Creating an Educational and Economic Value Chain for Specialty Dairy Products in Appalachian Ohio

Final report for LNC16-384

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $165,500.00
Projected End Date: 03/01/2019
Grant Recipient: Rural Action
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Tom Redfern
Rural Action
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Project Information

Summary:

This project will provide the educational assets and peer learning framework for value chain development in the artisanal dairy product sector. Innovative women farmers heading established goat dairies, artisanal cheese production and on-farm livestock operations will co-design the project. Women and low income farmers will be the targeted beneficiaries of peer to peer based strategies farmer co-designed to address a shifting regulatory environment with focused curriculum on GAP, Season Extension, HACCP, and FDA dairy production.

Project Objectives:

 

4 “Mentors in Training” will emerge as mentors in their fields, adding educational revenue into their businesses as a sustainable profit center.

 

100 limited-resource farmers will participate in peer-to-peer workshops to be trained in specialty dairy operating models, regulatory compliance and improving profitability.

 

100 limited-resource farmers will implement strategies from knowledge acquired during peer-to-peer workshops, increasing their income and access to markets.

 

Workshop participants and instructors will gain access to a network of small dairy professionals. Mentors in Training will build relationships with 10 participants and create innovative partnerships that may result in improved market access and increased profitability.

Cooperators

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  • Leslie Schaller

Research

Involves research:
No
Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Enable four selected women farmers to participate in a “mentor in training program” to prepare them to create curriculum, host on-farm workshops and operational tours, and mentor peers in their agricultural field of specialty dairy production. Krista Duval of Creekside Farms, Michelle Gorman of Integration Acres, Abbe Turner of Lucky Penny Farms and Annie Warmke of Blue Rock Station are all women farmers specializing in aspects of Goat Dairy production. They met over the first year with Rural Action staff, Mentor Trainer Becky Rondy of Green Edge Organic Gardens, ACEnet staff, including Leslie Schaller.

Training program to be organized and convened by Rural Action and ACEnet this was completed as outlined below.

Share and evaluate examples from the previous specialty crop model for customization to new model. This was shared by Becky Rondy, and all four of the participating farmers, in consultation with RA, ACEnet, and Becky Rondy developed curriculum and training goals based on their own comfort level with sharing. 

Establish Becky Rondy (GE) as primary trainer for “Mentors in Training” as participants transition to mentors in year two. She  educated on curriculum development, workshop implementation, and extended mentoring tactics that were derived from her own experience at GE Season Creation workshops.

RA and a designated graphic designer, Jennifer Johnson worked with the “Mentors in Training” to create professional workshop materials and promotional outreach media, including workshop presentations, packets, handouts, and social and traditional media promotions. The four MITs worked one-on-one with the RA facilitated team, and went through an individually acceptable curriculum design and planning process.

ACEnet will prepare materials to identify additional workshop topics, educational materials, brand supports, and resource networks. They will take the lead in customizing Market Ready curriculum for both new, direct, and wholesale markets.They will also connect mentors and training attendees to access to capital resources and brand programs. Their brand staff will collect market data to identify  the supply needs for specialty dairy products by restaurants and wholesale grocers. Data will help to identify premium product pricing and marketing analysis for value chain coordination in year two.

ACEnet product development staff will complete research and convene meetings with ODA inspectors to develop the necessary curriculum around FDA and HACCP requirements. This information was collected in a google drive by ACEnet staff for easy sharing with the project participants, and will be a key component of the March 2018 workshop in Zanesville Ohio to be conducted by ACEnet, RA, Women Grow Ohio, and Annie Warmke, Becky Rondy, and Abbe Turner. An ODA Dairy Inspector is confirmed to present.

