Enhancing Farm Viability and Profitability through Improved Risk Management

Final report for NEWVU14-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2014: $44,444.00
Funds awarded in 2015: $45,080.00
Funds awarded in 2016: $44,231.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2017
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
State Coordinator:
Dr. Doolarie Singh-Knights, Ph.D.
West Virginia University
Expand All

Project Information

Summary:

WV has recently made great strides towards building a successful local food economy – 39% more farmers are targeting local customers in 2013 compared to 2011; a three-fold increase in farmers markets from 2005 through 2012, and a growing number of CSAs and local food hubs; WV institutions increased local food purchases by 360% from 2011-2013; and more than 36 county school systems buy directly from WV farms (more than $250,000 in 2013). Many production-oriented training opportunities currently exist in WV to help producers increase production to meet this local food demand. However, there are few programs designed to help farmers understand and manage financial, marketing and legal risks associated with new/expanded markets. A 2013-2014 needs assessment confirmed the need for continued training and support in whole-farm business planning and risk management to help producers identify and mitigate production, financial, marketing, legal and human resource risks.

This 3-year program was a holistic business planning and risk-management educational program and support network focusing on:

  • Food Safety – including GAP, GHP and GMP certification training and food safety planning to satisfy requirement for FSMA and USDA Audits with WVDA;
  • Financial Management – including developing record-keeping system, budgets and financial statements generation, and developing metrics for profitability, liquidity, efficiency and solvency; and
  • Market Readiness – transactional requirements for managing food safety, insurance, product quality and traceability risks when directly marketing to different target markets.

 

Fifty (50) agricultural service providers (ASPs – WVU Extension, State agencies, NGOs and Farmer Alliances) learned best practices in whole-farm planning and risk management, with the aim of helping their clientele improve overall farm viability and success. This program was conducted through various methodologies, including 44 workshops, 12 webinars, 4 online trainings, 3 field tours, 2 focus groups, and 3 on-farm demonstrations. The program produced 29 educational resources for participants to use with farmers, provided over 300 consultations, and awarded modest stipends to 10 ASPs to conduct farmer training events.

Subsequently, 33 project participants (ASPs) who responded to a final verification survey reported using information and new skills learned through the project to teach and advise 425 small scale crop and/or livestock farmers who manage an estimated 42,500 acres of land. These ASPs conducted 91 farmer workshops and field days, gave 95 presentations, produced 34 educational resources, and conducted 2,300 consultations with farmers on project topics including farm financial management, market readiness, and food safety. As a result of trainings provided, 76% of respondents (n=25) reported they knew farmers who implemented at least one of the recommended strategies from the respective programs that they attended. Examples include:

  • Conducting food safety risk assessment, prioritizing risks, and developing an appropriate food safety plan to be used on their farms and in promotion communications;
  • Developing whole-farm, enterprise and/or partial budgets, and associated records, to estimate costs, returns, and break-even points for a selected enterprise to meet a specified target market; or
  • Initiating a business relationship with a complementary enterprise, or with a related federal or state organization, to implement one aspect of marketing plan.

Delivering a comprehensive educational program that raised the knowledge and skill level of a broad group of ASPs have resulted in better service to WV farmers and in the long run, will ultimately further help to strengthen WV´s agribusinesses, improve local foods systems, increase rural development, and build long-term partnerships among agriculture service providers.

Performance Target:

25 agricultural service providers who gain practical knowledge and skills in selected best management practices in whole-farm planning and risk management will confidently design and deliver related educational programs and services, including but not limited to workshops, webinars, presentations, fact sheets/other educational materials, and individual consultations, to 300 small scale crop and/or livestock producers who manage more than 30,000 acres of farmland.

100 farmers that manage more than 10,000 acres adopt at least two BMPs in whole-farm planning and risk management, based on training programs or services arising from this program.

Introduction:

WV has recently made great strides towards building a successful local food economy – 39% more farmers are targeting local customers in 2013 compared to 2011; a three-fold increase in farmers markets from 2005 through 2012, and a growing number of CSAs and local food hubs; WV institutions increased local food purchases by 360% from 2011-2013; and more than 36 county school systems buy directly from WV farms (more than $250,000 in 2013). Many production-oriented, IPM and soil conservation programs are being implemented in WV to help producers increase production to meet this local food demand; however, there are few programs targeted to helping farmers understand and manage financial risks of new markets and meet the requirements of wholesale and institutional markets, including food safety, packaging, labeling, transportation, etc. A needs assessment in 2013-2014 (51 ASPs – 71% response and 29 farmer leaders – 11% response) revealed that, generally, producers require continued training and support in whole-farm business planning and risk management to help them identify and mitigate production, financial, marketing, legal and human resource risks.

This 3-year program was a holistic business planning and risk-management educational program and support network for ASP and farmer leaders focusing on priority topics identified by ASP and producers: on average, 72% of ASP and farmer leaders reported farm financial management, marketing and business planning, farm and food safety planning, and networking and partnership opportunities as priority training areas. These topics were relevant to ASP who work with a variety of farm enterprises, from small ruminant and pasture raised beef producers to high tunnels and specialty crop producers, as well as ASPs who work in a business planning and risk management capacity with farmers. Delivering a comprehensive educational program that raised the knowledge and skill level of a broad group of ASPs resulted in better service to WV farmers and ultimately helped to strengthened WV´s agribusinesses, improved local foods systems, increased rural development, and long-term partnerships among agriculture service providers.

