Grain Storage Management Education for the Hudson Valley

Progress report for LNE20-396

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $34,258.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2022
Grant Recipients: Cornell Cooperative Extension-Albany County; Cornell Cooperative Extension - Ulster County
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Aaron Gabriel
Cornell Cooperative Extension-Albany County
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Project Information

Summary:

 As farms transition in a difficult agricultural economy, there are opportunities to capture in the local grain economy (LGE).  Demand is increasing for food and feed grains in the commodity and artisan markets.  However, a lack of grain storage management is an obstacle to this transition.  Very few farmers have had storage management training.  Long-time farmers do not know their storage costs and occasionally have spoiled grain or get loads rejected or docked at the mills.  Also, there are new farmers entering the LGE that need assistance planning a grain storage facility and learning how to manage it.  None of the farmers have had safety training.  At this time, grain storage management education is needed to help farmers sustain their transitioning farms and to help new farmers entering the LGE.

The proposed two-year grain storage management education program will address the needs of conventional and organic farmers that grow a few acres or hundreds of acres of grain.  This project will hold a series of two tours at grain mills, five on-farm trainings, one all-day winter workshop, and provide intensive one-on-one training to a subset of interested farmers.  Farmers will receive help and education in designing grain storage systems; evaluating the latest technologies; evaluating their existing grain storage systems; adopting proper grain storage management (SLAM – sanitation, loading, aeration, monitoring); determining grain storage costs; and adopting safety protocols.  Individually-trained farmers will provide monitoring reports that will verify adoption of management principles, and group-trained farmers will be contacted at appropriate times to provide support and to evaluate their adoption of the management principles taught.

The performance target is that at least 25 farmers will complete one-on-one training to develop grain storage management protocols for their own storage system and to monitor grain at least monthly and more often at critical periods.  They will gain a knowledge of their storage costs so they know how long they can profitably store a crop.  Monitoring reports will verify their adoption of what was taught.  Another 25 group-trained farmers will complete learning milestones set for each tour and workshop.  Farmers will complete questions before each training to document their current knowledge and management practices.  Follow up evaluations will be given after critical management times to measure adoption rates.

Performance Target:

Fifty farmers producing 21,325 acres of grain in the Hudson Valley of NY will each adopt at least one improved grain storage management practice.  This will reduce their previously reported annual losses of $169,000 by at least $126,750.  These growers will report additional sales to new markets totaling $250,000.

Introduction:

The local grain economy (LGE) offers an opportunity to long-time farmers trying to sustain their operations and new farmers that are entering artisan markets.  Local feed mills use about 50% local grain and have the capacity to take more.  Large dairies are purchasing grain directly from their neighbors.  The local food movement is now encompassing food grains.  New York City Greenmarkets bakers and others are using local flour.  The craft beverage industry is creating demand for malting barley and now the other small grains and heritage corn.  Vegetable growers want to improve their soil health by rotating in small grains, but need options for small-scale grain storage systems.  After years of not buying local wheat, Ardent Mills at the Port of Albany (the largest flour mill east of the Mississippi River) is looking to purchase local wheat again.  Mill representatives came to our Hudson Valley Value-Added Grain School on February 1, 2019 to introduce themselves and network with farmers.  The demand for cover crop seed is also increasing.  Markets are expanding for the 42,650 acres of local food and feed grains in the Hudson Valley (Washington, Rensselaer, Albany, Schenectady, Columbia, Greene, Ulster, and Dutchess counties).

The lack of education and training in grain storage is a road block for long-time farmers as they try to adapt and sustain their farms by entering these grain markets and for new grain farmers trying to develop good business plans.  The issue is that managing stored grain requires technical knowledge, specialized tools, and new management skills.  The problem is that farmers have not been formally trained to manage stored grain.  Current grain farmers have storage issues resulting in lost sales and ruined grain.  Three local feed mills were surveyed.  In the past year seven loads of grain were rejected and eight were docked for quality issues.  Forty-six survey respondents reported the following grain storage problems:

  • moisture (16)
  • pests (18)
  • temperature (9)
  • shrink (5)
  • equipment performance (9)
  • storage costs (11)
  • handling efficiency (9).

New farmers usually enter the niche food grain markets where quality is most demanding.  They need storage design and management training.  Grain storage management training is need for long-time farmers to diversify and sustain their current farms, and for new farmers to develop successful business plans as they enter agriculture.  Safety training is needed for all farmers.

