2021 University of Florida SARE MSP

Progress report for SFL21-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $11,099.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2024
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
State Coordinator:
Dr. Marilyn Swisher
University of Florida
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Project Information


Florida activities for 2021-2022 will build upon the basic framework for the model state program. Planned activities include integrating results of SARE funded research and Extension activities, and other relevant research, and using this information as resources for educational programs. We also plan to continue to strengthen our focus on targeted training for state and county Extension faculty, representatives of non-profit organizations, representatives of state and federal government agencies, and farmer representatives. To fulfill the priorities and objectives of our program, our training funds will be used to address programs in three subject matter areas:

(1) new and emerging solutions for Florida agricultural production,

(2) advancing Extension capacity in sustainable agriculture, and

(3) entrepreneurial innovation in sustainable agriculture.

Project Objectives:
  1. Maintain existing and establish new collaborative Extension trainings and programs with faculty members and county agents at University of Florida and Florida A&M University whose work addresses sustainability in production agriculture.
  2. Extend collaboration with organizations that are active in the post-production components of food systems, particularly non-profit, state, and governmental organizations whose work fosters development of food and agriculture businesses.
  3. Support the development of Extension programs in food systems, including Regional Specialized Agents whose work includes both on-farm production and post-farm gate aspects of food system development.
  4. Expand participation of minority, women, and limited resource farmers and professionals in SARE activities and programs, ensuring that these groups are well represented in the full range of SARE-funded professional development opportunities.

Our expected outcomes are:

  1. Extension faculty will participate in SARE in-service training programs and use this information in their own programming,
  2. Extension faculty will participate in regional and national training programs in sustainable agriculture and apply the lessons learned in their own programming,
  3. at least two of the statewide Extension priority teams will include information and resources about sustainable agriculture and SARE in their professional development training programs and Extension programming,
  4. through SARE, Extension agents and farmers will identify opportunities for the development, outreach, and research of alternative crops and enterprises,
  5. regional and local county agents will develop new collaborations with organizations, agencies, and groups working in sustainable agriculture, and
  6. Extension faculty and agents will make increased use of resources to support programming in sustainable agriculture.

The 2021-22 Florida SARE programming builds upon our previous years’ work in two ways.

(1) We continued to focus on outreach and training that enhances the environmental and economic benefits of production agriculture.

(2) We continued to host trainings that emphasize local and regional food systems to address issues and policies that impact our food system.

The new cycle differed in several ways. Due to our extensive outreach work over the years to increase consciousness of sustainable agriculture programming and resources, sustainable agriculture is now prominent in many Florida Extension programs.  The training needs of state and county faculty have changed and they are making additional demands on our SARE program:

(1) The need for SARE to provide training to county faculty in IRB requirements for human subject research has declined and we have discontinued training about how to complete the submission. We do point out the requirement for human subject approval in all aspects of our work and direct Extension faculty to the training site and the submission site.

(2) County, regional and state Extension personnel continue to press for more training in how to develop research and outreach proposals and how to assemble and train teams to implement their projects. We will continue to expand this training to include identification of potential funding sources (public and private).

(3) County faculty want more access to cutting edge research in sustainable ag to reduce the time between research and adoption. We are accommodating this need by involving county faculty in field assessments of various research projects. Through this venue, county faculty have a voice in the development of research projects and in the data generation process.

(4) We will expand our training program that integrates grower and technical advisor input into ecological and biological research to enhance research outcomes. UF has hired additional Extension personnel over the past three years, including a number of Regional Specialized Agents who are responsible for a specific production system (e.g., commercial horticulture) in a multi-county region. These new Extension faculty members who play a role that is distinct from both agents and state specialists is the focus of training regarding empowerment of farmers in the research process.

(5) One of the most useful roles we play for IFAS faculty members is to gather preliminary data regarding grower needs, barriers and priorities. We will develop protocols for this kind of data collection and continue to work with faculty members to facilitate the data collection. These data are often critical to the development of good grant proposals.

