West Virginia Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program

Final report for SNE20-014-WV

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $43,918.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
State Coordinators:
Dr. Doolarie Singh-Knights, Ph.D.
West Virginia University
Co-Coordinators:
Daisy Bailey
WVU Extension Service
Emily Morrow
WVU Extension Service
Jodi Richmond
WVU Extension - Mercer County Commision
Lisa Jones
West Virginia University
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Project Information

Summary:

This project was driven by a 2014-2017 statewide ‘sustainable agriculture needs assessment’ process, and more recent discussions in 2018-2019 with Agricultural Service Providers (ASPs) and farmers in West Virginia (WV). The needs assessment aimed to better understand priority training areas, challenges faced, assistance needed and ideas for future programs, in order to better serve beginning farmers in WV. Results of the 2014-2017 survey, together with related state census statistics, have confirmed that higher demand for local foods has created new opportunities for WV producers, but points to information and experience gaps that continue to limit entry and business success for producers in WV. The recent needs assessment survey and other communications showed that 92% of beginning farmers (n=29), 100% of aspiring farmers (n=19) and 87% of ASPs (n=57) indicated strong interest in expanding production, product development/value-adding or market development, but require training and support in whole-farm planning and risk management to help them identify and mitigate business risks in these new markets. Respondents also indicated a desire to learn from more experienced ‘mentor’ farmers. While there are several ‘informal mentoring opportunities’ in WV, they lack ‘trained farmer mentors’ or a complementary formal mentorship training program, which are crucial components in creating a mutually beneficial experience for mentor and mentee.

This proposal grew out of the realization that WV ASPs can best serve our beginning farmers by creating a unique partnership of the state’s agricultural service providers to leverage available resources and build upon best-practices to enhance our overall impact while minimizing overlap. Our previous working relationships and current project efforts help strengthen our commitment as partners.

This one-year project aimed to train fifteen ASPs and Farm Mentors/Farmer Leaders (referred to collectively as ASPs) in WV to successfully work with beginning farmers, to help them start or expand operations, and improve the sustainability of their practices, through a comprehensive whole-farm planning and risk management training program, and to support these farmers in their early years of operation through mentoring, community partnerships and networking opportunities.

Project participants (from WVU Extension, WVDA, NRCS, Farm Bureau, FSA, WV Farm and Food Coalition, WV Farmers' Market Association, and Farmer Leaders) participated in the project which comprised the following activities:

- Forming a Beginning Farmer Advisory Team;

- Developing Mentorship Curriculum and Related Materials;

- Conducting Mentor 'Train-the-Trainer' Training;

- Mentorship Curriculum Discussion and Feedback with Farmers; and

- Project Evaluation and Feedback.

At the end of the project, twenty-seven (27) agricultural service providers fully participated in the program and gained practical knowledge and skills needed to design and provide on-farm mentorship opportunities for their clientele. Beyond the project period, these ASPs will use this information to be able to confidently design and deliver on-farm mentoring and coaching to beginning farmers (small scale crop, livestock, and value-added and specialty producers with profit motives) in their region.

Performance Target:

Fifteen agricultural service providers will discuss the Mentorship Curriculum with at least 5 farmers each, to receive feedback and determine additional learning needs and interests to guide the next 3-year SARE PDP project. This will link the current mentorship program with future educational pathways for ASPs serving beginning farmers.

Introduction:

AGRICULTURAL NEED:

This project was driven by a 2014-2016 statewide ‘sustainable agriculture needs assessment’ process, and more recent discussions in 2018-2019 with ASPs and farmers, to better understand priority training areas, challenges faced, assistance needed and ideas for future programs, to better serve beginning farmers in WV. Survey results, together with related state census statistics, have confirmed that higher demand for local foods has created new opportunities for WV producers, but points to information and experience gaps that continue to limit entry and business success for producers in WV. 

Over the last decade, WV farmland has declined by 72% and agriculture’s contribution to GDP fell by 25%, with WV experiencing high levels of unemployment (7.3%). Beginning farmers can play a catalytic role in strengthening WV’s agribusinesses. WV has experienced a significant decline in the number of producers (10% between 2012 and 2017); currently, for each principal operator under 35 years old, there are 7 over 65 (USDA, 2017). With almost half of WV farmers projected to retire in the next 10 years, WV urgently needs to grow new farmers.

