Final report for SKY18-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $44,444.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Kentucky
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
State Coordinator:
Dr. Timothy Woods
University of Kentucky
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Project Information


Dr. Paul Vincelli is the UK State Coordinator and Brett Wolff as the Kentucky Program Assistant. In addition to his leadership of the program, Dr. Vincelli has brought expertise in the areas of climate change, cover crops, and GMO technology. Brett continues to act as a networker for the program, identifying new opportunities for collaboration and new venues to share SSARE resources. In the past, KYSARE has supported a number of smaller sustainability-related programs. This year, we are focusing on one major event, ongoing support of grazing initiatives, and creating opportunities for professional development within our institution:

Organic Transition Trainer "Train the Trainer"
o The University of Kentucky offers an annual grazing conference in the fall, and we would like to offer partial support for speaker costs.
– Genetic Engineering Education
o Programming aimed at outreach to farmers and the general public detailing the science-based risks and benefits of genetic engineering for sustainability in agriculture.
Extension Associate/Specialist & NGO Professional Development Scholarships
o Providing travel opportunities for Extension personnel and NGO professionals to attend sustainability-related conferences or workshops in or out of the state.

In 2018-19, we plan to engage our Advisory Committee and keep them informed of ongoing activities and to contact them in the fall to discuss projects for next year.

Project Objectives:

Abstract was modified slightly, but overall objectives remained the same.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Dr. Ken Andries (Educator and Researcher)
  • Andre Barbour
  • Mac Stone
  • Edwin Chavous (Educator)
  • Mark Ferguson (Educator)
  • Jeff Henderson (Educator)
  • Curt Judy (Educator)
  • Dana Lear
  • Lee Meyer (Educator and Researcher)
  • Janet Mullins (Educator and Researcher)
  • Gary Palmer (Educator)
  • Louie Rivers, Jr. (Educator)
  • Susan Schlosnagle
  • Tehran Jewell (Educator)
  • Ed Thompson
  • Paul Vincelli (Educator and Researcher)
  • Brett Wolff (Educator)
  • Martin Richards (Educator)


Educational approach:

Our approach with the University of Kentucky portion of MSP funds continues to  provide support for existing initiatives or to convene groups of people with common interests in the hopes of spurring action. Our support of the Organic Transition Trainer program this year was a strong example of this effort. The educational approaches of the programs we support are quite diverse, but we are guided by the principle of focusing on trainees who can then go forth to impact additional members of the community. Though not always a strict “Train-the-Trainer” we do advocate for introducing or expanding on sustainability topics for a wide range of agricultural professionals in this state, and we seek to provide SARE and other materials to these trainers to help them serve their clients.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Organic Transition Trainer "Train the Trainer" Initiative

To train additional Organic Transition Trainers to provide technical assistance to growers looking to transition to Certified Organic production.


Agenda - IOIA_OAK May 2018

The Organic Association of Kentucky currently has four part-time Transition Trainers available to assist producers who are interested in transitioning to USDA-certified organic production. Transition Trainers are available for one-on-one consultations, providing a personal level of service and technical assistance on-site, at the farmer's convenience. Transition Trainers help growers develop farm transition plans, navigating regulations according to organic certification, share fundamental principles of organic agriculture, offer practical details about organic crop, livestock, grain, and dairy production, make connections with marketing opportunities, provide templates for recordkeeping, and share valuable information on grant resources and local farming inputs appropriate for their systems. We worked closely with staff from NRCS, Extension and KDA for this initial project implementation and our partners have continued to see this program as a valuable resource for growers ready to go organic.

Based on positive feedback and clear grower demand, OAK will continue to offer this unique one-on-one transition support to growers providing information about production practices, recordkeeping, grants, transition plans and more. We anticipate working with an additional 30 farmers in 2018. And we are expanding outreach about the program through presentations, mailings and strategic networking. With increased outreach, we anticipate hearing from more growers who are interested in working with the program so we MUST prepare to hire additional transition trainers in the geographic areas with high demand. To do this we hosted Garry Lean, a trainer from the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), to lead a multi-day “training of the trainers” workshop so that our new Transition Trainers are certified and proficient in interpreting the National Organic Program regulations for our Kentucky farmers. We also used this as an opportunity to invite interested stakeholders from partner agencies such as UK Extension, KSU Extension, NRCS, KDA, Grow Appalachia and AgrAbility to participate in the training.

