Final Report for EW00-024
This project created training materials and events for NRCS and Extension personnel who work directly with agricultural producers. A few Wyoming Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Small Business Administration, Small Business Development Center, and Wyoming Business Council personnel also participated in the training events. Additionally, approximately 25% of the training event participants were producers. The goal of the technical materials and training was to better enable agricultural professionals at the field (i.e. county) level to provide consistent technical assistance to farmers and ranchers interested in agricultural enterprise diversification. The target constituency of agricultural professionals and producers for this project were located in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho.
A resource guide on agricultural enterprise diversification was the principle technical material developed through this project. It gives agricultural professionals a template to use when providing agricultural enterprise diversification technical assistance to producers. Initially, a survey of 205 Extension and 564 NRCS agricultural professionals in the 5-state target area was completed to determine the awareness of and the amount of technical assistance being provided for agricultural enterprise diversification. It also identified specific aspects of enterprise diversification where more technical information is desired and/or needed. 154 completed surveys were returned, for a response rate of 20%. These results were included in determining the needed technical contents of the draft resource guide. The draft resource guide was subsequently used as the handbook for each training event.
Five workshops for professionals and producers were completed. A total of 79 professionals and 26 producers from the target states participated. Each workshop consisted of one day in the classroom, where an overview of the contents of the resource guide was presented. This was followed by an evening speaker discussing their value-added diversified farm or ranch enterprise, and a ½ day tour of a diversified ranch the next day. On completion of each workshop, participants were asked to take the draft guide home, use it to assist producers interested in diversification, and to provide us with constructive criticisms on the guide’s effectiveness as well as suggested improvements. These comments were considered in the development of the final version of the guide.
A Wyoming Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Development (LEAD) seminar was sponsored through the project in December, 2001, during which 17 members of the class (9 professionals, 8 producers) were provided training on agricultural enterprise diversification and each was issued a copy of the draft resource guide.
A web site for the project, www.agdiversity.org, was launched in March, 2001. It highlights each of the major components of the project, and contains contacts for additional information. The contents of the final version of the resource guide will be available on the site in pdf format.
A West-wide conference “Sustaining Western Rural Landscapes, Lifestyles, and Livelihoods: Diversify Your Agricultural Operation” was held in Sheridan, Wyoming, in September of 2002. 63 professionals and 86 producers from 13 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada participated in this 3-day event, which featured concurrent technical sessions, round-table discussions, and tours. The goal of the conference was to give producers the tools necessary to take the first steps towards diversification. Proceedings from the conference were published.
A project display was completed and used to market the project at numerous agriculture-related events. Two versions of a brochure were developed to aid in awareness of the project, one highlighting the workshops, and the other focussing on the West-wide conference.
1. Communicate the benefits of agricultural enterprise diversification for economic and community viability, and establish a connection to natural resources stewardship.
2. Achieve a basic level of agricultural enterprise diversification competency among professionals that serve the agricultural community.
3. Provide awareness to agricultural producers and small rural communities that enterprise diversification information/assistance is available and who provides it.
4. Develop/obtain tools that will enable professionals to provide technical assistance for agricultural enterprise diversification.
5. Establish consistency in services related to agricultural enterprise diversification that are provided by professionals to producers.
6. Create opportunities for professionals, producers, and rural communities to share ideas, information, and experiences related to agricultural enterprise diversification.
Today, the technical needs of agricultural producers are changing, driven by new and increasing pressures on the landscape and in their pocketbooks. Some of these pressures include the profitability of traditional commodity production and land conversion to other uses. The aging of the American producer and decline in recruitment of new producers further confounds the situation.
The overall economic perspective shows that farm income has not kept pace with the rest of the economy for at least the last 30 years (US Dept. Commerce 1998). In fact, inflation-adjusted figures for that time frame show that while non-farm income has steadily climbed, farm income has remained static. This makes it difficult to compete for scarce resources such as labor and land. A closer examination of beef, a traditional commodity common to many western farms and ranches, reveals that consumer demand has been decreasing. Concurrently, prices received for beef have mirrored or have declined disproportionately to demand, while production expenses have continued to increase for at least the last 20 years (Agricultural Statistics 1998). These combined factors constrict the opportunity for profit at the farm or ranch-gate scale.