WV is working to build a successful local food economy: 60% more farmers are targeting local direct customers in 2017 compared to 2012; a four-fold increase in farmers markets and CSAs occurred from 2012 through 2017; and food hubs are increasing (WV Agriculture Strategic Plan 2019). While these trends have created new market momentum, it has also highlighted two important gaps: a production gap where new producers are needed to meet increasing demand; and an information and experience gap among agricultural producers producing for these markets. The needs assessment survey and other communications showed that 92% (n=29) of beginning farmers, 100% (n=19) of aspiring farmers and 87% (n=57) of ASPs indicated strong interest in expanding production, product development/value-adding or market development, but require training and support in whole-farm planning and risk management to help them identify and mitigate business risks in these new markets.

Eighty-six percent (n=48) of aspiring/beginning farmers indicated a desire to learn from more experienced ‘mentor/peer’ farmers. While there are ‘informal mentoring opportunities’ in WV, no ‘trained farmer mentors or complementary formal mentorship training program exists in WV. Having trained mentors is crucial in order to create a mutually beneficial experience for mentor and mentee. 

 

PROPOSED SOLUTION:

This one-year (2020-2021) project served as the precursor to the next three-year (2021-2024) SARE PDP project, with an initial one-year goal of providing 15 ASPs in WV with practical knowledge and skills needed to design and provide on-farm mentorship opportunities for their clientele.

The one-year (2020-2021) project focused on a 'Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program' with the following objectives:

  • Objective 1: Beginning Farmer Advisory Team to guide mentorship development, implementation and evaluation, leveraging support and resources from various stakeholders (Extension, WVDA, FSA, Farm Credit, NRCS, WV farm and Food Coalition; WV Farmers' Market Association).
  • Objective 2: Mentorship Curriculum Development by diverse group of 10 stakeholders/council members to help ASPs successfully design, manage and evaluate on-farm mentorship programs. This Mentorship DACUM (Develop a Curriculum) will be a 'whole-farm planning' mentorship curriculum guide that includes program objectives, task analysis sheets and related assessment/evaluation forms, and training rules and regulations, that will inform our competency-based mentorship program for beginning farmers. This mentor curriculum will be both structured and flexible, that is, not a 'one-size fits all' but a 'differentiated instruction model' that focuses on individual learning needs.
  • Objective 3: Mentor 'Train-the-Trainer' Training for 15 ASPs based on the Mentorship DACUM process, to develop a diverse pool of ASPs to serve the varying needs of WV beginning farmers, in the long run.
  • Objective 4: Discussion of Mentorship Curriculum with Farmers and other ASPs: The trained ASPs will interact with their constituents/farmers to get feedback on the the curriculum and related tools developed, which will be used to make improvements and prepare for the beginning farmer training program in the subsequent 3 years.
  • Objective 5: Project Evaluation and Feedback to evaluate current project success and to guide the next three-year (2021-2024) phase of the SARE PDP Project.

 

AGRICULTURAL SERVICE PROVIDER INTEREST:

This project engaged a collaborative of 27 ASPs in a whole-farm planning and risk management curriculum for beginning farmers in order to leverage available resources, streamline existing programs, and build upon collective best-practices to enhance the project’s intended impacts while reducing programmatic overlap. The individuals below have worked with beginning farmers previously, and have expressed an interest in serving on the project team or advisory team.

Advisors/Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Brittney Farris - Technical Advisor - Producer
  • Kacey Gantzer - Technical Advisor (Educator)
  • Bradley Gritt - Technical Advisor - Producer
  • Terry Hudson - Technical Advisor - Producer
  • Eric Blend - Technical Advisor - Producer
  • Doolarie Singh-Knights
  • Nathan Bergdoll
  • Mike Rechlin

