Progress report for SKY20-001
In discussions with our Advisory Committee, and with the broader professional agriculture and producer communities, there is strong consensus that professional agriculture outreach and technical assistance agencies are crucial to the growth of sustainable agriculture in Kentucky. Yet some of these groups lack the funding to seek ongoing professional development for their employees. In our proposed programming this year, we will respond to direct needs and requests from these groups by providing funding to seek Sustainable Agriculture professional development. Each of the recipients we provide funding to have hundreds of producer contacts through their jobs. We will evaluate the impact by asking funding recipients to share how what they learned benefitted producers. Proposed trainings are specifically related to the fields of Organic Agriculture, Urban Agriculture, and in the general field of Sustainable Agriculture.
- Provide specific professional development activities for non-university ag outreach providers.
- Evaluate more clearly how these activities translate into grower outreach.
- Build a broad base of interest and skills in agricultural sustainability among extension agents and other professionals in the state.
- Increasing support of professional development for NGO service providers.
- (Educator and Researcher)
- (Educator and Researcher)
- (Educator and Researcher)
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2020 was unprecedented in the pace of change, the need to adapt, the challenges to connect, but also the opportunities to think differently about how we do outreach. While our techniques shifted, our general approach to MSP funds stayed the same.
Since Brett and Paul started with the program, our approach with the University of Kentucky portion of MSP funds has been to provide support for existing initiatives or to convene groups of people with common interests in the hopes of spurring action. This year, that meant offering some timely webinars directly, providing some scholarship funds for ag professionals and producer leaders to attend virtual conferences, ongoing promotion of the SSARE program resources and grants, and direct support for a new Diversity and Inclusion program for Extension agents.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
To provide direct support for small producers to adapt their marketing to include online and other strategies.
This is one of the most clear examples of the value of funding for the Program Assistant position. While this did not have any direct costs associated with it, Brett’s time to develop these programs (funded partially through SARE) allowed for the quick and timely development of much needed educational materials. The series is available here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTsDbxdAIJoZSY5-oDBzBUoC6t4zuweVM
Building a Simple Online Store
Low-tech Preordering Options
Pick-up, Delivery, and Shipping for Direct Marketers: Key Considerations (KCARD)
Components of a Facebook Business Page
Nice, Easy Graphics and Advertisements
Promoting Your Product for Online Sales (KCARD)
Adding Your Business to Google Maps
COVID-19 + Farmers Markets: Best Practices for Managers, Vendors, & Patrons (KDA, CFA, KDPH)
COVID & Farmers Markets Update (KDA, CFA, KDPH)
Basic Analytics for Social Media and Websites (Recording Now Available)
Exploring Markets & Considering New Crops (Recording Now Available)
Simple Web Design + Google Business Profiles (Recording Now Available)
Offseason Marketing and Customer Retention (Recording Now Available)
2021: Looking ahead for Farmers Markets & COVID-19 (Recording Now Available)
With over 1000 total participants, these were very popular trainings.
A few pieces of qualitative feedback:
Response to these webinars was overwhelmingly positive. We have quantitative evaluation data if desired. A separate qualitative feedback form asking for feedback yielded the following comments:
“These class will improve the way we conduct our marketing and sales.”
“The setting up and preordering webinars were EXTREMELY valuable, suggesting things I had not thought of. I feel much more confident on Facebook as a tool now. also. Thanks for putting yourselves in the shoes of a farmer! The price reports are extremely valuable too. A whole session on their value might be good and why all should submit theirs.”
“I use a lot of the info I received about promoting your product all the time now. I had never used canva, pexels, or unsplash before. I used canva to help create an add for my fiance and for my work. Also, so very glad to have a source for free images.”
“Changed packaging and prices to reduce handling as many smaller items”
“I opened up Square store and selling produce through that outlet.”
To provide financial support to allow for more equitable access for ag professionals (mostly from meagerly funded NGOs) as well as producer leaders.
