Improving the Effectiveness of Farmer Outreach as an Agricultural Service Provider in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland

Progress report for SNE20-003-DE

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $166,665.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Delaware State University
Region: Northeast
State: Delaware
State Coordinators:
John Clendaniel
Delaware State University
Co-Coordinators:
Jason Challandes
Delaware State University
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Project Information

Summary:

Problem and Justification: Farmers in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland need regular assistance and education from well-trained Agriculture Service Providers (ASPs) in order to maintain sustainable farms. This outreach often comes from knowledgable, well-meaning professionals in ways that do not fully help the farmers understand and process new information into successful decision making on their farms. Many of these ASPs in the region have not received professional development trainings about adult education principles and methods to improve farmer outreach, which could lead to better farmer adoption and improved farm management

Solution and Approach: A series of trainings will teach ASPs about a variety of adult education principles and methods to improve farmer outreach. Some examples of the topics are curriculum development, messaging strategies, event planning, storytelling, mitigating bias, improving research design and demonstration plots etc. Topics will be delineated more in the milestones.

A core group of participants has already been recruited and has agreed to participate. This group consists of the 12 Delaware State University Small Farms ASP's as well as program leaders from Delaware Conservation District, and Future Harvest. Individuals from this core group will attend at least 12 of 16 trainings over the two-year grant period.

Many of the topics of the trainings are not relevant to other service providers in the region. For example, curriculum development and event planning would not be helpful for Conservation District staff who do not plan events. However, these ASPs could benefit from trainings such as improving communication and messaging with farmers. Therefore, a separate group of ASPs' from CD, NRCS, UMES, and Future Harvest, who are not part of the core group will attend at least two of four additional trainings. Each training will be replicated in Dover, DE, Georgetown, DE, Princess Anne, MD , and Wye Mills, MD, totaling 16.

Trainings will include discussion among participants about how to implement learned techniques as well as challenges and successes relating to the topic and previous training. At the beginning of the project, participants will agree to record what they have incorporated into their farmer outreach and how many farmers they reached and approximately the scale of those farms.

Stipends will be awarded to participants who have been most active, demonstrate a need to travel to adult education professional development conferences, and agree to present learned information at future trainings.

At the completion of the final training, binders with learning resources from each workshop will be distributed to participants and to other ASPs in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

An additional annual farm tour will be jointly coordinated with the UD's state PDP program to provide presentations and discussions about adult education principles learned at previous trainings.

Performance Target:

30 Agriculture Service Providers will incorporate at least two learned techniques into their farmer outreach, of which eight service providers will incorporate at least five techniques, together improving outreach to 400 farmers, managing 20,000 acres.

Introduction:

Agricultural Need: Delaware agriculture industry is valued at $1.2 billion with the main crops being poultry, corn and soybeans. However, there are also many other crops grown including melons and processing vegetables, and there are hundreds of smaller diversified farms. Although Delaware is a small state, there are approximately 2,500 farms. The Eastern Shore of Maryland has a similar representation of farms. This provides a challenge for ASPs to reach and assist farmers who manage very different types of farms. In addition to the technical knowledge needed, ASPs need to be able to effectively reach, engaged, and educate these farmers to improve their decision making on their farms. Farmers at DSU events have regularly completed surveys and have indicated a need for more and better trainings that can help them specifically in their type of farming situation. One quote that typifies these types of responses is, "The first presentation had more interactions with farmers and hands-on demonstrations. I wish more workshops were like that".

Proposed Solution: Agriculture Service Providers (ASPs) who participate in this project will adopt adult learning principles and improve farmer outreach to improve the sustainability of farms in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. These skills and practices adopted will improve communication, inclusion and the understanding of farmers, resulting in improved farm management and more sustainable farms. Core beneficiaries have already agreed to participate, but there is always concern of a drop-off in attendance. However, organizational leadership have committed to strongly encourage participation and the topics chosen are based on the expressed need of the beneficiaries. Another concern is regularly and continually receiving verification feedback from participants. At every training, participants will be incentivized and supported to record what techniques they are incorporating in their outreach, how many farmers they are reaching with those techniques and the approximate scale of the farms those farmers manage. ASPs will choose to receive either a physical document or an online form to record their farmer outreach. Farmers will benefit from the improved outreach of those ASPs and improve decision making leading to more sustainable farms. 