Educational Approach

Educational approach:
  • An introductory webinar introduced the overall 4-year PDP project, with focus on the 1-year Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program including project activities, training topics, schedule and format, and participation requirements.
  • The Beginning Farmer Advisory Council provided overall guidance for the project, while leveraging support and resources from various stakeholders.
  • Extension Agents served as Commodity-Specific Facilitators, and guided 56 participants through a Mentorship DACUM (Develop a Curriculum) process. This led to the development of a 'whole-farm planning' Draft West Virginia Beginning Farmer On-Farm Mentorship Program Curriculum Guide that includes program objectives, task analysis sheets and related assessment/evaluation forms, and training rules and regulations. Because of COVID 19 restrictions, instead of this process being conducted over 3 non-consecutive days/meetings, each Facilitator held 2 virtual meetings to guide curriculum development.
  • The project led 15 ASPs through a comprehensive 'Train-the-Trainer' training based on the (draft) Mentorship Curriculum Guide developed through the DACUM process, to help develop a diverse pool of mentors and ASPs to serve the varying needs of WV beginning farmers. Two virtual workshops were conducted; workshop topics focused on general topics for delivering a solid mentorship program, as well as some commodity-specific topics (beef, egg, maple, agritourism). ASP participants also provided feedback for developing the skill-set for the other commodities, as well as the overall program, which has been incorporated into the Draft Curriculum Guide.
  • The trained ASPs had individual and some group interactions with their constituents/farmers to get feedback on the curriculum and related tools developed, which was used to make improvements and prepare for the beginning farmer training program in the 2021-2024 SARE PDP grant. 
  • A Teams Folder was developed to enable web-based sharing of project materials as they continue to be developed (curriculum materials; slide presentations; templates, worksheets and decision tools for trained ASPs to use with farmer participants; and verification surveys to use in their own education programs.); and to serve as a discussion and Q&A forum. Some tools are still under development.
  • Project participants attended a virtual project evaluation forum to discuss the progress and evaluate the success of the project, and help develop future plans for the 2021-2024 SARE PDP project. To further team-building and cross-disciplinary exchanges, project participants were invited to become part of a directory of trained ASPs and farmer-leaders who agree to be available for mutual support and as resources for inquiries from other ASPs and farmers. This directory will be maintained on the WVU Extension website - currently under construction.
  • Finally, a key feature for ensuring that beneficiaries discuss their new knowledge, skills and learning resources with farmers to get feedback, the project offered travel support and stipends to cover meeting expenses for beginning farmer discussions conducted by the project beneficiaries. Limited funds were used for this since most of this project was conducted virtually because of continued COVID 19 restrictions.
  • The project team was available by phone, e-mail, and in-person for consultation and assistance, as needed.

Milestones

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

Fifty ASPs (Farmer Leaders, Extension, NRCS, Farm Credit, Farm Bureau, WVDA, Non-profits) receive e-mail and attend Introductory Webinar about the overall 4-year PDP project, and specific information on the 1-year Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program including learning objectives and performance target, the activities to be offered, expectations for participants, and incentives for participation (travel support and stipend for soliciting feedback from farmers and other ASPs).

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
50
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
53
Proposed Completion Date:
October 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
November 6, 2020
Accomplishments:

Emails were sent to specific farmer leaders, and individuals as well as administrators from the following agencies/organizations: WVU Extension, WVSU Extension, NRCS, Farm Credit, Farm Bureau, WVDA, WV Farm Service Agency, Eastern CTC, WV Maple Producer Association, WV Farm and Food Coalition. Overall, fifty-three (53) individuals either attended the Introductory Webinar or another group meeting to learn about the overall 4-year PDP project, and specific information on the 1-year Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program. The webinar and meetings covered information related to project objectives and performance target, the activities to be offered, expectations for participants, and incentives for participation (travel support and stipend for soliciting feedback from farmers and other ASPs). The slide set can be found here: West Virginia Beginning Farmer On-Farm Mentorship Introductory Training Presentation.