Training Schedule:

National Organic Program Crop Standards Webinar: Wednesday, April 4th 10am-2pm

  • Screenshot of webinar slides attached

National Organic Program Livestock Standards Webinar: Thursday, April 26th  10am-2pm

  • Screenshot of webinar slides attached

3 day in-person training in Lexington, KY: May 1-3 8am-5pm

  • Detailed agenda attached

2018 OAK Transition Trainer Training Participants:

Mark Walden

Production Efficiency Advisor

Grow Appalachia

Joshua Knight

Senior Extension Associate, Horticulture

Center for Crop Diversification

University of Kentucky

Alexis Sheffield

Horticulture Agent

Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service

University of Kentucky

Chris Smigell

Extension Associate, Small Fruits

University of Kentucky

Kevin Gurtowski

Extension Associate

Kentucky State University

Jann Knappage

Food System Specialist

Nutrition Education Program

University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension

Wes Krug

Soil Conservationist

NRCS – Lebanon Office

Mike Lewis

Project Manager

Kentucky AgrAbility

University of Kentucky

Leigh Whittinghill

Assistant Professor of Urban Agriculture

College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems

Kentucky State University

Brooke Gentile

Executive Director

Organic Association of Kentucky


UK SSARE MSP funds provided partial funding for this work led by the Organic Association of Kentucky.

Outcomes and impacts:

The Transition Trainer Training consisted of two 4 hour webinars and three full days of in-person trainings. One of the webinars focused on the National Organic Program Crop Standards and the other covered Livestock Standards. The three days on-site at the University of Kentucky Horticulture Research Farm provided a rich group learning environment for an intensive on the NOP regulations as well as the valuable experience of walking through a mock-inspection for both crop (at the UK farm) and livestock (at Elmwood Stock Farm) organic certification. These opportunities allowed participants to become proficient in the standards, understand how to interpret them and apply that knowledge to helping farmers, and taught participants what to expect during an inspection. This was also an important learning experience for OAK’s Executive Director and we are developing new tools for the Transition Trainer Program as a result.

10 participants completed the training and OAK received word this week (5/19/18) that 9 of the 10 passed the final exam. OAK will now reach out to all the participants to ask for feedback about their experience in the training, how they envision using this new information to help farmers in their network transition, and if they are interested to do this work through their current position or as an independent contractor with OAK. Participant evaluations are forthcoming.

Transition Trainers provided this support to 51 Kentucky farmers. 27 of the 51 farmers we worked with now have certified organic operations or are in active transition, and 20 more are scheduled to apply this year. Growers report experiencing expanded market opportunities, appreciate the network and resources OAK trainers share with them, and are grateful for the support when navigating an unfamiliar and sometimes challenging regulatory system.

Urban Soil Conservationist attending 2018 Urban Food Systems Symposium

The goal of the conference is to bring together a national and international audience of academic and research-oriented professionals to share and gain knowledge on urban food systems and the role they play in global food security. This symposium includes knowledge on: urban agricultural production, local food systems distribution, urban farmer education, urban ag policy, planning and development, food access and justice, and food sovereignty. Lilias Petitt-Scott of the Louisville Conservation District attended the conference on a travel scholarship from UK SSARE MSP.

From Lilias:

"In my work as an Urban Ag Conservationist, I connect with growers and gardeners of many different backgrounds and skill levels. I am constantly looking for opportunities to learn from others about how they inspire their constituencies to practice sustainable growing methods and incorporate them for all levels of growers. A colleague previously attended this conference and shared it was a great opportunity to learn best practices from other organizations throughout the country working on sustainable urban ag projects."


Conference Program

  • During the farm tour portion of the conference, I learned about the University of Minneapolis research on high tunnel cover crops. This is particularly helpful to me as I work with around 30 gardeners in Louisville growing within high tunnels that need to learn cover cropping techniques to mitigate soil health issues.
  • Connected with other professionals working in urban ag field in their communities and gleaned ideas for engaging Louisville residents in sustainable growing practices.
  • Connected with organizations providing services for community orchards throughout the country interested in coming to Louisville to provide workshops for residents to organically manage community orchard projects.
Outcomes and impacts:

Lilias took what she learned back to her clients including:

  • Community garden participants
  • Underserved residents in communities of Louisville
  • Refugee and immigrant farmers in Louisville
Support NGO Incubator Farm program leader to attend 2018 NIFTI Field School

This conference supports professional development and network building for incubator farm project staff from across the country. The Field School is structured around interactive workshops, resource review sessions and regional networking and goal-setting opportunities. Participants will have the opportunity to attend a farm tour of a local incubator farm project based in Colorado. Rachel Brunner, a leader of a refugee farm incubator program in Louisville, Kentucky attended to expand her knowledge and networks.