One peer to peer education workshop will be conducted in year one, this was convened in March of 2017, attended by Michelle Gorman of Integration Acres, Abbe Turner of Lucky Penny Farm (Via Skype), and Christa Duval of Creekside Farms. Separate meetings with Peer Mentor Becky Rondy were held throughout year one, and meetings were held with RA and ACEnet staff, and the farmer participants. Annie Warmke joined the project in September of 2017, and met separately with all of the participants.
Four peer to peer mentees will receive training in year one, Abbe Turner, Annie Warmke, Michelle Gorman, and Christa Duval, all received training from Becky Rondy in year one in preparation for their educational outputs in year two. 
One current farm mentor receives experience in cross sector peer to peer education support (specialty crop lessons transferred to specialty dairy producers) Becky Rondy worked with the participants on their curriculum development, especially consulting on what could be comfortably shared by the farmers without detriment and loss of proprietary information. She shared her experiences with creating a profit center focused on the "intellectual capital" of Green Edge Organic Gardens. 
Four sets of education materials created. This was done by Christa Duval of Creekside, by the creation of a dairy goat soap making toolkit and curriculum, created in conjunction with RA staff and graphic designer. She also created a film of the farm, including the process they went through to become an animal welfare approved farm. Annie Warmke of Blue Rock Station created informational posters on Dairy Goat Management in conjunction with ACEnet, and RA staff and graphic support. She also worked with ACEnet on the creation of podcasts, and with RA and ACEnet, and the ODA and with Women Grow Ohio on the creation of an agenda for a March 2018 Dairy Goat workshop.  Abbe Turner created a presentation on the creation of Lucky Penny Farm, including an in depth look at her experiences in putting together the necessary financials and business planning. This will first be presented at the March 2018 workshop. She also participated in the development of the podcasts, and the posters, and the development of the agenda for the March 2018 workshop. Michelle Gorman of Integration Acres was delayed in creating curriculum but has been involved in the podcast creation and is completing her curriculum development in 2018.

Partnerships with additional shared use/incubator facilities will be used as distribution sites and for delivery of regulatory educational information. This is part of an on-going cross sector effort by ACEnet and RA. ACEnet has hired three staff member-one focused on wholesale distribution networks, one focused on microenterprise development, and one focused on HACCP plan development and shared kitchen use. In year one they've developed trainings and webinars that will be shared with project participants in year two.

Development of quantifiable project indicators, including number of farmers and businesses impacted, changes in quantities of food distributed, changes in employment, and capacities for participation in local food system among targeted project stakeholders

Design of baseline and post workshop surveys for individuals to track changes in participants’ perspectives, capacities, and impacts over the course of the projects; This was done in year one in the form of a survey sent out to Dairy Goat producers, and in a workshop evaluation for the March 2018 workshop. 

Network mapping to determine the density and distribution of connections between the project partners and core constituencies participating in the project, this is an ongoing effort that is part of the ACEnet marketing assistance.

Identification and drawing out of best practices that can inform broader national efforts to address food security through community food hub development, this is ongoing and will be completed in year 2.

Outreach strategies will work along value chain networks to disseminate info about the project concept and the upcoming workshops, In 2017 Outreach occurred at the 2017 Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association conference, at the Women Grow Ohio networking sessions, through RA and ACEnet social media, and through the Ohio Dairy Goat Association. RA, ACEnet and the farm mentors alo promoted the project through regional community outreach, social media, press releases, and partner organizations including OSU Extension, NRCS and NSAC.

Outreach to Ohio partners: Women Grow Ohio, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA), Ohio Farmers Union, the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Cooperative Development Center, the Ohio-WV food Hub Network, and many other farm association partners to provide postings ad articles about the project and educational opportunities.

High-quality materials were professionally designed and were vetted by the partnering team including Becky Rondy and Leslie Schaller, most are updated to this report. 

Two collaboratively developed books utilizing resources from this project were created.

This includes; The Business of Goat Herding by Annie Warmke and Carie Starr, (participating farmers). This is a 134 page book designed  to be a resource for beginning women farmers in the dairy goat sector. It includes interviews with farmer participants in this project. It includes fundraising and financial resources for beginning Women farmers, as well as a dense resource section that was vetted by Natalia Lozano an animal scientist from Peru, who participated in the project while on a four month fellowship with Rural Action.

