Filling the Gap – Exposing Agricultural Professionals to New and Innovative Small-Farm Tools

Progress report for PDP20-009

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $74,982.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G182-21-W7903
Grant Recipient: National Center for Appropriate Technology
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Rex Dufour
National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)
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Project Information

Abstract:

Sustainable agriculture requires an understanding of the balance between economic realities and environmental stewardship. A critical piece in this balance relies on appropriate farm equipment. The purchase and use of economically effective and appropriate farm tools, based on the size and specific needs of a farm, will ensure the most efficient use of labor, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase the overall sustainability of a farm business.

Individuals from government organizations (I.e., Natural Resource Conservation Service), Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), non-profits, extension professionals, and certifiers, are responsible for providing farmers with relevant information and resources to ensure farmers are making practical and well-informed decisions. However, with continued consolidation of farms, many agricultural

organizations focus on larger-scale producers. The emphasis on larger-scale production results in agricultural professionals who are ill-equipped and lack an understanding of the tools and technology necessary for small-scale production, leaving them unable to effectively provide support to small-scale farmers.

This project aims to increase small-scale farmer access to innovative, practical, and economically viable farm equipment by providing agricultural professionals with hands-on opportunities to use and experiment with small-farm tools and resources to share with farmers in their communities. This project will include on-farm equipment demonstration workshops in California, Oregon, and Washington for agricultural professionals. We expect these daylong demonstrations will improve the knowledge of agricultural professionals and inspire them to share their knowledge and work with farmers to increase their access to these tools. We will also facilitate online outreach to agricultural professionals and compile tool-demonstration videos and written materials to share with participants and make available on our ATTRA website.

Project Objectives:

This project targets the second largest financial burden for farmers– equipment. The primary goal for this project is to increase the knowledge, skills, and technical capabilities of community agricultural professionals about small-scale, sustainable agricultural production tools in the Western Region of the United States. Enhancing the knowledge and technical skills of agricultural professionals will permit them to maximize their service to small-scale producers, and encourage the overall success of small-scale farming operations.

NCAT will do this by providing agricultural professionals with an opportunity to learn and understand the appropriate resources available to small-scale producers, and will in turn, reduce equipment barriers, and allow small-scale farmers to thrive in an ever-changing climate and difficult agricultural market. Over the course of this project, we will provide in-person education and informational resources to numerous agricultural professionals across California, Oregon, and Washington. This project will provide in-person and virtual learning opportunities for agricultural professionals along with video and written resources to use for their own outreach. We will gauge the success of this objective by measuring overall attendance at workshops; follow up surveys focused on the potential change outreach agriculture professional make after this workshop, and use of video and written outreach materials.

Timeline:

This project assumes that by providing agricultural professionals with an opportunity to learn and understand the appropriate resources and equipment available to small-scale producers, we will enable them to apply this new information and conduct their own local outreach to farmers. From previous experiences and confidence in the overall design of this project, we expect agricultural professionals will conduct meaningful outreach with small-scale producers in their communities.

The development and success of this project will rely primarily on labor from the NCAT staff and participating partners to organize, promote, facilitate, and evaluate the demonstration days and to develop outreach materials. NCAT staff will work with partners from four different locations in California, Oregon, and Washington to conduct on-farm workshops demonstrating a variety of new and innovative technologies specific to diversified small-scale agriculture. We selected these four partners because they have experience leading on-farm demonstration workshops, operate small-scale diversified farms, and have many of the small-scale tools we plan to demonstrate. We have also partnered with private agriculture equipment companies such as Johnny’s Seeds to provide additional tools when needed.

Project Timeline:

Deliverables – Activities

Performed by

Timeline

design demonstration workshops

NCAT project staff

10/2020-11/2020 (or earlier – based upon distribution of grant funding)

Collect feedback from partners and adjust workshop design

NCAT & partners

10/2020-11/2020

Schedule workshop dates w/ partners

NCAT & partners

11/2020 – 12/2020

Identify tools for videos and publication

NCAT

11/2020 -12/2020

Plan & conduct outreach for workshops

NCAT & partners

1/2021 – 1/2022

design post-workshop online survey

NCAT project staff

1/2021 – 1/2022

complete all demonstration workshops

NCAT & partners

1/2021 – 1/2023

distribute and analyze post-workshop survey

NCAT

1/2021-2/2023

schedule and design webinar

NCAT

2/2023-3/2023

Complete draft of publications

NCAT

1/2021 -2/2023

finalize publications and videos

NCAT

2/2021 – 3/2023

Develop outline & plan webinar

NCAT

3/2023 – 4/2023

Conduct Webinar

NCAT

4/2023-5/2023

Design Final Project Survey

NCAT

5/2023-7/2023

Distribute Final Project Survey

NCAT

8/2023 -9/2023

Complete Final Project Evaluation

NCAT

9/2023-10/2023

 

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Johnny Campbell (Educator)
  • Doug Collins (Educator)
  • Gwendolyn Ellen (Educator)
  • Darryl Wong (Educator)

Education

Educational approach:
 
The primary goal for this project is to increase the knowledge, skills, and technical capabilities of community agricultural professionals about small-scale, sustainable agricultural production tools in the Western Region of the United States. Enhancing the knowledge and technical skills of agricultural professionals will permit them to maximize their service to small-scale producers, and encourage the overall success of small-scale farming operations.

NCAT will do this by providing agricultural professionals with an opportunity to learn about the appropriate resources available to small-scale producers, and will, in turn, reduce barriers to accessing equipment. Over the course of this project, we will provide in-person education and informational resources to numerous agricultural professionals across California, Oregon, and Washington. This project will provide in-person and virtual learning opportunities for agricultural professionals along with video and written resources to be shared with farmers in their communities. We will gauge the success of our educational approach by measuring overall attendance at workshops and follow-up surveys for agriculture professionals which will focus on the potential for helping and capacity to help small-scale farmers.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Four Workshops
Objective:

Provide hands on access to professionals across the West Coast.

Description:

The four workshops will be developed in order to expose agricultural professionals to many of the small farm tools and innovations that many of them may not have been exposed to in school or in their professional lives. 

The ability to handle a tool, see it in action, and ask any questions about those tools to the people who use them on a daily basis will serve to familiarize professionals with tools they may not have been exposed to before. They will also be able to ground truth and verify claims made by manufacturers. 

Ag professionals will learn about practical use, applicability (in terms of scale and function), limitations, and other considerations for the tools demonstrated. 

Ag professionals will be able to take a more informed stance when communicating with farmers about these scall-appropriate tools.

Outcomes and impacts:

No outcomes or impacts to report yet.

Videos and Publication
Objective:

Designed to supplement the information that will be delivered during the workshops as well as provide any other individuals who are unable to attend the workshops with access to quality resources.

Description:

The video series will be used to describe and demonstrate several of the tools and implements that will be highlighted during the workshops. Videos will also be shared on the NCAT/ATTRA website.

A publication will be developed to expand on some of the more useful and innovative tools that have become available to the small-scale farmer. 

Outcomes and impacts:

No outcomes or impacts to report yet.

Webinar
Objective:

Provide the opportunity for any interested parties who were unable to attend the in-person workshops with information about the small farm tools discussed in this project.

Description:

Collaborators and NCAT personnel will participate in a webinar to share expereinces, reccomendations, and innovations with those in attendance. Content shared will include a collection of videos, testimonials, and presentations. 

Outcomes and impacts:

No outcomes or impacts to report yet.

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Consultations
1 Published press articles, newsletters
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.