Four educational approaches are being used to provide grain storage management education: on-farm meetings, mill tours, a one-day winter workshop, and individual farmer training.  Education is engaging with farmers of all sizes (as well as new farmers designing storages for the first time), of both conventional and organic operations.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Christian Malsatzki (Educator)

Research

Involves research:
No
Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

Four educational approaches were proposed for grain storage management education: on-farm meetings, mill tours, a one-day winter workshop, and individual farm training.  The pandemic during this first year of the project has shifted education to online meetings.  A video tour of Ardent Mills (Albany, NY) was produced and used in an online meeting.  The tour included information about the Food Safety Modernization Act and how wheat is processed into flour.  A second online meeting  included two video tours of two bakeries that mill some of their own flour.   Along with the tours, this meeting included a presentation and discussion about the local grain economy.    A presentation about wheat quality, grading, and varieties was also part of the meeting.  An on-farm meeting was cancelled due to the pandemic.  In its place, video and pictures were taken from several farms to show various grain storage, drying, and cleaning systems.  A presentation was made and presented during an online meeting.  The meetings along with resources were posted on our CCE – Capital Area Agriculture and Horticulture Program blog.  A “Farm Specific Grain Storage Management Education” program was also begun to train farmers individually.  Initial visits were made and farmers were provided with an educational booklet (comprised of several factsheets and tables) and a record keeping booklet.  Further contacts were made by email and phone to follow up on grain storage management activities, rather then in-person visits due to the pandemic.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

At two mill tours, farmers will practice and learn how to grade grain; learn US grade standards; learn standards for the particular mill; test their moisture meter for accuracy; be introduced to the Food Safety Modernization Act; and learn the logistics of selling grain to the particular mill. Mill tours will be in March and November of 2020.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
50
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
25
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
November 30, 2020
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

A tour of Ardent Mills (one of two planned for this project) was changed from in person to an online meeting with a pre-recorded video tour of the mill and a presentation on wheat quality and grading.  It was held on August 25, 2020.  The meeting could not be recorded, but the Wheat Quality & Grading presentation has been uploaded as an information product here and has had 21 views as of December 31, 2020. Some difficulties managing participant contact information with the online meeting software prevented a thorough follow up evaluation of impact. 

An additional online tour was conducted of two bakeries that mill their own flour. It was held on October 6, 2020.  This tour was not planned in the original proposal, but contributed to our overall effort to facilitate the local grain economy.  The meeting and resources are posted online, http://blogs.cornell.edu/capitalareaagandhortprogram/2020/10/05/local-grain-economy-resources/ and has had 51 views as of December 31, 2020. Three farmers and six bakers attended, as well as others who were interested in the topic.  Follow up to measure impact was difficult because only email addresses are available. 

Another tour of a feed mill was being planned, but a change in personnel requires re-planning.  This tour will be held in year 2 of the project.

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

At five on-farm trainings, farmers will learn the principles of sanitation, loading, aeration, and monitoring stored grain through demonstrations. They will practice calculating grain aeration times. See actual insect specimens and learn stored grain IPM. They will learn safety principles and see demonstrations of safety equipment. Farmers will see demonstrations of the spectrum of grain storage systems and machinery. They will learn which is adapted to their farms. On-farm meetings will be June 2020, July 2020, September 2020, March 2021, and September 2021.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
20
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

The first of five on-farm meetings was planned but was changed to an online meeting due to the pandemic.  It was held on October 26, 2020. The meeting format was changed to a picture and video tour of several farms to discuss a variety of systems for grain storage, drying, and cleaning.  The purpose was to help farmer modify/design their own grain systems.  The meeting was recorded and is posted online along with resources, http://blogs.cornell.edu/capitalareaagandhortprogram/2020/10/26/grain-storage-drying-and-cleaning-systems/ and has had 52 views as of December 3, 2020.  Again, only email addresses were available for follow up on impact.  Participants were from mostly New Jersey and New York. 

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

At one winter workshop, through expert speakers and an experienced farmer panel, farmers will learn how to develop and improve their grain storage systems relating to grain cleaning, drying, storage economics, integrated pest management, and SLAM. They will learn what types of storage systems fit their needs and the latest technology that is best for them.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
50
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Being planned

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Follow up will occur within 4 weeks of each mill tour, on-farm training, and the winter workshop. Phone contacts primarily as well as visits, emails, and letters will be used for farmers to ask questions about the previous training. Help will be provided with planning and evaluating any changes to their grain storage systems and management. Farmers will have a plan for adopting what they have learned.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
34
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Mill tours educated farmers about understand what is needed to meet the needs of a flour mill; learn about the Food Safety Modernization Act; about the local grain economy and how to participate in it as well as the challenges and opportunities it provides.  Meetings and resources are posted online for continued access to this education.

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Verification of adopting management changes, building infrastructure, and adopting technology will occur after the harvest following each training. Visits, phone calls, emails, and letters will be used to complete the Verification Tool appropriate for the training attended. Anyone that attends a training will be added to a Verification Record to track and record follow through. Farmers will report on benefits resulting from adopting new practices and infrastructure.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

In progress

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Farmers that complete intensive one-on-one training will learn and adopt the same principles as for the on-farm trainings. In addition, they will catalog their equipment and capacities. From that they will develop management protocols relating to SLAM, in particular aeration protocols. They will monitor grain at least monthly and record observations. Each month one of the project team will review monitoring records as well as adoption of the management principles, building of infrastructure, and adoption of technology.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Initial visits were made and farmers but in-person contact is temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.  Follow up contacts (email & phone) indicated that farmers had properly prepared their grain for winter storage.  One of the ten farmers is establishing a grain storage system.  A second operation is a malting facility that recently installed grain storage and will soon receive their first delivery of grain.