Other challenges exist. Agricultural lands in many cases have high aesthetic, recreational, and developmental value. Faced with economic uncertainty, many farmers and ranchers are taking advantage of this lucrative market and are selling off portions or entire land units. It is estimated that more than 11 million acres of agricultural land was converted to other uses between 1992 and 1997, and occurred at a rate more than 80% higher than of conversion for the previous decade of 1982-1992 (USDA National Resources Inventory 1997). Much of this conversion has been in the form of urban sprawl and other residential development (USDA Census of Agriculture 1987, 1997).
Another concern is the “graying of agriculture”, the aging of the American farmer and rancher. Their average age was 54.3 years in 1997, up from 53.3 years in 1992 and 50.5 years in 1982 (USDA Census of Agriculture 1982, 1992, 1997). This age progression suggests that recruitment of younger generations of producers is poor. Another obvious indicator is a shift in demographics in which producers over age 65 have increased by 24% in the last 15 years while producers less than 35 years of age have decreased by 58% over that same time frame. These numbers raise an issue that there may be little perceived economic opportunity in agriculture by the next generation of producers. Rising property and estate taxes may further discourage prospective young farmers and ranchers.
Collectively, these are significant challenges facing farm and ranch families in the West today. At risk are agricultural product production, employment, income, wildlife habitat, open space, and the cultural heritage in western families and communities. Weak financial conditions limit opportunities for practicing sustainable use of natural and other resources. Conservation then becomes an afterthought rather than an incentive for business reinvestment. And, consequences of poor recruitment are that expertise and stewardship skills specific to that farm or ranch land are not transferred to younger generations of land managers and may be lost.
Our partnership chose to focus on one emerging solution to these challenges. Perhaps opportunities for future farmers and ranchers and the overall long-term sustainability of agriculture into the 21st century could be enhanced by agricultural business diversification through alternative, supplemental, and non-traditional agricultural enterprises.
In contrast to the opportunities and impetus for diversification, there seemed to be great variability among technical advisors to the agricultural community in terms of their knowledge, skills, and experience with the various aspects of enterprise diversification. This made it difficult for producers to obtain a consistent level of technical assistance in this arena.
Consequently, our partnership was created to develop technical materials and provide training events on agricultural enterprise diversification for professionals that serve the agricultural community. This SARE professional development grant made those efforts possible.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. 1998. Agricultural Statistics. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. 1982. Census of Agriculture. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. 1987. Census of Agriculture. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. 1992. Census of Agriculture. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service. 1997. Census of Agriculture. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 1997. National Resources Inventory. Washington, D.C.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. 1998. Regional Economic Information System. Washington, D.C.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Develop and sustain an integrated Wyoming Partnership for Agricultural Enterprise Diversification. This partnership would include but not be limited to the Wyoming Business Council, the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, the Wyoming Small Business Development Centers, the Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service, the Wyoming Rural Development Council, the Sonoran Institute, Chambers of Commerce, applicable associations, producers, and others in the agricultural service industry:
· regular interaction of select individuals from each entity will guide the process of integrating agricultural enterprise diversification into each respective entities delivery system to help achieve common goals of sustaining rural landscapes, lifestyles, and communities.
· collaborate to promote a common concept of agricultural enterprise diversification to personnel in our respective agencies and organizations, other technical advisors that serve agriculture (i.e., lenders, private industry), producers, and rural communities.
· collaborate in all aspects of development, implementation, and delivery of each item detailed in this proposal.
· develop protocol for the continuation of this partnership beyond the terms of this proposal (2003+), i.e., set up schedule for regular planning sessions for continued outreach efforts, sharing new technical material as it becomes available, expanding the partnership, and filling any vacancies in the existing partnership.
Develop and distribute a resource guide (3-ring binder style) specific to agricultural enterprise diversification in Wyoming:
· develop a cyclical planning process that emphasizes and links ecological, economical, and rural community sustainability. It would focus attention on existing enterprises prior to the consideration of new enterprises.
· develop other sections of the guide to augment this planning process, including an overview defining agricultural enterprise diversification, specific alternative options, selection of appropriate enterprises, business planning considerations, natural resources conservation, legal liability, marketing, financing, and chaos management.
· the end of each section would contain the who, what, and where of additional information and contacts, based on the experience of the partnership and consultation with entrepreneurs and advisors from across Wyoming.
· existing technical material will be customized and incorporated where possible; new material will be developed by the partnership as needed.
· the guide will serve as a tool for professionals to assist producers in enterprise diversification and would achieve a level of consistency in services provided in this arena across the service area.
· following training in 2001, the draft guide will be distributed to Cooperative Extension Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Small Business Development Center, and Wyoming Business Council personnel throughout Wyoming. It would also be made available to agricultural lenders and others that serve the agricultural community.