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

At least 15 ASPs sign-on to participate in the project, and complete pre-project survey to assess their current baseline level of knowledge, skills and confidence, and particular learning interests based on client needs.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
13
Proposed Completion Date:
November 13, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
November 30, 2020
Accomplishments:
  • Emails were sent to specific farmer leaders, and individuals as well as administrators from the following agencies/organizations: WVU Extension, WVSU Extension, NRCS, Farm Credit, Farm Bureau, WVDA, WV Farm Service Agency, Eastern CTC, WV Maple Producer Association, WV Farm and Food Coalition. Overall, fifty-three (53) individuals either attended the Introductory Webinar or another group meeting to learn about the overall 4-year PDP project, and specific information on the 1-year Beginning Farmer Mentorship Program. The webinar and meetings covered information related to project objectives and performance target, the activities to be offered, expectations for participants, and incentives for participation (travel support and stipend for soliciting feedback from farmers and other ASPs).
  • The project team comprised of thirteen (13) ASP with WVU's Extension Service - serving as Lead facilitators for different commodity-specific areas for the project:
    • Indoor Production - Emily Morrow and Lisa Jones
    • Outdoor Production (Vegs) – Jodi Richmond
    • Orchards and Small Fruit Production – Candace DeLong and Stacey Huffman
    • Beef Production – Jennifer Friend
    • Small Ruminant Production - Alex Smith
    • Swine Production – Natasha Harris
    • Poultry Egg Production – Brandy Brabham and Joe Moritz
    • Backyard Poultry Production – Brandy Brabham
    • Maple Syrup Production – Karen Cox and Dee Singh-Knights
    • Agritourism – Dee Singh-Knights
Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Fifteen ASPs receive e-mail invitation to participate on the Project Advisory Council, and eight join Council to provide overall guidance for the project, and help leverage support and resources from various stakeholders. Advisory Team will have 2 face-to-face meetings and 3 follow-up virtual meetings.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
8
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
October 30, 2020
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
January 8, 2021
Accomplishments:
  • The project team comprised of thirteen (13) ASP with WVU's Extension Service - serving as Lead facilitators for different commodity-specific areas for the project:
    • Indoor Production - Emily Morrow and Lisa Jones
    • Outdoor Production (Vegs) – Jodi Richmond
    • Orchards and Small Fruit Production – Candace DeLong and Stacey Huffman
    • Beef Production – Jennifer Friend
    • Small Ruminant Production - Alex Smith
    • Swine Production – Natasha Harris
    • Poultry Egg Production – Brandy Brabham and Joe Moritz
    • Backyard Poultry Production – Brandy Brabham
    • Maple Syrup Production – Karen Cox and Dee Singh-Knights
    • Agritourism – Dee Singh-Knights
  • Twenty-seven (27) individuals (13 Extension ASPs and 14 other ASPs/Farmer Leaders) received an e-mail invitation to participate on the Project Advisory Council, and eighteen (18) formally joined the Council to provide overall guidance for the project and to help leverage support and resources from various stakeholders. The Advisory Council held 3 virtual meetings, and some members had several one-on-one discussions with individual project team members, in lieu of having face-to-face group meetings.
Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

A facilitator will guide 10 ASPs through a Mentorship DACUM (Develop a Curriculum) process over 3 non-consecutive days; which is a 'whole-farm planning' mentorship curriculum guide to include program objectives, task analysis sheets and related assessment/evaluation forms, and training rules and regulations. See Curriculum Draft document - Training Curriculum formalized and printed for ASPs' use, and for later use in later beginning farmer mentorship trainings. Compensation will be provided for Farmer Leaders serving as ASPs in the DACUM process, and travel funds will be provided for traditional ASPs serving in the DACUM process.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
42
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
27
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 30, 2021
Accomplishments:
  • Rather than attempting to develop the Mentorship Curriculum as a whole group, the Advisory Council and the Project Team agreed to approach the development of the Curriculum Guide on a commodity-specific basis. The thirteen (13) Extension Agents (part of the Advisory Council and Project team) served as Commodity-Specific Facilitators, and guided fifty-six (56) participants (14 other ASPs and 42 farmers) through a Mentorship DACUM (Develop a Curriculum) process.
  • The Facilitators had individual and some group interactions with their constituents/farmers to get feedback on the curriculum and related tools developed, which were used to make improvements and prepare for the beginning farmer training program in the 2021-2024 SARE PDP grant. This led to the development of a 'whole-farm planning' Beginning Farmer Mentorship Curriculum Guide that includes program objectives, task analysis sheets and related assessment/evaluation forms, and training rules and regulations.
  • Due to COVID 19 restrictions, instead of this process being conducted over 3 non-consecutive days/meetings, each Facilitator held at least 2 virtual meetings with their assigned commodity-groups to guide curriculum development (at least 20 total virtual meetings).
  • The Facilitators focused on ten (10) Commodity-Specific areas:
    • Indoor (High Tunnel) Production
    • Outdoor Production (Vegetables)
    • Orchards and Small Fruit Production
    • Beef Production
    • Small Ruminant Production
    • Swine Production
    • Poultry Egg Production
    • Backyard Poultry Production
    • Maple Syrup Production
    • Agritourism
  • To date, only 4 of the 10 commodity-groups have made formal additions to the DACUM for the Mentorship Curriculum Guide; other groups have their DACUM in draft form and are currently still working to formalize it for inclusion in the final Guide.
  • The guide can be found here: Draft West Virginia Beginning Farmer On-Farm Mentorship Program Curriculum Guide.
Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

