- 5 agricultural service providers collaborate with state coordinator to host 5 informative workshops about alternative grain production that include information about marketing/quality considerations for 100 service providers and 80 grain farmers.
- 5 agricultural service providers specializing in agronomic crop production and animal science establish field demonstrations featuring regionally appropriate alternative grain crops at 5 farms that will serve as field tour stops where 80 farmers and 100 service providers learn of regional opportunities for producing alternative grain.
- 10 service providers who are actively involved in data collection (performance targets a and b) synthesize information collected from demonstration plots, workshops, and other activities into written and digital Extension outreach materials that are shared with 100 farmers and 150 service providers via meeting presentations and individual consulting sessions with farmers.
Increasing consumer demand for local sources of craft beverages, specialty flours, and organic animal products offers multiple opportunities for Pennsylvania (PA) farmers to supply alternative grain crops and meet local demand for high-value markets. The need for diverse grain-based products across industries allows opportunities for farmers and service providers in different PA growing regions (Roth, 2016) to supply various markets. Interest among service providers and farmers about alternative grain crops in PA is demonstrated by strong participation in ongoing activities. Despite these ongoing efforts, information is insufficient among service providers and interdisciplinary collaboration is needed to bridge the gaps of knowledge between marketing and production potentials for these crops. This NE-SARE State PDP aims to address needs and opportunities associated with alternative grain crop production and marketing in collaboration with service providers across disciplines. Engaging various practitioners who are involved in production, processing, and marketing will strengthen collective knowledge about associated opportunities and challenges for alternative grain crops in the region. Workshops and field demonstration plots throughout PA will be established to address marketing and production questions identified as learning needs to enable service providers to develop a cohesive understanding that can be incorporated into outreach programs with farmers. This professional development project will result in an interdisciplinary network of informed service providers who are prepared to assist farmers, businesses, and consumers address local concerns about alternative grain crops.
Service providers across disciplines have been identified as collaborators and have verbalized interest in participating in programs about alternative grain crop production and markets. To incentivize and ensure their participation, the state coordinator will organize and facilitate the activities of this project and supply them with resources to minimize their workload. Similarly, much of the education about research and field updates will be incorporated into regular Extension in-person meetings and events including digitally-based webinars and video conferences.
Three main activities associated with this project include 1) service provider participation (hosting and attending) in workshops that include information about production, as well as grain marketing and quality aspects, 2) grain demonstration plots that will engage service providers with farmer cooperators and offer opportunities to host field days, and 3) development of project findings for workshops and into outreach materials (digital and print). State coordinator will cooperate with service providers as described below.
1. Alternative grain workshops. Service providers across disciplines will attend and organize workshops focused on alternative grains. Workshops will have a strong educational component that engages attendees in learning activities about production, marketing, and quality considerations for various grain crops. As invited speakers, experts focused on grain markets, distribution, end-use production, and quality aspects will provide information about specific market needs and opportunities associated with particular grain crops. Workshops will educate participants about various opportunities, challenges, and available resources associated with producing alternative grain crops in PA, while engaging them with other service providers (Extension, agricultural business, non-profit, etc.), farmers, consumers, and marketers who share these interests. Workshop participants will answer survey questions designed to help identify opportunities for future program topics. Information generated from workshop surveys and collected from ongoing field trials will be compiled and presented to service providers early in year 2 and will be used to inform them about potential crops they can include in demonstration sites and future programs
2. Alternative grain demonstration plots. 5 service providers will establish demonstration plots with farmer cooperators in different regions of PA. Plots will feature varieties of specific grains that suit the growing conditions, market opportunities, and farmer interests for specific regions. For example, service providers in northern PA may focus on oat production whereas service providers in southern PA may find the conditions more suitable for malting barley. Demonstration plots will primarily highlight different crop varieties but may also examine other agronomic factors such as fertilizer rate and weed control options. Demonstration plots will serve as field tour stops and data findings will be included in presentations and written/digital publication materials. State coordinator will assist service providers with data collection, interpretation, and development of outreach materials.
3. Alternative grain outreach materials. Service providers from all disciplines will work with the state coordinator to compile results from market information, field demonstration sites, workshop evaluations, and other information collected during this project into written and digital outreach materials. This information will be available for service providers to use at farmer-based meetings and workshops they conduct.