· the draft guide would be ground-truthed by professionals and the producers they assist for a 12 month period; their comments/experiences would then be incorporated into the final draft, which would be distributed back to the professionals at the conclusion of the term of this grant. Each county library in Wyoming would also receive a final copy.
· this guide would be made available to our counterparts in other states in the Western SARE Region for use as a template in developing a similar product for their respective states’.
Develop a web site on agricultural enterprise diversification:
· will contain the contents of the hard copy resource guide
· will contain links to other related sites
· will be updated as needed and as new information becomes available
· will be maintained through this grant for a 2 year period
Agricultural enterprise diversification training seminars:
· provide awareness training of the many aspects of agricultural enterprise diversification for Natural Resources Conservation Service, Cooperative Extension Service, agricultural lenders, producers, and other appropriate agency personnel and professionals, and the Wyoming Leadership, Education, and Development participants.
· 4 sessions, 2 days per session, 52 participants per session. Each session would be composed of a core group of professionals (18) from Wyoming plus 8 professionals (2 each) from neighboring states of Montana, Colorado, Utah, and Idaho. Each professional would be encouraged to bring a producer (26 total) who is interested or involved in diversification.
· the draft resource guide would serve as the training handbook; participants would be issued a draft guide for use in assisting producers and rural communities in their respective service areas for a 12 month period and provided with a final copy at the end of the term of this grant.
· instruction cadre for each session would consist of the major participants of this proposal and their associates, in concert with expertise from other agencies, private industry (e.g., insurance companies), and producers/entrepreneurs.
· at the conclusion of the term of this grant, each professional would be encouraged to conduct seminars at their local level, using the final resource guide as a curriculum.
· one session for the Wyoming Leadership, Education, and Development program (18 participants) would also be conducted.
West-wide conference “Sustaining Western landscapes, lifestyles, and livelihoods through agricultural enterprise diversification” encompassing Western SARE Region:
· 3 day conference, hosted by Wyoming
· emphasis will be on the many aspects of enterprise diversification and how the sustainability of individual enterprises contributes to the overall sustainability of rural communities and Western landscapes.
· invited attendees would include professionals and producers (target of 300 participants).
· call for papers and keynote speakers. Presenters would be a cross-section of professionals and alternative agriculture entrepreneurs/producers.
· proceedings would be published and made available to attendees at the beginning of the conference. Additional copies available for distribution post-conference.
· would include pre- and post-conference tours to visit diversified agricultural enterprises.
Other marketing and outreach efforts to promote the success of these SARE grant products:
· develop a display highlighting this SARE grant and the contents of the resource guide; would be presented at annual meetings in Wyoming, such as Stockgrowers, Woolgrowers, Farm Bureau, Association of Conservation Districts, and Society for Range Management.
· professional presentations/workshops highlighting this Wyoming Partnership’s efforts to be conducted at regional and national meetings, including the Society for Range Management, National Rural Development Partnership Conference, National RC&D Conference, National Extension Tourism Conference, and the National Small Farms Conference.
· two articles written and submitted to professional publications such as Rangelands, a publication of the Society for Range Management.
· feature article in AgVentures, a popular magazine on agricultural enterprise diversification.
Outreach and Publications
Sustaining Western Rural Landscapes, Lifestyles, and Livelihoods: agricultural enterprise diversification resource guide.
Proceedings from West-wide conference “Sustaining Western Rural Landscapes, Lifestyles, and Livelihoods: exploring agricultural diversification options.”
Oct. 2-3, 2001, Saratoga, WY
Oct. 22-23, 2001, Newcastle, WY
Nov. 5-6, 2001, Greybull, WY
Nov. 29-30, 2001, Pinedale, WY
Dec. 14, 2001, LEAD seminar, Riverton, WY
March 12-13, 2002, Casper, WY
Each workshop consisted of one day in a classroom setting, an evening presentation by a producer involved in value-added diversification, and a ½ day tour of a diversified ranch operation. The draft resource guide was used as the training manual, with various technical experts addressing their specific areas of expertise relevant to diversification. An agenda from one workshop is enclosed.