(6) We will continue to offer training about how to strengthen the outreach and evaluation components of extension projects and incorporate more on-farm trials into their work. Our revised strategic plan emphasizes increasing diversity and inclusion in all aspects of our SARE program. This includes a training program in the 2021-22 period using the Young Farmers’ Racial Equity Toolkit. NE SARE produced the toolkit, which was authored by Caitlin Arnold and the National Young Farmers’ Coalition.


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Educational approach:

Our educational approach for our “sustainable solutions for Florida agricultural production” initiative has two components:

  1. To provide an in-service training where the target audience consists of Extension agents, producers’ associations, non-profit, state, and local organizations, and private sector technical advisers.
  2. To facilitate participation by Extension agents, growers and industry representatives, and representatives of non-profit, state, and local organizations in on-farm and on-station research, grower assessments of demonstration and research trials including annual events at any of Florida Research & Extension Centers, field days on-farm and on-station, and workshops

Our educational approach for our “advancing Extension capacity in sustainable agriculture” initiative has three components:

  1. To conduct professional development trainings focusing on the needs of Extension professionals in the state.
  2. To allow county and state faculty to develop their own training objectives and propose venues that will provide the training they need.
  3. To advertise training opportunities available within the Southern SARE region and nationally that may be of interest to Florida faculty.

Our educational approach for our “entrepreneurial innovation in sustainable agriculture” initiative has one component:

  1. To offer an in-service training about successful grant writing to enhance Extension programming.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Sustainable Solutions for Florida Agricultural Production:

Agronomic and horticultural production systems increasingly face emerging pest threats, competition with other uses for scarce resources, and increasing international competition in traditionally high-value crops. The rapidity with which new challenges emerge requires that service providers be knowledgeable not only of technologies and strategies that are fully tested and “ready for use,” but also of the most promising solutions under development. Equally important, we need to shorten the distance between research and application, an imperative long recognized by SARE.


Future of Sustainable Agriculture in Florida Webinar Series

The target audience for this webinar series consists of county Extension faculty, mentor farmers, and other local service providers. The purpose is to expose participants to research conducted in Florida focusing on new projects and technologies supporting sustainable agriculture. By exploring emerging research from a wide variety of disciplines related to sustainable agriculture, participants may collaborate and provide relevant and timely sustainable agricultural programming to their clients. This training is offered as a webinar series.


Improving Research Outcomes through Stakeholder Feedback

The target audience for this training consists of state and county faculty with Extension and research appointments and staff working with these faculty members. The pace of change in food and agriculture has increased greatly due to increased international trade, expanding regulatory requirements, and a diverse consumer population with distinctive and in many cases non-traditional preferences with regard to food products and tangible and non-tangible attributes. These changes make it more important than ever to ensure that agricultural research can respond quickly to producer needs. We have developed a technique for incorporating grower and technical advisor (especially Extension) input into the design and implementation of agricultural research. The approach improves the quality of research because the key concerns of end-users of the research are involved in directing the research away from solutions that will not be acceptable to farmers, will direct research toward the most critical constraints and needs of producers, and will fully incorporate the expertise and experience of growers and their advisors to develop treatments and identify the kind of data needed by growers for their decision-making purposes. We have now conducted repeated assessments on three research projects at the University of Florida with outstanding results that have contributed some of the most innovative treatments in research and helped us avoid commitment of time and effort to approaches that will ultimately fail the test of adoption. The objective of this IST is to provide participants with a systematic, tested approach to incorporating grower input into the earliest stages of the research process, including how to conduct field research assessments (blind evaluation of treatments, for example), and how to analyze the results that are obtained. Training objectives:

  1. Develop a protocol for a research assessment.
  2. Complete the IRB protocol that will ensure that the assessment meets federal requirements for informed consent, including a template that covers the key universally required components in the protocol.
  3. Develop the appropriate data collection instruments and procedures for the assessment.
  4. Conduct the procedures involved which include an individual assessment by each participant and a facilitated group discussion.
  5. Analyze the results of the assessment.


