Extending Grant Writing and Management Capacity with West Virginia Agricultural Service Providers

Final report for SNE20-015-WV

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $16,664.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: West Virginia State University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
State Coordinator:
Barbara E. Liedl
West Virginia State University
Expand All

Project Information

Summary:

Problem and Justification: A 2014 statewide needs assessment of 51 agricultural service providers (ASPs) and 136 producers conducted by the WV SARE state programs identified “accessing funding opportunity/grant writing” as one of the top five producer gaps out of the 27 competencies surveyed. ASPs rated this gap in in the middle of their needs, most likely because more than half had no intention of doing any programming in this area. Additionally, West Virginia experienced significant change in personnel in agricultural agencies and had an increase in community based organizations providing agriculture services with many of these new personnel lacking this skill set as well. We did not see an increase in producers applying for funding opportunities, participating in grant reviews or investigating partnership possibilities among themselves or with agriculture service providers or their agencies. Further, proposals submitted to grant agencies by producers, community-based and non-governmental organizations often contained deficiencies and were not competitive, and this limited the funds coming into or staying in our state – funds than could have addressed new ideas or concerns of producers and communities. Few if any of the ASPs working directly with producers had experience in grant research, writing and/or management. Therefore the previous 3-year professional development program (NEWVSU17-001) provided ASPs training on how to research an idea, write a successful proposal and manage a funded project for themselves as well as working with others (producers and/or agencies/organizations) on developing grant proposals as well as delivery of educational programs to producers using hands-on exercises and resource materials. We used this fourth year to provide support to the grant-trained ASP's to provide education and grant support to farmers including grant programs designed specifically for farmers, or programs that funded collaborations with other service providers

Solution and Approach: In the previous 3-year project, over 24 ASPs total were trained in grant writing and management. The 1st group trained has been successful in obtaining their own grants including several who received their first grant. With completion of the 2nd group of trained ASPs, we hoped to deploy the trained ASPs to deliver a comprehensive hands-on team-based educational programs to raise the knowledge and skill sets of WV producers and improve business, community and agency partnerships. The trained ASPs were provided materials to use in their own trainings including evaluation and verification materials as well as funds to support travel and programming.

Performance Target:

18 agricultural service providers of the 24 previously trained in how to research, identify, and apply for a grant program will provide 10 trainings to 60 more West Virginia agricultural producers and farmers in evaluating grant opportunities, writing a proposal, reviewing proposals, managing a funded grant and/or partnering with others on a project.

Introduction:

Agricultural Need:  This program extended a previous 3 year educational program and support network for WV agriculture service providers (ASPs), focused on topics identified by ASPs and producers to support sustainable agriculture: grant research, writing and management. The original intent was to strengthen WV´s agribusinesses, improve local foods systems, increase rural development, and build long-term partnerships among ASPs, producing significant service and learning multiplier effects.  We had success with participation from 8 organizations in the first 2 rounds of training, of which several participants obtaining their first grant funding.  Since the project began in 2017, 15 grants were awarded to WV compared to 13 in the previous time frame.  Two were to participants involved in the ASP grant training and 7 groups new to SARE received funding

New non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community-based organizations (CBOs) working with producers arose in our state in the last twenty years.  However, those hired to work with producers lacked grant research, writing and management experience even though they were asked to provide this assistance for their clients.  Both WV SARE state coordinators  have been providing grant training across the state over the last eight years for various clients.  At the inception of this project we had not seen an increase in ASPs or producers applying for funding, participating in grant reviews or investigating partnership possibilities among themselves or with ASPs.  Further, the few proposals being submitted to grant agencies did not address the focus of the funding agency or the questions being asked for applications. These deficiencies limited funds coming into or staying in our state; funds that could have been used to address sustainable agriculture ideas or issues our agriculture service providers, producers or communities want to pursue. 

The original needs assessment in 2013-2014 revealed disparity between ASP’s perceptions of and producers’ actual level of adoption of sustainable agriculture practices in WV.  Accessing funding opportunities/grant writing was the 4th highest discrepancy. As the higher gaps were being addressed by other agencies the decision to work on this topic was selected. No needs assessment had been attempted since 2014, however there are significant changes in the agricultural landscape, thus we undertook to repeat the same needs assessment to lay ground work for future SARE programming in WV.  

Agricultural Service Provider Interest:  Grant writing and management was the focus of the previous 3-year project by this State Coordinator (NEWVSU17-001) based on a previous need assessment survey.  One group of ASPs was trained and has some success in getting their own grants and in some cases their first grant which will boded well for training others in the final year of the 3-year project.  A second group was set to be trained which was delayed due to COVID-19 however, they were ready to participate in this 1-year extension.  In addition, the State Coordinator gave a lecture on grant writing at the annual Small Farm Conference in February 2020 which had over 50 people in attendance all asking for more information.  Thus, we had a ready audience of farmers interested in learning how to consider grant opportunities, write grants and manage grant projects.   