The project will lead 15 ASPs through a comprehensive 'Train-the-Trainer' training based on the Mentorship Curriculum developed through the DACUM process, to develop a diverse pool of mentors and ASPs to serve the varying needs of WV beginning farmers. Three face-to-face daylong workshops will be conducted; workshop topics will continue in a sequence based on the DACUM, with some potential modifications based on participants' feedback. Workshop topics will likely include the duties and tasks associated with beginning farming, and appropriate tools/resources to accomplish these tasks/duties; access to land, capital, credit and equipment; required tools, equipment, supplies and materials; necessary general knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics or essential worker behaviors; and critical future trends and concerns.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
27
Proposed Completion Date:
May 31, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 30, 2021
Accomplishments:
  • The project led 27 ASPs through a comprehensive 'Train-the-Trainer' training based on the (draft) Mentorship Curriculum Guide developed through the DACUM process, to help develop a diverse pool of mentors and ASPs to serve the varying needs of WV beginning farmers. Two virtual workshops were conducted; the first workshop focused on general topics for delivering a solid mentorship program, and the second workshop focused on some commodity-specific topics (beef, egg, maple, agritourism).
  • As more commodity-specific DACUM materials are finalized and added to the Mentorship Curriculum Guide, additional future training workshops with be provided.
  • As part of this training workshop, ASP participants also provided feedback for developing the DACUM skill-set for specific commodities, as well as the overall program, which has been incorporated into the Draft Curriculum Guide. DACUM for the other commodities is being finalized and will be available in the final Curriculum Guide.
  • Additionally, as part of ongoing training efforts under this grant, the Project team is currently working on the following additional initiatives:
    • Working to develop a formal mentorship program with Eastern CTC (Community and Technical College) under an AFRI Grant - currently training a cadre of mentors to work with farm apprentices.
    • Working on a formal MOU with the WV Farm Service Agency to formalize an On-farm Mentorship Program for their new and existing borrowers, as a way to increase their chances of success and build more sustainable agribusinesses.
    • Working on other formal MOUs with other organizations (WV Veterans Maple Producers, WV Farm Bureau, Sprouting Farms, and others to be determined) for their ASPs that advise their new and aspiring beginning farmers, as a way to increase their clients' chances of success and building more sustainable agribusinesses.
Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

15 ASPs receive updates and materials via the Moodle Classroom repository of materials to support agents' training, and initiate planning and development of mentorship curriculum in whole-farm planning and risk management. See Curriculum Draft document - Training Curriculum formalized and printed for ASPs' use, and for later use in beginning farmer mentorship trainings.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
27
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 30, 2021
Accomplishments:
  • A Teams Folder (rather than Moodle Classroom) was developed to enable web-based sharing of project materials as they continue to be developed (curriculum materials; slide presentations; templates, worksheets and decision tools for trained ASPs to use with farmer participants; and verification surveys to use in their own education programs.); and to serve as a discussion and Q&A forum. Some tools are still under development.
  • All ASPs involved in the project (27 total) were given access to the Teams folder to allow sharing of project materials and soliciting feedback as they interact with the project materials.
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