Agricultural Service Provider Interest: The need of this project has been described in interviews over the past year. All 12 ASPs at Delaware State University have regularly described the lack of professional development opportunities that can improve their programs and farmer outreach. The Associate Dean of Cooperative Extension at DSU has similarly expressed the need of professional development trainings for the small farms team as well as the rest of extension staff and has committed to strongly encouraging participation. 

Jen Nelson, the Executive Director of Delaware Conservation Districts and Debbie Absher, the Director of Agricultural Programs at Sussex County Conservation District have also expressed a need and a desire to receive these professional development trainings as core beneficiaries. They have also expressed the need for the District staff to receive some of the trainings including improving communications with farmers. Similarly, Niamh Shortt, the Field School Director at Future Harvest, a non-profit Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture has expressed a need and interest in participating as a core beneficiary and expressed a need of Future Harvest staff to receive some of the additional trainings. Lastly, Berran Rodgers, the Small Farms Program Coordinator at UMES has expressed the need for some professional development trainings.

Advisors/Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Jason Challandes
  • John Clendaniel (Educator)
  • Walt Daniels - Producer
  • Jen Nelson (Educator)
  • Berran Rodgers (Educator)
  • Jim Short - Producer
  • Niamh Shortt (Educator)

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Recruitment

The 12 ASPs in DSU's small farms program have already committed to participating and the Dean of Extension has agreed to strongly encourage continual participation throughout the length of the project. Two ASPs from Delaware Conservation District and one from Future Harvest have also agreed to ongoing participation for the two year period. This will make up the core group of beneficiaries. It is also expected that other staff from these organizations and NRCS will participate intermittently. Other participants from these organizations and UMES will participate in at least two of four trainings that will be repeated at multiple locations. Core participants will also be notified that stipends to attend conferences for adult education professional development will be awarded to participants who are most active in the project and demonstrate an appropriate justification. Participants who attend conferences will be required to present learned information to the core group at a subsequent core training.

Trainings will also be advertised through the regional agricultural organizations and open to other ASPs. Lastly, farmers in the region who are regular farmer to farmer presenters will be invited for selected trainings. Promotional Materials will be designed in conjunction with the University of Delaware's SARE State programming to avoid confusion.

Education

Training topics have been selected and will be refined based on beneficiary input. Topics have also been included based on principles of adult education in "Sustainable Agriculture through Sustainable Learning: Improving Educational Outcomes with Best Practices for Adult Learning" by Sandy Bell and Janet Mcallister as well as other trainings and programs in the region. The trainings will be coordinated with experts pertaining to the subject who will educate the beneficiary ASPs. The trainings will not be 'reinventing the wheel', but instead will be utilizing the work and successes of professionals around the country and bringing it to service providers in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland who have not had these professional development opportunities. There will also be one annual joint event with the University of Delaware's state PDP grant 'Mentoring and Adult Education Principles', which will allow the opportunity to share learned and implemented techniques, as well as planning future collaboration.

  • 15 core participants will learn about adult learning principles and improving farmer outreach by attending at least 12 of 16 core workshops over the 2 year period.
  • An additional 80 participants will learn about adult learning principles and improving farmer outreach by attending 2 of 4 additional trainings that will be replicated 4 times (totaling 16) in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This will be evaluated throughout the project to determine if all locations are needed.
  • Over the two year period, there will be 16 core workshops, each with unique topics and 16 additional workshops, with 4 replicated topics, totaling 32 trainings.

The Core trainings will be held at Delaware State University in Dover, DE on the first Tuesday of the month, following monthly extension staff meetings. The additional trainings will be held in Dover, Georgetown, Princess Anne, and Wye Mills at times coordinated with advisory team members. Resources from each training will be collected and developed into a resource guide for participants. Specific topics and learning objectives for workshops are delineated in the milestones, but are subject to change based on beneficiary and advisory committee input. At the completion of the final training, binders with learning resources from each workshop will be distributed to participants and to other ASPs in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Verification