Service providers engaged in these activities will receive travel funds and support for conducting farm demonstrations including seeds, soil samples, and analytical tools to use with farmers, as well as any analytical or design software necessary to complete market analyses or assess project findings. The state coordinator will manage publications and digital materials with service providers as cooperators to ensure their completion.
Milestones for year 1
1. 9 service providers working in agronomy, agricultural entrepreneurship, and animal science complete an application agreement that describes the details of the new project, including the responsibilities, training events, and commitments to conduct on-farm demonstrations, and to develop outreach materials and workshops. October 2018
4 ASPs in Agronomy are committed to working on the Organic Agronomy portion of this project including hosting field trials and workshops associated with this project. They will also participate in developing final resources (written and digital) from the project.
5 ASPs in Agronomy and Ag Entrepreneurship are committed to working on the Craft Beverage portion of this project including hosting field trials and workshops associated with this project. They will also participate in developing final resources (written and digital) from the project.
2. 4 service providers who work in agricultural entrepreneurship collaborate with the state coordinator to collect data for alternative grain markets assessments for 1) heritage grain and 2) animal feed grain via in-person interviews with farmers and stakeholders involved in alternative grain seed sales, marketing, milling, distribution, processing, and end-use. As a result, the educators will become more knowledgeable about the various sectors associated with marketing alternative grain crops and establish relationships with stakeholders and each other. October 2017 - September 2018
Note that there are two main alternative grain markets being examined throughout this project. Focus on these were determined by local demand and interest in the state of PA by government, industries, consumers, and farmers. Each market is addressed separately throughout this PDP. They are Market 1. Organic Animal Feed Grains and Market 2. Craft Beverage Grains. It is also important to know that the two markets differ greatly from each other, where the Organic Market is a verticle strategy and the Craft Beverage market allows for more direct sales. As a result, the educational approach of ASPs will differ between the two throughout the project.
- Market 1. Organic Animal Feed Grains – The state program hosted a workshop that assembled 12 ASPs in Penn State Extension from the Agronomy, Ag Entrepreneurship, and Animal Science teams to discuss benefits and downfalls for meeting increasing market demands in PA for organic grain crops particularly focusing on the state’s major organic poultry market (eggs and meat). Discussions also identified opportunities for organic farmer outreach, including on-farm trials and workshops. 4 of the 12 ASPs were those who had previously committed to participate in the study. The workshop provided an opportunity for PSU researchers, Extension specialists, and Extension educators to discuss organic agronomy at length, while introducing experts focused on agronomy to animal science and ag entrepreneurship experts. 11 ASPs that attended the meeting continue to plan field trials/days, workshops, outreach products. Future research projects have also become more focused as a result of collaborative discussions from this meeting. Most outreach will occur in Year 2 and Year 3 and satisfy those milestones of this state program.
- Workshop evaluations determined ASPs main concerns and identified approaches for addressing farmers’ needs associated with organic grain and animal production. Main responses to evaluation questions are summarized.
- List specific topics that need to be addressed with research – equipment strategies for reducing tillage/managing weeds including identifying new equipment, modifying existing equipment, agronomic aspects related to equipment (e.g.,narrow row spacing); diversified crops for rotations including cover crops; and reducing risk and improving profitability during organic transition.
- List specific info that you think PA farmers need more info about – Whole farm planning and record keeping, profitability and risk managment, low-risk transition strategies, how to reduce tillage successfully, and soil health success stories from organic farmers
- Describe any main concerns with organic grain and livestock production in PA – High manure inputs and phosphorus accumulation; Us vs. them mentality -> organic vs. conventional or any different method. When one is “better” than the other; The boom in organic poultry production is unsustainable given limited domestic organic grain production.
- In addition to ASP attendees’ responses to the specific evaluation questions, attendees were most intersted in three main topics of discussion, including:
- Identifying sustainable approaches for farmers to increase their operations’ abilities to meet large-scale feed demands. A) existing organic farmers producing more grain or B) non-organic farmers converting and certifying more land for organic grain production.
- Improve the understanding about soil health with farmers. Conversations about tillage to manage weeds in organic system is a barrier to discussing organic crop production with farmers. PA has a very committed no-till farmer base and the mention of tillage is polarizing and judgemental. It is a barrier to conversation and critical thinking.
