Final report for NEPA17-001
Consumer demand for ecologically and socially responsible food products is influencing market opportunities for local grain crop producers. More specifically, in Pennsylvania, farmers are encouraged to supply organically produced grain crops as well as grains used by the craft beverage industry. Unfortunately, production of these grains can be difficult in the region and because they are more obscure than crops like corn and soybeans, Agricultural Service Provider (ASPs) are less knowledgeable about their production and marketing opportunities. This PA State Professional Development Program focused on these two grain markets to inform ASPs and farmers about associated risks and opportunities. Specific topics related to organic grain production that participants identified as important for farmer outreach include, equipment strategies for reducing tillage/managing weeds; diversified crops for rotations including cover crops; low-risk transition strategies; soil health success stories from organic farmers; and concern that organic market demand drives production beyond sustainability. In relation to craft beverage grains, participants identified that good relationships exist between grain farmers and beverage producers; described that local growing conditions pose natural challenges for crop production and identified a need for compatible varieties; noted equipment expense, use, and timing of operations can pose challenges; identified an overall sense of comradery within the local industry and opportunities for collaborative marketing and support as the top areas for focus to support farmers with associated markets.
Over the course of this project, we engaged approximately 12 ASPs consistently, to conduct outreach to approximately 2037 agriculture service providers and farmers who are interested in specialty grain production and markets. A combination of 41 total study circles, online webinars, and in-person presentations have been used to conduct this outreach based on the needs described above for each market. In addition, eight on-farm trials were conducted over the course of the project, but various challenges limited our abilities to host on-farm tours and information from trials was instead incorporated into presentations and discussions for farmers and ASPs. COVID-19 social distancing protocols limited in-person events in 2020, but a no-cost extension through 2021 allowed us to focus on online content and in total we created 16 Extension articles, videos and online resources. This project has also indirectly facilitated collaboration among other important educational groups including the Philadelphia Grain and Malt Symposium committee, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, the Rodale Institute, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Pennsylvania Preferred Program, and Pennsylvania Certified Organic. To date, information from this program was used to leverage at least three grant projects totaling $1.1 million to address specific concerns related to soil disturbance issues on soil health, and grain quality in malting barley.
- 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.
Increased consumer demand for local sources of craft beverages, specialty flours, and organic animal products offered 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 allowed 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 was demonstrated by strong participation in ongoing activities. Despite ongoing efforts, information was insufficient among service providers and interdisciplinary collaboration was needed to bridge the gaps of knowledge between marketing and production potentials for these crops. This Northeast SARE State PDP aimed 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 strengthened collective knowledge about associated opportunities and challenges for alternative grain crops in the region. Workshops and field demonstration plots throughout PA were 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 resulted 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.
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.
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 vertical strategy, 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 management, 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 interested 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 committed no-till farmer base and the mention of tillage is polarizing and judgmental. 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 management.
- 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 Entrepreneurship 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 opportunities 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 continue 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.
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.
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.
In year 2, 10 ASPs remain committed to organizing Organic Grain Feed workshops and some field trials in Year 3, with support by the NE SARE State PDP in conjunction with ongoing Extension duties and a USDA OREI proposal due in 2020. Although complications restricted organic grain field trials in Year 2, 7 ASPs were involved in hosting organic events as part of their Penn State Extension activities. All ongoing activities and projects are incorporating information about organic weed control, soil fertility, and grain markets as determined from participation in the state PDP workshops and presentations.
6 ASPs (4 previously committed) involved in the Craft Beverage Industry are currently organizing workshops. Written and digital publications were also developed.
In year 2, 3 Agronomy ASPs conducted 2 on-farm research trials growing spring barley with different fungicide applications (neither site was appropriate for a field tour). Demonstration trials, and outreach projects are described in Milestone 9.
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.
The enterprise budgets were completed in summer of year 2 and are available online at Penn State Extension. Additionally, a news article describing the product was featured in Penn State Extension Field and Forage Crop News at that same time, which has an outreach of approximately 9500 farmers and ASPs interested in grain crop agronomy and management. Furthermore, information and portions of the organic enterprise budget were included in the upcoming (2020) edition of Penn State Organic Crop Production Guide (not a SARE publication). Additional information gleaned from collaborations within the state PDP project will be included in approximately 4 chapters of the guide, which will be available for purchase digitally and in print on the Penn State Extension website. Product Links in Milestone 15.
