and marketing resources developed through the SARE project to complement the production research the Center provides.

Feasibility Study and Business Planning Assistance
Several regional efforts have focused on providing training and assistance in the preparation of feasibility studies and business plans. The SARE grant has been foundational to an effort to develop educational workbooks and cases and then provide training in the Northern Delta areas of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

A Federal-State Market Improvement grant (one in Kentucky and later one in Tennessee) was used to help agent-farm entrepreneur training in tobacco intensive production areas. A subsequent grant (ARC) allowed this training to be expanded to Appalachian counties.

An extensive business planning curriculum has been developed by NxLeveL for agricultural entrepreneurs and is completing pilot stage offerings in Indiana and Ohio. This would involve a more explicit partnership with regional SBDC centers and would allow wide-scale training and assistance in Kentucky if adopted. Kentucky County Extension agents and Small Business Development Staff were certified to provide a variety of these courses that would include 20-25 producers in each class. Five of these courses are being planned for Winter 2001.

Direct Marketing
Considerable support has been provided from the College to help with various direct marketing efforts around the state. Farm market development, harvest festivals – linking producers with chefs, roadside market programs – linking with tourism, feasibility and development efforts with major farm market facilities, kitchen incubator facility development, and assistance with other direct marketing methods have been a part of several recent extension efforts.

This continues to be an area of high demand and potential impact. Kentucky lags behind much of the country on direct market sales per farm and there is considerable growth potential, especially for smaller scale producers.

Current projects also include a direct meat marketing effort in partnership with several other agencies, sheep and goat marketing, and electronic marketing.

General Discussion

The topic we are investigating is nothing new. John Gardner (1995) manager of the Carrington, North Dakota station has collected a series of revealing cartoons from newspapers of the 1920s which express a sentiment still shared by farmers today: the big need is for assistance in marketing not production research. In the 1930’s, federal government provided an answer: supply management of all major crops. These programs were nearly all emasculated over the years with only tobacco remaining intact for the benefit of small and moderate sized farms. Today, all agricultural interest groups agree, for sustainable agricultural systems, the biggest constraint is lack of appropriate marketing systems.
Within marketing concerns, a crucial area where polarization, combined with uncertainty and complexity, is endemic is vertical integration. In areas in the U.S. where industries have vertically integrated, the vast increases in market share have been roundly applauded by agricultural interests (e.g, poultry, catfish and horticulture, Estes and Ingram, 1987). Through expansion of vertically integrated operations, North Carolina moved from 7th to 2nd in hog production in the last 10 years (Luter, 1994).
Yet environmentalists decry such marketing innovations, contending, for example, that one goal of poultry integrators in the South is to create low prices at the farm gate while requiring that farmers have the best technology. The standard poultry contract system enables this. Those who cannot produce at the low price or find the capital to make obtain the latest technology will eventually have to quit and be left with their debts.
The sustainable agriculture literature is replete with references to the deleterious effects of vertical integration. A recent example is the plethora of criticisms of the Missouri and North Carolina swine industry following the waste spills of the summer of 1995 (e.g. Kidwell, 1995). Though many farmers are wary of integrators as mentioned above, there is much to learn from the successes of vertically integrated industries. Farmers want research and education to help them integrate production and marketing to create their own value-added enterprises.
The type of integration farmers are interested in is a local vertical integration in contrast with the industrial vertical integration which maintains farmers as commodity producers with less control over input choices, processing and marketing. As with most polarized, complex issues, however, this subtlety is often lost in the agriculture and environment debates.
Meanwhile, agricultural economists devote almost no time to this topic (Jones, 1995).

Why are we not getting the research farmers need?