The 2021 Annual Organic Association of Kentucky Virtual Conference was held on January 26-30th. Over 380 attendees tuned into this 10th annual (and 1st virtual) conference. In total, 75% of attendees were farmers, 49% of attendees were beginning farmers (farming for less 10 yrs), 10% of attendees identified as People of Color and over 57% identified as female.
Most notably, 63 attendees joined in the conference on a full scholarship this year which was critical for the conference to have the desired reach and engagement. Even as a virtual event, there are still considerable costs to produce the conference (technology, speaker fees, staff time, promotion) and at the same time, attendees expect to pay significantly less for a virtual experience when compared to an in-person conference. As a result, we lowered the registration fee for the virtual conference from previous in-person events, and scholarships helped to make it even more accessible. The KY SARE support had significant impact on attendance numbers by providing 63 full scholarships to Kentucky ag outreach professionals and producers. Additionally, OAK was able to leverage KY SARE support to secure funding for another 40 scholarships, and we partnered with Grow Appalachia which also sent their full beginning farmer cohort of 41 individuals to the conference.
The virtual platform and the scholarship opportunity allowed the OAK Conference to reach new audiences, geographically and demographically, reducing barriers to attend. Conference goers tuned in from all across the state and region, more noticeably so than for OAK’s in-person conference where travel time, lodging expense and time away from the farm can be barriers. See the 2021 OAK Conference attendee map here. Additionally, speakers and topics were carefully selected to provide a strategic range of organic production and conservation content, movement building inspiration and more balanced representation of diverse voices within the industry. See the full conference agenda here and speaker photos here.
In order for this event to be a success, OAK staff had to learn an entire new platform and facilitate high-quality programming through a virtual experience while not losing the community feel that our attendees expect from an OAK event. It took considerable time to learn and set up the virtual platform Whova for the online event and to integrate the experience with Zoom. Attendees accessed the Conference through Whova’s interactive web dashboard (see photo here) and through a mobile app as well. The event is live for a full year after then event and attendees continue to access session recordings and share exchanges on the community boards. OAK’s staff of four managed technology, session facilitation, programming and the attendee hub for the entire event and as a result each of us ended up with command centers that resembled this set up. The program schedule and session lengths were adjusted to suit a virtual experience, with built in breaks and shorter sessions to keep it lively and attendees engaged. The program also relied on well-known speakers and expert Kentucky farmers to both draw a crowd and provide informed inspiration. The conference offered 5 full days of sessions with 30 sessions and 45 hours of educational content. 98% of attendees said they learned something new that will positively impact their farming operation in the next year. Attendee screenshots here and here.
An incredible perk of the virtual event is that farmers were able to tune in while doing farm chores, processing harvest, doing a delivery, preparing dinner or while caring for children. Attendees also ranked having access to the session recordings very high in terms of value, as it meant they didn’t have to log on to the live event for the duration. Additionally, each month we are releasing a session recording to the wider KY farming community as a way to open source the content and share the messages from our 2021 presenters.
At this point in the year we are well underway in planning OAK Conference 2022 and have decided to expand programming to offer both a virtual and in-person experience next year. At the request of OAK members and program participants we’re going to do another virtual conference so that we can affordably connect those prominent speakers and Kentucky leaders through a 3 day event: January 27-29, 2022. We will also offer two different 1 day in-person regional conferences in the spring of 2022. COVID makes it risky (both financially and in terms of public health) for OAK to responsibly plan for and host an in-person event for 500 attendees as we would prefer. So, we are trying something new with these single day regional conferences that will attract 150+ attendees each in Hopkinsville, KY on March 18, 2022 and Burlington, KY on April 8, 2022.
Contact Brooke Gentile at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-219-7378 with any questions.
See survey results from scholarship recipients in attached.
To address the discrepancy in internet access in rural areas as conferences went virtual.
It is well documented that high speed internet is only partially available in the rural United States. As 2020-2021 saw the explosion of virtual and internet-mediated meetings, conferences, and other programming, this meant that rural areas became even more underserved than they otherwise are.