Advisors/Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Barbara Liedl, Ph.D
  • Cindy Martel
  • Brandy Brabham
  • Jodi RIchmond
  • Alexandria Straight

Educational Approach

Educational approach:
  • An introductory webinar introduced the overall Face-to-face 3-year project, and the schedule and format for annual training topics.
  • A Moodle classroom enabled web-based delivery of selected topics, as well as sharing of project materials (curriculum materials; slide presentations; templates, worksheets and decision tools to use with farmer participants; and verification surveys to use in their own education programs.); and served as a discussion and Q&A forum.
  • Face-to-face workshops (5 in Yr.1, 2 in Yr.2, 4 in Yr.3), webinars (3 in Yr.1, 3 in Yr. 2, 3 in Yr.3) and web-based courses (2 in Yr.2, 1 in Yr.3), were conducted; workshop topics continued in a sequence as described in the milestones activities.
  • Three progress-update webinars per year were held to allow questions, challenges and successes to be shared.
  • Travel funds and stipends supported beneficiaries’ learning and follow-up action, and the project team were available by phone, e-mail and in-person for consultations and assistance.

Milestones

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

Year 1 Milestone Accomplishments - See below for Milestones and Accomplishments.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
50
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
40
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2015
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 31, 2015
Accomplishments:

Year 1 (October 1, 2014 – September 30, 2015) Milestone Accomplishments

  • October 2014: 45 ASPs and 35 farmer leaders (based on existing list serves/mailing lists) will receive notification about the 3-year project, including learning objectives and performance target, the trainings to be offered, expectations for participants, and incentives for participation (travel support and stipend for educational programs and materials).

Complete. Invitation letter sent to mailing list of over 250 potential participants (WVUES, WVSU, WVDA, NRCS, WVCA, Farm Credit Agency, WV Farm Bureau, WV Farm and Food Coalition, Unlimited Futures, Greenbrier Valley Local Foods Initiative)

  • November 2014: 15 ASPs and 10 farmers leaders enroll and attend introductory webinar to learn more details about ‘Enhancing Farm Viability and Profitability through Improved Risk Management’, including how participants can include this project in their annual plan of work, and more details on curriculum and timelines. Beneficiaries will be recruited from Extension Service (Ag., Families and Health, and Community Development units from WV and Western Maryland), NRCS, Farm Credit, Farm Service Agency, WV Department of Ag.; from ag-related non-profits including WV Farm and Food Coalition, Unlimited Future and the WV Community development Hub; and farmer leaders serving as potential agricultural service providers.

Complete. Introductory Webinar conducted on 11-04-14. 17 ASPs (11 Extension, 2 WVDA, 2 NRCS, 2 Non-Profit) and 14 Farmer Leaders participated in webinar; approximately 22 viewed the webinar recording.

Summary Statement: 36 ASP and Farmer Leaders commit to participating in program and to including this project as part of their ‘Faculty Assignment Document’ in 2015.

  • October 2014 – February, 2015: Project Team updates project website and DropBox repository of materials to support agents training, and initiate Food Safety Planning Curriculum Development.

Complete.

  • February – May, 2015: 10 ASP and 5 farmer leaders participate in FOOD SAFETY Training Module – Benefitting your Customers and your Bottom Line, conducted by project team and independent consultants. Participants will complete general curriculum in GAPS, GHPs and GMPS to help producers better prepare to meet the requirement for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Certified Commercial Kitchen, the USDA Audit with WVDA, or the baseline buyers’ demands in WV. This module will comprise:
    1. Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices training for ASP – 8 hour workshop
    2. Good Manufacturing Practices – 10 ASP and 5 farmer leaders will receive stipend to attend WVDA’s Better Process Control School – 8 hour workshop
    3. Food Safety Plan writing workshop – 8 hour workshop

Complete. 21 ASPs (17 EXT, 4 WVDA) and 17 Farmer Leaders attended either the GAPs/GHPS and/or the GMPs training workshops to date. 

2 ASPs (1 EXT, 1 WVDA) attended National FSMA ‘Train-the-Trainer’ training to better prepare for helping producers navigate the new FSMA rules and regulations. This was a limited (only 2/state allowed) national PSA FSMA trainings offered in 2015 to improve our abilities to help producers understand new FSMA Regulations. More ASPs (members of the WV Food Safety Training Team) will be provided the opportunity to participate in this in 2016 as the training becomes available.

More than 76 ASPs and Farmers attended one of 3 ‘Writing your Food Safety Plans’ workshops across the state. One webinar was conducted to encourage development of the ‘WV Food Safety Training Team,’ which will comprise of ASPs trained under this program to conduct target ‘food safety’ farmer training workshops in 2016-2017. So far 11 ASPs have agreed to serve on the WV Food Safety Training Team.