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 occurred 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 undergraduate 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.
- 2 ASPs from the Penn State Agronomy Specialists meeting (not previously committed) adapted and used information about organic grain production and markets in PA to present to grower groups at 2 winter meetings: 20 ASPs and 20 Farmers at Lancaster Co Crop Day and at the Fulton Bank Ag Seminars in Lebanon County PA to 200 ASPs and 300 Farm operators.
- An article addressing organic grain integrity was written as a Penn States Agronomy article and shared in a newsletter at the same time (with outreach to approximately 9500 ASP and Farmer subscribers). Available at: https://extension.psu.edu/organic-crop-integrity-how-are-certified-crops-protected-from-fraud. This publication was also adapted and is being prepared in the Penn State Organic Production Guide (completed 2020).
20 service providers attend a presentation addressing information collected and compiled in year 1 about alternative grain crop options. Presentation topics include information about grain 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
Organic Grain Market
Panel discussion featuring 2 organic grain farmers, 1 poultry nutritionist and 1 grain buyer was hosted at Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture conference for 13 Ag Service providers and 5 Farmer attendees. Panel covered questions and discussion about opportunities and challenges associated with organic grain production and opportunities for meeting the increasing organic chicken industry in PA. Farmers discussed their dedication to maintaining soil health, ease of selecting markets, and challenges associated with transitioning to organic ag. Poultry nutritionist described opportunities and challenges for diversifying poultry diets with diverse grain crops. Grain buyer described the local commitment to buying regional domestic grain. Panelists and participants gained a better understanding about the whole value chain for organic grain production and approximately 3 farmers and 5 ASPs who attended this event are committed to future research and outreach opportunities to continue building the organic grain and poultry community. Panel members (4) each received a copy of “Building Soils for Better Crops” as a gift for participating.
Craft Beverage Grain Market:
11 Agronomy ASPs received information in a presentation titled “Understanding Needs Along Pennsylvania’s Craft Beverage Value-Chain” as part of an Extension Agronomy team webinar. The presentation included an overview of the local state market demand for grain products for craft beverages (barley for beer and rye/corn for distilleries). Currently, PA ranks #1 with the number barrels of craft beer produced per year with 354 craft breweries and has over 80 craft distilleries within the state (up from 4 distilleries in 2010), both markets committing to sourcing local supplies of grain crops for these products. Currently, 5 Agronomy ASPs (2 previously committed) and 5 Ag Entrepreneurship ASPs (3 previously committed) are working on various aspects of the value chain to improve communication and outreach to farmers and stakeholders in conjunction with the SARE state project and other funded programs. The PA PDP program hosted two additional workshops for craft beverage producers (similar to the one in 2018) that are described in Milestone 9. Compiled outcomes were shared with webinar participants as were grain demonstration trial and grain quality reports and interpretations. The webinar is recorded and optionally made available to an additional 20 ASPs as a project update and options for farmer outreach.
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
Plans to establish organic grain demonstration plots with 3 ASPs failed in year 2 and was not completed. However, 3 Agronomy ASPs established 2 on-farm trials for craft beverage grains that examined spring malting barley production with the application of two fungicides (one recently labeled for barley). Poor spring field conditions and communication with farmers resulted in available findings from only one farm. However, this Western PA farmer (stated region of need for better outreach) is interested in cooperating in future projects. Challenges with barley production in PA, especially spring varieties, resulted in poor malting quality grain. Although fungicide applications appear to reduce DON levels (e.g., vomitoxins) to an acceptable threshold, other quality factors resulting from barley flower timing during a wet spring were so poor that spring barley was not acceptable for malting. Findings provided an important learning opportunity that more than disease suppression is needed for PA farmers to produce high quality malting barley and further research is needed on appropriate variety selection for the climate, especially for farmers who demand spring varieties. This information was supported by conversations at the workshops described in Milestone 9. Furthermore, 2 additional ASPs (agronomy specialists) conducted barley variety trials as ongoing research engaged with this project and their information combined with data from this NE SARE PDP demonstrates a larger picture of crop production needs and challenges for the PA craft beverage industry. This information demonstrates opportunities for more targeted outreach to be used in field trials and Extension programs, including the Agronomy webinar described above. Additionally, 6 Ag Entrepreneurship ASPs initiated PA Liquor Board Funded grant that surveys craft beverage stakeholders specific to marketing aspects for beverage production that supports findings from this state program.
