Reconnecting with Purpose: Renewing Agricultural Providers and Enriching their Service to Farmers

Progress report for SNE20-010-NY

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $166,665.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Grant Recipient: Cornell Small Farms Program
Region: Northeast
State: New York
State Coordinator:
Violet Stone
Cornell Small Farms Program
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Project Information

Summary:

Problem and Justification: Often professional development programs for agricultural service providers focus on offering opportunities to build specific knowledge and skills that can be utilized to better serve farmer audiences. This type of ‘educatum’ as it was known originally in latin, places the emphasis on ‘molding’ or ‘training’. The service provider is trained and in turn teaches the farmer. This project, however, focuses on often neglected roots of the word 'education' deriving from ‘educare’ and ‘educere’, which mean ‘to nourish, to bring up, to lead forth, to draw out.’ This project recognizes that in this era of mass information sharing, knowledge and resources are often abundantly available, but spaces where agricultural providers can draw out and employ their inner resources - their sources of joy, gifts, strengths, and rich identities - are gravely lacking. With so many professional development programs focused on delivering 'education' to the trainee, it's become normal for providers to lose their own voice and see themselves as a receptacle to receive and recapitulate knowledge. When we use professional development ‘trainees’ as a means to an end, we constrain solutions to the challenges they face to what is ‘outside’ of them. Rarely are we invited to reflect on our passions, inspirations, or failures and struggles. We often fail to show elements of our identities - for example, our race, ethnicity, gender or sexuality - for fear of being marginalized or disliked. While we tend to keep much of our identity and inner wealth hidden from our work, our work is not separate from who we are.

When an agricultural provider offers their farmer beneficiaries a fragment of their potential, this is also the farmers’ loss. When they lose their voice, they become no more valuable to farmers than an internet search. When they are treated as a means to an end, they infer their purpose is a conduit, and many resign to this.

Solution and Approach: Each year of this 3-year project, 20 agricultural service providers from NY will reconnect with a sense of purpose and identity by drawing out and nourishing their inner resources in a supportive community of practice. Through 2 in-person retreats and 4 online peer learning circles, these providers will develop and shape a professional learning plan to implement in their service to farmers. Our retreat programs are adapted from the Academy of Leaders and Courage to Teach programs which have been offered by the Center for Courage & Renewal for over two decades. The formats have been successfully tested and refined by our certified Courage & Renewal facilitator Marcia Eames-Sheavly, who has incorporated them into existing extension programs for garden-based learning educators, Cornell faculty and staff programs, and student classes since 2012.

Performance Target:

After participating in a community of practice aimed at reconnecting work with purpose and identity, 60 agriculture service providers will implement a professional learning plan that brings forth the diversity and identity of the educator, invigorates their educational efforts, and demonstrates willingness to take risks. They will engage 1200 farmers within 6 months completion of the program.

Introduction:

Agricultural Need: SARE’s professional development programs depend on agricultural service providers to convey knowledge and skills to farmers in an effort to encourage them to adopt more sustainable practices. Agricultural providers are essential to SARE's mission.  So how are agricultural service providers doing?  How are they weathering the challenges of decreasing funding streams, consolidation, administrative mandates, increasing email correspondence and online meetings?  (The Small Farms Program's staff of 9 serves an audience encompassing 15,321 newsletter subscribers and 541,600 website visitors per year. Staff estimate they respond to 40 emails for every 1 in-person interaction with a farmer). How is their morale as they attempt to serve agricultural entrepreneurs - a high-stress occupation with suicide rates 1.5 times higher than the national average - in a world with ever increasing pressures from climate instability, a rapidly changing marketplace, land development, consumer preferences for convenience, and most recently, a global pandemic?  What value are they providing farmers today, when high speed internet offers thousands access to a single online course (the Small Farms Program (SFP) received 35,000 online course registrations in response to an offer of 2 free courses per individual) or an incredible variety of "How-to" videos and articles (the SFP video “Kingbird Farm Layer Management & Egg Production” received 789,630 views. The Small Farm Quarterly article “Dorper Sheep: Truths and Myths” received 118,305 reads). Why are they often too busy and overwhelmed to enroll and remain engaged in NESARE PDP trainings (a frequent frustration expressed at NESARE State Coordinator PDP meetings over the past 10 years)?