Southern Region Cover Crops Council

We are a member of Strategy Team 4.  The objective of Strategy Team 4 is to foster basic, applied and participatory cover crop research in the Southern Region, and establish a multi-state research project.


Sustainable Organic Strawberry (SOS) Cropping Systems For The Southeast

This OREI-NIFA funded project seeks to promote the expansion of organic strawberry production in the Southeast by working to develop organic strawberry cropping systems that are more environmentally and economically sustainable and resilient to weed, pest, and disease pressure. The project is a collaborative effort of the University and Florida, North Carolina A&T State University, Florida A&M University and Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc. (FOG). The project has three major components: biological research, consumer and economic research, and evaluation and outreach. The main experiment examines the effects of three cover crop treatments and a weedy control on soil health, nematode suppression, arthropod pests, beneficials, and the performance of four strawberry cultivars in open-field production. Four supporting or satellite experiments examine specific aspects of nutrient management incorporating nitrogen contribution from cover crops and supplemental fertilization, efficacy of OMRI-approved materials for management of spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and twospotted spider mite (TSSM), and spot treatment with predatory mites for TSSM, and performance of cultivars in high and low tunnels for cold protection outside sub-tropical Florida. The evaluation and extension components are integrated. We use an Industrial Liaison Panel and research assessments with service providers and growers to evaluate the potential usefulness of our research and possible barriers to adoption. Extension activities include field days, trainings, workshops, and conference presentations.


Adapting and Expanding High Tunnel Organic Vegetable Production for the Southeast

The long-term goal of this OREI-NIFA funded project is to develop sustainable high tunnel systems to promote the growth and expansion of organic vegetable production in the Southeast. The project is a collaborative effort of the University and Florida, Florida A&M University, USDA-ARS, University of Georgia, Georgia Organics, and Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc. (FOG). This integrated project will systematically address the major challenges and key issues with organic high tunnel production and management identified through an initial planning project. By building a strong partnership with organic producers and other stakeholders, this project will target long-term environmental and economic sustainability. The outreach component is focused on the following objectives: (1) An expanded network of farmers, farmer organizations and stakeholders that can share and access information about high tunnel organic vegetable production; (2) continuing farmer and stakeholder participation in research and extension about high tunnel organic vegetable production; (3) increased understanding of farmer and stakeholder decision making; and (4) adoption of the management options generated by this research. Our role on the project includes coordinating field research assessments with service providers and growers to evaluate the potential usefulness of our research and possible barriers to adoption.  We are also responsible for coordinating the advisory council activities, hosting field days, conducting interviews with the farmers engaging in our on-farm research, presenting at conferences, and developing a virtual research assessment.


Graduate Student Grant Writing Workshops


This two part hands-on workshop was open to any graduate student in the Southern region interested in improving their grant proposal writing skills. Dr. Mickie Swisher discussed the keys to writing a successful grant proposal. Students had the opportunity to work on their own proposals at the workshop, as well. Each session of the workshop covered different aspects of proposal writing – from literature reviews to budgeting, so students needed to attend both sessions, if possible. Students from any department were encouraged to attend.  At the end of the training, the participants were able to: (1) Explain why proposals are rejected; (2) Identify the key elements of a call for proposal; (3) Craft their own proposal.


Enhancing the Sustainability of US Cropping Systems through Cover Crops and an Innovative Information and Technology Network

Transformative changes are needed to address agriculture's grand challenge of increasing food
production while maintaining environmental integrity. Changes must mitigate: agricultures high energy demand; impending water scarcity and herbicide-resistant weeds; consequences of climate change (more frequent flooding, droughts, and extreme heat); and decline in soil health, critical for improving soil and water quality. This proposal will address these unprecedented threats by providing the infrastructure necessary to support and accelerate cover crop (CC) use nationwide, thereby meeting NIFA program goals of 1) increasing total factor productivity, 2) improving water and nitrogen use efficiency, and 3) reducing losses due to biotic and abiotic stresses. An integrated transdisciplinary approach of research (54%), extension (30%), and education (16%) components will address our objectives. A nationwide team of dedicated research, extension and NGO personnel from 28 institutions will establish on-station and on-farm research networks, novel teaching curriculum, and extensive social-science based outreach. Our overall goal is to increase crop productivity, conserve natural resources, and reduce our agro-ecological footprint through increased and improved use of CCs. Our role on the project includes coordinating field research assessments with service providers and growers to evaluate the potential usefulness of the research and possible barriers to adoption.  We are also responsible for coordinating the Farmer Think Tank Panel activities and presenting at conferences.