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
Further challenges also limited our ability to host a field tour in year 2, but other stakeholder outreach events were hosted in its place.
Craft Beverage Markets:
Opportunity and interest presented the need to host additional craft beverage working group discussions [similar to Year 1 (2018)]. In Year 2, 3 ASPs (already committed) and 2 ASPs (1 already committed) hosted 2 workshops featuring facilitated discussions in Western and Eastern, PA with craft beverage stakeholders. The Western location was similar to the 2018 event and 14 total stakeholders participated. The Eastern location was new but is a more established community of craft beverage stakeholders and 39 stakeholders participated. Attending stakeholders were from malthouses, craft distilleries, craft breweries, seed and ag product industries, Extension and other education organizations, and grain and hop producers. Because attendees at the western location were the similar participants as the previous year, the discussion included a presentation and discussion focused more specifically on grain quality concerns and testing. Stakeholders in the eastern location had a broader discussion about needs surrounding grain performance and supply, as well as challenges with advertising, and needs for education. The main themes from all three workshops were compiled into a document (Main themes from Craft Beverage Workshops (1)) and shared via email with 11 ASPs (Agronomy and Ag Entrepreneurship) as well as the additional Extension partners (5 ASPs) who attended, to incorporate their work. Additionally, this information was incorporated into the Agronomy webinar described above, so was shared with an additional 8 ASPs who were not part of the original cohort. A couple of key themes include:
- Grain Production – Need to identify specific barley varieties and management practices suitable for PA. Yield doesn’t matter as much as having consistent quality that is challenging to achieve due to the regional climate conditions. Brewers and distillers can “craft” a high-quality grain into a good end product but cannot overcome food safety concerns that are present with poor growing conditions. Outreach professionals need to focus more on varieties suitable for PA and present more information than yield.
- Grain Marketing – Need more understanding about the price premium on craft beverages and quantify the actual value that “local” means to consumers (mainly brewers and drinkers). In other words, how much more are they willing to pay? Also, identify partners who do value “local” connect farmers with craft beverage makers here.
- Educational Resources – Face-to-Face meetings are ideal and like connecting with others within the value chain for increased learning about each other’s needs. Also, ideal to see facilities.
Relationships developed from participation in these workshops continue into Year 3, this is important because these events gave a good opportunity for already involved stakeholders to engage with each other and to form relationships with Extension to further each other’s missions. State Coordinator and 4 ASPs (already committed) are presenting at the Grain and Malt Symposium in Philadelphia (March 2020) which will further discuss project findings and examine important challenges along the value chain in more detail.
In response to the stated needs:
- Grain Production – 4 agronomy ASPs are committed to work on refining variety trials to identify suitable PA cultivars and scale up suitable varieties for farm production in different regions of the state and micro malting harvested grain to determine its performance.
- Grain Marketing- 5 Ag entrepreneurship ASPs are currently managing a survey that specifically addresses questions about the value of local to consumers specifically, brewers.
- Educational Resources – 9 ASPs identified here are planning approximately 3 events to build upon this work and are developing approximately 3 Extension articles about grain quality and interpreting testing results.
In a separate event, PA State coordinator presented “Growing Rye in Pennsylvania: Opportunities for Local Farmers and Distillers” as an invited speaker to 50 Jim Beam Sales staff in Scottsdale, PA.
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
Organic Grain Markets:
During summer and winter farmer Extension workshops (November 2018-October 2019) 6 ASPs in organic Agronomy incorporated information from this PDP project as they hosted two, half-day organic study circles (51 participants), one twilight organic grain tour (80 participants), one Transitioning to Organic stop at an Extension field day (60 participants), and two Organic Field Management Clinics for visiting international scientists (40 participants). Additionally, team members were invited as guest speakers to eleven other events, reaching over 510 farmers and service providers. Five ASPs participated in a round table discussion hosted by the PA Department of Agriculture to discuss opportunities for promoting local PA organic products across multiple stakeholder groups (45 participants). Approximately, 90 hours of time was spent in private consultations with organic grain farmers in-person, on the phone, or through email.