Surveys will be distributed at educational events for participants to rate their level of knowledge gained, how likely they will be to implement a learned action, and what they intend to do. Additionally, participants will be asked what topics they need in future programming and how to improve future educational activities. This information will guide future activities by adjusting topics and formats. At core trainings, participants will also be asked to discuss what they have implemented as well as successes and challenges with their farmer outreach. Participants will choose to receive either a physical document or an online form to track their implementation of learned adult education principles and the farmers they are reaching. Further Outcome verification will be done at the end of the first year and final verification will be done at the end of the project to determine what ASPs have implemented, the number of farmers they reached, and an estimate of the scale of the farms those farmers manage.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

ASPs in agricultural organizations will be notified via email about upcoming year 1 trainings at the start of the project and one month prior to each one. Participants will be encouraged to register and will only be limited or selected if necessary because of room capacity.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
445
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
71
Proposed Completion Date:
August 1, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Participants received fliers and individual invitations through email lists and one-on-one communications.

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Core ASPs will learn adult education principles and improving farmer outreach by attending at least 6 of 8 year 1 core trainings held in Dover, DE on the first Tuesday of the month starting in November, 2020. In addition to the topics presented, participants will discuss successes and challenges as well as techniques from previous workshops that they have utilized. Topics will be:

1. Principles of adult learning and best practices for their application and Strategies for sustaining learning after a learning event or project
2. Improving and utilizing needs assessment
3. Evaluations/ outcome verification
4. Curriculum Development and instructional design including learning objectives, lesson plans, using effective adult learning strategies and writing evaluation questions
5. Improving event planning to achieve better outcomes
6. Improving Powerpoint presentations to achieve better engagement and learning.
7. Moving beyond Powerpoints to improve learning goals
8. Using technology for farmer outreach including remote presentations, filming and editing

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
2
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
3
Proposed Completion Date:
September 7, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

The pandemic created unprecedented hurdles in reaching constituents and emphasized the need to have effective remote outreach. This also created the need to reprioritize training topics and consider new ones. The numbered trainings below, therefore do not necessarily correspond to the numbers in planned activities.

  1. During the pandemic, there was a specific need for ASPs to receive trainings on how to increase engagement during virtual trainings and workshops. On November 9, 2020, 46 ASPs, 2 farmers, and 31 other participants joined a remote training to learn how to make engaging webinars. The training was coordinated by Jason Challandes of Delaware State University Cooperative Extension’s Agriculture Program and members of the national program eXtension. The 90-minute workshop walked through conceptual topics and techniques to keep participants actively engaged as well as the technical capabilities of online platforms that increase participation. Increased engagement can improve participant learning, increase behavior adoption and provide better outcomes. Of the 21 ASP participants that completed a survey following the training, 9 (43%) selected that they were moderately likely to use learned techniques and 12 (57%) selected considerably likely. Zero participants said that they were not likely or only minimally likely. Video of the training can be found here: https://connect.extension.org/event/how-to-host-engaging-webinars  The flyer is here: Nov 9 Flyer
  2. Core participants also expressed an urgent need for making effective videos to reach clients during the pandemic and beyond. 31 ASPs, 1 farmer and 5 other participants learned about How to Make Effective Videos in a virtual training on March 22, 2021. The workshop featured guest presenter Andrew Chamberlin, an Outreach Professional and Agricultural Engineering Technician at the University of Vermont. Participants learned how to use storytelling to encourage behavior change, outline projects from start to finish, frame & light shots, and improve audio quality. The audience included professionals from Delaware’s and Maryland’s Departments of ag, NRCS, Conservation Districts, as well as staff from all program areas at UDEL and DSU Cooperative Extension.

    23 participants responded to survey questions, 19 of which declared themselves as ASPs and 4 selected other Extension program areas. Rating their level of knowledge gained with 1 being no knowledge gained, and 5 being considerable, ASPs averaged 3.9. Some examples of the biggest takeaways described are editing, shooting tips on smartphones, framing using a grid, creating a list of what to capture, telling a story, utilizing online resources, equipment options, and audio & lighting tips. The most common responses were equipment options and recommendations for all budgets. Rating how likely they are to use something learned with 1 being not at all likely and 5 being very likely, ASPs averaged 4.3. Some examples of how participants planned to use information are to edit training videos, create videos for program and social media, develop a story on honey-beekeeping, purchase different gear, start shooting with phone and progress to video cameras, be more aware of sun in planning shots and utilize framing tips, purchase teleprompter and gimbal, interview farmers and post online, sharing filming tips with coworkers, make complete plans ahead of time, make how-to video clips, invest in technology, get an improved microphone, use 1080 HD, a tripod and headspace/rule of thirds. The most common responses were related to purchasing new equipment. Participants were also asked what they would like to see in future programming and nearly all responded with further editing trainings. The flyer is here: Video Training Flyer 2021