Agricultural science is almost reflexively reductionist. Problems are divided into discrete, manageable components. This approach has been useful in solving narrow production problems, but it is impossible to study the emergent properties of wholes by studying the components of the whole. If an agricultural scientist looks for solutions in components, then the solutions will be discrete technologies that can be applied universally to specific, economically valuable commodities. Many behave as if it is their role to develop solutions that the market place can disseminate (MacRae et al, 1989). Many prominent agricultural scientists assert: patents are today more valuable to a scientist’s advancement in the average land grant than scientific papers. Farmers wonder ” why our tax money goes to create products we’ll have to buy in order to stay competitive.”
Ecological and economic studies of systems sustainability indicate a key characteristic of sustainable systems is resilience and flexibility resulting from robust feedback systems (e.g. Hansen et al., 1992; Harrington, 1992; Gray, 1991). Agriculture is getting feedback from a variety of sources that something is amiss. However, this evidence is largely ignored. Researchers receive their rewards by satisfying their peers: other researchers. Agricultural information systems need to access a variety of perspectives so that farmers and agricultural scientists can be more adaptive and resilient. This is not easy given the hold certain perspectives have on their adherents. Unless traditional research/extension perspectives change they will be overwhelmed from the outside: the recent successes of holistic resource management (Savory, 1988), biodynamic agriculture, permaculture (Mollison, 1988) are portents; the success of independent crop consultants is a challenging reality.
To many farmers, the original Morrill Act of 1862 appears to have evolved into an agricultural research establishment with only glancing contact with farmers and other agricultural system managers. As the organizers of agroecosystems, these managers are at the heart of any systems approach to agricultural research. Understanding of general systems theory, as detailed later, would require a significant portion of agricultural research be conducted with America’s farmers and other food and natural resource system managers.
The organizational structures of today’s land grant universities may not be flexible enough to meet the new challenges (Andrew, Hildebrand and Fajardo, 1993). Mainstream agricultural thinking may be too reluctant to challenge basic assumptions, too dogmatic, and too quick to become immersed in technical minutiae even though fundamental questions remain unaddressed (Lockeretz, 1988). Even LGU faculty often feel: “The majority of land grant colleges of agriculture are becoming redundant and out of date . . .” (Cambell, 1991).
Others believe the polar opposite: that no academic agricultural research should be devoted to these “mission-oriented” “strategic” areas. Though recognizing the importance of practical, applied work, Lockeretz (1995) titled a recent article: “Removing applied agricultural research from the academy.” He contends, as do many academics, that basic research is something to be kept pure–untainted by applied research. The research priorities of farmers, extension agents and policy-makers are likely to be dismissed by such basic science purists. If agricultural research is to be only “basic” research then basic researchers can more easily make the case that only they have the knowledge to choose research priorities.
During the glory years of agricultural research–when progress was fast and furious, farmers had no reason to object to the direction of agricultural research. But the successes of agricultural research in increasing yield have not been followed by sufficient success in social and environmental aspects of agriculture. If basic research is achieving a deepening understanding of these phenomenon, farmers, extension agents and policy-makers are not seeing the practical results of this basic, pure research.
Why do agricultural scientists not pick the most practical, strategic problems? Ikerd (1993b) provides one answer:

“Tenure and promotion require publications in scientific journals that generally are refereed and read by other scientists, not by farmers or other information users.”

Some administrators echo these ideas:

“Scientists and other professionals seek the answers to questions which are professionally satisfying within the norms of their professions and disciplines[–]the science-led paradigm . . .” (Grove and Edwards, 1993).

The needs and interests of other scientists, largely working in a research environment unlike that of any farmer or extension agent, determines research agendas. “Science has narrowed itself so thoroughly that it doesn’t look at very interesting issues anymore,” according to a former head of National Science Foundation (Mervis, 1995).
Chambers endorses this view in book: Challenging the Professions (1993). He contends that the various disciplines are basically sets of solutions agreed to be people who have similar jobs. They received their positions because these solutions worked in some arena in the past. These solutions have no necessary link to any crucial current problems of agriculture. Dedication to these solutions means members of disciplines redefine any problem so that their solutions can solve it. Farmers lack of profitability is defined as a need for higher yield, instead of a need for marketing alternatives. Chambers advocates a paradigm shift to a dynamic, action-oriented approach based on farmer initiatives.
A third approach recognizes the value of such new perspectives or paradigm, but advocates not adopting a new paradigm but entertaining multiple perspectives. With Grove and Edwards, Norgaard (1991) characterizes agricultural scientists as having a common vision of progress and a common faith in how Western science and technology could accelerate development. According to this approach, “knowledge consists of universal laws with universal applicability” or conceptual monism. Norgaard contends that agricultural scientists would benefit from conceptual pluralism which recognizes that systems and their relationships are continually in flux, any one particular conception is necessarily incomplete and can be improved if multiple other approaches are simultaneously.
Norgaard (1992) expanded his explication of this approach by noting:

“Discipline boundaries have impeded true implementation of interdisciplinary methodologies . . . because the assumptions, cultures, and paradigms within the disciplines have not been overcome.”