Proposed Solution:  Prior to the previous 3-year project, few if any ASPs working directly with producers had a complete knowledge in grant research, writing and management; this 1-year extension to the previous 3-year project supported the trained ASPs to reach out to their clients on identifying grant opportunities, developing a grant proposal and managing a funded grant project.  This program was targeted to deploy the trained ASPs with diverse expertise from across the agencies and communities working across the WV agricultural landscape to take their training and apply it by training farmers.  The team to support the ASPs was led by Liedl directing the training and included participation from previously trained ASPs and Dr. Singh-Knights along with the WVSU Offices of Sponsored Programs and groups/individuals that have been successful in obtaining grant funding. We anticipated the ASPs would deliver a comprehensive hands-on team-based educational program that would raise the knowledge and skill sets of a broad group of WV producers to allow them to access more grant funds to improve their business and community as well as improve partnerships with ASPs and the agencies they represented.  At the same time, we deployed a needs assessment survey to reassess the agricultural needs in the state and identify the focus for future SARE programming.

Advisors/Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Karen Cox
  • Jennifer Gilkerson - Producer
  • Terry Hudson - Producer
  • Barbara Liedl
  • Spencer Moss
  • Doolarie Singh-Knights
  • Russell Young (Educator)

Educational Approach

Educational approach:
 

Beneficiaries have already increased knowledge, skill and confidence to provide education to farmers about identifying and assessing sustainable agriculture problems in WV suited to grant funding opportunities, identifying potential funding sources, developing a proposal, reviewing proposals, managing grant funds, reporting results to an agency or partner, building partnerships and strategic planning in the previous three year project.  

This project will focus on expanding training for farmers on how to evaluate grant opportunities, write and revise a grant proposal, and manage a grant they receive.  We will use ASPs trained in the previous 3 year project on grants and adult education to deliver the trainings to the farmers.  

The initial zoom meeting for the ASPs as well as the progress-update webinars as per the milestones will be recorded to send to ASPs that could not attend the live session.  It is anticipated that the State Coordinator will need to provide additional professional development and management training to the ASPs to support their work with their farmers either alone or in groups. The follow up zoom meetings will allow questions, challenges and successes to be be recorded and shared via Dropbox repository as a shared resource as well as any supplemental materials that may need to be developed or identified.

A notebook and thumb drive with material for use in training along with access to the Dropbox folder will be provided to each of the ASPs participating.  These materials will include curriculum materials; slide presentations; templates, worksheets and decision tools to use with clients; and verification surveys to use in their own education programs and to serve as a repository for the participants to share resources.  The curricula used in trainings will also be evaluated by the ASPs to improve the materials for use in the future and also provide experience for those that have not participated in this type of experience.  Funds will support training materials for the beneficiaries' training plan and the project team will be available by phone, e-mail and in-person for consultation and assistance.

The needs assessment used in 2014 to assess gaps in ASPs and farmers perceptions and knowledge is available and can be deployed after a review by the WVSU IRB committee.  The plan is to create a broad reach across the agricultural community within WV by using emails, listservs, social media as well as paper copies.  New players in the ASPs have arisen in the state and thus reaching out to these NGOs and agencies will be important.   We will reach out for assistance to the WV Department of Agriculture, WV Small Farm Center, WV Food and Farm Coalition, WV Farmer's Market Association, Future Generation University, Turnrow Appalachian Farm Cooperative and Patriot Gardens for assistance in reaching the widest audience possible.   In addition, we will share the results from the needs assessment with these groups and the farming community.