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Additional ASPs will learn adult education principles and improving farmer outreach by attending at least 2 of 4 additional trainings. Each training will be replicated 4 times in Dover, Georgetown, Princess Anne, and Wye Mills. Topics will be:
A 1. Public speaking
A 2. Storytelling - using story to engage, motivate and influence audiences to learn and act. Participants will also learn how to utilize and improve storytelling in writing success stories and describing outcomes.
A 3. How to reach farmers more effectively and Improving Communication with Farmers
A 4. Messaging Strategies Elevator speeches for projects – writing and delivering

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
4
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
80
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Participants will respond to year one outcome verification via provided forms, phone, email, and survey. This will include the number and types of adult education principles adopted, the number of farmers reached, and an estimate to the size of the farmers' farms.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
30
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

ASPs in agricultural organizations will be notified via email about upcoming year 2 trainings at the start of the project and one month prior to each one. Participants will be encouraged to register and will only be limited or selected if necessary because of room capacity.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed Completion Date:
August 1, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Core ASPs will learn adult education principles and improving farmer outreach at at least 6 of 8 year 2 core trainings held in Dover, DE on the first Tuesday of the month starting in November, 2021. In addition to the topics presented, participants will discuss successes and challenges as well as techniques from previous workshops that they have utilized. Topics will be:
9. Improving logic model-driven project planning
10. Understandings about inclusion from social psychology science and making better decisions by mitigating bias in processes
11. Using participatory learning strategies to improve programming and engagement
12. Marketing and branding programs; customer (participant) lifecycle and relationship marketing strategies to retain customers (participants)
13. Facilitation skills: to help a group achieve its goals while valuing the perspectives of all members
14. Improving Research Design and Demonstration plots to better assist farms in their decision making.
15. Improving grant writing to obtain more resources and better assist farmer constituents
16. Three C’s of final report summaries: Concise, Complete, Compelling

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
2
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Proposed Completion Date:
September 6, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Participants will respond to final outcome verification via provided forms, phone, email, and survey. This will include the number and types of adult education principles adopted, the number of farmers reached, and an estimate to the size of the farmers' farms.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
30
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Extension Educators will learn about adult education principles that were featured during trainings already held by both University's by participating in two annual bus/farm tours with the University of Delaware. ASP's who have attended previous trainings will help coordinate stops to educate participants utilizing adult education principles that they have learned. Following the stops, the ASP's will discuss the principles that were utilized and how similar methods can be used in future farmer outreach. Additional discussions and presentations about previous trainings will be done while in transport on the bus between farm/Ag business tours and during lunch. Participants will share how educators are using adult education principles and improving farmer outreach. Participants will also share challenges they have encountered and what their needs are for future trainings. This tour will also provide time to plan collaborations between staff from both Universities and how they can incorporate adult education principles to better assist their farmer constituents.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Proposed Completion Date:
May 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

At least four participants will be chosen to receive $1000 stipends to attend conferences for professional development based on who are most active in the project and demonstrate an appropriate justification. Participants who attend conferences will be required to present learned information to the core group at a subsequent core training.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
4
Proposed Completion Date:
May 31, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Participants will receive a binder with learning resources from each training. The binders will also be distributed to other ASPs in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed Completion Date:
October 1, 2022
Status:
In Progress

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

-Vendor at UMES Small Farm Conference, November 2020 - Farmers and ASPs
-Vendor and presentation at Delaware Ag Week, Harrington, DE, January 2021 - Farmers and ASPs
-Vendor and presentation at DSU's Profiting from a few Acres Conference, March 2021 - Farmers and ASPs
-Presentation at DSU workshop Spring, 2021 - Farmers
-Farmer/Partnership Grant Writing Workshop summer, 2021
-Presentation at DSU field day, summer 2021 - Farmers
-One on one consultations throughout the year - Farmers and ASPs

Information Products

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.