The answer is many are struggling with fatigue, inadequacy, defeatism and hyper-busyness. While no formal research has documented these challenges, I have compiled the voices of a diversity of providers in an attachment to represent this community. What development program can we offer providers that will create a trusting space to surface these challenges, to engage the fullness of their gifts and capacities to address them, and to renew a sense of purpose and inspiration?  The Reconnecting with Purpose project is our proposed solution. 

Proposed Solution:

Each year of this 3-year project, 20 agricultural service providers from NY will reconnect with a sense of purpose and identity in a supportive community of practice. Through 2 in-person retreats and 4 online peer learning circles, these providers will develop and shape a professional learning plan to implement in their service to farmers within 6 months completion of the program. Specific examples of action projects are provided in the Education section of the plan. Our retreat programs are adapted from the Academy of Leaders and Courage to Teach programs which have been offered by the Center for Courage & Renewal for over two decades. The formats have been successfully tested and refined by certified Courage & Renewal facilitator Marcia Eames-Sheavly, who has incorporated them into existing Extension programs for garden-based learning educators, Cornell faculty and staff programs, and student classes since 2012. Project manager Violet Stone will co-facilitate all aspects of the project. The facilitators will make use of multiple engagement methods, such as poetry and stories, solitude, reflection, and deep listening, in the same way that Courage & Renewal  programs have been structured since 1997.

Farmers will gain ag service providers who:

  • Listen deeply for what is not being said and ask open and engaging questions that lead to deeper understanding of the whole farm situation, in order to provide more inspired or courageous ideas in response to problems. 
  • Bring compassion to their struggles and offer the self-awareness and self-confidence to draw out and trust in the farmer’s own intuition and autonomy (this will be especially important for farm visits and “Reading the Farm” programs).
  • Bring creativity and inspiration to their teaching, research and outreach

 Agricultural Service Provider Interest:

In New York, we’ve seen an overwhelming amount of interest among Cornell staff and Cooperative Extension in heart-centered work. Recently 250 extension staff across the state tuned into a series of 5 programs titled “System-wide Town Hall: Attending to your own wellbeing: making space for the inmost of each and making a path for quiet conversations in small groups”.  This series of 5 facilitated Zoom meetings opened with the Director of  NYS Cooperative Extension who attended and supported each session. We've also received a tremendous response to this project.Based on initial feedback, the program's first cohort is already full.  Reconnecting with Purpose is open to any provider who serves farmers, including farmer educators. The attached testimonials serve as both justification for and interest in this project.

Advisors/Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Amara Dunn (Educator and Researcher)
  • Marcia Eames-Sheavly
  • Claudia Kenny - Producer (Educator)
  • Anusuya Rangarajan
  • Crystal Stewart-Courtens - Producer (Educator and Researcher)

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

Reconnecting with Purpose will prepare ag service provider teams as peer learning circles to bring the
principles and reflective practices of Courage & Renewal, as well as drawing from such foundations as socialemotional
adult learning, to two in-person retreats and 4 peer learning circles to:

  • Cultivate self-awareness in their work with farmers
  • Create opportunities for greater connection in the agricultural community
  • Foster teamwork and shared leadership with colleagues and farmers.
  • Strengthen capacity to listen, pay attention, and be present in farmer relationships.
  • Hold tension and deal with conflicts with, among and between farmers constructively.
  • Reconnect with what originally inspired them to engage in their work with farmers.

Milestones

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

Each year of the project, 3000 ag service providers learn about  Reconnecting with Purpose through the Cornell Small Farms Program newsletter. The announcement links to the project web page where applications materials are provided.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
3000
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
3000
Proposed Completion Date:
September 1, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 10, 2020
Accomplishments:

The announcement of the project is offered below.  