He contends that each discipline’s way of thinking is, by itself, incomplete. Each pattern of thinking makes assumptions about the nature of the world which cannot be proven objectively. Thus each way of thinking about the world is based on a set of ideas which ultimately must be accepted on faith. Narrowly disciplined scholars then have a tendency to develop a certain confidence, founded or unfounded, by mastering a culture. This is “a sort of disciplinary tribalism [emphasis added]: the belief that one’s own way of knowing and doing is the right and only way of knowing.” Norgaard outlines a program for creating adoption of a multiple-perspective approach would help create a sufficiently diverse menu of options needed in the face of change to create the resilience necessary for sustainability.
A multiple-perspective approach would be focused on providing multiple locally appropriate options which mesh with the decision-making needs of the managers of the ag systems: farmers, input suppliers, bankers and grain, livestock and vegetable dealers.
Disciplinary tribalism and peer review.
“Disciplinary tribalism” results in situations where all members of a discipline concur that “any rational person knows this is a better way to do things” even though farmers are extremely slow to adopt the practice, despite huge efforts on research and extension (McDonald and Glynn, 1994). The fact that disciplinary departments are the base units of management and funding agricultural research then makes disciplines the “immediate obstacle” in reforming agricultural institutions (Fischer and Zuiches, 1994:7).
The system of peer review through which academic research must travel these days is a qualitative process. Papers are rejected or accepted based on how well they meet the needs and assumptions of reviewers. Ideas which do not fit the mindset of the reviewers are unlikely to pass peer review, even though many editors try to search out the innovative.
A Dutch government research agency has included systems managers in its peer review of technology development research proposals. A study of the first round of grants awarded 10 years ago shows that commercial success was very accurately predicted by the evaluation panels. The lesson, to get the best research on particular systems, let systems managers in on the decision-making process. The Science report on the study says that unless agencies using traditional peer review can show they are doing a better job, the systems manager approach is best (Aldhous, 1993).
The approach of the Dutch program is being more widely advocated in Europe. Funtowicz and Ravetz (1991) contend that such “extended peer communities” may be required for insuring quality of research results given the lack of certainty regarding the route to solutions to agriculture’s environmental problems. They continue:

“We have now reached the point where a narrow scientific tradition is no longer appropriate to our needs. Unless we find a way of enriching our science to include practice, we will fail to create methods for coping with the environmental challenges in all their complexity, variability and uncertainty.”

Extended peer communities or “end-user review” may be required to break down disciplinary barriers to solution of the critical problems facing agriculture today. Peer review is being overhauled in some U.S. agencies (see, e.g., “NIH tunes up Peer Review,” Marshall, 1994),
The most radical approach, perhaps, advocates abandoning traditional scientific examination of agriculture. Adherents contend we must admit that each system is unique and that to understand a system one must be managing it. Creation of more sustainable agricultural systems may actually be inhibited by the procedures of traditional agricultural science. The leader of Washington State’s preeminent sustainable agricultural project (STEEP) goes even further:

“[S]cientific inquiry on the farm may actually impede the farmer’s inventive progress. Some farming system development projects take a research and development approach rather than a research and publish approach. In my opinion, these projects will have the most practical and immediate impact on agriculture” (Wuest, 1993).

An Australian approach to agricultural research policy may bear examination in the U.S. This approach assumes that viewing problems from multiple perspectives is increasingly required in agriculture. Agricultural research must take both a “professional” and a “scientific” perspective (Holt and Schoorl, 1993:79ff). Holt and Schoorl contend that the professional perspective (application of values and standards to enable scientific findings to address real-world problems) is often overwhelmed in agricultural research and education institutions by the quantitative, laboratory-oriented “scientific” perspective. In fact, Holt and Schoorl note that this latter perspective has come to dominate most agricultural institutions–leading to avoidance of real-world problems “because they do not lead to quantifiable analysis” (Holt and Schoorl, 1993:89).
The avoidance of alternative marketing and LOVA research because there is “virtually no data” (Jones, 1995) is probably the most egregious example of this avoidance of real-world problems, given the extremely high priority given by farmers and extension agents to this area.
The methodological challenges may run even deeper. Ikerd (1993b) contends that:
The efforts of science to tease apart causality through the logical concepts of “necessity and sufficiency fails to explicitly recognize the unique dynamics of managed ecosystems . . .[I]n dynamic systems the concept of causality becomes tenuous.”

Emerging methods for systems facilitation.

One major commodity-producing country, Australia has already faced these pucky problems. Australia abandoned commodity subsidies and instituted widespread agricultural policy reforms at about the same time in the late 1980s.
Australia now has a national sustainable agriculture program (Landcare) in which well over 40% of farmers are voluntarily participating by working together in local groups to restore their ecosystems. Australia has created an agricultural research funding system which has attracted huge funding from the private sector, invests in long term results instead of transient, short-term gains, and concentrates resources on key problems selected jointly by farmers and scientists (Research and Development Corporations). Australia has developed a system of encouraging research across disciplines and institutions to focus the best research talent on the problems most important to the country (Cooperative Research Centres).

