Grain Storage Management Education for the Hudson Valley

Final 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 has been 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 loads that get rejected or docked at the mills.  Also, new farmers entering the LGE that need assistance planning a grain storage facility and learning how to manage it.  None of the farmers had safety training previously.  Grain storage management education was needed to help farmers sustain their transitioning farms and to help new farmers who entered the LGE.

This two-year grain storage management education program addressed the needs of conventional and organic farmers that grow a few acres or hundreds of acres of grain.  The program coincided with the covid-19 pandemic, so many meetings were changed to virtual and online formats.  This project held several educational programs including:  an online virtual tour of a large flour mill; a virtual tour and discussion of two bakeries that mill their own flour from local grains; an online workshop about grain systems; an online "Grain School"; three on-farm trainings;  and intensive one-on-one training to individual farmers.  Farmers received 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. 

A total of 165 people attended at least one of the programs.  This includes 60 farmers and eight ag service providers, several university and Cooperative Extension personnel.  The goal was to reach 50 farmers at educational programs and 25 through one-on-one trainings.  Ten farmers participated in one-on-one trainings and at least 50 attended the other programs.  Because of the shift to virtual and online programs, most attendees were from outside the target audience of the Hudson Valley region.  Because of this, verifying the adoptions of practices became problematic.  Thirty evaluations were completed by participants, 12 of which were farmers.  These twelve farmers reported that this educational program improved their grain storage economics, grain quality, grain marketing, and labor efficiency.  Forty-two instances of improvements were almost equally distributed among levels of 1-33%, 34%-66%, and 67% to 100% improvement.  No improvements based on dollars or bushels were volunteered.  Farmers provided one-on-one training were among those making improvements, but did not complete the extensive record-keeping to determine their actual grain storage costs.

Resources that were developed for this program include: a Grain Storage Management booklet; Grain Storage Management Records booklet; Excel spreadsheet to calculate grain storage costs; a worksheet to determine air flow per bushel; and several recorded meetings, tours, and presentations, which are publicly available.

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 to 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 now purchasing 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 was a road block for long-time farmers as they tried to adapt and sustain their farms by entering these grain markets and for new grain farmers trying to develop good business plans.  The issue was that managing stored grain requires technical knowledge, specialized tools, and new management skills.  The problem was that farmers have not been formally trained to manage stored grain.  Grain farmers had storage issues in the past resulting in lost sales and ruined grain.  Forty-six survey respondents reported the following grain storage problems before this grain storage education training:

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

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

Four educational approaches were used to provide grain storage management education: on-farm meetings, mill tours, a one-day winter workshop, and individual farmer training.  This program engaged 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/collapse or show everyone's info
  • 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 COVID-19 pandemic during the first year of the project shifted our education efforts 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 Cornell Cooperative Extension - 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 than 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:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 25, 2020
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. 

Because the COVID-19 pandemic persisted into 2022, a second mill tour was not conducted.

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 Integrated Pest Management. 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:
74
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
November 18, 2021
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 farmers 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. 

In 2021, three on-farm grain storage management meetings were held.  At each meeting there was a tour of the grain facilities during which grain storage principles were discussed (SLAM, sanitation, loading, aeration, monitoring).  Each farm meeting included additional unique topics.  At the Hewitt Farm, September 23rd, the additional topics included: insect pest ID and management; record-keeping to determine costs of storage; and how to determine air flow in a  bin.  The tour of Hudson Valley Hops and Grains on October 21st included demonstrations of Clipper Cleaner, gravity table and home-made grain cleaners, as well as a de-huller, and two roller mills.  At West Wind Farm, on November 18th, the tour included a soybean extruder and corn extruder.

The October 21, 2021 and November 18, 2021 on-farm grain meetings were recorded and are publicly available on the YouTube Channel of the Capital Area Agriculture and Horticulture Program, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtQVTRYhLcUGeGESCIMYVtua_gd01b9el

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
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
67
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
3
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
February 25, 2021
Accomplishments:

The Hudson Valley Value-Added Grain school switched to an online meeting with five hours of presentations over two days.  Experts in grain storage explained basic principles of storage (SLAM, sanitation, aeration, loading, and monitoring), stored grain IPM, and "Above Average Grain Storage Management".  A panel of New York farmers also spoke about their grain storage practices.

Evaluation responses from Grain School attendees indicated that farmers learned many things to help them plan their grain facility.  Specific examples of what was learned included: how to better ID insect pests; to cover fan openings when not in use; that their current practices are appropriate; to add a harness to their safety system; to increase drying temperature to be more efficient; and information that helped them resolve their storage issues. 

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:
60
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
8
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 28, 2022
Accomplishments:

A total of 165 people participated in the various tours, workshops, and one-on-one trainings provided through this SARE project.  Of those people about 60 were farmers, 8 were ag service providers, several were bakers, and several were university faculty and interested citizens and land owners.  Participants were from around the United States, but mostly from the northeast.   Because a majority of participants attended online meetings and were from beyond the Hudson Valley, follow up was complicated and limited.  Online participants did not provide complete contact information and online evaluations were anonymous.  Follow up evaluations after each meeting showed that participants learned many new things useful to their operations.  The impacts are detailed in the "Learning Outcomes" of this report.

 

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
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
12
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 28, 2022
Accomplishments:

In February 2022, an anonymous  survey to measure program impact was sent to everyone that participated in any program of this project over the previous two years - a total of 165 participants.  This allowed for sufficient time for changes and adoption of new practices to be made. Follow up evaluations were obtained from 30 participants, 12 of whom were farmers, and 4 were ag-service providers.  Other respondents included bakers, administrators, University faculty, and others.  The impacts are detailed in the "Learning Outcomes" section of this report.