Project Display and Brochures:
June – Wyoming Stockgrower’s Association
July – National Rural Development Partnership mtg., Duluth, MN
August – Wyoming State Fair
August – NRCS all-employees meeting
Sept. – Wyoming Game and Fish Heritage Expo
October – World Dairy Expo, Madison, WI
Nov. – Agri-Trade International, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Nov. – Women in Agriculture symposium, Casper, WY
Dec. – Wyoming Stockgrower’s/Woolgrower’s joint meeting
Dec. – Range Beef Cow Symposium, Casper, WY
Jan. – National Western Stock Show, Denver, CO
Feb. – Community Resources and Economic Development Conference, Orlando, FL
June – Wyoming Stockgrower’s Association
June – Environmental Stewardship tour, Torrington, WY
August – Wyoming State Fair
Sept. – Wyoming Game and Fish Heritage Expo
Sept. – National Rural Development Partnership, French Lick, IN
Dec. – Farm Services Agency, Casper, WY
Feb. – Society for Range Management national conference, Casper, WY
May – Wyoming Banker’s Association
March, 2001 – launched www.agdiversity.org
– Overview of this SARE grant project
– Overview of agricultural enterprise diversification
– Conducting a resource inventory
The 5 workshops and 1 LEAD seminar provided agricultural enterprise diversification training to 122 professionals and producers.
The West-wide conference in Sheridan, WY, provided 149 participants with technical information and testimonials related to agricultural enterprise diversification.
Other states have shown an interest in expanding agricultural diversification as a result of attendance at the workshops and conference.
Potential Benefits on Agriculture:
88 professionals are now better enabled to provide diversification technical assistance as a result of the 5 workshops and having a copy of the final edition of the resource guide.
34 producers are better equipped to make diversification decisions about their operations as a result of the 5 workshops and having a copy of the final edition of the resource guide.
We are aware of several producers who attended the 5 workshops sponsored through this project that are either in some stage of diversification or are ready to begin. Producers attending other recently held workshops or that have read articles in newsletters are contacting us for direct technical assistance.
Reactions from farmers and ranchers:
Evaluations and verbal feedback from all 5 workshops and the West-wide conference indicated gratitude that this partnership was engaged in this project and high interest in using the materials developed through this project. Many producers who atteded the workshops and/or conference indicated that agricultural enterprise diversification technical assistance has not been easy to obtain, yet is needed today more than ever before.
5 Wyoming producer families shared their value-added experiences at the workshops:
Roxana and Jim Johnson, value-added wool products, Saratoga, Oct. 2, 2001
Margy Brown, Beeswax handcream products, Newcastle, Oct. 22, 2001
Bessie Zeller, Queen Bee Gardens honey candy, Greybull, Nov. 5, 2001
Bill Barney, direct beef marketing, Pinedale, Nov. 29, 2001
Terry Henderson, Wyoming School of Ranching, March 12, 2002.
5 Wyoming producers hosted tours of their diversified operations as part of the workshops:
Kinta Blumenthal – guest ranch, business retreats, fee fishing, Saratoga, Oct. 3, 2001
Harry Tavegia – rustic ranch stays, fee hunting, trail rides, Newcastle, Oct. 23, 2001
Tim Flitner – fee hunting, bus tours, specialized horses, Greybull, Nov. 6, 2001
Gary and Nancy Espenscheid – ranch stays, fee hunting, fitness camps, Big Piney, Nov. 30, 2001
Dennis and Nancy Daly – working ranch stays, fee hunting, Douglas, March 13, 2002
26 producers from CO, UT, ID, MT, and WY attended workshops
8 producers from WY attended the LEAD seminar
Demonstrable impacts in the future:
Producers and professionals from the 5 state target area, and beyond, are identifying our partnership with diversification technical assistance needs. They are requesting our assistance for workshops and for direct technical assistance to individual farmers and ranchers.
Groups, such as the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory in Colorado, the Nebraska Association of RC&D’s, the Wyoming Women in Agriculture, and the Utah Farm Bureau, are requesting our assistance in conducting workshops on agricultural enterprise diversification this year (2003). The resource guide created through this project will serve as the template for those workshops.
Content from the resource guide is also being used in the development of a national NRCS brochure on evaluating farm and ranch resources for diversification opportunities.
Additional copies of the resource guide and proceedings from the conference are available, at cost, for other professionals and producers interested in diversification.
The domain for the project web site, www.agdiversity.org, has been purchased through 2005. Consequently, professionals and producers will be able to access and use information posted on this site through at least 2005.
The project partnership plans to conduct at least one workshop per year for professionals and producers in Wyoming, using the resource guide as the training manual. These workshops would continue as long as the need exists.
Evaluations from the West-wide conference indicated overwhelming support for a second, similar conference in 1-2 years.