You’re Invited: Reconnecting with Purpose

As farm and food system educators or change makers working alongside rural and urban farm communities, we face enormous challenges to our efforts to support improved livelihoods of those we serve. Among these are climate instability, rapidly shifting markets, exorbitant land/lot prices, lack of resources, race/gender/class inequities, and labor shortages. While we may design focused educational programs or convene groups to work towards change, our work can become daunting. Over time, we may find our energy, commitment and spirit depleted. Are you seeking a space to step away from day-to-day work to pause, reflect, replenish and connect with a larger community of others doing similar work? The Cornell Small Farms Program is pleased to invite you to a unique development opportunity: Reconnecting with Purpose – A Retreat Program for NY Farm and Food System Educators and Change Makers. This 5-month program is designed for those working across the New York farm and food system and seeks participants from all backgrounds, roles and ages. This includes those working with NYS community gardens, urban farms, youth farms, food systems organizers (e.g. food hubs, food banks), farmer-educators, Cornell Cooperative Extension, USDA, NRCS, non-profit organizations, private consultants, and community foundations. “Reconnecting with Purpose” aims to create a welcoming and trustworthy space for farm and food system educators to explore challenges, to re-engage with personal strengths and capacities to address them, and to renew a sense of inspiration and purpose in their work and lives. The program, which spans from October 2020 – March 2021, consists of a virtual 2½ day opening retreat followed by 4 monthly peer learning circles, and ending with a virtual 2½ day closing retreat. Although virtual, this program will not be led by ‘sage on the stage’ facilitators; facilitators will be guides on the side with your active engagement throughout. Retreats are comprised of 3-hour long Zoom sessions in the mornings and afternoons, with spacious breaks in between. All programming is aligned with the Center for Courage & Renewal principles and practices and is funded by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

Learn More About Reconnecting with Purpose

Learn much more about the intended audience, retreats, peer learning circles, approach, key project dates and project leaders by visiting the project website.

Join Project Leaders for a Drop-in Q&A Session

Curious but have questions? Join a virtual session anytime on Wednesday, August 19th from 1:00pm - 2:00pm to meet the project leaders and ask questions.

How to Apply

To apply for the program, click here.  Thanks to support from NESARE, this program is offered at no cost. Applications are due Friday, August 28th.

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

Each year of the project, 30 ag service providers apply to the program. A letter of support from a supervisor is required with commitment to 70% of the cost for two retreats and travel support.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
30
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
65
Proposed Completion Date:
September 20, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 28, 2020
Accomplishments:

We were overwhelmed with 65 thoughtful and earnest applications from a huge diversity of providers and farmer-educators in a two week window.  The quality of applications was tremendous and we put over 30 applicants on a wait list for Year 2.  A letter from supervisors was not needed as the program was offered virtually at no cost. 

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

Each year of the project, 20 ag service providers are welcomed to the program.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 9, 2022
Accomplishments:

With the transition to a virtual format, we were able to accomodate a higher maximum number of applicants.  We offered the spaces to 28 people and all accepted. Our Year 1 Cohort is provided below:

Amanda Henning CCE Niagara Lead Agriculture and Food System Educator & Ag. Team Supervisor
Amara Dunn NYS Integrated Pest Management Program Biocontrol Specialist
Ariana Taylor-Stanley Here We Are Farm / National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition farmer / Northeast Regional Organizer
Barb Neal CCE Tioga Agriculture Agent and Horticulture Educator
Bari Zeiger National Young Farmers Coalition, Greater Catskills Young Farmers, Northeast SARE, Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, CCE Sullivan, Frost Valley YMCA Federal Policy Committee (Women's Affinity Representative, President & Advocacy Leader, Administrative Council (Farmer Representative),  Board of Directors, Program Advisory Committee, Farm Manager
Beth Leipler Providence Farm Collective Corp. Farm Director 
Caitlin Tucker CCE Cornell Vegetable Program Extension Assistant/Technician
Dana Havas CCE Cortland Co Agriculture Team Leader
DeVonne Jackson Positive Obsession Founder
Erin Summerlee Rural Health Network of South Central NY Food and Health Network Director
Glen Robertson Challenge Workforce Solutions Ability in Bloom program leader
Jacqueline Roytman SNAP to Grow Urban Farm Director/Educator/Consultant
JAMILLAH ELBEY MaWu Lisa Temple CoCreator/Educator/ Facilitator
Janet van Zoeren Lake Ontario Fruit, CCE Pest Management specialist
Katie Nuber EquiCenter Therapeutic Horticulture Programs Coordinator
Laura McDermott CCE ENYCHP berry crop specialist - extension educator
Lucy Spence Refugee and Immigrant Self Empowerment Syracuse Refugee Agriculture Program Agriculture and Market Coordinator
Maya Marie KCC Urban Farm Assistant Farm Manager and Food Education Coordinator
Melissa MacKinnon Schenectady Urban Farms Director
Patrice Lockert Anthony Black Label Consulting and Coaching  Owner
Petra Page-Mann Fruition Seeds Co-Founder 
Raju Rajan ReWild Long Island President
Rich Taber CCE Chenango Grazing, Forestry, Ag Economic Development Specialist
Richard Woodbridge Agricultural Business Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County Agricultural Business Educator
Sara Curtis  People's Growth Farm Co-Founder
Shona Ort Corning Community Food Pantry Garden and Ort Family Farm Community Garden Coordinator - Corning Community Food Pantry + Field Manager & Social Media Specialist - Ort Family Farm

Here is our year one project timeline:

October 18th, Circle of Trust Orientation (Virtual)
Monday, 5-6pm

October 20th - 22nd: Opening Retreat (Virtual)
Wednesday 9am - 3pm
Thursday 9am - 4:15
Friday 9am - 11:30am

Peer Learning Circles (Virtual)
November 19th (1.5h slot TBA) Peer Learning Circle
December 17th: (1.5h slot TBA) Peer Learning Circle
January 21st: (1.5h slot TBA) Peer Learning Circle
February 18th: (1.5h slot TBA) Peer Learning Circle

March 23rd - 25th: Closing Retreat (All Virtual)
Wednesday 9am - 3pm
Thursday 9am - 4:15
Friday 9am - 11:30am

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Opening Retreat. Participants will be welcomed into a unique professional development atmosphere, in which through conversation, individual reflection and deep listening they will have the chance to (re)discover the essence of what guides and sustains them in their life and agricultural work. Facilitators will offer boundary markers that create a context for careful listening and deep connection with others and the challenges they experience in their work. The Retreat #1 takes place over three days and two nights; the process will offer the opportunity to:

• Reconnect to identity and integrity by considering what drew them to this work to begin with and by actively reflecting on their professional journey.
• Explore the connection between attending to the inner dimension of our lives and the impact they have on communities within which they live and the working communities of which they are part.
• Learn now to hold paradox and tensions in the face of complexity and uncertainty, and kindle their passion to engage in their work during times of change, resilience and resistance.
• Identify gifts and strengths, while acknowledging limits, to build a more thoughtful understanding of their workplace challenges.
• Conclude the first retreat with a clearly articulated learning goal they will implement in their work with the farming community

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
October 31, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
October 23, 2021
Accomplishments:

Participants were offered several ways to prepare for this Retreat, including a handout packet with poems, questions and pieces to work with.  The entire handout packet, including program overview, is available here.  We conducted an extensive evaluation documenting learnings and outcomes of the Opening Retreat.  Following are some quotes from participants reflecting on the experience. The full evaluation may be accessed here.

Participant Feedback: Reconnecting with Purpose Opening Retreat

The most important takeaway to me from this retreat was to realize that I have colleagues, in Cornell Extension and generally affiliated with the NY food industry, who are willing and interested to be vulnerable and to support each other in such a open manner to strive toward a better world. It is easy to get bogged down in day to day drama and tasks, and to forget that there are other people struggling with similar goals and challenges who are able and willing to be there for each other.”

 “I had lost some of my confidence in my ability to make an effective and lasting change in my community and my nation. This retreat allowed me to see that not only is it possible, but, that I can do it easier than I thought.”

“This retreat has reminded why I am so passionate about sustainable food systems and how excited I am to dive head first further into the field for my own benefit and the benefit of the individuals I work  to support.”