- Alternative crops for use in agronomic systems. Agronomy experts were enthusiastic to interact and learn from a poultry specialist who described crop options (besides corn and soy) for chickens that could diversify rotations for markets and pest/nutrient managment.
- In addition to this workshop the State Coordinator met with the 12 ASPs who attended this workshop (individually or groups) and several other to discuss organic agronomy programming and research needs approximately 25 times throughout year 1, and several of them also attended 5 events that also included organic grain and poultry farmers.
- This Northeast SARE State program also participated in a local cooperators survey Keystone Development Cooperation, along with Penn State Extension, Penn Assoc of Sust Ag, Penn Cert Organic to issue a survey to 45 respondents about their interest and need of forming an organic grain cooperative in PA.
- The state coordinator also trialed a novel variety of corn thought to be suitable for organic chicken feed with 3 farmers and 1 ASP. The corn samples are being evaluated for nutrient content and information will be incorporated into year 2 and 3 outreach.
2. Market 2. Craft Beverage Grains – Conversations with 2 ASP experts in Ag Entreprenurship specifically, craft beverage production, were initiated prior to the start of this project to determine interest in participation. Since that time, the 2 Ag Entrepreneurship ASPs conducted a survey that identified a strong local need and interest for craft beverage products in Western PA, which provided an opportunity for the State Program to connect ASPs in Ag Entrepreneurship and Agronomy with producers in the craft beverage industry. This group of 5 ASPs collaborated to host a workshop with 6 ASPs (including 5 already committed) and 9 Western PA farmers, brewers, and maltsters. The half-day workshop featured gently guided discussions led by workshop hosts, but mostly was an open conversation about the challenges and opportunties facing all facets of the craft beverage industry in Western PA. The workshop provided an opportunity for ASPs from two distinct specialty areas to collaborate and discuss local craft beverage opportunities at length with local industry players. The discussion was valuable for all since many craft beverage market aspects aren’t well-understood by others across the value chain. Although ASPs helped recruit participants and secure location, they were mainly workshop participants and engaged in the conversation. 6 ASPs that attended the meeting continue to plan field trials/days, and workshops based on conversations at the workshop. Most of those will occur in Year 2 and Year 3 and satisfy those milestones of this state program.
- Although there was not a formal evaluation of the workshop, main topics of interest identified during the guided discussions are summarized as:
- Relationships among brewers, growers, maltsters etc. are typically good and many currently work together. However, always room for improvements in supply and demand chain.
- There is great value in learning about each other’s various industries. Better understanding of each other’s needs can improve your ability to do your own job.
- Local production of ag products is still difficult mainly due to local growing conditions, equipment needs, and time constraints. Folks are trying to buy locally and support each other as much as possible. There appears to be an opportunity for growth in processing products that are supplied.
- Opportunities for field research: Grain varieties suitable for Western PA, work with fungicides – application rates and timing, spring grain varieties, winter heartiness, resistance to Fusarium, testing “maltability” of different grains and flavor profiles, including roasting grain.
- Beer Quality: Flavor is everything. Quality comes from the maltsters and brewers’ “craft.” Customers like new flavors and variability could be considered as a benefit.
- Typically, contract-based markets are the most reliable.
- On Educational Opportunities: Face to face meetings preferred, relevant topics are worth travelling for (should have a targeted focus), partner with existing organizations/meetings, more opportunities in Western PA (hops, grain, malting etc.), a directory of people who are growing and brewing products to improve purchasing abilities, research topics above, interest in touring facilities and farms.
- Post meeting follow-up conversations contine with all ASPs attendees. 3 Agronomy ASPs (from above) are planning craft beverage related Field trials/Days and additional workshops and tours in year 2 in Western PA with state coordinator. ASPs are interested in collaborating with ongoing brewer groups, rather than only doing individual events. Additionally, 4 Ag Entrepreneurship ASPs (2 already committed) plus state coordinator have used information from this workshop to secure a PA State Liquor Control Board grant that examines interest in local production for the craft beverage industry across PA in 2019. This will improve the ability to do outreach and share market findings as well as information from W PA field trials to a larger audience of ASPs and farmers across PA.
- Prior to the meeting 2 Ag Entrepreneurship ASPs attended the Pittsburg Brewer’s Guild to network and share information about the project.