A new partnership was formed to deliver each of the objectives of this project. This, in itself, is a significant accomplishment of the project because it brought together several organizations that had not previously all worked together on a common initiative. These included NRCS, Small Business Development Centers, University of Wyoming Extension, Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture, Wyoming Business Council, the Sonoran Institute, and the Wyoming Rural Development Council. Each of these partners brought needed expertise to the project that was essential for developing a comprehensive agricultural enterprise diversification planning process and supporting materials. This partnership evolved throughout the project into a cohesive working unit that closely followed the methods set forth in the project proposal to deliver on all of the project objectives:
Objective 1 – Communicate the benefits of agricultural enterprise diversification.
· 2 brochures were developed, one focused on the workshops, one on the West-wide conference.
· Display on the project and the benefits of diversification was developed and used at 10 events in 2001, 8 events in 2002, and 2 events in 2003.
· Presented overview of agricultural enterprise diversification and this SARE project at locally organized workshops:
Wyoming NRCS all-employees meeting, Casper, WY, August, 2001
Wyoming Game and Fish Heritage Expo, Casper, WY, Sept., 2001
Fee hunting for deer, Lusk, WY, Dec., 2001
Establishing Farm Recreation and Wildlife Enterprises, Sterling, CO, 2002
Western RC&D Association Annual Conference, Taos, NM, Jan., 2003
Opening the Door to New Rural Opportunities, Curtis, NE, Feb., 2003
Ag Diversity, Ord, NE, May, 2003
Diversified Agriculture, Tecumseh, NE, May, 2003
Agricultural Tourism Diversification, Flagler, CO, May, 2003
· Press releases:
Trail Boss News, Society for Range Management, June, 2002
AgVentures magazine, June/July, 2002
Western Farmer-Stockman, August, 2002
National Association of Conservation Districts, August, 2002
NRCS Report to the Secretary of Agriculture, Dec., 2002
Wyoming Livestock Roundup, several in 2002
Univ. of Wyoming Reflections, Spring, 2003
Objective 2 – Achieve basic level of competency among agricultural professionals.
· 5 workshops were held in Wyoming in 2001 and 2002 that provided diversification training to 79 professionals and 26 producers. Professionals consisted of NRCS, Cooperative Extension, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming Game and Fish, SBDC, SBA, and agricultural lender personnel:
Wyoming – 60 professionals, 23 producers
Montana – 4 professionals, 1 producer
Colorado – 5 professionals, 1 producer
Utah – 7 professionals, 1 producer
Idaho – 3 professionals
· 1 LEAD seminar – 9 professionals, 8 producers from Wyoming received training.
Objective 3 – Awareness of diversification technical assistance.
· 2 brochures
· Display at 10 agriculture-related events in 2001, 8 events in 2002, and 2 events in 2003.
· 5 workshops, 1 LEAD seminar
· Launched www.agdiversity.org web site (2001)
Objective 4 – Develop/obtain tools to help enable agricultural professionals
· Completed survey of agricultural professionals (NRCS, Coop. Extension) in Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Idaho to determine the level of technical assistance currently provided and identify other technical needs associated with agricultural enterprise diversification. A total of 205 Extension and 564 NRCS personnel were asked to complete the survey. 154 completed surveys were returned (20% response rate). The technical needs identified in these surveys were used to help determine the most important material to include in the draft resource guide.
· Developed draft resource guide (2001) for professionals to use for 1 year when providing technical assistance to producers interested in agricultural enterprise diversification. Feedback was incorporated into the final version of the guide (2003).
· Developed final version of the resource guide (2003). It’s basic contents include an introduction to agricultural enterprise diversification, a planning process to guide professionals in assisting producers, assessments important for considering diversification (values, goals, resources, markets), evaluating the feasibility of existing and potential new enterprises, implementing a new enterprise and all that goes with it (business planning, finances, marketing, legal issues, human resources, natural resources, and community resources), contact information to get technical assistance, technical publications listing, and useful web sites. A fictional western family, the Remingtons’s, was used throughout the guide as an example of an agricultural family considering diversification and proceeding through the recommended planning process.
· Published the proceedings from the “Sustaining Western Rural Landscapes, Lifestyles, and Livelihoods: Diversify your agricultural operation” conference held in Sheridan, WY, Sept., 2002. It contains presentation summaries related to agricultural enterprise diversification from 16 professionals and testimonials from 17 producers that have diversified their operations. It’s a useful reference for anyone considering diversification or interested in learning more about diversification from those who are actually doing it. All conference participants received a copy.