Milestones

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

Grant Training milestone: 24 previously trained ASPs will be recruited provide trainings to farmers on evaluating grant opportunities, writing and revising grant proposals and how to manage a grant they receive. Each of the ASPs will be contacted via a zoom meeting or individual phone calls to check on their progress in grant writing, receiving and training others since the last time their training group meet. They will be given general information about the project including this could be used in their annual plan of work, what additional support they will receive and when the zoom meeting will occur to cover the details.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
24
Proposed Completion Date:
October 30, 2020
Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Grant Training & Need Assessment milestones: 24 previously trained ASPs, selected stakeholders and advisory council members will be invited to attend a zoom meeting to 1) discuss the grant training project progress, evaluate the project and identify future steps to improve grant writing success for sustainable agriculture projects in WV and 2) discuss the results from the 2014 needs assessment survey and the plans to deploy this needs assessment survey again in 2020/2021.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
October 30, 2020
Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Grant Training milestone: 18 previously trained ASPs agree to provide training for farmer related to grant training they have received as well as receiving updated materials and evaluations to support the grant writing trainings they will conduct.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
October 30, 2020
Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Grant Training milestone: 18 previously trained ASPs attend a zoom meeting to discuss their planned trainings for the fall/winter, the materials they were sent and surveys and reports that will need to be submitted following each training. Highlighted will be the NE SARE Farmer grants which are typically due in late Nov/early Dec.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
October 30, 2020
Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Grant Training milestone: The project team will contact the 18 ASPs via a zoom meeting or individual phone calls about their progress and new questions or issues have may have arisen during their planning. Following this check-in, participants also receive an email FAQ that summarizes any questions and concerns raised, answers to questions and/or new information.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
November 30, 2020
Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Grant Training milestone: 18 ASPs attend 2nd zoom meeting to discuss their planned trainings for the winter/spring, if there were any problems from the fall and going over any changes in surveys and reports that will need to be submitted following each training. Highlighted will be the NE SARE Partnership grants, which are typically due in April.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
January 29, 2021
Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Grant Training milestone: 18 ASPs attend zoom meeting to discuss their planned trainings for the winter/spring season, if there were any problems from the fall and going over any changes in surveys and reports that will need to be submitted following each training. Highlighted will be the NE SARE Partnership grants, which are typically due in April.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
250
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
100
Proposed Completion Date:
February 26, 2021
Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Grant Training milestone: The project team will contact the 18 ASPs via a zoom meeting or individual phone calls about their progress and new questions or issues have may have arisen during their planning. Following this check-in, participants also receive an email FAQ that summarizes any questions and concerns raised, answers to questions and/or new information.

Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
March 31, 2021
Milestone #9 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Needs Assessment milestone: 150 farmers and 50 ASPs respond to the needs assessment survey. State Coordinator will analyze the two needs assessment surveys and use results to identify gaps and training opportunities for the next three year grant cycle.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
150
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
50
Proposed Completion Date:
April 30, 2021
Milestone #10 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Grant Training & Needs Assessment milestones: 18 ASPs, 20 selected stakeholders and advisory council members will be invited to attend a zoom meeting to 1) discuss the grant training project progress, evaluate the project and identify future steps to improve grant writing success for sustainable agriculture projects in WV and 2) release the results from the 2020/2021 needs assessment survey with the opportunities it identifies for future growth in sustainable agriculture training in WV. We will also use this meeting to collect final number of events, farmers trained, workshop evaluations and number of proposals submitted and funded following workshops.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
18
Proposed Completion Date:
May 31, 2021

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities conducted by the project team:

ActivityYear 1Year 2Year 3Total
Consultations 10 0 0 10
Webinars, talks and presentations 2 0 0 2

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

AudienceYear 1Year 2Year 3Total Individuals
Extension 4 0 0 4
Agency 1 0 0 1

Participation Summary:

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

Learning Outcomes

14 Agricultural service providers reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation.
4 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
4 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::

Service providers realized after the training that they could research, write and manage grants as well as advise their farmers/growers on going after and securing grants.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: Number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
18
Target: The educational action(s) they will take:

18 agricultural service providers of the 24 previously trained in how to research, identify, and apply for a grant program will provide 10 trainings to 60 more West Virginia agricultural producers and farmers in evaluating grant opportunities, writing a proposal, reviewing proposals, managing a funded grant and/or partnering with others on a project.

Target: The number of farmers who will be educated/advised by the service providers:
60
Target: Total size/scale of the farms these farmers manage (e.g. total acres or animal units managed, gross sales or production volume, etc.):
Verified: Number of service providers who reported taking the targeted action(s) to educate/advise farmers in each year:
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
2
The educational action(s) taken:
Verified: The number of farmers who were educated/advised by the service providers:
Year 1 Year 2 Year 3
4
2 Total number of agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
4 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Additional Project Outcomes

Additional Outcomes Narrative:

The project leader was asked to give two presentations related to grant writing for organizations during this project.  The first was a virtual presentation entitled "Grants: Writing and Managing Funded Projects" for the Board of Directors for the West Virginia Food and Farm Coalition on December 7, 2020.  The second was a virtual workshop presentation given during the Northeast SARE Summer Meeting on July 27, 2021 entitled "Grant Writing for Service Providers and Farmers" as part of the Small Group Professional Development Workshops section of the meeting.  

SARE Outreach

Outreach about SARE:

Outreach events: NE SARE information was distributed electronically during the year and via social media due to COVID-19 where most events were cancelled or held virtually. 

Social media:  Facebook (@SAREinWV) continued as the main avenue for promotion, with over 591 people who follow and over 478 “likes” for the facebook page; our Twitter account (@SAREinWV) has 107 followers.  Our newest social media stream is an instagram account (instagram.com/sareinwv) that has 169 followers.  The scheduling software "Buffer" was used to post simultaneously to all three social media streams with over 230 posts during this time period.   A new Northeast SARE website to promote Northeast SARE programs was created and is hosted at WVSU http://www.wvstateu.edu/Outreach/WVSU-Extension-Service/ANR/SARE.aspx.

Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:

Audience Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Total
Service providers 5 0 0 5
Farmers 20 0 0 20
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.