HABESHA Agriculture Leadership Opportunity (HALO Program)

Progress report for LS20-322

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2020: $48,440.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: HABESHA, Inc.
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Cashawn Myers
HABESHA, Inc.
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Project Information

Abstract:

The HALO Program incorporated in-­class lectures paired with homework assignments, independent research, field trips and immersion experiences for practical application of learning concepts. The 7-month curriculum focused on advanced farm planning, business education and leadership skills as they relate and can be applied to participants’ current businesses and initiatives. Subjects included:

  • Implementing an Organic Systems Plan;
  • Retail Readiness;
  • Branding and Marketing;
  • Financing;
  • Succession Planning;
  • Accessing USDA­ Funding;
  • Emotional Intelligence, Relationship Building,  and Conflict Resolution; and
  • Organizational Development & Management
Project Objectives:

The HALO Program sets forth the following objectives, which are established to address the environmental , economic and social-emotional components as defined by the program’s definition of sustainability.  This included:  

  1. Over the first year period, the HALO program provided practical education on how to make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on­-farm resources for 12 farmers on how to write and follow an organic system plan. 
  2. Delivering managerial and business education that focused on the proper use of human, financial, and environmental resources to support operations in a more sustainable way, and also how to identify and engage in business relationships creating more opportunities for economic sustainability and growth. 
  3. Provided leadership training that focused on emotional intelligence, relationship building, conflict resolution, and organizing and planning to expand the leadership capabilities of urban farmers, agriculture-­based business owners, and related advocates. 

Research

Involves research:
No
Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

In addressing this issue, HABESHA has focused the goals of the HALO program on the concept of sustainability. The program’s intent is to assist the beginning farmer in achieving longevity in the farming industry by offering new opportunities to grow professionally. HABESHA takes a holistic approach to sustainability and incorporates three areas of impact which include environmental, economic, and social. Over a seven (7) month period, HABESHA graduates were offered monthly training sessions centered around each of theses areas of impact and aims to address the farmer attrition by offering ongoing support to 12 black beginning farmers in the southeast.

Regarding environmental impacts, the HALO Program built upon the existing sustainable agriculture training provided through the HABESHA Works program. During the 14-weeks of the HABESHA Works program, farmers are primarily introduced to concepts such as production methods, composting, water harvesting, low-till, companion planting, cover cropping. Training elements of the HALO Program will work to introduce practical knowledge and experience in designing and implementing a USDA-approved “organic system plan.” Information on organic systems plans may be introduced through classroom-style presentations from subject matter experts or other through field exploration.

Economic components of the program will improve the profitability of farms. Topics included an overview of key business practices and tools including recordkeeping, marketing, business planning, organizational development, accounting, and more. These sessions not only focused on profit but also addreseds the need for farmers to leverage professional networks consisting of farmers, farming advocates, and business service providers. In doing so, farmers improved their access to new information and resources available to support operations.

Lastly, research has also suggested there are social emotional impacts to farm failure. The HALO program also introduced sessions intended to improve the quality of life for farmers, their families and communities. Developing training curriculum that addresses topics including but not limited to emotional intelligence, mental health awareness, and communication style are expected to build the leadership capabilities of the beginning farmers and/or farming professional. These skills are also valuable in preparing for farmers to navigate challenges faced in the process of sustaining a farm operation.

The HABESHA Agriculture Leadership Opportunity (HALO Program) contributes to the sustainable farming in the South because the curriculum aims to increase leadership and professional development skills among farmers and agriculture-based entrepreneurs. HALO offers skills training that enhances the beginning farmer’s ability to successfully delivery his/her product to market. Having a comprehensive knowledge of the business tools and techniques needed to sustain a farming operation achieves long-term success. The program seeks to provide practical education on how to make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources.

Additionally, HALO educates farmers on how to write and follow an organic system plan. In the program, emerging farmers had greater exposure and direct support from farming experts in the region and are encouraged to adopt practices that will allow them to maximize their food production. For example, developing an understanding of becoming a certified organic producer also provides a mechanism to take advantage of new market opportunities, which can increase profitability (USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, 2019).

By assisting farmers in the HALO program in gaining the benefits of an organic systems plan model, environmental quality and use of natural resources is also considered. In particular, the current method of food production in the US has led to environmental pollution and other adverse effects. Conventional farming has proven to negatively impact soil, air and water quality. Contaminants in the food production system increases the risk of public health concerns. Expanding the development of organic farming promotes quality water management practices, minimum tillage, habitat maintenance, and biological pest controls that serve as environmental protections. Providing program participants with hands-on training towards organic certification helps to build capacity around the use of environmentally safe farming practices over time.

HALO also provided leadership training that focused on emotional intelligence, relationship building, conflict resolution, and organizing and planning. This is intended to expand the leadership capabilities of emerging farmers, agriculture-based business owners, and related advocates. Farmers face a number of issues that drive them to leave the industry. Among those factors are mental health concerns that occur due to the stresses of farming such as financial issues, isolation, and lack of a support network (AgDaily, 2019). Emphasizing mental health as a curriculum component is intended to raise the farmer’s awareness of these issues within the farming industry and establish stress management tools and resources to reduce these risks. Health professionals provided training and information on how to build strategies that help to manage the social-emotional challenges faced farmers. Overall, these program aspects were presented to enhance the quality of life of farmers participating in the training.

The overall goal of the HALO program was to deliver managerial and business education that focuses on the proper use of human, financial, and environmental resources to support farm operations in a more sustainable way. HALO also seeks to help farmers identify opportunities to engage in networking and relationship building that supports the growth of their agribusiness. By affecting these areas of the farming business, the community receives the benefit of having a growing and sustainable local economy. Over time, the growth and sustainability of these businesses may potentially lead to the increase of employment opportunities for the Black Belt population.

 

Educational & Outreach Activities

6 Consultations
3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 On-farm demonstrations
12 Online trainings
3 Tours
3 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

12 Farmers
7 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Participants attended The Gullah Geechee Herbal Gathering in March 2021 The Gathering is a one day annual conference for  Black and Indigenous People and people of Gullah Geechee heritage that is geared towards exploring the historical and cultural uses of herbs and plant medicine in the Gullah/Geechee Nation and within the Diaspora. 

Each participant who completed the program will have a full business plan and will also have their business registration covered by HABESHA.

Participants will be making a “Green Business Pitch” on April 3, 2021 to present their business plan to a panel of judges with the opportunity to receive $2,500 seed money for their business.

 

Learning Outcomes

10 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

6 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
3 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The HABESHA Agriculture Leadership Opportunity (HALO Program) contributes to the sustainable farming in the South because the curriculum aims to increase leadership and professional development skills among farmers and agriculture-based entrepreneurs. HALO offers skills training that enhances the beginning farmer’s ability to successfully delivery his/her product to market. Having a comprehensive knowledge of the business tools and techniques needed to sustain a farming operation achieves long-term success. The program seeks to provide practical education on how to make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources.  Additionally, HALO educates farmers on how to write and follow an organic system plan. In the program, emerging farmers had greater exposure and direct support from farming experts in the region and are encouraged to adopt practices that will allow them to maximize their food production. For example, developing an understanding of becoming a certified organic producer also provides a mechanism to take advantage of new market opportunities, which can increase profitability 

Recommendations:

We would love to be able to follow participants over an extended period of time (minimum 5 years) and follow their progress as they move forward.  

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.