I still feel so held and kept from participating in our retreat. The level of care displayed was deeply internalized and i'm elated to continue. The excitement of this program has already cleared/ redirected my mind in immeasurable ways from listening and connecting with each participant. The randomized breakout rooms were a contributor to this flow. New minds with new questions that created avenues for new thoughts.”

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

November Peer Learning Circle. Each year of the project, participants will carry their project focus drafted in the retreat setting forward to a series of 4 monthly peer learning circles (remote via Zoom). Peer Learning Circles will provide a community of practice to support participants with respect to questions, concerns, barriers they may be holding or encountering related to their project focus. A PLC consists of 3-5 participants including a facilitator (Stone, Sheavly and Rangarajan). PLC members will come to each meeting with a “learning goal” – a question, action or issue around which they want to receive support, drawn from their professional learning plans, formational goals, and/or other issue they want to take priority for a particular session. Each will also come with a plan for how they want to receive support from fellow peer learning circle members, choosing from one or more of the following: Open Honest Questions, Story Sharing, Brainstorming, or Resource Sharing. Specific details about the general structure and environment of these meetings as well as a typical agenda are provided as attachments.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
28
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
November 30, 2022
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
November 30, 2020
Accomplishments:

Participants were assigned to one of six Peer Learning Circles led by project facilitators Marcia Sheavly, Anu Rangarajan or myself.  Peer Learning Circles across the groups took place on the third Friday of each month. Peer Learning Circles are confidential learning communities in which each member has the opportunity to bring a concern question or issue to their colleagues and receive support by way of attentive listening and 'open and honest questions'.  These are NOT discussion groups, not opportunities to use group think to solve someone’s problem, and definitely not opportunities to give 'advice'.  Rather, the premise of a Peer Learning Circle is that each member has an inner teacher and the role of peers is to support each person's inquiry and exploration by helping to draw out one's intuition, wisdom and inner compass. 

In this first session, Peer Learning Circle members got acquainted and introduced their chosen project focus to one another.  Each member presented the questions or challenge they were bringing to the Circle and received 20 minutes of their choice of support.  

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

December Peer Learning Circle. Peer Learning Circles provide a community of practice to support participants with respect to their on-going learning goals. A PLC consists of 3-5 participants including a facilitator (Stone, Sheavly and Rangarajan). PLC members will come to each meeting with a “learning goal” – a question, action or issue around which they want to receive support, drawn from their professional learning plans, formational goals, and/or other issue they want to take priority for a particular session. Each will also come with a plan for how they want to receive support from fellow peer learning circle members, choosing from one or more of the following: Open Honest Questions, Story Sharing, Brainstorming, or Resource Sharing. Specific details about the general structure and environment of these meetings as well as a typical agenda are provided as attachments.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
December 31, 2020
Accomplishments:

For our December Circle, we began introducing themes.  We opened the circles by reassuring participants that  by now they are likely discovering that ‘reconnecting with purpose’ is a journey, and that even as elements of thier projects are more technical and straightforward, other elements may meander. They might not have a formal arrival at their project’s conclusion; part of the project is the inquiry itself, sometimes called “living into the questions.”

 Our theme for the December Circle was "Making our Way by Walking".  We opened with the short poem below and invited participants to reflect on the question: "Where have you been walking with your project elements since we last met?"

“Walker” – Antonio Machado

Walker, your footsteps
are the road, and nothing more.

Walker, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.

Walking you make the road,
and turning to look behind
you see the path you never
again will step upon.

Walker, there is no road,
only foam trails on the sea.

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

January Peer Learning Circle. Peer Learning Circles provide a community of practice to support participants with respect to their on-going learning goals. A PLC consists of 3-5 participants including a facilitator (Stone, Sheavly and Rangarajan). PLC members will come to each meeting with a “learning goal” – a question, action or issue around which they want to receive support, drawn from their professional learning plans, formational goals, and/or other issue they want to take priority for a particular session. Each will also come with a plan for how they want to receive support from fellow peer learning circle members, choosing from one or more of the following: Open Honest Questions, Story Sharing, Brainstorming, or Resource Sharing. Specific details about the general structure and environment of these meetings as well as a typical agenda are provided as attachments.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
January 31, 2023
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
January 31, 2021
Accomplishments:

Our theme for our January Circle was Looking Within.  We opened with the poem Winter Is the Best Time and invited members to consider the questions below.