Evaluating the Dual-Purpose of Chickpea: A Cash and Cover Crop for Agricultural Production Systems in the Southeast

This Southern SARE sponsored Research and Education proposal was funded in 2021. The aim of this project is to evaluate chickpea to improve our knowledge on this multi-purpose crop and learn whether it can be grown for its full growth potential in the Southern Coastal Plain region as an off-season (winter) dual-purpose crop (cash and cover) in corn production systems. Our evaluation will be based on yield and economic returns, potential N-credits, and impact on major insect pests of the major summer cash crop (corn). We will identify the best maturity chickpea varieties for production (high yielding and nutrient rich) to enhance diversity, and environmental and economical sustainability. The specific objectives are (1) evaluate yield, nutritional quality and N-fixation of chickpeas integrated into corn cropping systems, (2) assess N-fixation by chickpea and N credit to the subsequent cash crop, by combining 15N tracing at one research site (PSREU) on the three most promising varieties with more traditional N cycling measurements at both research sites and on growers’ fields, (3) measure insect and disease pressure in the rotational crops, (4) evaluate and compare the economic feasibility of production for evaluated chickpea varieties, and (5) incorporate stakeholder’ recommendations in the evaluation of project activities, conduct outreach and training, and disseminate findings on the potential dual-purpose of chickpea in agricultural production systems.

Outcomes and impacts:

Future of Sustainable Agriculture in Florida Webinar Series

We began developing the series in 2022.  Topics will include: cover crops, high tunnels, low tunnels, soil health, plant breeding/seed saving/regional seed production, pests and diseases, alternative crops.  We will assess the participants’ change of knowledge with pre and post test evaluations.


Improving Research Outcomes through Stakeholder Feedback

We presented our first virtual research assessment training at the 2021 Northeast Cover Crops Council Conference.  This served as a pilot virtual training for our upcoming Florida SARE trainings scheduled for 2023-24.


Southern Region Cover Crops Council

In collaboration with Strategy Team 4 we secured a SAS CAP grant that supports cover crops research in Florida. See “Enhancing the Sustainability of US Cropping Systems through Cover Crops and an Innovative Information and Technology Network.”  We attended the Southern Cover Crops Conference in 2023.


Sustainable Organic Strawberry (SOS) Cropping Systems For The Southeast

In 2021, we submitted a journal article, Who will feed our future? A systematic literature review of new and beginning organic farmers, to Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. The article is currently under review. In 2022, Dr. Alia DeLong, et al, published Stakeholder-Driven adaptive research (SDAR): Better research products in Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.  doi:10.1017/S1742170522000023


Adapting and Expanding High Tunnel Organic Vegetable Production for the Southeast

In 2021, we recruited five additional advisory panel members and hosted our third meeting, we recruited nine participants and conducted our third research assessment at PSREU, we recruited eight participants and conducted a virtual research assessment on Zoom, and we started production on several virtual field days and project videos to highlight the activities and results of this project.  We also presented at the 2021 ASHS conference (virtual), 2021 FSHS annual meeting (in-person), and the III International Organic Fruit Symposium and I International Organic Vegetable Symposium (virtual). In 2022, we produced 5 short videos highlighting the project.  Four additional videos and virtual field days highlighting some of the treatments grown at the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, FL are currently in production. We also hosted our final advisory panel meeting, our last virtual research assessment, and completed on-farm trials at five farms in Florida. In 2023, we will publish and disseminate our videos through our website, Youtube channel, and Florida SARE listserv. 