· Developed several powerpoint versions of “an overview of agricultural enterprise diversification” and one powerpoint version of “conducting resource inventories important for diversification”. These have been requested by numerous professionals and producers following their use at workshops in Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
Objective 5 – Establish consistency in diversification assistance provided by professionals.
· Developed partnership consisting of NRCS, Cooperative Extension, SBDC, Wyoming Dept. of Agriculture, Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Rural Dev. Council, and the Sonoran Institute to insure consistency of assistance provided and that appropriate referrals for assistance occur.
· 5 workshops with participation from each of these partners and other personnel from their organizations.
· Issued the final version of the resource guide to professionals that attended the 5 workshops sponsored through this grant, plus made it available on the web and at other events to professionals that could not attend those workshops but would like a copy.
Objective 6 – Create opportunities for professionals, producers, etc. to share ideas and information.
· Web site www.agdiversity.org
· 4 workshops, 1 LEAD seminar in 2001
· 1 workshop, 1 West-wide conference in 2002
The resource guide is a stand-alone reference tool that should enable professionals and producers alike to gain a working knowledge of agricultural enterprise diversification and what it involves. The final version of the resource guide, while written for the professional, is in a format that facilitates ease of use for either professionals or producers. It leads them through a step-by-step planning process that familiarizes the user with the many aspects of agricultural enterprise diversification and suggests decision-making processes that lead to the most appropriate enterprise choices for a given farm or ranch scenario.
One of the things learned is that professionals available to present information about diversification are few in number. Consequently, producers attending workshops are often left excited about diversification, but uncertain as to the next steps to take towards diversification and who to contact locally for technical assistance. The resource guide in the hands of a local agricultural professional will help address this concern by enabling them to provide producers with options on proceeding with farm or ranch diversification.
The guide will also create an awareness among professionals and producers that agricultural enterprise diversification involves the consideration of all the resources on a farm or ranch for their potential to form the basis of a new enterprise.
While not necessarily new concepts, two things that were repeatedly reinforced to our partnership over the course of the project were the importance of personal values and goals at the farm/ranch family level. Many of the producers that have successfully diversified their agricultural operations reported that they have regular family meeting to discuss individual and family values and goals. This encouraged us to make this a focal part of the planning process that we developed for the resource guide.
Another focal point of our recommended planning process for considering diversification is for producers to first closely examine the existing enterprises and resources on a farm or ranch. There may be opportunities to modify current management of existing enterprises and resources to achieve desired goals, and diversification may not be necessary.
In the course of putting on workshops and visiting with other producers that have either diversified their operations or have tried to diversify, a couple of common road blocks were identified. Lenders and insurance companies are hesitant or refuse to do business with producers interested in a diversified agricultural enterprise. The principle reason is their unfamiliarity with new, alternative business enterprises originating on the farm or ranch. One solution would be to conduct a series of workshops specifically designed for agricultural lenders and another specifically designed for insurance companies.
A couple of ideas would be to track the financial conditions of successful diversified farms and ranches so that lenders might become more confident in financing some of these new, alternative enterprises. Another would be to research the actual extent of liability cases arising from alternative enterprises on farms and ranches. This might help to lower the perceived risk associated with insuring non-traditional agricultural enterprises, and lead to a broader range of insurance company choices for farmers and ranchers.
Another area of recommended research would be to quantify the actual markets, in real numbers and dollars, for most of the diversified enterprises that we see producers engaged in. Much of their market research is currently based on anecdotal information, trial-and-error, or testimonials from other producers.
Based on our experience, we recommend that workshops be held in the state where the target audience of professionals and producers reside. Providing travel expenses through this grant was not sufficient to attract the planned level of participation from neighboring states for a 1 and 1/2 day workshop in Wyoming. Attendance by professionals and producers from Wyoming was satisfactory, so we project that attendance would have been greater if at least one workshop had been conducted in each of the other target states (CO, UT, ID, and MT).
Technical specialists from other western states should custominze the resource guide so it is applicable for their state, and subsequently distribute it to NRCS, Extension, and other technical assistance providers. This should not require a significant effort, as the existing guide is available in Word format.
Feedback from the West-wide conference indicated a strong preference for producer testimonials at any future, similar events. We had a 50/50 mix of professionals and producers as presenters. We recommend a 20/80 professional to producer ratio at future events. Producers and professionals alike prefer to get information from other producers that are engaged in diversified agricultural businesses.