Final report for SGA19-003
The SARE Advisory Committee uses the Georgia SARE LOGIC model objectives to help direct their activities each year in the following six established priority areas: compost, conservation tillage systems, direct marketing, grazing-based animal production systems, local food systems, and organic production. Each year, the Committee hosts trainings, workshops, and scholarships and distributes other educational materials to meet their objectives regarding the six priorities. Due to COVID restrictions most in-person events were cancelled or postponed, included those that the Georgia SARE Advisory Committee had planned to host this year. This granted the opportunity to sponsor more registration and travel for Extension agents to attend (virtually or in-person) the few events that did take place as scheduled. Funds were also used to support Extension hosted training events, and purchase software and equipment that will help develop and promote SARE events, such as Adobe Suite.
During 2006, the Georgia Model State Program developed a LOGIC Model to guide our training efforts. The LOGIC Model was then updated in 2015 to reflect the current needs of Georgia as directed by the SARE Advisory Committee. To reach our long-term goal of “Increased use of sustainable agriculture practices by producers at multiple scales supported by a knowledgeable network of agricultural professionals ensuring a high proportion of diverse, profitable, and environmentally-friendly farm operations”, we identified, in 2015, the following six areas for training workshops: compost, conservation tillage systems, direct marketing, grazing-based animal production systems, local food systems, and organic production.
In 2016, the SARE Advisory Committee decided that due to difficulties in identifying data that could be used as metrics for mid- and long-term goals in the Logic Model, the Model State Program funding would be better utilized for trainings and travel scholarships for agents and farmers in the state. We continue to gather good information on knowledge gains, behavior changes and how the trainings influence county programming among participants as a result of attending the SARE sponsored trainings and events.
Each year, the Advisory Committee identifies trainings and events that will address one or more of the six priority areas. For the 2020 – 2021 cycle, many events were cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including most of the in-person events that we planned to attend or host. In lieu of those, we allocated funds to agents to attend workshops and conferences. These included the Southeast Fruit and Vegetables Producers Conference, the Georgia Organics Conference (pre-COVID), the American Forage and Grasslands Council Conference, and the Georgia Wine Growers conference. Funds were also used to create and distribute materials for virtual Journeyman Farmer programs, and provide materials for a farmer training in Burke County. All of these activities increase knowledge and confidence in participating agriculture professionals which then translates to an increased ability to assist organic farmers, resource limited, and small farmers.
The educational approach for SARE programs strives to use hands-on practical approaches to train trainers on sustainable agriculture. When this option is not possible, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent gathering restrictions, we will use technology to offer virtual programming. We focus on topics identified by our advisory committee through the logic model. We do this by hosting workshops, offering scholarships to conferences, and delivering educational classes regarding sustainable agriculture throughout the state of Georgia. We train county agents in sustainable agriculture through foundation training for new agents, conference scholarships, providing access to SARE books and materials, and support in their county programming. We also publish quarterly sustainable agriculture newsletters, and we manage an e-mail listserv, a Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Facebook page and a Sustainable Agriculture at UGA website – all of which provides a wealth of information to the public regarding sustainable agriculture production practices, pertinent agriculture regulations, farm business resources, and an up-to-date list of local and regional programs and events happening in sustainable agriculture.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Local food systems were identified by the SARE Advisory Committee as an area where more training was needed to increase the capacity of Extension and other agricultural professionals to provide technical assistance to growers. Funding from this grant allowed us to support a virtual multi-county Journeyman Farmer Training Program with printed materials and shipping costs so that workbooks could be sent to participants’ homes and eliminate in-person contact.
SARE funds were used to prepare and distribute workbooks for a Journeyman Farmer Training program that was hosted by Forsyth County, Cherokee County, Dawson & Lumpkin counties, and Gwinnett County Extension offices. The program included a Small Farm Business Planning module and a Fruit and Vegetable Production module. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this program was offered virtually and supporting materials (workbooks) were mailed to participants.