Graduate Student Grant Writing Workshops

Pre and post-tests were completed in 2022 by graduate students taking our grant writing workshops. Students were asked to respond to 10 true/false items on both the pre and post-test.  Nine graduate students responded to the pre-test and the average pre-test score was 64%.  Four graduate students responded to the post-test. The average post-test score was 82%.


Enhancing the Sustainability of US Cropping Systems through Cover Crops and an Innovative Information and Technology Network

In January and August 2021 , we hosted our first two Farmer Think Tank meetings with five farmers representing five states. We hosted our third, fourth, and fifth Think Tank meetings with eight farmers representing eight states in 2022-23. We will host our final Think Tank meeting with the eight farmers in 2023. In March 2021, we presented our first research assessment training at the Northeast Cover Crops Council Conference and hosted our first research assessment at WFREC on the cover crops grown in common experiment 1. In May 2022, we hosted our final research assessment at the PSREU on the corn crop grown in common experiment 2. In November 2022, we presented findings from our first four Farmer Think Tank meetings at the 2022 Tri-Societies Conference in Baltimore, MD.


Evaluating the Dual-Purpose of Chickpea: A Cash and Cover Crop for Agricultural Production Systems in the Southeast

Our activities began in 2021.  We recruited an advisory council and hosted our first meeting in 2022.  We will host our second meeting in 2023.

Advancing Extension Capacity in Sustainable Agriculture

This initiative provides individualized training in specialized topics in sustainable agriculture. County and state faculty can participate in training relevant to their state and county programs that may not be a focus or an emphasis in the other Florida SARE initiatives. We allow county and state faculty to develop their own training objectives and propose venues that will provide the training they need. We also advertise training opportunities that may be of interest to Florida faculty.


Advanced Individualized Training

The target audience consists of county Extension faculty who are members of a Florida Extension Professional Association. Scholarships are available to support travel to a professional development program in which the faculty person will receive training in topics relevant to sustainable agriculture. Program objectives:

  1. Increase participation in trainings related to sustainable agriculture that are associated with the SSARE Program.
  2. Increase participation in relevant national and regional trainings offered by other programs and organizations.
  3. Enhance the ability of the participant to develop and deliver local extension programming relevant to the goals of the Florida SARE program.
  4. Expand the current Extension responsibilities of the participant to include programming related to sustainable agriculture and food systems.


Grant Proposal Mentoring

We reach out to faculty members in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, especially those with significant Extension responsibilities, to offer assistance in pre-proposal research and proposal development on topics related to sustainable agriculture.  These are one-on-one or small group mentoring sessions.


Young Farmers’ Racial Equity Toolkit Training

The target audience for this training consists of county Extension faculty, service providers, community-based organizations, producer organizations, and mentor farmers. This training will utilize the Racial Equity Toolkit developed by Caitlin Arnold and the National Young Farmers Coalition. The objective of this program is to introduce the toolkit and provide tools to help participants organize around transformative learning and action. Training objectives:

  1. Understand racism and how it operates in our food system.
  2. Develop practical tools for convening conversations about race, racism, equity, and justice with local communities.
  3. Identify direct actions based on principles of resource-sharing, reparations, and movement building.


Bridging the Food Supply and Sustainable Agriculture Systems with the Nonprofit Sector

We propose a training program for Florida’s CES agriculture and natural resources agents and field personnel from NRCS. A UF-based team will collaborate with Florida A&M University (FAMU), an 1890 land grant institution, and Gainesville-based nonprofit, Working Food Community Center (WFCC), while centering sustainable agriculture in project development. The proposed project objectives are: (1) to build expertise in Florida’s agriculture and natural resources CES agents so they can then provide needed training and technical assistance on capacity building to food and agriculture nonprofit organizations; (2)  establish an electronic repository of training materials on nonprofit capacity building in food and agriculture organizations; and (3) build a web-based directory of food and agriculture nonprofits to support partnerships between Cooperative Extension and nonprofit organizations.

Outcomes and impacts:

Advanced Individualized Training

We sponsored 4 travel scholarships for Extension professionals and/or mentor farmers to attend the 2023 Southern Cover Crops Conference in Baton Rouge, LA.  Upon completion of the training, scholarship recipients were required to send a report to us about the conference, what they learned, and how they are currently using or plan to use what they learned in their work.