The trained ASPs will apply for project funds (submit plan of work) following training to help cover the cost of their subsequent farmer and ASP discussion events. The trained ASPs will each discuss the curriculum and related tools developed above with their 5 of their constituents (farmers or other ASPs). This feedback which will be used to make improvements and prepare for the beginning farmer training program in the subsequent 3 years.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
15
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
27
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 30, 2021
Accomplishments:
  • Finally, a key feature for ensuring that beneficiaries discuss their new knowledge, skills and learning resources with farmers to get feedback, the project offered travel support and stipends to cover meeting expenses for beginning farmer discussions conducted by the project beneficiaries. Limited funds were used for this since most of this project was conducted virtually because of continued COVID 19 restrictions.
  • Additionally, much of the overall budget was not spent on this project because of the following:
    • Most of the meetings, workshops, and consultations were done virtually because of extended COVID-19 restrictions at West Virginia University. As such, all travel, meeting rooms, and hospitality expenses were reduced drastically.
    • ASPs and Farmer Mentors conducted most of their discussions and meetings virtually with their constituents (other ASPs, Farmer Leaders and Farmers) and therefore, did not incur any tangible costs such as travel, meeting rooms, etc.
    • Additionally, many ASPs also had excess travel budgets in their counties (because of limited travel due to COVID) that they were able to apply to this project as well.
    • All curriculum materials were made available electronically rather than printed.
Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Fifteen trained ASPs and 8 Advisory Team members, together with 5 Project team Members, receive notification, enroll and attend a Project Evaluation and Feedback workshop to discuss the progress and evaluate the success of the project to date, help develop future plans, and begin compilation of directory of trained ASP and farmer leaders that will be available for mentorship opportunities in WV.
Project team complete annual verification and evaluation activities (pre- and post-test comparisons, and feedback surveys) to evaluate project progress and modify activities based on feedback. We will document events and processes against project plan; conduct formal curriculum evaluation; and assess efficacy of the curricula; and assess effectiveness of overall project.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
28
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
27
Proposed Completion Date:
September 30, 2021
Status:
Completed
Date Completed:
September 30, 2021
Accomplishments:
  • Project participants attended a virtual project evaluation forum to discuss the progress and evaluate the success of the project, and help develop future plans for the 2021-2024 SARE PDP project. To further team-building and cross-disciplinary exchanges, project participants were invited to become part of a directory of trained ASPs and farmer-leaders who agree to be available for mutual support and as resources for inquiries from other ASPs and farmers. This directory will be maintained on the WVU Extension website - currently under construction.
  • The Project Team is currently working to build collaborations with partner organizations/agencies to enter into formal MOUs for training the ASPs and farmers based on the materials developed in this grant (see project materials currently being developed with Eastern CTC). 
  • Evaluation data and comments can be found here: Evaluation Responses for Beginning Farmer On-Farm Mentorship Program.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities conducted by the project team:

ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Consultations 100 100
Curricula, factsheets or educational tools 1 1
Online trainings 2 2
Published press articles, newsletters 5 5
Study circle / focus groups 24 24
Webinars, talks and presentations 1 1
Workshop / field days 2 2
Other educational activities: Other Meetings:
- Seven (7) Meetings with partner agencies/organizations to forge formal collaborations/MOUs for developing Mentorship Programs for their clients; and
- Four (4) Meetings with the Advisory Council to help provide guidance and support for the project.
11 11

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

AudienceYear 1Year 2Year 3Total Individuals
Extension 13 0 0 13
Service providers (other or unspecified) 14 0 0 14
Farmers / ranchers 42 0 0 42

Participation Summary:

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

Learning Outcomes

27 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
42 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
27 Ag service providers intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers
Key areas in which the service providers (and farmers if indicated above) reported a change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness::

The project's goal was that participants will increase knowledge, skill, and confidence to provide mentorship opportunities to farmers emphasizing whole-farm planning and risk management.
Key project areas that were tracked to verify this goal included:
- Informational Webinar - number attending, number interested, number committing to project; pre-survey to determine baseline level of knowledge, skills and confidence, and particular learning interests based on client needs.
- Beginning Farmer Advisory Team - number of members participating (18)
- Mentorship DACUM Process - number of curricula and related educational tools developed (1)
- Mentorship 'Train-the-Trainer' Training - numbers completing training; shorter, topic-focused pre- and post-survey evaluations completed at workshop sessions to determine ongoing program effectiveness (changes in Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes)
- Discussion of Mentorship Curriculum with farmers and other ASPs - number of trained ASPs conducting follow-up discussions with farmers; feedback surveys completed at farmer workshop sessions to determine additional learning needs and interests to guide the next 3-year SARE PDP project, which will link the current mentorship program with future educational pathways for ASPs serving beginning farmers.

Additional verification strategies included:
- The Project Leader periodically posted questions or start discussion threads in Team's Folder to gauge understanding and attitudes about course materials posted there.
- The Project Leader conducted annual verification and evaluation activities to evaluate project progress and modify activities and final curriculum based on feedback.