Craft Beverage Market:
Outreach events and products are forthcoming. However, Penn State News referenced this project in a news article about the Craft-beer boom published January 9, 2020. Distribution is unknown, but widespread and state coordinator was contacted by agriculture colleagues in Iowa who saw the article.
5 service providers repeat demonstration plots with farmer cooperators in their regions in order to examine appropriate crop potentials and grain quality factors in various growing regions across Pennsylvania as a replicate by year. Information about grain marketing/quality will be incorporated into these activities by 5 agricultural service providers specializing in these areas (Milestone 5). Potentially host field day this year if they did not host one in the previous year or if there is a regional need for a second one.
Previous challenges for ASPs to host demonstration plots on-farms as well as COVID-19 social distancing restrictions made this milestone impractical to complete. Instead, educational efforts were focused on outcomes from University Research plots and this information was incorporated into educational outreach materials and programs. Mainly, Agronomy Virtual Field Day and Learn Now Video series on Malting Barley (See Milestone 15).
10 service providers attend 4 remote meetings to set deadlines and to ensure progress and updates about written and digital materials with state coordinator. State coordinator will lead development of materials to lessen the burden to service providers, however all projects and materials will be designed to satisfy Penn State Extension’s outreach program so that service providers are incentivized to complete their regular annual goals through participation in this project.
Numerous meetings were held to focus on Organic Market materials that involved 12 ASPs who decided to develop several articles focused on organic crop management 101 for each important agronomic crop in PA. Separate discussions about events also occurred. Additionally, several associated articles, with more specific are also being developed. Meetings with 3 other ASPs involved with the Craft Beverage Markets also occurred and materials are underway and described below under Milestone 15.
5 service providers finalize and publish agronomic information and information about animal feed (where applicable), including grain quality collected from demonstration plots into print/digital Extension reports. These reports will be shared with farmers and other service providers and information within will be presented at field days and crop conferences.
Satisfying animal nutrition needs with grain crops that are not corn and soybeans are limiting based on industry standards and we could not make responsible recommendations about producing these crops for market to farmers. However, we did address organic market challenges and opportunities on several occasions. In Sept 2020, 12 Farmers and 32 ASPs attended an online panel discussion featuring two organic grain farmers and market specialists and the senior trade advisor for the Organic Trade Association (OTA) focusing on current trends and concerns facing the organic grain industry. That event discussion was summarized in an article "Current Trends in Organic Grain Marketing" on Penn State Extension's website. Additionally, another ASP and State Coordinator advised farmers "How to Get Started with Organic Grain Markets" in this article and map of organic grain buyers near to PA that addresses grower concerns with finding markets, but also grain storage and transportation challenges. Concerns associated with organic grain markets and trade integrity concerns were addressed in the Penn State Organic Agriculture class with 18 students. Three ASPs gave three lectures focused on these issues during the year, and the online format was open to other ASPs to attend.
Note: Some issues associated with alternative grain markets, storage, and transportation also impact the Craft Beverage market, and those issues are included in outreach with that group, mainly the Philadelphia Grain and Malt Symposium.
30 agricultural service providers and farmers focused on organic grain and animal production attend a workshop focused on opportunities to diversify organic grain crops that meet animal nutrition needs beyond corn and soybeans.
Challenges associated with required social distancing procedures from the state and Penn State Extension have made it impossible to host a workshop of this caliber in 2020. Additional challenges with local organic markets have also made this topic less interesting than others. A no cost extension has been requested and approved by Northeast SARE to defer these costs to other outreach projects for farmers. Project activities are well on their way but due to the aforementioned challenges we are pivoting many of the project activities into digital resources and programs, which have taken slightly more effort and strategy to plan and execute. Therefore, the majority of focus will be to continue moving forward with work already started but having more time to secure our resources, better understand digital learning, and estimate associated costs. Two major activities that will replace this original objective include:
- A Podcast Series on Specialty Grain Crops
Several interview recordings were created, however hosting a timely and regular podcast series proved to be difficult without the appropriate technical support. Recordings are in the process of being developed into various outreach products still focused on farmer engagement and will be available to the public.