We experimented with hosting virtual ‘watch parties’ at county extension offices where social distancing measures could be maintained. This allowed those without good internet access to still have access to the programming.
Some offices saw a lot of demand, while others did not. Overall, we offered 59 remote watch party sites and 179 unique individuals (ag outreach personnel and producer leaders) attended at least one session of the multi-day conference. Many of these attended all days. Like with everything this last year, the effects of the pandemic make it difficult to draw certain conclusions from the effort, but it is clear there is at least some demand for these kinds of rural internet workarounds.
To improve the competitiveness of Kentucky's regional grant applications and to increase the visibility of SSARE resources and Grant Programs thoughout Kentucky.
Throughout the year we have participated in virtual events with our governmental and NGO partners to promote the programs and materials that SSARE has to offer. We have also provided support to several different organizations and individuals interested in applying for regional SSARE grants.
Participants expanded their understanding of SSARE grant programs and received publications, books, and flashdrives of SSARE materials to take home.
There are at least 3 proposals submitted or in development based on our support and review.
To provide professional development opportunities for Extension agents in the area of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
This effort is being co-led by Drs. Nicole Breazeale (faculty in Community and Leadership Development) and Mia Farrell (Assistant Dean for Diversity). It is ongoing through 2021, but we wanted to report some initial successes here.
The inaugural cohort of the Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Leadership Certificate program for Extension Agents is already highly invested in this program after five sessions. The program kicked off on March 4th with a panel of expert national presenters (Liliana Vega, Bertrille Lomax, and Meredith Ledlie Johnson) who shared their experience doing DEI work around the country. The first official meeting on March 5th involved collaboratively establishing group norms and a team building exercise (“The Rivers of Life”). The second session introduced key terms (individual, interpersonal, organizational, and structural racism, privilege) and used a story circle methodology for participants to reflect on their own experiences of oppression and privilege, emphasizing deep listening and creating a space for vulnerability and authentic dialogue. The third session provided a powerful historical snapshot of the history of racism in the USDA and US-based food system (provided by Garrett Graddy-Lovelace), which was followed by a presentation by Ashley Smith of Black Soil, who lifted up the work of black and brown farmers in Kentucky who are doing the work to build a socially just food system. The fourth session provided space for participants to reflect on what they were learning, furthered a shared vocabulary, and then introduced the idea of “intersectionality” through Kait Murray’s extraordinary presentation on queer youth in 4-H. The fifth session began with Michelle Howell’s (of Need More Acres Farm) story of discrimination in the Kentucky food system through the lens of class and gender. She also described her community food security work and partnership with Ashley Smith and efforts to reposition power to directly impacted people, including black and brown farmers. The group is now working their way through a visioning and assessment process to arrive at possible project topics, which includes completing individualized activity sheets at home. We have 12 Agents going through this program (including staff from UK and KSU).
The results have been extremely positive to date. Attached are the complete evaluations from the first five sessions (can someone please pull out some average scores or comments?).
Evaluation on this project is ongoing, and full quantitative evaluation will be made available in next year’s annual report. For now, here is a small selection of some qualitative response from participants:
Participants’ biggest takeaways from initial sessions:
|We are all in this together|
|encouragement from the stories of others.|
|We have more in common than we all know.|
|Excitement for the direction of the program – can’t wait to continue next month!|
|Shared commonalities and tone set for deep and difficult conversations|
Some hopes for this program:
|To find better ways to help guide Extension leadership to be supportive and responsive to requests to make programs more inclusive.|
|My hope is to be able to move my community to the next stage of questioning and thinking. I also want to learn the skills to be able to do this and to move myself another step forward.|
|To open my mind and become educated on issues that we all see everyday but may not know how to address. I also am excited for the opportunity for the final project to be something in which I can engage and grow in my community.|
|To create a welcoming and inclusive environment for my volunteers and 4-H members|
|To be able to build and grow professionally and personally to be an advocate, to be inclusive, to build a community that is those things as well.|
Educational & Outreach Activities
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.
The virtual angle to 2020, while challenging, also allowed us to reach far more people than in the past.