The Land of Milk and Money “Lessons Learned and Business Earned from Ohio’s Women in Dairy” is a 213 page manual on Ohio Women in the dairy sector including both personal stories and lessons learned but also in depth explorations of the procedures and processes necessary for success. It is broken into sections on Why?, Who?, When?, What?, Where?, How?, Help: Community, and Home. It includes a 50 page appendix that can serve as a step by step guide to creating a dairy, including resources, vendors and layout. This book would readily serve as a curriculum, as well as a resource for Women in the Dairy sector. It includes contributions from 20 Women involved in the Ohio Dairy sector.

Becky Rondy (Farm Mentor) focused on quality of content ensuring proven methods are highlighted and broken down into an easy to understand format.

Leslie Schaller will ensure the publications include all materials relevant to the business planning for the participants.

RA has been responsible for final edits and distribution of materials.

ACEnet staff (Schaller and Fisher) will prepare materials to identify workshop topics, educational materials, brand supports and resource networks.

Brand staff will collect market data to identify the supply needs for specialty dairy products by restaurants and wholesale grocers.

Data will help identify premium product pricing and marketing analysis for value chain coordination in year 2

Fisher will complete research and convene meetings with ODA inspectors to develop the necessary curriculum around FDA and HACCP requirements

In year one, ACEnet staff provided 5 workshops and webinars on MarketReady for wholesale and direct markets; access to capital for loans, crowdsourcing and grants; and food regulatory topics: FDA processing, HACCP plans and food safety.

Major participant (ACEnet) will lead coordination and delivery of workshops that will supplement the on-farm learning opportunities, and will include food safety, HACCP training, wholesale readiness training, and collaborative brand programs.

Schaller will also work with farm mentors, assisting with curriculum design on business analysis, financial planning, marketing, labeling and packaging requirements.

ACEnet consultants will also coordinate the supplemental training that will be hosted at various food hubs throughout the region.

 

 

Project Activities

Convene Farm Mentors, Create Curriculum
Soap Making Workshop Creation by Creekside - Christa Duval
How to Make a living with Specialty Dairy Products in Appalachian Ohio
ACEnet Educational Support
Host Peer Learning Webinars ACEnet Educational Support 2018
Develop High Quality Educational Materials
Professional Network Development for Specialty Dairy Producers

Educational & Outreach Activities

10 Consultations
18 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
8 Online trainings
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
9 Other educational activities: 9 podcasts were created.

Participation Summary:

220 Farmers
Education/outreach description:

Throughout the project producers were connected to peer education using the previously noted curricula developed, which was delivered during larger workshops, in-person through site visits, and electronically via webinar and podcast hosting. These training materials were developed by producers for other producers - both beginning/early stage and mid-stage - to be both accessible and based on direct experiences at successful special dairy farms in Appalachian Ohio.

Podcasts were developed as intimate narrative discussions about the nuances of making a living in specialty dairy - hosted through an accessible medium that producers could access when convenient.

WGO - Interview with Abbe Turner of Lucky Penny Farm

WGO - Interview with Annie Warmke of Blue Rock Station

WGO - Interview with Becky Rondy of Green Edge Organic Gardens

WGO - Interview with Carie Starr of Cherokee Valley Bison Ranch

WGO - Interview with Celeste Taylor of Integration Acres

WGO - Interview with Dr. Rachel Terman of Ohio University

WGO - Interview with Leslie Schaller of ACEnet

WGO - Interview with Michelle Gorman of Integration Acres

WGO - Interview with Sasha Sigetic of Black Locust Livestock & Herbal

Workshops were developed in-person through deep discussions about best practices in mentorship and peer learning. Print materials - including books developed on specialty dairy from multiple peer educators - were created over many sessions of peer review, editing, design, and intentional strategies around long-term success for toolkit dissemination. All 18 curricula created will now be used for ongoing education and technical assistance for specialty dairy producers.