How has this been accomplished?

How have all these changes occurred simultaneously? Many observe that these policy changes occurred following the creation of a training program for facilitation of group synthesis. This program was developed at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College, now University of Western Sydney-Hawkesbury. Richard Bawden and associates transformed the college into the College of Agriculture and Rural Development and developed the Systems Agriculture curriculum with bachelor, masters and Ph.D. degrees. The program focuses on establishing competencies in facilitation of farmer/researcher/extension networks and in understanding farming systems as learning systems co-evolving with their environment. As the program became well-known, nearly all Australian universities created similar degree programs and graduates spread through government, non-profits and industry.
These systems agriculture facilitators have used their skills to help others realize the benefits of working toward a new synthesis beyond tired old categories of thought. The result has been the transformations noted above in research organization, research funding and sustainable agriculture programs.
In the U.S., some tentative steps have been made in this direction. Extension already on the way with Strategic Plan of 1994 where endorsed movement to an empowerment approach. Extension services such as in Kentucky, who have taken this approach to heart are the most well-funded, even growing, Extension Services in the country (Swanson, 1994). For example, state legislators in 1994 drastically reduced funding to extension in many Southern states, but allocated new money for 50 agricultural agent positions in Kentucky. In other states, a recent survey of Delta farmers showed consultants advice was considered far more valuable than extension agents. Only 3% ranked extension as the best source of information (Delta Farm Press, 1995).
One consultant to 120 grain farmers contends that agriculture in America is industry-driven because industry views farmers as the key peers in technology development, whereas in academia, the only peers are other scientists (Swaim, 1994).
Sustainable innovations are adapted, not adopted. Any technological aspect of an innovation has non-technological implications. Separating technical from non-technical barriers is, therefore, impossible. Researchers understandably want to promote their innovations. But all too often, disciplinary control of the research agenda, divorced from farmer decision processes, creates at best innovations which lead to the technology treadmill and not to the flexibility necessary for resilience. At worst, it leads to white elephants or no technology at all. Agricultural research had its glory days when most researchers grew up on farms and knew the basic problems of farmers (Swanson, 1995).
The lack of adoption of many innovations has little to do with technical validity and most to do with lack of fit to the farmer’s system. Whenever researchers are out of touch with farmers, such examples will be legion (though rarely publicized since they are negative results).
How can we productively look at those “non-technical barriers to adoption”? First, the phrase, “non-technical barriers” makes a crucial assumption: that the technology is worthy of adoption. But, if adaptation, not adoption, is the foundation for incorporation of an innovation into a farm system, then we cannot really separate technical from non-technical barriers.
Both, however, can be addressed if a holistic systems approach is used. Long experience in IPM led Teng (1994) to contend that “farmer group learning appears to be the most effective way towards IPM adoption.” Farmers are always part of social systems which influence and may even control their behavior. A holistic approach would postulate that not understanding the emergent properties of whole social systems would lead to failures to catalyze farmer innovation.
In farming we all have procedures by which we plow, scout for alfalfa weevils, decide when to spray, decide how much to sidedress our corn. Some of these procedures operate mainly at a level where they influence a broad range of other patterns. If you really believe that “organic agriculture will not work,” this belief is more than a set of words you endorse in casual conversation. It is a way of thinking which influences all sorts of activities on your farm. Another pattern at this level involves not trying anything new till it works for your neighbors. This type of “social algorithm” acts to insure that all sorts of systems under its control (soil biota, beneficial insect habitat, new ideas of all sorts) evolve in ways consistent with itself.
According to this perspective, local leadership–the managers of social systems–can then insure conventional, traditional approaches or catalyze innovation. Local change agents will not be successful if they do not recognize the influence of social systems and their leadership.
Local leadership is usually a part of broader social systems which operate to influence the local social systems. The algorithms at this level could almost be called paradigms. One example is: “free market, rugged individualist, accept no charity, word hard, produce and act right, distrust government.” Another is: “nature is good, men are greedy, government programs are needed to control man.”
And at all these levels there are all sorts of ways of thinking and ways of doing things which have never been put into words but nonetheless structure the farmer’s existence such that an innovation must fit into them before it can be adopted.
A basic problem is that environmentalists, farmers and researchers of all stripes often appear convinced of the complete logical and empirical justification of their activities. In social interaction (including public policy creation), such naive realism serves to polarize rather than achieve the consensus.
Given these basic different assumptions, even when coalitions are achieved to a accomplish common objective, they fall apart. The underlying problem is that coalitions quickly fall apart unless the disparate parts can be unified around a new perspective, a new way of defining problems, a new paradigm. Simply bringing people together to talk–the “better communication will solve our problems” stance–achieves little of lasting value unless a new way of defining common problems emerges from the interaction.
Emerging methods.