- An Equipment Field Day (possibly virtual)
A series of three virtual workshops focused on reduced-tillage organic grain production and equipment were held throughout February 2021. Hosted by the Rodale Institute, in collaboration with The Pennsylvania State Department of Ag, and Penn State Extension. Included cooperation with 3 ASPs (not previously committed) Northeast SARE sponsored and collaborated in developing that series. All webinars are available on the Rodale Institute Website. Approximately 250-300 farmers and ASPs attended each event.
- No-Till Organic Cover Cropping for Weed Suppression and Soil Health - 236 participants; 36 farmers, 200 ASPs
- Innovative Weed Control Tools in Organic No-Till Systems - 302 participants; 40 Farmers, 262 ASPs
- Planting Green Techniques in Organic No-Till Systems - 296 participants; 45 Farmers, 251 ASPs
The Northeast SARE PA State Project also sponsored and participated in organizing the Philadelphia Grain and Malt Symposium. The project hosted a 45 minute Panel Discussion called "What it Means to Grow Malting Barley, A Farmer's Perspective" that featured four malting barley farmers from the mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest. 15 farmers and 45 ASPs attended the panel discussion. Northeast SARE was a Gold Sponsor of the event that brings together many stakeholders across the region who are focused on improving local grain production and support farmers involved in regional artisan and craft beverage markets. Approximately 200 participants attend the conference altogether.
5 service providers incorporate alternative grain market/quality information into workshops, conferences, field days, and written/digital materials described in Year three milestones 1 and 3.
Materials include multiple articles and online products focused on farmer needs. All articles and digital products are hosted on the Penn State Extension website. Articles are also pushed to the Field and Forage Crop Newsletter which reaches 9500 farmers and service providers weekly. Currently completed products include:
Organic Grain Markets
- Organic crop integrity- How are certified crops protected from fraud?
- Is organic certification right for your operation?
- Trends in Organic Sales and Products.
- Current Trends in Organic Grain Markets.
- Transitioning to Organic Crop Production
- Getting Started with Organic Grain Markets.
- Terminating Winter Cover Crops in Organic Feed and Forage Crops.
- Soil Microbes in Organic Cropping Systems 101
- Management of Soil Microbes on organic Farms
- Understanding and Managing Soil Microbes (organic production)
Craft Beverage Grain Markets
- 2020 Malting Barley Grain Tour - part of Agronomy Virtual Field Day
- Malting Barley in PA: Basic Crop Considerations. Learn Now Video
- Malting Barley in PA: Key Quality Factors. Learn Now Video
- Malting Barley in PA: Agronomic Management. Learn Now Video
- Organic Grain Enterprise Budgets
- Organic Study Circles
- Organic Field Equipment and Cover Crops for managing soil health. 20 farmers and 4 ASPs attended. Invited Farmer Speaker. Jan 17, 2020
- Soil Health Tests Interpretation and Meaning. Invited Speaker. 24 Farmers and 6 ASPs. February 2020.
- Organic Extension Q&A period featuring Penn State Projects and Specialists. PASA Sustainable Agriculture Conference. February 8, 2020. 10 Farmer attendees and associated newsletter.
- Organic Market Options for Grain Crops in Pennsylvania. Presentation Lebanon County Crops Day. 5 Farmers attendees, 2 ASPs involved. February 21, 2020.
- Processes for Transitioning to Organic Production. Presentation Lebanon County Crops Day. 6 Farmer attendees. February 21, 2020.
- Malting Barley, What Farmers want you to know. Presentation Grain and Malt Symposium, Philadelphia, PA. March 2, 2020. 3 ASPs 200 farmer and ASP participants.
- Agronomy Virtual Field Day. Malting barley varieties and quality considerations presentation. Penn State Extension, Digital Field Day Series. 5 ASPs 25 Farmer Participants.
- Maintaining Organic Integrity - Penn State Organic Ag Class - 18 ASP participants
- Organic Field Crop Management Q&A. Virtual Ag Progress Day Session. 4 ASPs and 36 Farmers.
- Also See Milestone 14 for 2020/2021 virtual events.
5 service providers involved in data collection and 10 other interested specialists/stakeholders attend a final workshop regarding findings of this project that helps to identify successes as well as gaps in information that can help service providers continue to move forward with alternative grain farmer outreach. September 2020.