Winter Is the Best Time

Winter is the best time
to find out who you are.

Quiet, contemplation time,
away from the rushing world,

cold time, dark time, holed-up
pulled-in time and space

to see that inner landscape,
that place hidden and within.

-by David Budbill, from While We've Still Got Feet. © Copper Canyon Press, 2005.

Questions for January Reflection:

  As you reflect on the beginning of the new year, how are you making your way into your project?

Are there any parts of that are uncomfortable?

What are you noticing about yourself?

What discoveries are you making as you continue to reflect on what arose in our fall retreat and first PLC?

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

February Peer Learning Circle. Peer Learning Circles provide a community of practice to support participants with respect to their on-going learning goals. A PLC consists of 3-5 participants including a facilitator (Stone, Sheavly and Rangarajan). PLC members will come to each meeting with a “learning goal” – a question, action or issue around which they want to receive support, drawn from their professional learning plans, formational goals, and/or other issue they want to take priority for a particular session. Each will also come with a plan for how they want to receive support from fellow peer learning circle members, choosing from one or more of the following: Open Honest Questions, Story Sharing, Brainstorming, or Resource Sharing. Specific details about the general structure and environment of these meetings as well as a typical agenda are provided as attachments.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
28
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2023
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
February 28, 2021
Accomplishments:

Our theme for our February Peer Learning Circle was "In the Flow".  We opened with the poem Fluent and offered the questions below as invitational prompts for entering in to the Circle.  

Fluent

I would love to live
Like a river flows
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.

            By John O’Donohue

  Questions for Reflection: 

  • In your ‘Reconnecting with Purpose’ journey, what surprises you?
  • What’s going well, what pleases you?
Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Each year of the program will close with a retreat. During Retreat #2 participants will follow a similar three-day, two-night format and will offer the chance to:
• Return with their now close-knit, trustworthy cohort to share their project outcomes;
• Gather the collective wisdom of the group
• Affirm their learnings.
• Identify opportunities to further apply this approach in their life and leadership.
• We will also hold a modified approach to Clearness Committees.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2023
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 19, 2021
Accomplishments:
Our entire group reconvened from March 17th - 19th for our Closing Retreat.  The agenda is offered below, and a packet of poems, handouts and supplies was mailed to each participant in advance.  The entire packet is available for download here
 
One very special aspect of our closing Retreat was the Closing slideshow. Each participant was invited  share  an image or phrase/quote related to the theme of Reconnecting with Purpose or something that has held special significance to them over the course of the 5 months program - their project, people, animals, gardens/farms, landscapes, a hobby, a creation, words or phrases.  The slide show is available to watch here
 

Reconnecting with Purpose 

March 17 – 19, 2020  

 

WEDNESDAY MORNING, MARCH 17th 

8:50                     Arrival on the Zoom call 

9:00 – 11:00       Session 1: Settling In, Reconnecting and Reorienting to the Circle of Trust 

 

WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON  

1:00 – 3:00          Session 2: The Journey to Purpose Takes Courage                  

THURSDAY MORNING, MARCH 18th 

9:00 – 11:15       Session 3:  Courage Takes Trust – Relational Trust  

 

THURSDAY AFTERNOON 

1:30 – 4:15                    Session 4:  Reflection Triads  

 

FRIDAY MORNING, MARCH 19th 

9:00 – 11:15       Session 5:  Exploring Wholeness 

Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Each year of the project, in the subsequent 3 months following the 6 month Cohort experience, individual study students will be sought and engaged to complete both quantitative methods (surveys) assessing general and professional learning plan outcomes with all participants and qualitative methods (interviews) with randomly selected participants within 6 months’ completion of the program. The Cornell Small Farms Program has experienced previous success engaging students in program assessment. Students have the opportunity to learn much-needed skills in program evaluation in a real project context, and program participants have the benefit of a neutral assessment, since they are not directly involved.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
June 30, 2023
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
March 31, 2021
Accomplishments:

We compiled extensive learnings and outcomes immediately after the program ended.  The full evaluation results may be accessed here.  Excerpts are provided below.  