Various Midwestern “participative research” efforts (e.g., Keeney, 1996 and King, Francis and Hestermann, 1966), Rapid Rural Appraisal (Conway et al., 1987; van Willigen and Absher, 1987), long-term focus groups (Murray and Butler, 1993), Farmer/Scientist Focus Sessions (McGrath et al., 19

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:
Impact of the results/Outcomes

Following are outcomes of our project for each of the objectives and sub-objectives.

1. Create a social infrastructure for development of sustainable agricultural enterprises.

1.1 Enterprise specific networks.

Though our project was just one of many factors in establishing the networks needed for establishment of new value-added ag businesses, we are confident that we contributed to stimulation of scores of new enterprise networks, one of which, fresh water shrimp, has reached the level of being an industry.
1.2 State networks.

State networks have been established in four states.

1.3 Multi-state, national networks

Growing attendance/interest: our first conference attracted 125 people, the most recent attracted 450.

1.3.1 Develop Delta Marketplace of Ideas on N.D. model

The conference received high marks from participants and agencies provided support to hold the conference annually for five years now. In addtion, this year, two states (Kentucky and Tennessee) funded their own conferences based on the model we developed.

2 Enterprise Facilitation Training.
enterprises created/expanded

3.1 Farmer/entrepreneurs become mentors
Many farmers we worked with directly have reported to us that they are working on new projects which involve other farmers.

3.2 Agents become facilitators
Other agents have begun facilitating new enterprises. Though we don’t have specific numbers, we know that only one agent in Kentucky was doing enterprise facilitation when we started and now agents in nearly every county in Kentucky have some activity facilitating value-added diversification.

3.3 Institutional network of support
Agencies and organizations have rated the effort highly. The best evidence of this is their support of the annual conference and their creation of two spin-off conferences.

3.4 Establish virtual Marketplace
The number of hits on our website increases monthly.

3.5 Publish Delta Marketplace Directory
Directory generates requests for assistance and inclusion

3.6 Establish integrated planning/evaluation mechanism
The project has continued to grow and evolve and has attracted funding from Kellogg Foundation, USDA/RBEG and many other state and federal sources.

Farmer Adoption

Though this project is just one factor in encouraging a farmer to pursue a new enterprise, we followed farmers involved in the Dumas, Arkansas conference carefully. As reported in detail above, the results were:
1. Three new sweet potato businesses begun.
2. Five new fresh water shrimp businesses are constructing facilities,
3. A bank commitment for capital for a sweet potato curing facility,
4. The first blueberry business in Southeast Arkansas has been established,
5. A new LLC has been established to commercialize the healthy home insulation technology,
6. Three new greenhouses are under construction for salad green production,
7. A new aromatic rice business has been created,
8. A watermelon production and marketing partnership has been established.
9. A new business to produce hybrid rice has been established.

Though we have not been funded to follow results of conferences stimulated by the Dumas conference, we feel confident that scores of farmers in five states have benefited. At the most recent conference spin-off of this effort, over 300 farmers attended. The potential benefits to SARE investment in this effort continue to accumulate long after SARE investment has ended.

Recommendations:

Future Recommendations

Areas Needing Additional Study

Many agencies servicing agriculture have been ill-equipped to help farmers launch new ventures, especially ventures that fall outside the realm of traditional commodity agriculture. This project has helped coordinate, develop, and direct resources from a variety of agencies that will be critical to creating a supportive environment for the new farmer entrepreneurs in this area.

The training resources developed under this project open the door for many promising training opportunities, both directly for farmers and also for selected agencies that support agriculture. While it has been difficult to manage effective multi-state training, there seems to be emerging an opportunity for Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas to share resources. It will be most useful to expand the library of successful farmer entrepreneurs, especially emphasizing those that have been successful in the Delta region.

The Delta region conferences on cooperative development, entrepreneurship, value-added agriculture and new ag product development are programs that have benefitted agriculture interests in Kentucky and will increase in importance as the structure of agriculture changes in this region. Such conferences not only provide a forum for valuable idea exchanges, but also have the potential to impact important policy development in these areas of agriculture. Certainly farmers throughout this area face similar challenges and opportunities that transcend state lines.

Finally, we have realized that agricultural professionals interested in helping farmers establish new collaborative businesses often need skills and attitudes not well-developed in agents focused on production of commodities. Therefore, we have begun an integrated research and education program to improve training of agents in facilitation of collaborative, value-added enterprises.

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.