This training was very successful, and had a total of 41 students for this particular Journeyman program. Other Journeyman programs with an average of 29 students were conducted with the assistance of the Sustainable Agriculture/ Model State Program Assistant, but without funds from this grant. The virtual nature of the program allowed participants to access it from all over the state. Because of this, a virtual component may be included in more Journeyman Farmer Training Programs in the future, even after COVID-19 restrictions are nonexistent. The feedback from the participants and hosting Extension agents was positive, and 52 students have recently taken and passed their Journeyman Farmer Training Program assessments as a result of this and one other Journeyman program. Each program includes at least 8-10 hours of learning modules (sometimes double this depending on the program).
This program was conducted by the Burke County Extension Office in partnership with Precision Sustainable Agriculture (USDA) to present cover crop data and cover crop data from their work through UGA. The goal of this initiative is to provide concrete data that shows the positive effects of cover cropping on small farms to encourage use of cover crops.
The event was a “Lunch and Learn” to show the data collected from the cover crop trials and train farmers and agents on the benefits of cover cropping. There were 12 farmers and 3 Extension agents (Burke, Screvin, and Morgan counties) in the audience, with UGA/ PSA personnel conducting the training.
The training was a success in educating farmers and agents on the benefits of cover cropping by using real data from areas local to them. Farmers has an opportunity to ask questions about the studies and resulting data, as well as about opportunities, benefits, and risks of cover cropping in their own farm systems. Overall it accomplished the objecting of further educating farmers on the beneficial outcomes associated with cover crop use.
Southern SARE Programming and activities were identified by the SARE Advisory Committee and part of the Model State Program Logic Model. These programs are not only an important function of the Sustainable Agriculture Program at UGA, but Southern SARE Programming serves to maintain a strong presence and relationship among Extension agents, producers and educators in Georgia. It is vital to our continued programming efforts that the Advisory Committee meets at least once a year to discuss past, current and future events, membership, business matters, and to reassess the short and long-term goals of the Committee.
The SARE Advisory Committee held a conference call via Zoom in November 6th, 2019.We also discussed events that took place in the past year to evaluate their potential to be incorporated into the current future programming.
Committee members met via Zoom on November 6th, 2019 to discuss upcoming goals and programming. New members were welcomed and the Advisory Committee reviewed prior programming and discussed ways of addressing other priority areas for the upcoming cycle. It was agreed upon to table at Georgia Organics, send agents to Georgia Organics, the AFGC, the Fruit and Vegetable Growers association conferences, as well as invite independent requests from Agents for conferences of their choosing. We also discussed hosting organic peanut production and cover crop trainings – both of which had to be postponed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic gathering restrictions.
Southern SARE Programming and activities were identified by the SARE Advisory Committee and part of the Model State Program Logic Model. These programs are not only an important function of the Sustainable Agriculture Program at UGA, but Southern SARE Programming serves to maintain a strong presence and relationship among Extension agents, producers and educators in Georgia. SARE books and publications were distributed to agents and at events to the general public to help educate about sustainable agriculture.
SARE books, such as “Managing Cover Crops Profitably”, “Building a Sustainable Business”, “Building Soils for Better Crops”, “Organic Transition”, “Crop Rotation on Organic Farms”, “Managing Alternative Pollinators”, “The New American Farmer”, “The New Farmers’ Market”, “Youth: Renewing the Countryside”, “Farmer’s Guide to Business Structures”, and “Systems Research for Agriculture” were books that were distributed to county Extension agents during our annual book distribution at Winter School. We also distribute various SARE publications throughout the year at the different conferences, trainings, presentations and events that we hosted and/or attended. The SARE publications are used to distribute information for farmers, gardeners, or general public about sustainable agriculture through the Georgia Organic conference and Extension personnel.
A total of 32 books and 20 hard drives have been distributed to Extension agents between February 2020 and February 2021. Over 150 other SARE publications were distributed during the 2020 Georgia Organics Conference. We anticipate this number to grow drastically over the next year, as COVID-19 restrictions limited opportunities to distribute. The most popular publications were “Managing Cover Crops Profitably” and “Crop Rotations on Organic Farms”.
Educational & Outreach Activities
2) Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Facebook page- The Facebook page is used to distribute news, event/workshop announcements, resources, and other information for farmers, gardeners, or the general public about sustainable agriculture. There are 759 followers of the Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Facebook page.
3) Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Website - The website is used to distribute news, event/workshop announcements, resources, and other information for farmers, gardeners, Extension personnel, or the general public about sustainable agriculture.
4) Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Newsletter- The Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter is our quarterly newsletter that has information for farmers, gardeners, Extension personnel, and others interested in sustainable agriculture in Georgia. Each newsletter is distributed to 708 subscribers, and 19 subscribers were added at the Georgia Organics Conference in 2020. The total subscriber number is a decrease from previous years, as the list was “scrubbed” in 2019 to remove defunct or duplicate email addresses.
5) UGA Sustainable Food Systems Initiative events- The Sustainable Agriculture team works with the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative at UGA as part of their executive committee. The SFSI meets twice a year, and plans sustainability and food systems related events for the upcoming year. The Sustainable Agriculture Program Assistant plays a role in executing these events. In the last year and with the help of Sustainable Ag at UGA, the SFSI has hosted a panel discussion on Interdisciplinary Careers in Sustainable Food Systems, co-hosted a screening and panel about the film “Hearts of Glass,” participated in a collaboration with UGA’s Grow It Know It program to create farm-to-school sustainable agriculture lesson plans for K-12 students and teachers, coordinated the National Needs Fellowship recipients and Sustainable Food System Graduate Certificate administration, and are looking forward to an upcoming film screening and panel discussion of the film “Gather”, about Native American food systems. The SFSI also is hosting the Agriculture Food and Human Values/ Association for the Study of Food and Society joint conference in 2022 (postponed from 2020).
6) SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Growers Meeting- Julia Gaskin and Timothy Coolong organized the organic track of speakers at this conference, which took place January 11 - 14, 2019 at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center in Savannah, GA. Speakers included those presenting on marketing of unwanted (blemished) produce as well as biocontrol of insect and disease pests in vegetable crops. These sessions were held jointly with the Vegetable Education Program. Over 3500 participants attended the SE Fruit and Vegetable Growers Meeting. Organic sessions averaged approximately 50-75 attendees per session.
7) Georgia Organics Expo Booth: The Georgia Organics Conference is a premier conference for organic producers and small farms. The educational sessions focus on a wide range of our training objectives including, organic production, conservation tillage systems, grazing-based animal production systems, composting, direct marketing, and local foods systems. In 2020, Sustainable Agriculture at UGA had a booth and distributed SARE materials along with Extension resources on sustainable agriculture. We also added several people to the Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter subscriber list.
Even when facing major limitations, we effectively used the funds to impact at least 250 people and spread knowledge and access to sustainable agriculture. By training the trainers, namely through scholarships to Extension agents (11 total), we are confident that the impacts of this cycle’s funding will reach far beyond that threshold. We are eager to return to in-person programming and resume planned educational events, as well as build on the programming supported by this grant. One of the most valuable outputs from this grant has been the development of virtual options for sustainable agriculture educational programs. The virtual programming adopted out of necessity over the course of this grant has highlighted the opportunity for programs such as the Journeyman Farmer Training Program to reach much broader audiences, and will therefore likely be used in-part, at least, for future trainings.
Face of SARE
The Georgia SARE Model State Program increased participation in sustainable agriculture programming for the duration of the grant by supporting efforts to transition to virtual formatted programming in the wake of COVID-19. We continued planning in-person workshops to address specific areas of our Logic Model when in-person gathering is safe. Through collaboration efforts with the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative, UGA Office of Sustainability, AFHVS/ASFS conference planning committee, Grow It Know It, UGA Foodshed, Fort Valley State University Extension, the American Forage and Grasslands Council, and the Rodale Institute Southeast Organic Research Center, we have promoted SARE tremendously within the University of Georgia and beyond despite being able to hold traditional workshops. Additionally, providing an exceptional number of conference scholarships for Extension personnel in the past year has not only allowed us to have many representatives of UGA and SARE at these reputable events, but has afforded Extension agents the opportunity to build their knowledge and skill set around sustainable agriculture so that they may more effectively encourage sustainable practices among their constituents. We also promote SARE via the list serv, quarterly newsletters, social media, and in-person events so that we may reach and wide and diverse audience.