We were significantly under budget this year (spent less than half of our budget) because of significant (and unexpected) partnership support from WVDA and Farm Credit, for our ASP and Farmer Leaders to attend these in-state and 1 out-of-state training.

ASP will apply for project funds (submit plan of work) following training, to help cover the cost of their farmer training events.

In Progress. The ASPs delayed their producer trainings as we were awaiting the Cornell Producer Safety Alliance (PSA) new producer GAP/GHPs training manual (to be consistent with new FSMA regulations). Cornell has extended national dissemination of this manual until November, 2016, so the ASPs are awaiting these before doing their producer trainings; our producer trainings have therefore been delayed because of this.

  • June, 2015: Project team updates project website and Drop-Box repository, and initiate development of Financial Management Module 1 and 2.

Complete. Financial Management Modules 1 and 2 being developed as above. Module 1 is currently available to participants in Dropbox and WVU Extension Online Community; will be available on WVU website in Feb of 2016 because of unavailability of Technology Specialist to upload information on website.

  • July – September, 2015: 10 ASP and 5 farmer leaders participate in FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Module 1 – Planning for Profitability, conducted by the project team, and acquire knowledge and skills to:
    1. Understand the link between production efficiencies and productivity and profitability; the factors affecting profitability, liquidity and efficiency in agribusinesses; and the importance of breakeven analysis and benchmarking in sound decision-making (AgSquare) – 6 hour workshop
    2. Create and implement a record-keeping system to track expenses, revenue, production activities, and harvest measures, by enterprise and for the whole operation (AgSquare) – 2-hour online webinar
    3. Use simple interactive templates (FAST Tools and AgDm), to generate enterprise and whole-farm budgets, and projected financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement); and calculate and interpret break-even and financial metrics, and learn what these farm numbers reveal about current business operations – 6 hour workshop
    4. Understand how to use financial statements and partial budgeting techniques to develop scenario analyses/ ‘what if’ evaluations regarding proposed business changes (production, management, marketing, financial) using FAST Tools and AgDM – 2-hour online webinar

Complete. 2 face-to-face workshops completed, and workshop materials included in 2 follow-up/related workshops based on ASPs requests (materials included in the Financial Management Session of our Specialty Crop Risk Management Training and our Direct Marketing and Agritourism Training programs). 31 ASPs and 19 Farmer Leaders attended one of the 4 workshops.

The 2 webinars, which had been delayed based on ASPs suggestions, were conducted in Feb-April 2016. These webinars were targeted towards building competencies in using AgSquare, FAST Tools, AGDM, and Beef Trans4.  Initial workshop curriculum distributed to ASP and Farmer Leaders for use in the 2016 farmer trainings.

Again, we were under our budget with this Module because of significant contributions (meeting rooms, hospitality costs) by our state partners (WVDA and WV Farm and Food Coalition).

ASP will apply for project funds (submit plan of work) following training, to help cover the cost of their farmer training events.

Complete: 4 ASPs have requested curriculum materials and applied for funds to support their farmer training programs in 2016.

  • September, 2015: 15 ASPs & 10 farmer leaders and 30 selected farmers receive notification, enroll and attend a focus group workshop to discuss the progress and evaluate the success of the project to date, help develop future plans, and begin compilation of directory of trained ASP and farmer leaders that will be available for general contact.

In Progress: Mostly done through one-on-one contact at this point. Focus group session being planned to coincide with the Small Farms Conference in Feb of 2016 because many of our ASPs and Farmers will be in attendance – easier to meet them where they are. The 15 ASPs & 10 farmer leaders and 30 selected farmers will receive notification to enroll in this focus group workshop.

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

Year 2 Milestone Accomplishments - See below for Milestones and Accomplishments.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
48
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2016
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 31, 2016
Accomplishments:

Year 2 (October 1, 2015 – September 30, 2016) Milestone Accomplishments

  1. November – January, 2015: Project team updates project website and Drop-Box repository, and completes development of Financial Management Module 2.

Complete. Project website completed – Online Classroom only available to ASPs and Farmer Leaders (not general public). It should be noted that the WVU Extension Website is currently undergoing a major overhaul, so some change are currently being made to existing website materials to align more closely with new website requirements. Drop-Box shared with all participants (ASPs and Farmers Leaders) as a repository for all supplementary and updated resources and materials.

Complete: Financial Management Module 2 completed. Module covers an introduction to QuickBooks for Small Businesses in an online course that participants can complete at their own pace. Additionally, based on requests from some ASPs and Farmer Leaders, I also added some materials on Veggie Compass to help better serve those educators working with specialty crop producers.

  1. January – March 2016: 10 ASP and 5 farmer leaders participate in FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Module 2 – Planning for Profitability. Using QuickBooks in an 8 week online course that they complete at their own pace.