Gaps in information and necessary resources going forward have been discussed with 10 ASPs and 5 farmers involved in Agronomy who focus either on small grain production, organic grain production, and other alternative market crops. Although market structures vary between malting barley and organic corn and soy production, many issues continue to face both groups. Mainly, they include: balancing production limitations with consumer market demand (need to improve ag literacy of consumers); ensuring environmental sustainability can be maintained in regions like PA where growing conditions for these crops are not optimal for production; storage, transportation and marketing challenges; conscious management of soil health and water quality; understanding costs and benefits associated with new and novel equipment, and identifying adapted varieties of crops (including cover crops) that are suitable for production in the Mid-Atlantic region. This PDP project allowed examination of market concerns, production limitations and gave voice to producers and ASPs who otherwise do not get priority feature in local agriculture events. Support will continue through multiple funded grant projects and programs.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities conducted by the project team:
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Curricula, factsheets or educational tools||0||1||4||5|
|Published press articles, newsletters||0||1||11||12|
|Study circle / focus groups||2||7||2||11|
|Webinars, talks and presentations||1||1||24||26|
|Workshop / field days||0||4||0||4|
|Other educational activities: 45 farmers participated in a collaborative survey about an organic grain co-op||1||0||0||1|
Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total Individuals|
|Service providers (other or unspecified)||8||282||21||311|
|Farmers / ranchers||12||1219||369||1600|
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.
9 ASPs committed to this project in organic and craft beverage markets stated changes in knowledge about practices and outreach methods based on findings from this PDP report
14 ASPs in private follow-up conversations revealed that they had a change in knowledge or added experience to engage in a topic that they currently had interest in addressing. Without this project topics and farmer concerns related to Organic production and Craft Beverage markets would not have had any potential for outreach. Further support from SARE was offered to cohorts like the Philadelphia Grain and Malt Symposium.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
a) 10 agricultural service providers collaborate with state coordinator to host 5 informative workshops about alternative grain production that include information about marketing/quality and crop/animal production considerations for 100 service providers and 80 grain farmers.
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
Workshops and in-person education events and online webinars and panel discussions
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
b) 5 agricultural service providers specializing in agronomic crop production and animal science establish field demonstrations featuring regionally appropriate alternative grain crops and partner with 5 agricultural service providers to present information about grain marketing/quality 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.
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
established and managed field trials
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
c) 10 agricultural 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.
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
developed Extension articles, digital videos and other online products - written and digital
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Curricula, factsheets and other educational tools||0||1||4||5|
|Published press, articles, newsletters||0||1||11||12|
|Study circles / focus groups||1||7||2||10|
|Webinars, talks and presentations||1||1||24||26|
|Workshops and field days||0||4||0||4|
9 service providers committed to this project were contacted and verified project numbers for both market topics through email correspondance and follow up with the state coordinator. Additionally, 2 researchers in organic agriculture and 1 in craft beverages were contacted by state coordinatro and contributed information. Numbers were derived from meetings through CVENT registration lists (online database for registering), lunch forms, and sign in sheets for walk ins.
Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers
Verified outcome data came from online databases that include the number of farmers and service providers who attended each specific event hosted by Penn State. Meeting evaluations were used at events to summarize interests in future programs and perceived needs with topics. Individual conversations (phone interviews) with 12 ASPs who consistently participated through this project were used to verify their success in farmer outreach.
Additional Project Outcomes
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
This project allowed ASPs to stretch their scope and methods of outreach for farmers. In particular, the study circles were well received and ASPs are enthusiastic about the format. The Craft Beverage study circles evolved out of the Organic Study Circles, which began years before. The Craft Beverage Study Circles were designed more like focus groups to collect information from the group. The topics were fresh and exciting and ASPs were enthusiastic to host similar events in the future.
In 2018, the PA State Coordinator was a team leader for the PDP Proposal review. She also serves as the Liasion to the Northeast SARE Administrative Council. 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.