From Rachel:

At this year's field school, we visited three farm sites where we learned about different land sharing, leasing, and cooperative structures chosen by each site in order to meet the needs of their stakeholders.  The sites we visited included Poudre Valley Community Farm5 Fridges Farm, and Denver Green School Community Farm.

Each of these sites shared perspectives from different stakeholders- farmers looking for large plots of affordable land that are geographically close to customers, new farmers looking for land to begin their small farm operations, and farmers who are committed to forming market relationships with local schools and providing opportunities for self-sufficiency building for the growers and the customers involved.

We spent the rest of the week attending workshops and having important conversations around the history and future of what we call Incubator Farms.  As many of us around the country are supporting New Americans to develop farm businesses, many programs are facing the difficult reality that there is not enough affordable land or enough market opportunities for New Americans or American-born farmers to afford to graduate off of the incubator property.

Outcomes and impacts:

The in person visits were beneficial as they provided the opportunity to ask questions and visualize how we may be able to improve our farm operation with support from other sites across the country. As we continue building the Common Earth Gardens and University Extension Service Incubator Farm, these perspectives are invaluable.  The in-person connections we have made at the NIFTI conference have served us well and will continue to strengthen our program as we get feedback from others about developing ESL crop planning and record-keeping tools for farmers, developing and revising program evaluation methods, and actively creating a diverse and welcoming work environment for farmers and New American program staff.

Refugee Incubator Farm Participants Attend OAK conference

To allow leaders from a group of refugee farmers in Louisville to attend a professional conference, network with other agriculture leaders, and learn about farming and marketing practices.


11 leaders from the New American Farm refugee incubator program attended the 2018 OAK conference in Lexington.

Outcomes and impacts:

New American Farm business attended the Organic Association of Kentucky Conference in Lexington where we learned about organic soil & pest management, starting a CSA and met with other local farmers.

Extension staff member attended Ohio Ecological Food and Farming association conference

To expand knowledge of ecological and organic production practices and to help build bridges between programs in Ohio and Kentucky.


Christy Cassady attended this conference to gain additional knowledge of ecological and organic farming practices to share with her clients in Kentucky.

Outcomes and impacts:

From Christy:

"By attending the February 2019 Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) Conference in Dayton, OH, I was able to build on previously established relationships with OEFFA personnel, as well as network with Michigan State University, University of Tennessee and Ohio State University faculty and/or staff. I was also able to network with growers from both Ohio and Kentucky, including one from whom I requested input on a Center for Crop Diversification (CCD) regional survey of organic growers and stakeholders. A conversation with an Ohio State University specialist made me aware of the Small Farm Conference & Trade Show coming up at The Ohio State University South Centers in late March. Attending that conference enabled me to line up two OSU specialists who have since reviewed two CCD publications, a crop profile on Christmas trees and a marketing profile on Pick-Your-Own operations."

Cover Crop, Business, and Pollinator Materials for Agents and Growers

To provide supplementary materials (mostly SARE) to support grower adoption of cover crops and sustainable business development.


Blending MSP and regional SARE funds, we were able to provide several additional publications to agents and producers across the state. In the picture below:

SSARE's Building a Sustainable Business

SSARE's Farmer's Guide to Business Structures

SSARE's Managing Alternative Pollinators

Midwest Cover Crop Council's Cover Crops Field Guide.

Outcomes and impacts:

Hundreds of copies of these materials have been distributed to agents and producer leaders throughout the state, expanding the local library of sustainable agriculture materials.

SSARE On-Farm and Producer Grant Promotion

To enhance awareness of the SSARE On-Farm and Producer Grants in the producer community.