Completed. 10 ASPs and 5 Farmer Leaders have successfully covered the Financial Management Module 2 by accessing the online course at their convenience and completing the curriculum checklist as provided (See Documentation 1 – Sample Pages of Module 1). These materials were targeted towards building competencies in the following areas:

  1. Setting up the business (and relevant enterprises) and Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks;
  2. Understanding various types of assets. Tracking purchase, depreciation and sale of assets;
  3. Reconciling bank statements with business records;
  4. Setting up customer lists, creating invoices and tracking payments, and tracking account receivables;
  5. Using account payables to track current liabilities and pay bills;
  6. Customizing invoices for different customers and managing inventory; and
  7. Locating and creating a variety of financial reports to analyze business’ performance, and developing budgets and business plan for strategic planning.

To date, I have met individually with 8 Asps and Farmer Leaders for one-on-one mentoring and coaching in using QuickBooks and preparing for their farmer training events. To date, 4 ASPs who applied for funds in Year 1 and 2 additional ASPs who applied for funds in 2017 (submitted plan of work), have used project funds to help cover the cost of their related farmer training events.

In addition to the materials above, I have also included an overview of Veggie Compass as an addition to the Financial Management Module 2. Requests were made by ASP to include Veggie Compass training to help them better serve their specialty crop producers. To this end, 1 developed and provide a user friendly farm financial spreadsheet for growers and value-added producers to determine their crop/product costs, market specific costs, and profitability in order to facilitate improved whole farm profit management (based on the national Veggie Compass Model).  I also conducted 1 webinar and 5 one-on-one consultations to help ASPs better understand how to use Veggie Compass in their farmer trainings.

Overall the Financial management Modules I and II provides producers with, and assesses the effectiveness of, a comprehensive record-keeping and financial analysis tool-kit that will be the starting point for improved business decision-making.  This tool-kit will help facilitate the collection and analysis of appropriate farm records, which will help growers select appropriate risk management strategies that will better optimize their productivity and profitability, and help them focus on long-term profitability rather than short-term windfalls.

  1. April-May, 2016: Project team updates project website and Drop-Box repository, and initiates development of Market Ready Module 1 and 2.

Completed. April – August, 2016. Curriculum development for Market Ready Module 1 is completed. The Module 1 has focused on the original objectives (see below), but was also expanded to include legal issues in direct marketing to capitalize on current momentum with respect to legal issues and food safety in the WV local foods system.

  1. June – August, 2016: 10 ASP and 5 farmer leaders participate in MARKET READY Module 1.

Completed:  4. June – October, 2016, – 10 ASPs and 5 farmer leaders participated in MARKET READY Module 1. This material was targeted to help participants better understand the market development risks and relationships small agribusinesses must manage as they seek to develop supplier relationships with various customers (restaurants, groceries, wholesale, food service, and school food service personnel), and the transactional requirements necessary to manage food safety, insurance, product quality and traceability risks.

This module was delivered as a hybrid web-based course – using a combination of 2 face-to-face workshops and 3 webinar sessions, with 12 total contact hours. The module covered:

  1. Communication and relationship buildings
  2. Packaging and labelling
  3. Pricing consideration for different markets
  4. Supply, scheduling, delivery and storage considerations
  5. Invoicing, sales lists, bidding and contracting, and tracking payments; and
  6. In addition, we included a section on “Managing Legal Risks Associated with Direct Markets for Local Foods in West Virginia’ in the Module 1 curriculum, as this was a current issue that ASPs and Farmers Leaders requested training in (See Documentation 2 – Sample Legal Guide – Submitted for Peer Review and Printing)

            Participants received curriculum materials and supporting materials to help them develop farmer training activities. ASP will apply for project funds (submit plan of work) to help cover the cost of their farmer training events as they continue to do Market Ready Training with their clientele.

  1. September, 2016: 15 ASPs & 10 farmer leaders and 30 selected farmers receive notification, enroll and attend a focus group workshop to discuss the progress and evaluate the success of the project to date, help develop future plans, and update compilation of directory of trained ASP and farmer leaders that will be available for general contact.

In Progress: Completed November 4-5th; will be reported in the 2016-2017 Annual report.

  1. Update on Food Safety Training Module not completed in Year 1.

In Progress: We are finally able to complete our Food Safety training since the Cornell Produce Safety Alliance curriculum is finally completed and has been publicly released. We have trainers for the Produce Safety Alliance scheduled to conduct training in WV on Jan 31-Feb1, 2017, to help our ASPs and Farmer Leaders better prepare to meet the requirement for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) – See Documentation 3 (A and B). Subsequent to this training, ASPs and Farmer Leaders will receive final Food Safety Curriculum, and would be able to apply for funds to complete their Food Safety Farmer Trainings.

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

Year 3 Milestone Accomplishments - See below for Milestones and Accomplishments.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
25
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
25
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2017
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 31, 2017
Accomplishments:

Year 3 (October 1, 2016 – October 31, 2017) Milestone Accomplishments

  1. October- December, 2016: Project team updates project website and Drop-Box repository, and initiate development of Market Ready Module

Completed: Curriculum development for Market Ready Module 2 is completed. The Module 2 has focused on the original objectives, but was also expanded to include legal issues in direct marketing to capitalize on current momentum with respect to legal issues and food safety in the WV local foods system.