Learning Outcomes

220 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas taught:
  • Marketing
  • Soap Production
  • Goat Husbandry
  • Small Business Finance
  • Dairy and Creamery Regulations
  • Peer Mentorship
  • Specialty Cheese Production
  • Product Photography
  • Social Media
  • Crowdfunding
  • Product Pricing
  • Wholesale Markets

Project Outcomes

Key practices changed:
    3 New working collaborations
    Success stories:

    PROPOSED OBJECTIVE 1:

    4 “Mentors in Training” will emerge as mentors in their fields, adding educational revenue into their businesses as a sustainable profit center.

    OBJECTIVE 1 OUTCOMES:

    Becky Rondy, educated “Mentors in Training” Annie Warmke, Carie Starr, Michelle Gorman, Christa Duval, Abbe Turner, Madeline Turner, and Sasha Sigetic on curriculum development, workshop implementation, and extended mentoring tactics that were derived from her own experience at Green Edge Season Creation workshops.

    Rural Action and graphic design contractors worked with the “Mentors in Training” to create professional workshop materials and promotional outreach media, including workshop presentations, packets, handouts, and social and traditional media promotions. The four MITs worked one-on-one with the RA facilitated team, and went through an individually acceptable curriculum design and planning process.

    In addition to workshop materials, presentations, and leadership skill development as peer educators, the Mentors in Training process also resulted in the creation of replicable toolkits for limited resource producers in comparable regions. These toolkits include the series of 9 podcasts presented throughout 2018 that make up the online specialty dairy curriculum from ACEnet; the “Goat Milk Soap Making Manual” created by Creekside Farm; “The Business of Goat Herding: Specialty Dairy, Natural Herd Health & More” book created by Annie Warmke and Carie Starr; and “The Land of Milk & Money: Lessons Learned & Business Earned from Ohio’s Women in Dairy” book created under the leadership of Abbe Turner and Madeline Turner with contribution from more than 20 women dairy producers across Ohio.   

     

    PROPOSED OBJECTIVE 2:

    100 limited-resource farmers will participate in peer-to-peer workshops to be trained in specialty dairy operating models, regulatory compliance and improving profitability.

     

    OBJECTIVE 2 OUTCOMES:

    Through the project, a total of 220 limited resource producers across Appalachia participated in peer-to-peer learning utilizing on-farm, in-person, and online methodologies, as well as through numerous toolkits and educational materials developed by peer educators and mentors.

    48 low income and limited resource farmers participated in 9 webinars developed to address specialty dairy models based on the knowledge of current producers, business trainers, and other peer educators from 5 Ohio counties.

    A total of 172 beginning and current specialty dairy producers participated in in-person workshops.

    “Goat Milk Soap Making” workshop held February 28, 2018 at the Dairy Barn Arts Center in Athens. Presented by Christa Duval, of Creekside Farm, 15 attendees learned about soap making as a value added income stream from specialty dairy producers.

    “How to Make A Living with Specialty Dairy Products in Appalachian Ohio” workshop presented by Rural Action, Women Grow Ohio, and ACEnet. Held March 3, 2018 in Zanesville, OH. A total of 22 producers attended this workshop. Women leaders in the specialty dairy industry came together to teach the basics of getting started keeping animals for dairy products, evaluating potential farm resources for business plan development, marketing strategies, information on naturally healthy animals, and resources for mentoring. The event featured individual stories demonstrating how women got started in their businesses, the challenges they face in the marketplace, and the various ways to produce and herd dairy animals. Included presentation by Ohio Department of Agriculture on applicable Dairy regulations, and presentation by Leslie Schaller of ACEnet on marketing strategies.