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:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 28, 2022
Accomplishments:

Initial visits were made with farmers but in-person contact was temporarily suspended due to the pandemic.  One-on-one programming was complicated by the pandemic.  Also, this program required extensive record-keeping, which prevented many farmers from participating.  None of the farms collected sufficient information to determine their actual storage costs.  Personalized training on grain storage management was provided for each farm relating to their particular systems. Of the ten farmers that participated in the one-on-one training, five were planning and installing new grain storage facilities, one was expanding facilities, and four were making efforts to improve their existing facilities.

An Excel spreadsheet (Grain Storage Cost Calculator) was created to perform the calculations to determine grain storage costs.  The data needed for this calculator comes from the  updated record sheets in "Farm Specific Grain Storage Management - Records".

Grain Storage Cost Calculator v1

FSGSM Records booklet v2

 

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
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
165
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
8
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
November 18, 2021
Accomplishments:

Publicity for events of Grain Storage Management Education in the Hudson Valley included emails, press releases, announcements in newsletters, printed flyers and assistance from agency and industry partners, display ads in a weekly ag publication, as well as text messages to farmers.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the switch to online meetings for some events, a wider audience was reached, mostly from the northeast United States, but also from across the country.  Because incomplete contact information is given for online meetings, it is impossible to know the exact number of participants from the Hudson Valley, but it is estimated at 20%.  

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 a written 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:
Completed
Date Completed:
April 30, 2021
Accomplishments:

Farmers interested in the one-on-one training (Farm Specific Grain Storage Management) were found by general publicity and by our contacts with them at meetings.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities:

20 Consultations
5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Tours
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Workshop field days
6 Other educational activities: Produced six videos to provide virtual tours of two bakeries, three farms, and a Clipper grain cleaner

Participation Summary:

60 Farmers
8 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

36 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
2 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes 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.

In 2022, wet weather during harvest caused widespread pre-harvest sprouting, so no wheat from the Hudson Valley was received by Ardent Mills that year.

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

  • (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). Some specific anecdotes included:
    • 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; every move of grain is a chance to clean it; some good fundamentals were provided
    • the 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.

February 2022 - Twelve farmers of about 60 responded to a survey to measure impact.  The following results were documented:

Metric 1-33% 34-66 % 67 - 100 % Total
Reduced Costs 2 3 2 7
Increased Profits 3 3 1 7
Improved Grain Quality 3 2 3 8
Improved/Increased Markets 2 2 2 6
Improved Labor Efficiency 2 2 2 6
Improved Machinery Efficiency 3 3 2 8

Ten of the 12 farmers reported that because of this program, they avoided mistakes in planning or operating their grain storage systems.

Ten of 13 respondents said they were able to network with others.

Nine of the 12 farmers said this program helped them strategically plan the direction of their business.

Other specific comments of the impact of this program:

  • Widened work team vocabulary and access to ideas/problems/solutions."
  • "Encouraging to see other small-scale operations focusing on quality and sustainability"
  • "As an educational farm, the better our farm is, the better the education our visitors receive."
  • "Strengthened our confidence in adding local grains to our farm, allowed us to think creatively to solve what appeared to be major financial hurdles in equipment and facilities."
  • "More profit with cleaner grain."

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 be 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: number of farmers:
12
Actual: change/adoption:

Changes by individual farmers:
- Increased profits by cleaning grain better
- As advised, a shorter season corn variety was chosen which dried down earlier preventing insect infestation in the field (Aungumois grain moth) and improving our storage facilities allowed us to distribute our product over a longer part of the season.
-air-drying set up was improved
-Construction costs of our grain handling facility were reduced by about $2500 and we improved our grain handling plans before construction
- Resurrecting older cleaning equipment for modern usage
- I will retrofit a Harvestore for grain storage
- I will calibrate my moisture meter
- Improved Sanitation - 4
- Improved grain loading - 5
- Improved grain aeration management - 6
- Improved grain monintoring - 7

Actual: amount of production affected:

9395 additional wheat has been marketed to Ardent Mills this past harvest in 2020.
In 2021, there was rain at harvest which ruined a great portion of the NY wheat crop. No Hudson Valley farms were able to sell wheat to Ardent Mills.
Reported adoption of better management came from farmers growing a total of 7480 acres of grains.

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. No monetary benefits from wheat growers in 2021, since the weather ruined the entire crop.

Performance Target Outcome Narrative:

Verifying the adoption of practices by farmers became problematic because of the pandemic and the shift to virtual tours and online meetings.  Attendees did not always provide complete contact information for these meetings.  Many attendees lived in other states.  Evaluations were administered mostly through online surveys, with the link emailed to attendees.  Survey questions asked what farmers would adopt as a result of what they learned.  Return rates were low.  Also a final follow up survey to confirm adoption rates was sent at the end of the project time-frame.  Only twelve farmers responded.  Also, since online surveys are anonymous, and since most farmers were from outside the Hudson Valley, estimating adoption rates is not possible.   Adoptions rates for farmers in the Hudson Valley who participated were also verified through conversations and farm visits.

Farmers were asked to volunteer the amount of change as measured in dollars or bushels, but only one provided that information.  Knowing some of the farmers allowed for acres of production to be estimated.

30 Farmers changed or adopted a practice

Additional Project Outcomes

Additional Outcomes:

No additional project outcomes.

Success stories:

NA

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

NA

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.