What did participants say were the strengths and weaknesses of the program and the successes and challenges of their participation?

Strengths of the program:
- Comprehensive collection of mentorship-related materials.
- Interaction with farmers helped us better understand the issues/barriers that beginning farmers face - educational needs and other resources and support needed.
- Good representation and cooperation among agricultural agencies serving farmers in WV.
- Refreshing to see farmers willing to mentor and actually mentoring other farmers.

Weaknesses of the Program:
- More information is needed on how to balance the 'formal' mentorship program with 'the fluid' mentor-mentee relationship.

Success of their participation
- Gained the knowledge, skills and access to the relevant information to develop or improve on-farm mentorship program in WV/my area.

Challenges:
- As with any professional development program, the biggest challenge is time to fit the training hours into our schedule while maintaining our regular programs.

See 'Project Products' for Beginning Farmer On-Farm Mentorship Program Summary Evaluation.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: Number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
15
Target: The educational action(s) they will take:

Fifteen agricultural service providers (5 traditional ASPs and 10 farmer leaders/farm mentors) will gain practical knowledge and skills needed to provide on-farm mentorship opportunities, which they can use in the long run to confidently design and deliver related educational programs/services for beginning farmers (small scale crop, livestock, and value-added and specialty producers with profit motives) in their region.

Target: The number of farmers who will be educated/advised by the service providers:
0
Target: Total size/scale of the farms these farmers manage (e.g. total acres or animal units managed, gross sales or production volume, etc.):
The educational action(s) taken:
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

The project's goal was that participants will increase knowledge, skill, and confidence to provide mentorship opportunities to farmers emphasizing whole-farm planning and risk management.
Key project areas that were tracked to verify this goal included:
- Informational Webinar - number attending, number interested, number committing to project; pre-survey to determine baseline level of knowledge, skills and confidence, and particular learning interests based on client needs. (53 attending)
- Beginning Farmer Advisory Team - number of members participating (18 Team Members)
- Mentorship DACUM Process - number of curricula and related educational tools developed (1 Curriculum Developed)
- Mentorship 'Train-the-Trainer' Training - numbers completing training; shorter, topic-focused pre- and post-survey evaluations completed at workshop sessions to determine ongoing program effectiveness (changes in Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes) – (27 Participating)
- Discussion of Mentorship Curriculum with farmers and other ASPs - number of trained ASPs conducting follow-up discussions with farmers; feedback surveys completed at farmer workshop sessions to determine additional learning needs and interests to guide the next 3-year SARE PDP project, which will link the current mentorship program with future educational pathways for ASPs serving beginning farmers. (27 ASPs and 42 Farmers)

Additional verification strategies included:
- The Project Leader periodically posted questions or start discussion threads in Team's Folder to gauge understanding and attitudes about course materials posted there.
- The Project Leader conducted annual verification and evaluation activities to evaluate project progress and modify activities and final curriculum based on feedback. (27 ASPs attending).