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Farmers will be recruited beginning at least 6 weeks before each tour, training, or workshop. Contacts will be by direct mailings, electronic and paper newsletters, social media, and personal contact. At each training, farmers will know the performance targets and that they will receive a follow up contact for help and also a verification contact to document adopted practices, infrastructure, or technology.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
50
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Ongoing

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Twenty-five farmers will be recruited to participate in the year-long one-on-one intensive training. Contacts will be by direct mailings, electronic and paper newsletters, social media, and personal contact. Farmers will be informed of the performance targets and given written an outline of the training program, so that they can make an informed commitment to participate.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Initial visits were made and farmers but in-person contact is temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.  Follow up contacts (email & phone) indicated that farmers had properly prepared their grain for winter storage.  One of the nine farmers is establishing a grain storage system.  A second operation is a malting facility that recently installed grain storage and will soon receive their first delivery of grain.

A educational resource booklet & records booklet were created and have been uploaded to SARE.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Online trainings
2 Tours

Participation Summary

34 Farmers
4 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

24 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key areas in which farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitude, skills and/or awareness:

Zoom polling and Qualtrics surveys were used to determine changes in knowledge for the following educational events.  Since only email addresses of attendees were available, verifying changes in knowledge was limited.

August 25, 2020 online tour of Ardent Mills learning outcomes (4 respondents among 22 farmers & 4 ag service providers):

  • (3) It has made me more knowledgeable of the Food Safety Modernization Act.,
  • (4) I have become more knowledgeable of grain quality and grading standards.
  • (1) It helped me expand my grain market options
  • Three of four respondents said that they are not confident that their moisture meter is accurate. Two of those do not know how to calibrate their moisture meters.  (This information will direct my efforts to address this need as the project proceeds.)

Ardent Mills reported that:

Four new growers increased sales of local wheat by 52%, from 17,900 bu (2019)  to 27,295 bu (2020).  Those new growers and more have planted wheat for 2021.

October 6, 2020 online Bakery Tour (of bakers with their own grain mill) learning outcomes (3 farmers among 12 respondents):

  • (6) 20-C Food Processing Establishment License
  • (5) The challenges of using/growing local grains
  • (7) The opportunities of using/growing local grains
  • (5) The benefits of a strong local grain economy
  • (4) How to participate in the local grain economy

October 26, 2020 online Grain Systems webinar learning outcomes:

  • the presentation prompted and/or educated me and helped me make decisions relative to my grain storage system (4 respondents)
    • I’m a beginner and this laid out basic considerations
    • Some good items. SLAM, spring quick burn SOP {10 min full heat}. other ways to approach common issues..move grain change to clean..some good fundamentals were provided
    • he most significant change we have made was to get a good moisture tester and start using it routinely. “It is hard to improve what you don’t measure”
    • This workshop was excellent and couldn’t have come at a better time as our farm pivots its production from primarily education and feed to food products to donate to food banks. The improvements we are making in the quality of our grain products will make a much higher proportion of them suitable for human consumption.

Performance Target Outcomes

Target #1

Target: number of farmers:
50
Target: change/adoption:

Twenty-five involved in group trainings will improve their SLAM management, detect pest infestations before losses occur, expand marketing, and install appropriate infrastructure and technology. The 25 that complete one-on-one trainings in addition to the above, will calculate their storage costs, and know the price at which they can profitably sell their crop.

Target: amount of production affected:

Fifty farmers, about half of the farmers we have identified that grow grains in our 8 county region will enroll in trainings. Half of the total acreage of grain will affected by this project - 21,325 acres.

Target: quantified benefit(s):

Farmers will prevent grain losses. (2019 known losses of $75,000 rejected loads and $94,000 spoiled grain.) Farm sustainability will be strengthened in this time of transition as farmers gain the ability to meet the additional local demand of $1.5 mill food grain, $1.8 mil feed grain, and artisan markets.

Actual: change/adoption:

verification is in progress

Actual: amount of production affected:

9395 additional wheat has been marketed to Ardent Mills this past harvest.

Actual: quantified benefit(s):

Wheat prices were over $5/bushel, so an additional $62,205 of farm income. Four additional growers sold wheat to Ardent Mills in 2020 and more have planted wheat for 2021 the harvest.

Performance Target Outcome Narrative:

verification in progress

Additional Project Outcomes

Additional Outcomes:

No additional project outcomes.

Success stories:

NA

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

NA

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.