Grant Proposal Mentoring

We mentored and submitted a SSARE grant proposal focused on cowpea but it was not funded.  We are working with farmers and non-profits in Florida to provide feedback before they submit grant proposals to the Beginning, Farmer, and Rancher Program, the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, and the SSARE Program.  We are developing a partnership with Hillsborough County to collaborate on training initiatives - mostly focused on grant proposals.


Young Farmers’ Racial Equity Toolkit Training

We are collaborating with Dr. LaToya O'Neal in the UF FYCS department to develop the Young Farmers’ Racial Equity Toolkit Training.  We will launch this training in 2023/24.


Bridging the Food Supply and Sustainable Agriculture Systems with the Nonprofit Sector

This proposed portfolio of resources will include live interactive sessions with experts, a directory of FANOs, and printed educational resources to share with nonprofits. A report on this subsector of nonprofit organizations in Florida will provide information for identifying the unique needs within each CES district. Training for local nonprofit organizations by Extension agents will provide food and agriculture nonprofit organizations with access to the wealth of materials IFAS offers through EDIS as well as our expertise at IFAS research and education centers around the state. This proposed project is intended to enhance collaboration between Extension and local nonprofit organizations in Florida, with a focus on organizations that share Extension’s programmatic goals with regard to sustainable agriculture, conservation of resources, and improved nutritional outcomes, particularly for food insecure communities.

Entrepreneurial Innovation in Sustainable Agriculture

This initiative focuses on advancing Extension that provides support for nontraditional agricultural businesses and promotes sustainable food systems to address social and economic community issues. Healthy growing agricultural and natural resource based businesses can contribute to local development and economic vitality if barriers to the establishment and growth of businesses are addressed. We will facilitate workshops, strategic planning, and joint programmatic development for Extension and community partners.


Successful Grant Writing for Extension Programming

The target audience for this training consists of county Extension faculty, service providers, community-based organizations, and producer organizations.  The funding opportunities for community-based and producer organizations provide important resources to foster community and farm development. Successful proposal development is a learned skill. While the specific requirements for each proposal will vary depending on the goals of the donor, objectives, and proposal requirements, there are commonalities to most proposals. The objective of this program is to provide participants with an understanding of key factors that donors commonly use to evaluate proposals and how to respond to these factors.  Training objectives:

  1. Write a problem statement that is responsive to the priorities of the donor.
  2. Develop goals, objectives, and outcomes to address the problem statement.
  3. Develop and describe objective-based activities.
  4. Construct an appropriate evaluation strategy.
  5. Develop an objective-based budget.


SEEDIT: Specialty Pumpkins: Needs Assessment, Production Systems, and Processing for Emerging Products and Markets

Tropical pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata) is popular in Florida, especially within Latino and West Indian communities. The total value of tropical pumpkin consumed in the U.S exceeds $30 million annually, however, >80% of the produce is imported from Central America (USDA-ERS, 2011). In the U.S. mainland, production is currently limited to subtropical Florida where a few hundred hectares are grown. Demand for tropical pumpkin is rapidly increasing due to growing population of ethnic communities in Florida and across the U.S. (Flores et al., 2019; U.S. Census Bureau, 2019). Furthermore, new and emerging markets include use in brewing, processing (e.g. seed butter and canning), snack food, community-supported agriculture (CSA), restaurant and vegetable oil industries. Between 2014 and 2018, breweries in Florida skyrocketed from 104 to 348 (Brewer and Long, 2018), creating high demand for seasonal pumpkin ale. In addition, the number of CSA enterprises has increased exponentially in Florida fueled by an increasing demand for local food (FDACS, 2020). Florida growers are positioned to benefit from existing and expanding specialty markets due to distinctive subtropical climate that allows year-round production, proximity to consumer markets, and a robust UF/ IFAS extension network. In this project, we will assess potential risks/ benefits of specialty pumpkin production and barriers to acceptance. Hypothesis: Adding an enterprise to a commercial farming operation generates unanticipated changes in farm management that create risks, and potential acceptance of new products depends greatly on distributor and consumer perceived benefits.