3. 5 service providers collaborate with state coordinator to host summer field days and workshops about various alternative grain crops in PA. Meetings will include information about crop production, potential markets, grain quality concerns and regulations, as relevant. Potential focus topics include malting barley, industrial hemp, organic corn, and heritage grain crops. Each event will have an associated survey where participants can indicate areas of interest for future program events and materials. August 2018.
ASPs needed to develop greater understanding of the alternative grain markets and farmer interests during year 1 before establishing demonstrations. As noted above, ASPs who attended the meetings about organic animal feed grains (11) and craft beverage grains (6) are planning field trials/days, workshops and outreach products that will occur in Years 2 and 3.
4. 5 service providers collect photos of crops and other production information about the crops in-season. Photos, production information, and other information collected from surveys and from speakers at field days about markets will be synthesized by the state coordinator for presentation and discussion to 20 service providers in year 2. The goal is to identify needs and opportunities for outreach about various crops and markets to move forward with in years 2 and 3. October 2018.
Although some ASPs have collected information and photos about crops and cropping systems for future use, year 1 mainly focused on navigating and understanding each individual market and assessing the best way to approach needs. However, we have met the goal of this milestone because the workshops described in Milestone 2 have helped ASPs better identify needs and opportunities to focus on for outreach about various crops and markets to move forward with in years 2 and 3. Information about the PA organic grain market was presented to a larger group of ASPs early in Year 2, however additional presentations to broader groups of ASPs will be improved with data generated as this project progresses. ASPs and farmers will have opportunities to engage at workshops and field days associated with on-farm trials in year 2. ASPs from both market groups have identified products to focus on and are committed to developing them in cooperation with the state program.
10 ASPs (4 previously committed) are currently organizing field trials, workshops, and several written and digital publications focused on aspects about Organic Grain Markets that were identified in the workshop.
6 ASPs (4 previously committed) involved in the Craft Beverage Industry are currently organizing field trials and workshops. Although there is some conversation about developing written and digital publications, it is not quite clear what these will be at this time.
5. 2 Ag Service Providers develop enterprise budgets about organic grain cropping systems. Enterprise budgets currently exist as research data and will be adapted into Extension materials and outreach products. Information about enterprise budgets will be incorporated into future events that focus on organic grain marketing as a resource for farmers. September 2018.
The enterprise budgets are currently under development but not complete. In addition to including them as a chapter in the revised edition of the Penn State Organic Production Guide (2020), we will digitize them and make them more interactive for farmers, this portion is not completed yet.
6. 20 ASPs attend an event that features speakers and information about organic grain integrity concerns that impact PA farmers. October 2018.
An event that focused on organic grain integrity specifically did not occur, however the topic was addressed with ASPs in two separate conversations that occured early in year 2 (November 2018). Due to the increasing interest in organic grain production in PA by State Government and local industry representatives, it was identified that ASPs needed more information about organic in general, and market specifics.
- 16 ASPs (1 previously committed) and 12 students attended an invited speaker event on November 7. The state program invited Andrew Smyre (NE SARE AC member) of Anchor Ingredients to present the Pennsylvania “Organic Grain Picture” to an undergraudate course. The speaker was broadcast via Zoom, which enabled outreach to ASPs in the counties.
- 30 ASPs (including 4 previously committed) from the Penn State Agronomy Extension specialists and educators attended a workshop presentation by the state coordinator entitled “Organic Production in Pennsylvania: Implications for Agronomy.” Topics and discussion were similar to those presented at the half day workshop (described in Milestone 2), but attendees did not have as comprehensive of an understanding of organic agriculture as the workshop attendees. 10 ASP attendees responded to the same evaluation. Evaluation respondents identified that markets and economics, reduced tillage/soil health/weed control practices, and risks associated with the transition needed to be addressed with research. Respondents identified that farmers need more information about marketing and specific economics, incentives for organic (markets or other), and transition challenges and success stories. Respondents were mainly concerned about organic grain and livestock production allowing farmers surviving the low economic situation during the transition period, influencing farmers’ incentives for transitioning, and ability to maintain soil health.
