Progress report for SGA20-001
The SARE Advisory Committee had a conference call on November 6, 2019 to discuss committee memberships, review activities for the 2019 year, and review the Logic Model for future training needs. The SARE Logic Model training objectives are conservation tillage systems, organic production, grazing based animal production systems, composting, direct marketing, and local food systems. The Committee decided upon trainings and conferences to support for the upcoming year that would address several of the SARE Logic Model training objectives. Specifically, the Committee felt that more opportunities needed to be present for training in organic peanut production, cover crops, and grazing/silvopasture production systems. In addition, travel support for Extension agents to attend the Georgia Organics Conference, Southern SAWG conference and American Forage and Grassland Annual Conference were discussed. These activities increase knowledge and confidence in participating agriculture professionals which then translates to an increased ability to assist organic, resource- limited, and small farmers.
The Advisory Committee had another conference call on February 5, 2021 to review activities from 2020 as well as opportunities for the coming year. Education and training opportunities for the following areas were identified: organic peanut production, cover crops and conservation tillage, grazing, online marketing for farms, GAP programs, and grazing production systems. In addition, travel support for Extension agents to attend conferences (National Grazing Lands Conference) were discussed. These activities increase knowledge and confidence in participating agriculture professionals which then translates to an increased ability to assist organic, resource-limited, and small farmers.
The long-term goal of the Georgia Model State Program is “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 plan to accomplish this by hosting workshops and educational opportunities, and offering scholarships to Extension agents and specialists, agricultural professionals, NRCS personnel, agricultural and environmental researchers, and community leaders. The SARE Advisory Committee has used the Georgia Model State Program Logic Model to identify the following six areas of focus for training workshops and scholarships: conservation tillage systems, organic production, grazing based animal production systems, composting, direct marketing, and local food systems.
In 2016, the Georgia 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 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 Georgia 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 when appropriate. 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
The SARE Advisory Committee has identified direct marketing as an area of emphasis for programming. At the 2019 NE District ANR Extension Update held in Athens, Georgia on December 11, 2019 farmer Steve O’Shea of 3 Porch Farm, presented on successful marketing techniques implemented in their operation.
SARE funds were used to support the honorarium and travel expenses for speaker Steve O’Shea, to speak to agents about direct marketing, and particularly focused on value added production techniques, scaling up beyond farmers’ market sales, advertising, use of social media, and web sales.
There was positive feedback from agents via surveys and verbally about the effects of Steve’s presentation. Specifically, agents were interested in use of social media for promotion of farm goods, and the efficacy of value-added production. Several agents indicated that farmers in their counties were looking for educational resources to use social media and a web presence to build their brand. As the COVID-19 pandemic restricted in-person business, there has been a surge of interest in these topics and the Advisory Committee has decided to use SARE funds to host similar workshops and webinars in the future.
The SARE Advisory Committee has identified direct marketing as an area of emphasis for programming. At the 2019 NE District ANR Extension Update held in Athens, GA, farmer Alex Hitt of Peregrine Farm to present on his successful farm business and marketing at farmers’ markets.
SARE funds were used to support an honorarium for speaker Alex Hitt who spoke to agents about his production practices at Peregrine Farm, and mostly the requirements to be successful at farmers’ market sales. Alex and his wife Betsy have been successful farmers for almost 40 years and are sought-after speakers. Alex has served on the board for the Carrboro, NC Farmers’ Market for over 40 years, and they make at least 75% of their income from selling at that single market. During the ANR update, Alex discussed the financial management, time management, advertising, logistics, post-harvest requirements, record keeping, personnel requirements for successful farmers’ market sales, and tips and tools for successful market management at large.