2. February – April, 2017: 10 ASP and 5 farmer leaders participate in Market Ready Module 2. Participants understand the market development risks and relationships small agribusinesses must manage as they seek to develop supplier relationships with various customers (restaurants, groceries, wholesale, food service, and school food service personnel), and the transactional requirements necessary to manage food safety, insurance, product quality and traceability risks.

Completed:  4. June, 2017, – 10 ASPs and 5 farmer leaders participated in MARKET READY Module 2. Participants understood the market development risks and relationships small agribusinesses must manage as they seek to develop supplier relationships with various customers (restaurants, groceries, wholesale, food service, and school food service personnel), and the transactional requirements necessary to manage food safety, insurance, product quality and traceability risks.

This module was delivered as a hybrid web-based course – using a combination of 2 face-to-face workshops and 3 webinar sessions, with 12 total contact hours. The module covered:

  • Liability and Insurance considerations
  • Quality assurance and temperature control
  • Certifications, Audits and satisfaction guarantees
  • Working cooperatively – ‘What Works’
  • Promotion and ‘Guerilla Strategies’– traditional versus online considerations
  • Participants complete pre- and post-workshop evaluation
  • Participants receive curriculum materials and supporting materials to help them develop farmer training activities.

3. ASP will apply for project funds (submit plan of work) following training, to help cover the cost of their farmer training events.

Completed: 4 ASPs have already used curriculum materials in farmer trainings and applied for funds to support their farmer ‘market ready’ trainings in 2017.

4. Revised/Additional Milestone – Nov 2016 – May 2017: 8 ASP and 5 farmer leaders participate in Food Safety Training Module – Benefitting your Customers and your Bottom Line, conducted by project team and independent consultants. Participants will complete general curriculum in food safety to help producers better prepare to meet the requirement for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Cornell Produce Safety Alliance has yet again delayed both their ASP and Producer training curriculum until November, 2016. Continuation of our ASP and Producer food safety trainings to comply with FSMA will resume in November 2016 through May 2017 (dates are set based on suggested dates for release of the PSA’s final FSMA Training curriculum; which is germane to our project).

Completed: 1. Developed the WV Food Safety Training Team comprising 23 ASP, which represents a multidisciplinary, collaborative effort from several institutions and organizations, to develop and deliver a continuous, comprehensive food safety education and technical assistance program. Collaborators include: WVU Extension services, WVSU Extension Services, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and the WV Department of Health.

23 ASP attend one of 3 GAPs/FSMA combined foods safety workshop trainings as members of WV Food Safety Training Team. We now have 23 Certified Produce Safety Trainers in WV, certified through the Association of Food and Drug Officials, and Cornell University. We also have one Certified Lead State Trainer (Dr. Singh-Knights), certified through the same organization (AFDO and Cornell University).

23 team educators attend one of 3 training workshops on ‘Writing a Food Safety Plan’, Documentation and the ‘Economics of Food Safety’.

23 team educators attend one of 3 on-farm demonstrations/tours on Mock Audit, Managing Legal Liability in Food Safety and Guerilla Marketing Strategies.

5. ASP will apply for project funds (submit plan of work) following training, to help cover the cost of their farmer training events.

Completed: 3 ASPs have already used curriculum materials in farmer trainings and applied for funds to support their farmer food safety trainings in 2017.

6. July – August, 2017: Participants respond to Year 3 evaluations and verification surveys about overall project effectiveness and farmers impacts.

Completed: 47 Participants responded to Year 3 evaluations and verification surveys about overall project effectiveness and farmers impacts.

7. September, 2017: : 45 ASPs and 35 farmer leaders and 30 selected farmers receive notification, enroll and attend a focus group workshop to discuss the progress and evaluate the success of the project to date, help develop future plans, and update compilation of directory of trained ASP and farmer leaders that will be available for general contact.

Completed: Mostly done through one-on-one contact – Project PI reached out to 33 ASPs and farmer leaders, 42 selected farmers about their success and challenges in the 2014-2017 WV SARE PDP Program.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities conducted by the project team:

ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Consultations 65 100 150 315
Curricula, factsheets or educational tools 12 17 29
On-farm demonstrations 0 3 3
Online trainings 2 2 4
Published press articles, newsletters 5 5
Study circle / focus groups 1 1 2
Tours 3 3
Webinars, talks and presentations 2 5 5 12
Workshop / field days 10 13 21 44

Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:

AudienceYear 1Year 2Year 3Total Individuals
Extension 29 31 31 31
NRCS 2 3 3 3
Researchers 0 0 2 2
Nonprofit 2 5 5 5
Agency 7 9 9 9
Farmers / ranchers 50 50 50 50

Participation Summary:

50 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Learning Outcomes

33 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
42 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
33 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