“This is a really important program for helping our food system stay sustainable because so many educators and farmers are just so burned out and it’s because of more than all the work we got to do. A lot of times it’s because we have forgotten to keep the things that give us life in our lives and work.”

“The program provided an opportunity to practice listening skills, to talk with people outside of their immediate professional circle, to learn how to discuss interpersonal topics in a professional manner – all of these are so important to a successful work life and even more important to a successful leader.”

“I’m passionate about the work I do and the folks I get to work with, but this program has really supported my journey in taking a look at myself outside of productivity and external expectations.”

“The Reconnecting with Purpose program gave me incredible insight into the passion and strength of individuals in the food systems field.  It also inspired me to become a productive member of this community to support and advocate for local food producers.”

“I feel less alone with many of the burdens I feel in my job and I feel as if I have the tools to help alleviate some of those burdens.”

“Allowing time (and instruction!) to listen and be listened to was honestly profound.  It was also great to have time allotted for introspection and encouragement to explore both the issues and beauty of what we experience and who we are.”

“The space for reflection allowed me to take a good long look at myself and learn some new things.  I feel very connected with where I am at this moment and where I want to go and that is hard to do in the everyday grind of life.”

“I feel the greatest benefit is that I know, better, how to balance not only me work and life, but also my emotional health and wellbeing in regards to my work. I am less afraid to bring to the table more of who I am to what I do – I know it is a muscle that will take practice (and thankfully we had regular practice during the project). I am willing to let my programs become less about ticking boxes and more about making differences in peoples lives (yes evalution is still an important factor to measure how my work impacts others – but I recognize that there is more to be considered than qualitative data in our work).”

“It has inspired me to take on new and exciting roles that I admittedly have butterflies about taking on, but believe that not only is this work important but that I have a responsibility and opportunity to help guide this work.”

“I really appreciated the comradery and relationship building with other’s in my field or similar fields, who have similar perspective to me and who I would not have come into contact with or gotten to know otherwise. I also really appreciated the safe environment and ability to share things I am usually uncomfortable talking about, especially in a “work” setting.”

“It’s truly bewildering how in the midst of a pandemic and virtual everything that I’ve still managed to connect deeply with so many wonderful individuals that share similar passions and hopes for their work. It’s been an honor to learn about others’ journeys and projects. This project has really added perspective to my work and influenced the expectations I set on myself.”

“This program is a missing link in our world and in our professions, one that we definitely need to nurture and pay attention to.”

Impact Graphic

Over the Spring and Summer, Violet conducted 6 in-person interviews capturing participants experiences with professional videographer Jamie Johnson.  The following video was intended to document impacts of the program and describe it to future participants. 

 

Milestone #11 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Each year of the project, Violet Stone and Marcia Eames-Sheavly will review feedback and make necessary adjustments to the program prior to releasing applications to the on-coming Cohort. For the final Cohort, Violet Stone will summarize the accumulative feedback in preparation for the final report.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
28
Proposed Completion Date:
August 31, 2023
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
August 31, 2021
Accomplishments:

Over the summer, we configured a new facilitator team to better represent the diversity of our members. We also made changes to our facilitators program notes in response to evaluation feedback.  Our Year 2 team is listed below. 

Marcia Eames-Sheavly is an ICF Certified Integral Professional Coach and Circle of Trust® Facilitator prepared by the Center for Courage & Renewal.  In these roles and as a university teacher and outreach educator, reflective practice and community development are cornerstones of her work, whether she is facilitating a circle, spending time with students in the classroom, online learners around the world, or community members from New York to Belize.  Marcia has developed and led numerous retreats and programs informed by the principles and practices of Circles® of Trust; she created and implements the Inner Life of Teaching & Leadership cohort-based experience at Cornell University. She is the recipient of numerous teaching and writing awards.