Program Assistant, Brett Wolff presented information on SSARE grant programs at producer grant workshops hosted by the Kentucky Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (KCARD). Workshops occurred:

11/7/18 - Frankfort, KY

12/5/18 - Russellville, KY

12/11/18 - Covington, KY

12/12/18 - Morehead, KY

12/18/18 - Barbourville, KY

Outcomes and impacts:

Workshops averaged around 20 attendees with several drawing over 50. Brett shared both SARE grant programs and the resources and publication.

Genetic Engineering

To explore the potential contributions and challenges of genetic engineering of crops with respect to sustainability.


Genetically engineered crops (GE crops, also often called “GMOs”) generate substantial interest and controversy. SARE presentations on this topic are based strictly on scientifically credible evaluations of a wide range of sustainability issues. On the “plus” side, the public is commonly very interested to hear of the well-documented benefits of certain GE crops. For example, substantial reductions in insecticide use have occurred as a result of Bt traits in several crops throughout the world. Another example: GE papaya has literally saved the papaya industry in Hawaii. However, the public is equally interested in learning about the “minus” side: the legitimate concerns that scientists have documented with respect to certain GE traits. An excellent example of this is presented by herbicide-tolerant crops. Numerous studies have concluded there are significant benefits for farmers and the environment while some environmental and/or farmer advocacy groups dispute such claims. We finds that most members of the general public are interested in a fair-minded and scientifically accurate discussion of the risks and benefits of GE technology.

Because our SARE programs on GE crops are so well-grounded in objective and science-based analysis, the public seems to be consistently very appreciative of them (which has been documented quantitatively in post-program surveys).

Outcomes and impacts:

Programs partially funded through SARE funds

Typical attendance varies from 10 to 40 people, commonly 35-65% female attendees

Titles of talks and discussions:

  • Risks and Benefits of Genetically Engineered Crops, Madison County Extension Office, 28 Mar 2019
  • GMOs, What You Need to Know, Woodford County Master Gardeners, 2 Mar 2019
  • Risks and Benefits of Genetically Engineered Crops (GMOs), Estill County Extension Office, 28 Feb 2019
  • GMO Crops: Scourge or Salvation? Kentuckiana Crops Meeting, French Lick, IN, 29 Nov 2018
  • GMO Crops and Sustainability, Marshall County Extension Office, 23 Oct 2018
  • GMO Crops, Boone County, 5 Dec 2018
  • GMO Crops: Scourge or Salvation? Graves County, 9 Oct 2018
  • Credible Science in a Digital World, Campbell County Master Gardener Graduation, 12 Jun 2018

Educational & Outreach Activities

14 Travel Scholarships
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
10 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

500 Extension
50 Researchers
70 Nonprofit
50 Agency
300 Farmers/ranchers
100 Others

Learning Outcomes

1,100 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
600 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

15 New working collaborations
500 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
300 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

Kentucky’s SARE PDP program objective is to build a broad base of interest and skills in agricultural sustainability among extension agents and other professionals in the state, equip them with the needed skills to assist farmers, marketers, and community leaders, and to facilitate a diverse range of collaborative projects. The way that we manage our programs has led to strong partnerships with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, NRCS, FSA, Community Farm Alliance, Kentucky Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, the Cooperative Extension Service, Grow Appalachia, as well as grower groups across the state

Our Program Assistant continues to serve as one of the primary faces of the KYSARE program. He networks extensively across the state and beyond to identify new partners and new ideas for amplifying our financial investment. The core job of KY SARE’s Program Assistant is coordinating all of the SARE-promoted trainings and programs. This includes working with the content providers (faculty, private sector, government, NGO) and SARE leadership to develop effective programs. He provides logistical support (finding meeting space, arranging travel, access to materials) and assisting program evaluation.

The Program Assistant also manages the SARE grant funds, helping with budgets, arranging for reimbursement and overall management. Because sustainable agriculture programs in Kentucky extend much beyond the SARE-supported programs, the program assistant actively participates in other activities. This includes attending extension and grower events where he simultaneously represents KYSARE and the UK Center for Crop Diversification, allowing him to provide SARE resources anywhere they might be helpful and relevant. His engagement and connections markedly enhance the visibility of the SARE Program.  He is actively involved in Kentucky State University’s “Third Thursday Thing”—monthly sustainable ag field days covering a wide range of topics. The current Program Assistant has strong networking and leadership skills that help us build productive partnerships with Farm Services Agency, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and numerous NGOs. The program assistant also oversees reporting and proposal development.

1,500 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
500 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.