In 2019, the PA State Coordinator was a team leader for the RNA Proposal review and attended the Tier 2 review in Manchester, NH. She continues to serve as the PDP Liasion to the Adminsitrative Council. 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. This year we featured 3 farmer guest speakers from PA. The fall speaker focused on diversifying organic grain crops and markets, the spring speakers were divided into two separate seminars, in collaboration with a Departmental climate change initiative. In addition to responding to many phone calls, emails, and in-person conversations (approximately 15) 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 2 Outreach:
November 2018: Andrew Smyre (Anchor Ingredients) Invited Guest Speaker "Organic Grain Picture" for undergraduate student course with invitation to extension colleagues to attend remotely or in person. (16 ASP and 12 student attendees)
November 2018: Northeast Cover Crop Council Meeting, State College, PA - Northeast SARE Table Display. 150 attendees
December 2018: Pennsylvania Women's Ag Network (PAWAgN) Annual Meeting, Pittsburg, PA 130 attendees (80 ASPs and 50 farmers)
December 2018-January 2019: Northeast SARE Research for Novel Approaches Review Team Lead (tier 1 and tier 2).
February 2019: Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Annual Conference, Lancaster, PA - Northeast SARE Table Display. 1000 attendees
February 2019: Distribution of several SARE books to Farmer Advisory members and ASPs involved with Penn State's large-scale Cover Crop Cocktails Project funded by USDA.
February 2019: Sarah Ficken, Cornell Coopertive Extension Invited Speaker. Climate Change in Dairy Farms, State College, PA (with digital link for county educators) 35 attendees
February 2019: 15 copies of "Farmers Guide to Business Structures" donated to 15 statewide ASPs from State Program
March 2019: Brian Campbell (Brian Campbell Farms), Tony Buda (USDA ARS) and John Shenk (Shenk's Berry Farms), Pennsylvania Farmer's Adaptations to Climate Challenges. 52 attendees
April 2019: 8 copies each of "Building Soils for Better Crops," "Managing Cover Crops Profitably," "Organic Crop Rotations," and "Ecological Managment of Insects" were donated from the PA State Program to 8 Lending Libraries managed by the Penn State Extension Vegetable Science Program for use by Amish farmers who prefer print materials.
June 2019: In-Service webinar to Penn State Extension Educators to learn about regional grant programs for education, including Northeast SARE. Co-presented with Deb Heleba. 8 participants. Recorded for later viewing (unknown).
August 2019: Northeast SARE Table display at Penn State University’s Ag Progress Days, Pine Grove Mills PA. 350 attendees visited table.
In Year 2, the PA State Coordinator was a reviewer for NE SARE Farmer Grants. She continues to serve as the PDP Liaison to the Administrative Council.
Year 3 Outreach
December 2019: 6 copies each of “Building Soil for Better Crops” and “Making the Most of Cover Crop Mixtures” distributed as thank you gifts to farmer advisory panel members for the NE SARE funded Dairy Cropping Systems Ecosystems project (lead by Karsten, in final year).
December 2019: Northeast SARE Table display at Pennsylvania Women’s Ag Network (PA WAgN) 13th Annual Symposium, Philadelphia, PA. Theme: Growing Rural Urban Perspectives focused on social justice and state coordinator worked with outreach coordinator to prepare some specific NE SARE materials featuring projects focused on social science, women, and social justice projects and resources. 180 attendees (100 ASPs 80 Farmers).
February 2020: Northeast SARE Table Display at PASA Sustainable Agriculture Conference, Lancaster, PA. One of the busiest trade shows attended in a long time. 2000 attendees total approximately 150 conversations about SARE Grants and resources.
February 2020: A SARE Series: A Sample of On-Farm Projects. 3 past farmer grant recipients presented. PASA Sustainable Agriculture Conference presentation. 6 attendees.
Participation in AC Pushing the Envelope Committee to discuss possible improvements to get more SARE funds to farmers.
State Coordinator Liaison to the AC. Meetings February and July.
Approximately 25 phone calls and emails about SARE Grants and programs with potential applicants in 2020
Virtual Ag Progress Day Exhibitors Display for Northeast SARE grants in 2020.
State Coordinator Liaison to AC - Term Ended February 2021
AC Pushing the Envelope Committee - increased cap amount of farmer grants
Northeast SARE DEI Consultant Search Committee.
Pasa Sustainable Agriculture Conference 2021 - Online digital Northeast SARE conference webpage and 500 word article on farmer grants written for Pasa Conference attendees.
Approximately 60 phone calls and emails from farmers and ASPs interested in SARE grants
Aug 26, 2021 Presentation of SARE grants and what SARE is and does for Penn State Extension Professional Development Seminar Series -invited guest speaker. 13 Attendees.
Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|