Kimerly (Kim) Cornish, is a social justice advocate and accessible yoga instructor. She's been a student of the Center for Courage & Renewal's programming since 2017. Kim grew up in rural Dorchester, Maryland with farming in her extended family. She regularly presents on her ancestor, Harriet Tubman, and contemporary visual culture.  She also facilitates reading and discussion groups on works by authors Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, and Ibram X. Kendi.

 

Violet Stone is the Reconnecting with Purpose Project Coordinator and the NY State NESARE Professional Development Coordinator.  Violet has a passion for creating welcoming spaces that invite authentic reflection and warm connection.  Her first encounter with work of the Center for Courage & Renewal in 2018 was transformative in giving her the courage to co-create a development opportunity that invited and honored the whole self.  She co-facilitates this project with Marcia and Kim with gratitude and humility! She has been working in the field of sustainable and regenerative agriculture for 20 years and has led projects for the Cornell Small Farms Program since 2007.

Jamillah El Bey is a Peer Learning Circle facilitator, alongside Marcia, Kimerly and Violet.  Jamillah is a gardener, earth worker, integrated healer and wellness educator.  After completing the Reconnecting with Purpose Cohort in 2020-21 she has been facilitating Peer Learning Circles for other Cohort members and NESARE networks.  You’ll meet her in the Retreats, listening and learning alongside us and you might be lucky enough to be in the Peer Learning Circle she facilitates!

 

Anu Rangarajan is an Advisor and Leadership Team member with the Reconnecting with Purpose Program.  She is the Director of the Cornell Small Farms Program and the Manager of the Equitable Farm Futures Project.  She has a special gift for speaking poetry!  You’ll meet her in the Retreats, listening and learning alongside us.

 

 

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities conducted by the project team:

ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Curricula, factsheets or educational tools 6 6
Study circle / focus groups 6 6

Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:

AudienceYear 1Year 2Year 3Total Individuals
Extension 9 0 0 0
Nonprofit 12 0 0 0
Service providers (other or unspecified) 4 0 0 0
Farmers / ranchers 1 0 0 0

Participation Summary:

28 Number of agricultural educator or service providers reached through education and outreach activities

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

The NYS NESARE PDP coordinator reaches a huge audience by way of being housed at the Cornell Small Farms Program.  Information about NESARE grant opportunities, announcements about NESARE programs, events and job opportunities are all distributed through the Cornell Small Farms Program list-serve, which reaches over 15,000 farmers and ag service providers, and through the Cornell Small Farms Program website, which receives 541,600 unique visitors per year.

The NYS NESARE PDP coordinator responds regularly to inquiries about NESARE grant opportunities as well as requests for interviews and information meetings on a broad range of sustainable agriculture topics from students, ag educators, ag entrepreneurs, non-profit organizations and farmer advocacy groups.

The NYS NESARE PDP coordinator represents NESARE regularly at large annual conferences and meetings.  This year the coordinator will be attending the NOFA NY Conference on January 15th-17th,2021 in Saratoga Springs, NY, the NYS Ag Society Meeting (takes place in January 2021), and the Cornell Cooperative Extension Agriculture, Food and Environmental Systems In-service, which takes place in November 2021.

The NYS NESARE PDP coordinator has regularly attended NESARE State Coordator summer and winter meetings and webinars, as well as other NESARE professional development events such as Reading the Farm. NY hosted the group in summer, 2014.

The NYS NESARE PDP coordinator has reviewed partnership, farmer and graduate student grants, served on hiring committees, and served on the Executive Committee from 2015-2018.

 The NYS NESARE PDP coordinator will be hosting the SARE Fellows in Fall, planned for 2021.

The NYS NESARE PDP coordinator is participating in Cornell Cooperative Extension's Diversity and Inclusion Cohort over the next two years in an effort to forge new relationships and broaden networks. 

Year 1:

Information about NESARE grants, resources and the current NYS PDP project was disseminated through the Small Farms program communication channels, reaching a total of over 50,000 subscribers across multiple media networks. 

 

Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:

Audience Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Service providers 500 0 0 500
Farmers 1000 0 0 1000
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.