Year 1 key areas of learning verified
- General GAPS, GHPs and GMPS to help producers better prepare to meet the requirement for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Certified Commercial Kitchen, the USDA Audit with WVDA, or the baseline buyers’ demands in WV.
- Writing a Food Safety Plan and keeping the requisite documents and records to support food safety compliance.
- Understand the link between production efficiencies and productivity and profitability; the factors affecting profitability, liquidity and efficiency in agribusinesses; and the importance of breakeven analysis and benchmarking in sound decision-making.
- Using simple interactive templates (FAST Tools, Veggie Compass, AgDm, generic templates), to generate enterprise and whole-farm budgets, and projected financial statements (balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement); and calculate and interpret break-even and financial metrics, and learn what these farm numbers reveal about current business operations

Year 2 Key areas of learning verified
- How to develop an accounting system for tracking business transactions for different markets using QuickBooks, including setting up the Chart of Accounts, understanding and managing different types of accounts, managing customer activity, managing liabilities and invoices, and completing financial statements and business plans for the business.
- Increase the capacity of ASP and Farmer Leaders to help beginning and mid-level livestock, specialty crop and value-added producers to understand and apply financial management tools to their operations in order to enhance the viability, profitability, and sustainability of their enterprises.
- Understand the market development risks and relationships small agribusinesses must manage as they seek to develop supplier relationships with various customers (restaurants, groceries, wholesale, food service, and school food service personnel), and the transactional requirements necessary to manage food safety, insurance, product quality and traceability risks.

Year 3 Key areas of learning verified
- General GAPS, GHPs and GMPS to help producers better prepare to meet the requirement for the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Certified Commercial Kitchen, the USDA Audit with WVDA, or the baseline buyers’ demands in WV.
- Writing a Food Safety Plan and keeping the requisite documents and records to support food safety compliance.
- Understanding how auditors conduct Mock Audits/On-Farm Readiness Reviews, and how to better Managing Legal Liability in Food Safety and use Guerilla Marketing Strategies to communicate your food safety compliance efforts with buyers.
- Understand the market development risks and relationships small agribusinesses must manage as they seek to develop supplier relationships with various customers (restaurants, groceries, wholesale, food service, and school food service personnel), and the transactional requirements necessary to manage food safety, insurance, product quality and traceability risks.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Activities for farmers conducted by service providers:
ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Curricula, factsheets and other educational tools 5 29 34
Consultations 300 2000 2300
Online trainings 3 5 8
Published press, articles, newsletters 20 155 175
Webinars, talks and presentations 32 63 95
Workshops and field days 91 91
33 Total number of agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
425 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Total amount of production these farmers manage:
42,500
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

July – August, 2017: Participants respond to Year 3 evaluations and verification surveys about overall project effectiveness and farmers impacts.

Completed:

33 Participants responded to Year 3 evaluations and verification surveys about overall project effectiveness and farmers impacts. Data collected included:

  • Educational Activities conducted by service providers to educate/advise farmers – reported above (types and number of educational activities conducted)
  • Number of farmers educated through these activities – reported above
  • Amount of production these farmers manage – reported above
  • Which of the following SARE PDP related program did you participate in:
    • Financial Management – 77% (25 respondents)
    • Market Ready – 64% (21 respondents)
    • Food Safety – 82% (27 respondents)
  • Which of the following SARE PDP related program did you conduct or coordinate for your producers:
    • Financial Management – 72% (24 respondents)
    • Market Ready – 63% (21 respondents)
    • Food Safety – 39% (13 respondents)
  • Do you know of farmers who made a management change or management decision as a result of learning about Financial Management, Market Ready and Food Safety from you?
    • YES – 76%
    • NO – 0%
    • UNSURE – 24%
  • Were you able to use information and/or skills you learned through the WVU State PDP Program in any of these other ways?
    • Shared information with other agricultural service providers – 21% (7 respondents)
    • Shared information with community group(s) – 39% (13 respondents)
    • Used in college course 0%
    • Other: to support grant applications; in weekly newspaper articles; at 4-H and FFA activities, and other school-related workshops.

 September, 2017: : 45 ASPs and 35 farmer leaders and 30 selected farmers receive notification, enroll and attend a focus group workshop to discuss the progress and evaluate the success of the project to date, help develop future plans, and update compilation of directory of trained ASP and farmer leaders that will be available for general contact.

Completed:

Focus Group was difficult to get together, so this objective was mostly achieved through one-on-one contact – Project PI reached out to 33 ASPs and farmer leaders, and 42 selected farmers (with assistance from ASPs) about their success and challenges in the 2014-2017 WV SARE PDP Program. Information received is documented above.

            Successes of ASP – Reported above

            Challenges of ASP – Comments included insufficient time and competing programs, insufficient interest to mount programs, did not do but will likely conduct program in near future, need time to ‘internalize’ information before I feel comfortable to teach materials.

            Successes of Farmers: On Average, 76% of producers reported implementing at least one of the recommended strategies from the respective programs that they attended. Main reasons for adopting these recommended strategies included:

  • increasing farm income,
  • reducing costs,
  • reducing liability,
  • accessing new markets/buyers or expanding sales to current markets/buyers,
  • protecting farm income,
  • reducing income variability, and/or
  • evaluating farm performance.