Specialty Pumpkin: Laying the Groundwork for an Emerging Crop and Lucrative Products

This Southern SARE sponsored Research and Education proposal was funded in 2021. The purpose of this project is to identify and address grower, industry, and consumer needs and constraints for an emerging crop (specialty pumpkin) through Social Science, Food Science, and Cropping Systems research. In addition to the other PIs work, we will interview farmers, operators at sales points and consumers to gain multiple perspectives about potential opportunities and bottlenecks to acceptance of specialty pumpkin products. Producers will include large and small farms, organic and conventional, and those with and without experience in developing new enterprises.  We will conduct grower field assessments of on-station and on-farm trials and produce actionable recommendations to guide research over the course of this project. We will convene an industry advisory panel including farmers, actors in the market chain, and other industry stakeholders such as seed providers who will assume major responsibilities for annual review of project progress and develop strategic recommendations for outreach in this project and follow-on research programs.

Outcomes and impacts:

Successful Grant Writing for Extension Programming

We developed and are launching a virtual training series focused on SSARE and other USDA-NIFA grant funding in 2023.  We will assess the participants’ change of knowledge with pre and post test evaluations.


SEEDIT: Specialty Pumpkins: Needs Assessment, Production Systems, and Processing for Emerging Products and Markets

We conducted the following activities. Activity 1: Grower assessmentGrowers who are innovators may be willing to take on such risks while others may not, depending on perceived risks and benefits. Results of interviews with selected innovators and farmers with less experience with new enterprise innovation will identify key barriers to and opportunities for adoption of proposed innovations among both groups farmers and research priorities for both. We will identify an initial set of innovators and non-innovators through Extension and non-profit organizations that support farmers and expand the sample if needed through references from farmers we interview. Activity 2: Distribution system. Interviews, with sales points ranging from farmers’ markets to traditional commercial outlets, will identify key bottlenecks and opportunities to market in a variety of venues. Activity 3: Consumer survey. A survey will assess consumer acceptance of proposed specialty pumpkin products. We submitted two proposals in 2020 to SARE for grant funds to build on this project.  One of these proposals was funded and began in 2021.


Specialty Pumpkin: Laying the Groundwork for an Emerging Crop and Lucrative Products

Our activities began in 2021.  We recruited an advisory council and hosted our first meeting in 2022.  We hosted our first research assessment in 2023.  We will host two additional advisory council meetings in 2023/24.  We will host another research assessment in Puerto Rico in 2023/24.  We completed 10 interviews with farmers in 2023 and will complete an additional 20 before 2024.  Using results from the farmer interviews, we will develop an online questionnaire to distribute to farmers in the Southeast.  We will also complete interviews with grocery store/produce managers to learn more about the marketability of Southeast grown calabaza.

Educational & Outreach Activities

33 Consultations
12 Published press articles, newsletters
4 Study circle/focus groups
4 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

171 Extension
93 Researchers
14 Nonprofit
9 Agency
31 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
301 Farmers/ranchers
87 Others

Learning Outcomes

197 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
33 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
7 New working collaborations
45 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
Additional Outcomes:

We held our 2021 Florida SARE Advisory Council meeting on 5/17/2021. Training activities have been limited due to COVID-19 restrictions and low participation at in-person events.  Virtual trainings were developed where possible and in-person events will resume in 2023/24.

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

We distribute SARE educational materials at all of our SARE trainings and other relevant programs in Florida. SARE materials are distributed to the public by state and county faculty that participate in our programs. We also distribute SARE books and educational materials to our listserv, advisory council, and scholarship recipients.


2023 Commodity Classic

America's largest farmer-led, farmer-focused agricultural and educational experience: https://commodityclassic.com/. The program assistant traveled to Orlando, FL to table for Florida and Southern SARE at the 2023 Commodity Classic.  Over 10,000 farmers attended the event.


527 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
428 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
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.