    Herdshares, Microdairies and the Raw Milk Revolution” at the Ohio Paw Paw Festival held on September 16, 2018, presented by project participants Erica Andrews, Lauren Genter, Annie Warmke, and Sasha Sigetic at Lake Snowden in Albany, OH. Workshop reached 35 participants.

    “The Beginning Goat Dairy - The Basics of Home Cheese Making” lecture at the Ohio Dairy Goat Association Fall Conference (October 28, 2018) was attended by 35 people. The lecture covered goat cheese making and regulatory compliance, starting a small value added dairy business and basic animal husbandry to produce quality goat milk. The event was held at the Holmes County Fairgrounds.

     

    Annie Warmke and Carie Starr of Women Grow Ohio, spoke to 30 women on Dec. 12th to teach a workshop on 10 Ways to Make "Thrive" Your Mantra where we talked about various ways to succeed in farm production as women - there were 140 women in attendance at the PA Women In Agriculture Network Social Justice in Agriculture Symposium.  On Dec. 11th they attended a reception with 35 women where they networked with a variety of women about WGO, and also Rural Action, talking about the specialty dairy work.  

     

    PROPOSED OBJECTIVE 3:
    100 limited-resource farmers will implement strategies from knowledge acquired during peer-to-peer workshops, increasing their income and access to markets.

    OBJECTIVE 3 OUTCOMES:

    Long-term impacts of peer learning among targeted specialty dairy producers will be tracked through a diverse portfolio of both statewide market reports, as well as locally coordinated and monitored networks of target producers. These changes are gradual and sustained as new markets are opened and producers scale to reach these customers.

    At the local level, Rural Action and our peer community development organizations working in Appalachian Ohio have a network of targeted limited resource farm businesses that are regularly engaged to understand local market shifts and ongoing producer needs. This work both sets a baseline of regional data for understanding economic shifts and simultaneously drives Rural Action’s service delivery to best meet the evolving needs of at-risk businesses.

    Surveying among producers happens at numerous intake points in our value chain approach to sustainable agriculture development: from quantitative surveying at livestock producer workshops to qualitative off-season meetings of specialty crop producers to plan for the upcoming produce season. Through this SARE-funded project specifically, pre- and post-surveys were provided to workshop attendees at all events, including the in-person workshops. This locally managed dataset directly monitors the economic gains occurring among producers working in various agriculture sectors - from specialty crops and value added products to livestock.

    Larger market trends are used as a comparison against which our local/regional progress can be measured. The USDA’s Census of Agriculture tracks long-term changes to farm and food businesses down to the county level, which Rural Action uses to analyze trends in farm ownership, employment, acreage under production, average income, and much more over numerous years. Through the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Rural Action and partners can see commodity market price trends and use these to inform our partners about industry shifts. As commodity markets shift, more and more gains are being seen in niche specialty markets, which presents the framework for the success we have seen to-date in regional specialty food production.

    All of the 200+ participating limited resource producers working in or beginning to work in specialty dairy will be tracked over a multi-year period to analyze sales growth and business expansion. Where there are ongoing needs and gaps, these businesses will be supported by a range of Rural Action’s follow-up technical assistance services as identified by each producer. Overall sales of regional specialty dairy products will simultaneously be tracked through sales and business incubation at ACEnet’s Food Ventures Center in Athens, OH.

    PROPOSED OBJECTIVE 4:
    Workshop participants and instructors will gain access to a network of small dairy professionals. Mentors in Training will build relationships with 10 participants and create innovative partnerships that may result in improved market access and increased profitability.

    OBJECTIVE 4 OUTCOMES:
    Innovative partnerships included creation of two collaborative books featuring the lessons learned from more than 20 specialty dairy producers across Ohio. Intellectual capital and regionally appropriate strategies for specialty dairy was shared by participating specialty dairy farmers and educators. This included actual start to finish experiences of multiple women dairy producers, including “toolkit” style documentation of the regulatory process, the marketing process, land acquisition and more. This information was also shared through a series of webinars

    Information Products

    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.