Challenges of Farmers: In cases where farmers did not adopt the recommended strategies, reasons given included:

  • have off-farm income to offset losses
  • have insurance to offset losses
  • have limited time
  • strategies too complicated
  • business too small for the effort (time and financial resources)

Over the course of the project, 10 ASPs submitted Plans of Work and received project funds for their farmer trainings. A few of these trainings were conducted as independent programs (3 Market Ready and 7 Food Safety workshops), but most of these trainings were integrated into existing Extension programs and included some aspects of the 3 main topic areas we covered (Financial Management, Market Ready and Food Safety). Because some of these trainings were integrated into many existing programs, insufficient data made it difficult to determine the number of farmers participating in each of these programs – however an aggregate number of 425 farmers benefitted from the overall PDP Program.

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Target: number of farmers who will make a change/adopt of practice:
100
Target: the change or adoption the farmers will make:
100 farmers that manage more than 10,000 acres adopt at least two BMPs in whole-farm planning and risk management, based on training programs or services arising from this program. Examples include: • Conduct food safety risk assessment, prioritize risks, and develop an appropriate food safety plan to be used on their farms and in promotion communications; or • Develop whole-farm, enterprise and/or partial budgets, and associated records, to estimate costs, returns, and break-even points for a selected enterprise to meet a specified target market; or • Initiate a business relationship with a complementary enterprise, or with a related federal or state organization, to implement one aspect of marketing plan.
Target: total size/scale of farmers these farmers manage:
10,000 acres

Additional Project Outcomes

Number of grants applied for that built upon this project:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
1 10 11
Number of grants received that built upon this project:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
5 5
Dollar amount of grants received:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
$ $ $377000 $377000
Number of new working collaborations:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
3 3
1 New working collaboration
Additional Outcomes Narrative:

New Working Collaborations or Partnerships, New Projects and Grants:

  • ‘WV Food Safety Training Team – WVFSTT’: As a result of the food safety training and the growing importance of food safety issues to the local food system in WV, we have decided to formalize the trained ASPs and Farmer Leaders into an organized group called the ‘WV Food Safety Training Team – WVFSTT’. The WVFSTT will provide continued individualized producer food safety and business planning and development assistance, in order to foster a ‘culture’ of food safety in VW. The WVFSTT has secured grant funding for the producer food safety training program in 2016-2019 ($95,000 – Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation; $35,000 – NERME; and $200,000 – WVDA).
  • WV Market Ready Training Team: Trained ASPs and Farmer Leaders are forming a regional training team to deliver the Market Ready Training on a regional basis. This team approach will help sustain the ‘market ready’ efforts in the future.
  • ‘Specialty Crop Profit Team’: As a result of the initial financial management training, we have developed the ‘Specialty Crop Profit Team.’ This team is a group of producers that will be formally trained in whole-farm profit management, and will be mentored to keep and analyzed their farm records to improve farm profitability. We have secured a Specialty Crop Block Grant for this producer training for 2015-2018 ($15,000 – WVDA).
  • Internal (WVU) and other State-Sponsored Grants:Trained ASPs have applied for a combined total of $49,000 in smaller grants from internal (WVU) or state or community sources to fund their farmer training projects, and have received $32,000 in grant funding to date.
  • State Partnerships :As a result of the partnerships and curriculum developed in this project, two additional projects have emerged that will continue to use the materials developed in this project:
    • Expanding the Maple Industry in West Virginia and the Central Appalachian Region through Research and Education – Funded ($230,000 – ACER Grant)
    • West Virginia Economic Development Initiative in Cider Apple and Cider Production – Proposal being develop for $155,000
Success stories:

The Food Safety aspect of this course has helped increase the number of GAP certified farms in WV by 250 percent since 2015 (from 6 in 2015 to 21 in 2017).

An agent in southern WV  reported on a family with a diversified vegetable farm, with field and high-tunnel production, that attended the food safety trainings held in that county. In the farmer’s words, “This course has given me the confidence and information to go after my GAPs certification. My buyers were asking for it, but I though the process was too overwhelming to undertake. The tools we got in these training have allowed my family to develop a food safety plan for our farm, develop the appropriate SOPs, and keep the appropriate records . We certainly have improved our insurance and liability plans, but have also improved our promotion and communication initiatives highlighting our food safety efforts. We have successfully passed our GAPs audit, have been able to secure a few new markets, and have also been able to use a lot of the cost-share incentives, which we did not know about prior to this course. This course was well worth the time we invested in it. This group always are most helpful to our producers; keep up the good work.”

Another ASP reported on the work she had done with the Market Ready curriculum. This is a quote from one of her participants – “By improving my marketing strategies (proper pricing, labeling, contract negotiations, and promotion), I was able to add two new larger buyers and improve my revenue. I am currently talking with my insurance provider to improve my policy based on what I learned in this class. Good job all.”

And from another ASP – “This was a comprehensive course that covered a variety of important aspects of running a farm enterprise – financial management, marketing and food safety. I feel I am equipped with tools and resources to be able to tackle producer training ins these areas. The templates you all have provided during this program will make producer trainings easier and more effective. I know my producers are not very good at keeping records, but the record logs and SOPs you all provided made it easy for producers to start implementing changes immediately.”