Milestones for year 2
1. 20 service providers attend a presentation addressing information collected and compiled in year 1 about alternative grain crop options. Presentation topics include information about quality and markets, production aspects, and appropriate growing regions for specific crops. Participants discuss how this information can be incorporated into summer and winter workshops with farmers. March 2019
2. 5 service providers establish demonstration plots with farmer cooperators and support from state coordinator in their regions to examine suitable grain crops and grain quality factors in various growing regions across Pennsylvania. Service providers host field days at each site and include speakers to discuss marketing and quality aspects for each crop. Summer 2019
3. 20 service providers attend a field tour to an alternative grain farm, mill, and brewery to engage with involved stakeholders and experience production and processing aspects first hand. Depending on the chosen locations, participants will learn about important factors that impact grain quality in specific markets, production strategies, crop rotations, organic certification, end use quality, or distribution opportunities. Summer 2019
4. 5 service providers who hosted demonstration plots receive digital surveys to verify the educational programs and service materials in which they incorporated project information, and the number of farmers and service providers they educated through these efforts. September 2019
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Study circle / focus groups||27||27|
|Webinars, talks and presentations||2||2|
Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total Individuals|
|Farmers / ranchers||12||0||0||0|
Formal assessments of learning were not conducted in year 1, although through facilitated, focused discussions at multiple meetings, participants developed a more complete understanding of the opportunities and challenges related to growing grains for two markets: organic feed grains and grains for the craft beverage industry. They also developed more clarity about their needs for learning to support farmers who may want to pursue these opportunities. Year 1 Milestone 2 contains a detailed description of the opportunities, challenges and learning needs identified.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
In 2018, the PA State Coordinator was a team leader for the PDP Proposal review. Northeast SARE Pennsylvania State program sponsors two guest speakers at Penn State main campus, one in fall and one in spring as the sustainable ag cropping symposium, to feature emerging topics in sustainable agriculture. In addition to responding to many phone calls and emails (approximately 25) annually about grant programs, the state coordinator hosts exhibit tables throughout the year, to strengthen outreach. Finally, SARE publications, mainly “Building Soils for Better Crops” and “Managing Cover Crops Profitably” are distributed as educational resources to ASPs and farmers.
Year 1 Outreach:
November 2017: Mark Bomford – Yale, Sustainable Food Project, Invited Guest Speaker for Sustainable Institute Seminars (in partnership with Penn State Student Farm Program) (75 attendees)
December 2017: PA Women in Ag Network Annual Conference – introduction to grants and SARE Exhibit Table (150 attendees)
January 2018: PA State Coordinator was team leader for reviewing competitive PDP proposals, participating in Tier 1 and Tier 2 reviews. Tier 2 also involved reviewing RNA and R&E proposals.
February 2018: Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Conference, State College, PA. Multiple Events.
- Holistic Soil Health 101 full-day workshop. Focused on previous state program PDP project “Monitoring and Predicting Ecosystem Services” therefore NE SARE state program was featured. 31 Participants
- Developing your Farm’s Soil Health Strategy half-day workshop. Similarly, from previous state program project focusing on on-farm research trials. 65 Participants.
- Establishing a Service Provider Network in PA Poster. Organic Farming and Research Foundation sponsored program. 10 Participants.
- Northeast SARE Table Exhibit, PASA Trade Show 1000 attendees
April 2018: Our Farms Our Futures Conference. Two posters featuring the State Program and a Long-term Agroecosystems funded project.
- Establishing a Service Provider Network for Organic Grains in PA. 50 Attendees
- Advancing Sustainable Cropping Systems for Dairy in the Northeast. 25 Attendees
April 2018: 8th Annual Sustainable Cropping Systems Symposium Theme: Drivers of Farmer’s Decision Making to Adopt Sustainable Practices,
- J. Arbuckle, Invited Guest Speaker Iowa State University Department of Rural Sociology. 60 attendees
- Farmer/ASP Panel Discussion – What Drives Farmers to try new practices that help them address risks and opportunities. How can research and Extension Evolve to better meet their needs? 40 participants
July 2018: Listening Session with Congressman Thompson and PA Dept of Ag on the Importance of Organic Agriculture. State Coordinator respresented Penn State Univ at the event and discussed Northeast SARE state program focus on training ASPs on Alternative Grain Markets. 20 participants
August 2018: Northeast SARE table Exhibit at Ag Progress Days. 500 attendees visited table
Distributed about 20 copies of SARE books to farmers and ASPs.
Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|