Additional Project Outcomes

Number of grants applied for that built upon this project:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
1 0 0 1
Number of grants received that built upon this project:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
1 0 0 1
Dollar amount of grants received:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
$500000 $0 $0 $500000
Number of new working collaborations:
Year 1Year 2Year 3Total
3 0 0 3
Additional Outcomes Narrative:
  1. Applied and received an AFRI Workforce Development Grant titled "Strengthening Ag Workforce Development in the Potomac Highlands through Practical Application and Mentorship," which built directly on the curriculum and expanded the efforts under the current WV PDP Grant.
    • Summary: This project seeks to counter the loss of skilled agribusiness labor and develop an ag workforce in the Potomac Highlands Region of eastern West Virginia through applied education, experiential learning, and direct mentorship from experts and ag business owners in the field. This region has one of the greatest concentrations of agricultural enterprises in the state. Participant opportunities range from one hour in-person and virtual webinars for knowledge improvement, to multiple short-courses that permit certification. In addition, it offers a Farm Fellowship, which combines classroom learning, hands-on learning and mentorship on an ag enterprise alongside experienced agriculturalists within the student’s interest pathway. During these virtual and practical learning opportunities, more than 1000 aspiring, new and experienced farmer participants will obtain training, which will result in: 1) improvement of 100 existing or new ag enterprises, 2) participant connection to ag careers by means of 40 apprenticeships on farms or agribusinesses, and 3) empowerment of 1,000 participants by skill acquisition to advance the local ag economy. By partnering with West Virginia University’s Extension Service (WVUES), local farmers, agricultural enterprise owners, ag industry leaders, and Eastern West Virginia Community and Technical College (Eastern) will provide guided participant pathways to ag workforce needs and entrepreneurship opportunities to supply skilled ag labor and foster stability, sustainability and growth of ag enterprises, and ultimately, rural economy success.. Award No.: 2021-67037-34167  Funds received: $500,000
  2. Develop a formal mentorship program with Eastern Technical and Community College under the above-mentioned AFRI Grant - currently training a cadre of mentors to work with farm apprentices.
  3. Working on a formal MOU with the WV Farm Service Agency to formalize an On-farm Mentorship Program for their new and existing borrowers, as a way to increase their chances of success and build more sustainable agribusinesses.
  4. Working on other formal MOUs with other organizations (WV Veterans Maple Producers, WV Farm Bureau, Sprouting Farms, etc.) for their new and aspiring beginning farmers, as a way to increase their chances of success and build more sustainable agribusinesses.
Success stories:

Agricultural Service Provider quote: "This is a great way to pool our collective resources and expertise to grow the next generation of producers. Why did we not think of working together like this before? This way they get the same message and same high quality of education from each of our respective organizations or agencies."

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Currently, the NESARE  State Coordinator for WV (Singh-Knights) and the WVU Extension Service is working to formalize and approve the On-Farm Mentorship Program in collaboration with partner agencies. The USDA-NESARE State (WV) Professional Development Grant (2020-2021) has developed a structured curriculum that will be adopted in a collaborative partnership between WVUES and any partner agency interested in having their constituents trained through this program. The On-Farm Mentorship program will train aspiring and beginning farmers in a formalized program comprised of on-farm mentorship under the guidance of a trained farm mentor, and associated classroom instruction (total program contact hours are still being determined). This program structure is the result of a DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) process involving key stakeholders and experts.

The On-Farm Mentorship Program will have a prearranged agreement/Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the partner agency/organization and WVUES. Trying to work out a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with partner organizations takes a long time, especially when the curriculum must be built, edited, and approved by all stakeholders. As such, the curriculum is still being developed and edited to meet the needs of all concerned.

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

The following list of outreach activities and events were achieved during October 1, 2020 – September 30, 2021 to help disseminate information about Northeast SARE grant programs and other NESARE resources.

  • Develop a Local Farm Series titled "Farm to Plate in the Mountain State' showcasing seven (7) local farms in WV. These videos were used to host the NESARE Summer PDP VIRTUAL Tour in July, 2021.
  • The NESARE Virtual Tour Video Series were also widely disseminated through the WVU Extension Service as a way to highlight NESARE and their respective grant programs, and the benefits to farmers in WV and the Region. The Video Series was also used to host the 2021 WV Women in Agriculture Virtual Conference Farm Tours, again serving to highlight NESARE and their contributions to sustainable agriculture.
  • Continued to make information about SARE grant programs and other sustainable agricultural resources available to
    the agricultural community - through regular emails, inclusion on monthly newsletters, and through weekly social media posts.
  • Continued to manage the WVU-NESARE web-site with regular updates about SARE programs and resources
  • Continue to represent NESARE at WVUES, WVSU and Other Partner Organizations (NRCS, WVDA, WV Farm Service Agency) Events
  • Continued to engage in NESARE display and/or information sharing:
    - WV Women in Agriculture Virtual Conference, Oct. 2020
    - WVUES Virtual Dinner Meetings – Jan – March, 2021- WVUES Small Farms Virtual Conference - Feb. 2021
    - WV State Fair – August 2021

In addition, I continued to:

  • Respond to inquiries about SARE grant programs and resources in a timely manner
  • Promote SARE-sponsored events - webinars, etc.
  • Promote outcomes, educational resources and project profiles or stories from SARE-funded projects; and 
  • Work with multiple initiatives to help strengthen sustainable agriculture networks in the state and region.

Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:

Audience Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Service providers 150 0 0 150
Farmers 500 0 0 500

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.