 

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

The following factors contributed to the success of the Food Safety aspect of overall project:

  • Existing Need: WV Agricultural Service Providers and Growers alike were anxious about food safety issues to meet buyers’ demands or to mitigate their own risks. WV producers understood the important of food safety compliance to stay well-positioned in the local food movement and to continue to expand production to better meet the expanding local foods markets, and were very interested in acquiring the education and resources to address these issues. ASP were eager to provide the information and resources that their producers needed.
  • Multi-organization Partnership: The WV Food Safety Training Team represents a multidisciplinary, collaborative effort from several institutions and organizations, to develop and deliver a continuous, comprehensive food safety education and technical assistance program – in effect, creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ for food-safety education, resources and producer support, aimed at reducing the risk of contamination of fresh and fresh cut fruits and vegetables. The intention of this partnership is to begin building long-term infrastructure that will support a statewide culture of food safety through continuous food safety education and training, and provide significant compliance assistance through follow-up mentoring, partnerships and networking opportunities. This team of experts have committed to meeting current local food safety needs, and assure that as the need grows, they will come up with new solutions and seek resources to meet the emerging needs.
  • Methodology: We used a curriculum specifically meant to to meet the diverse needs of participants (ASP and Growers), and conducted training in a comfortable, discussion-style training environment. ASP and Growers were given to sufficient time and opportunity to share their concerns, questions, as well as their own recommendations for practical food safety strategies they have used with their growers/on their own farms.

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

Information about SARE grant programs and information resources was shared through the events and activities listed below.

Year 1 (2014-2015) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

WVU-NESARE web-site updates with SARE programs and resources – Access more than 350 times during Oct 2014 – Sept 2015.

 

 

NESARE Grant Writing Workshops:

o NESARE Partnership and Farmer Grant Writing Webinar – Oct. 2014

o NESARE Grant-Writing Workshops – Conducted 5 day-long (8 hours) grant-writing workshops and 3 (2-hour) grant-writing workshops – Oct. 2014 – Sept. 2015

 

16

 

100+

 

7

 

20+

NESARE Display and Information sharing:

 

o WV Food Expo, Beckley WV – Oct. 2014

o WVUES Women in Agriculture Conference – Oct. 2014

o WVUES Urban Agriculture Conference – Nov. 2014

o WVUES Small Ruminant Project Short-Course – Nov. 2014

o WVUES Dinner Meetings – Jan – March, 2015

o WV Farm Opportunity Days – Feb. 2015

o Appalachian Grazing Conference – Mar. 2015

o WVUES Small Farms Conference – March 2015

o Eastern Panhandle Farm Gathering – April 2015

o WV State Fair – August 2015

Includes both ASP and Farmer attending event

60+ (ASP and Farmers)

 

150+

 

130+

 

45+

800+

90+

200+

500+

50+

1000+

Year 2 (2015-2016) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

WVU-NESARE web-site updates with SARE programs and resources – Access more than 350 times during Oct 2015 – Sept 2016.

 

 

NESARE Grant Writing Workshops:

o NESARE Grant-Writing Workshops – Conducted 4 day-long (8 hours) grant-writing workshops and 2 (2-hour) grant-writing workshops – Oct. 2015 – Sept. 2015

 

 

100+

 

 

20+

NESARE Display and Information sharing:

 

o WV Food Expo, Beckley WV – Oct. 2015

o WVUES Women in Agriculture Conference – Oct. 2015

o WVUES Urban Agriculture Conference – Apr. 2015

o WVUES Dinner Meetings – Jan – March, 2016

o WV Farm Opportunity Days – Feb. 2016

o WVUES Small Farms Conference – Feb. 2016

o Eastern Panhandle Farm Gathering – April 2016

o WV State Fair – August 2016

Includes both ASP and Farmer attending event

60+ (ASP and Farmers)

 

150+

 

130+

800+

90+

500+

50+

1000+

 

Year 3 (2016-2017) SARE Outreach Activities

Event/Activity

Number of Contacts with:

Farmers

Ag. Professionals

WVU-NESARE web-site updates with SARE programs and resources – Access more than 50 times during Oct 2016 – Sept 2017 (website is undergoing construction and have been unavailable).

 

 

NESARE Grant Writing Workshops:

o NESARE Grant-Writing Workshops – Conducted 3 day-long (8 hours) grant-writing workshops and 2 (2-hour) grant-writing workshops – Oct. 2016 – Sept. 2017

 

 

100+

 

 

20+

NESARE Display and Information sharing:

 

o WV Food Expo, Keyser, WV – Sept. 2017

o WVUES Women in Agriculture Conference – Oct. 2016

o WVUES Urban Agriculture Conference – Apr. 2017

o WVUES Dinner Meetings – Jan – March, 2017

o WVUES Small Farms Conference – Feb. 2017

o Eastern Panhandle Farm Gathering – April 2017

o WV State Fair – August 2017

Includes both ASP and Farmer attending event

 

60+ (ASP and Farmers)

150+

 

130+

 

800+

500+

50+

1000+

 

Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:

Audience Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Service providers 0 0 129 129
Farmers 0 0 3000 3000
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.