Agents regularly field inquiries related to small farm start-up, direct sales for small farms, and farmers’ market management. As such, this presentation was hugely popular among ANR agents because Alex provided an experienced voice to answer the questions of what tools and methods are valuable to not only be a successful seller at a market, but also a successful market manager and board. It was reported verbally, in surveys, and through follow up communication from agents that they were extremely pleased with the quality of the presentation and gained useful knowledge and skills that would help them serve their constituents better. Several agents had questions for Alex and were enthusiastic about taking the lessons back to their home counties to promote local food production, farmers’ markets, and direct marketing efforts. Clarke County Agent Laura Ney attended the event and subsequently went on to help establish the Marigold Market, a successful farmers’ market in Winterville, GA.
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.
The Journeyman 2021 training was successful, with 53 students enrolled. 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 removed. The feedback from the participants and hosting Extension agents Heather Kolich (Forsyth County) and Mary Sheffield (Paulding County) was positive, and 52 students who participated, recently 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. Depending on the number of tracts taught (farm business, fruit and vegetables, and small ruminants) there could be more than 20 hours of education for attendees. Participants indicated that they intended to use the knowledge gained to establish or improve their personal and business farms.
Because of the popularity and success of the Journeyman Program, the UGA SARE/ Sustainable Agriculture team is currently working with the Small Business Development Center and Fort Valley State University to get the Journeyman Program approved as an FSA educational course that can be used to satisfy the education requirement for FSA loan recipients. This will make farm funding more accessible to beginning and underserved farmers.
The Advisory Committee has identified conservation tillage systems and grazing based animal production as two areas of emphasis for programming needs. The American Forage and Grassland Council Conferences provide access to an array of diverse and expert voices on these topics.
The American Forage and Grasslands Council Conference brings together some of the country’s lead research and agriculture professionals to explore and educate on the topics of forage management, conservation tillage, sustainability, and grazing based animal production, among other topics. With SARE funding, we were able to provide scholarships and travel costs for five agents to attend the 2020 and 2021 AFGC conference in Greenville, SC and Savannah, GA respectively. These agents were Paula Burke (Carroll County, GA), Lucy Ray (Morgan County, GA), Carole Knight (Madison County, GA) (2021), and Steve Morgan (Harris County, GA) (2020 and 2021). The 2021 conference was offered in a hybrid format and with safety measures in place in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
All of the agents gave positive feedback about their experience at the conference and confirmed that they gained skilled and knowledge that will be used to promote grazing based animal production and conservation tillage systems among farmers in their counties. They expressed interest in returning to future AFGC conferences. ANR Agent and scholarship recipient Carole Knight (Madison County, GA) presented her research on livestock and water quality at the 2021 conference, and subsequently contributed an article to the Winter 2020/21 Sustainable Agriculture Newsletter about that research and her findings. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting our programming ability over during 2020 and 2021, as well as the extreme drop in education opportunities at large, this conference was a fantastic opportunity to use SARE funding to advance the SARE mission and target our areas of emphasis.
The Georgia Organics Conference offers courses in all six areas of emphasis that the Advisory Committee has identified: conservation tillage systems, organic production, grazing based animal production systems, composting, direct marketing, and local food systems. As such, by offering scholarships to the Georgia Organics Conference, we hope to encourage agents to gain knowledge in these subject areas that they can then bring back to the farmers in their districts to implement change towards sustainable practices.
The 2020 Georgia Organics Conference was held in February in Athens, GA. Attendees and presenters gathered from across the state to share knowledge on several facets of sustainable production, food distribution, and food justice. SARE funding was used to support scholarship and travel for three agents and the SARE Program Assistant to attend the 2020 conference. These agents were Paula Burke (Carroll County, GA), Jacob Williams (Towns County, GA), and Lucy Ray (Morgan County, GA). SARE state advisor Dr. Tim Coolong presented at this conference on the topic of “Challenges and Opportunities of Limited Tillage Vegetable Production” as well as hosting an on-farm equipment demo at this conference.
The attending agents reported that they had gained knowledge about sustainable production and would use that knowledge to advance sustainability efforts in their counties. All three agents indicated that they received overwhelming interest from citizens in their counties to start small farms, and the knowledge gained through the Georgia Organics conference would be used in fielding those questions and offering education to prospective farmers. Additionally, there was programming at the conference specifically focused on organic peanut production, transitioning peanut production to organic and sustainable methods, and the business considerations for organic peanut transitions. The topic of organic peanut production has been an area of interest for our Advisory Committee for two years, and the programming at Georgia Organics provided use with resources and connections to aid in future SARE educational programming on the topic.
Local food production is an area of emphasis as determined by the Georgia SARE Advisory Committee. The Georgia Wine Producers’ Conference aimed to localize wine production in the state, and promote sustainable practices within the industry.
This event was held in February 2020 in Braselton, Georgia. The event included research updates, and two tracks: the producers track and management track. The scholarship recipients participated in the producer track to focus on encouraging grape production in Georgia and learning sustainable practices for wine production. The conference also included a panel of UGA professors Drs. Cain Hickey, Phil Brannen, and Justin Scheinder, among other industry and research experts.
As viticulture and agrotourism rise in popularity in the Southeast, more land owners are looking to Extension specialists to guide them in starting their vineyards and navigating the production challenges that come along with that. By learning the up-to-date research and management practices, the attending agents have become better equipped to guide their constituents towards sustainable practices and encourage local production. Both agents have indicated that they aim to promote sustainability and environmental conscientiousness, and that the lessons learned through this conference will enable them to do so in regards to the growing viticulture, oenology, and agrotourism sectors.
The Southeast Fruit and Vegetable Producers Conference is the largest conference of its kind in the region, uniting growers and educators and offers over 80 hours of instruction. Topics range from fruit and vegetable production, including organic practices, to marketing and business. The SARE Advisory Committee indicated organic production as an area of training emphasis, and the objective of offering scholarships to this conference is to better familiarize agents with organic and sustainable practices.
The 2020 Southeast Fruit and Vegetables Producers Conference was held in January 2020 in Savannah, Georgia. The conference is the largest of its kind in the region and offers over 80 hours of instructions in all topics related to production and marketing of fruits and vegetables. At this conference, Dr. Tim Coolong presented on Organic Fertilizer Management for Vidalia Onions. SARE funds were provided to two UGA Extension agents to attend this conference: Andrea Scarrow (SW District, GA) and Ben Reeves (Berrien County, GA).
Both attendees gained knowledge that will be used to aid farmers in their counties in implementing more sustainable practices and local and direct marketing of their products. Both agents indicated satisfaction with their experience, and an interest in attending the conference in the future
This program was conducted by the Burke County Extension Office (SE GA) 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.
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.
The Advisory Committee met again February 5, 2021 to review activities for the coming year and discuss education and training opportunities for the following areas: organic peanut production, cover crops and conservation tillage, grazing, online marketing for farms, GAP programs, and grazing production systems. In addition, travel support for Extension agents to attend conferences (National Grazing Lands Conference) were discussed. These activities increase knowledge and confidence in participating agriculture professionals which then translates to an increased ability to assist organic, resource-limited, and small farmers.
As a result of these meetings, action plans were put in place to provide scholarships, educational opportunities, and adaptations to new guidelines and virtual adaptations of events. These meetings resulted in a strengthening of the SARE and Georgia Advisory Committee goals. Many great programming ideas and educational needs were shared and have been implemented or had plans put in place to complete them during the grant period.
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 USB drives have been distributed to Extension agents between July 1, 2019 and April 30, 2021. Over 150 other SARE publications were distributed during the 2020 Georgia Organics Conference, through tabling efforts at the UGA campus farmers market, and at two UGA Earth Day events. 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”. We also plan to distribute “The New Farmers’ Market” book to attendees of upcoming farmers’ market trainings.
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. Between July 1, 2019 and April 30, 2021, the Sustainable Agriculture at UGA website has had 52,140 page views. This is a significant increase in the number of visitors, possibly due in part to the reasons mentioned above, the switch to mostly online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased promotion of the website through social media, the Journeyman Farmer program, and other avenues.
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- Tim Coolong presented virtually at the 2020 meeting.
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 during this conference.
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 (12 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.