Bridging the Food Supply and Sustainable Agriculture Systems with the Nonprofit Sector

Progress report for SPDP21-03

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $77,867.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2022
Grant Recipients: University of Florida; Florida A&M University
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Kimberly Wiley
University of Florida
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Jennifer Jones
University of Florida
Dr. Marilyn Swisher
University of Florida
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Project Information

Abstract:

We propose a training program for Florida’s CES agriculture and natural resources agents and field personnel from NRCS. A UF-based team will collaborate with Florida A&M University (FAMU), an 1890 land grant institution, and Gainesville-based nonprofit, Working Food Community Center (WFCC), while centering sustainable agriculture in project development. The proposed project objectives are: (1) to build expertise in Florida’s agriculture and natural resources CES agents so they can then provide needed training and technical assistance on capacity building to food and agriculture nonprofit organizations; (2)  establish an electronic repository of training materials on nonprofit capacity building in food and agriculture organizations; and (3) build a web-based directory of food and agriculture nonprofits to support partnerships between Cooperative Extension and nonprofit organizations.

 

This proposed portfolio of resources will include live interactive sessions with experts, a directory of FANOs, and printed educational resources to share with nonprofits. A report on this subsector of nonprofit organizations in Florida will provide information for identifying the unique needs within each CES district. Training for local nonprofit organizations by Extension agents will provide food and agriculture nonprofit organizations with access to the wealth of materials IFAS offers through EDIS as well as our expertise at IFAS research and education centers around the state. This proposed project is intended to enhance collaboration between Extension and local nonprofit organizations in Florida, with a focus on organizations that share Extension’s programmatic goals with regard to sustainable agriculture, conservation of resources, and improved nutritional outcomes, particularly for food insecure communities.

Project Objectives:

We propose a training program for Florida’s CES agriculture and natural resources agents and field personnel from NRCS. This training will provide Extension agents the skills needed to build stronger public-private-nonprofit networks to address numerous procedural barriers and policy issues that hinder cross-sectoral collaboration within sustainable agriculture. These networks could reduce food waste, give farmers alternatives to traditional market venues, and generate opportunities for expanded joint programs to address a broad array of problems and needs in the food system. The proposed training program will be achieved through three key objectives.

 

Objective 1: Build expertise in Florida’s agriculture and natural resources CES agents so they can then provide needed training and technical assistance on capacity building to food and agriculture nonprofit organizations.

Objective 2: Establish an electronic repository of training materials on nonprofit capacity building in food and agriculture organizations.

Objective 3: Build a directory of food and agriculture nonprofit organizations to support partnerships between Cooperative Extension and nonprofit organizations. 

 

Meeting these objectives within the project period will set up the CES to support collaboration between farmers and nonprofit organizations. We will focus on five types of nonprofit organizations, all of which address issues of direct concern to sustainable agriculture and food security.

 

  • Membership organizations, like Florida Organic Growers and Consumers, provide educational programs for farmers and other actors in the food system and provide venues for individuals and organizations to share information and develop action projects.
  • Professional associations bring together individuals or organizations with common interests to support farmers in implementing best practices in sustainable agriculture and resource management.
  • Community-based nonprofit organizations support small farms in marketing, production, and distribution and serve as fiscal agents for innovators to test their projects and ideas.
  • Urban farmers often seek nonprofit legal status to fulfill missions related to social resilience and environmental conservation.
  • Food and agriculture advocacy nonprofit organizations and alliances focus on influencing public policy related to financial sustainability and environmental conservation.[1]

 

We propose a program that will enhance Extension’s capacity to work with all these types of nonprofit organizations. The program focuses on strengthening nonprofit leadership and management skills through collaborative training with Extension conducted by regional and county faculty. While large, well-established nonprofit organizations may be able to overcome leadership and management skills, the majority of nonprofit organizations are small and have limited resources. Our program focuses on these typically community-based nonprofit organizations. Our approach is a “train the trainer” one in which regional and county Extension faculty deliver training to local nonprofit organizations that work in the areas described above. The local focus of the training is critical for three reasons. (1) It puts the decisions about what type and which specific nonprofit organizations will be the best fit for local Extension in the hands of the local and regional agents. (2) It creates a venue and opportunity to interact and exchange ideas, goals, and objectives for the Extension personnel and NPO personnel, a first step in creating the trust and shared goals needed for successful long-term collaboration. (3) It permits the trainer to tailor the program to the specific needs of local clientele groups. 

[1] This project will not be involved in policy advocacy in any capacity.

Cooperators

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  • Dr. Alejandro Bolques
  • Melissa Desa

Education

Educational approach:

This proposed portfolio of resources will include live interactive sessions with experts, a directory of FANOs, and printed educational resources to share with nonprofits. A report on this subsector of nonprofit organizations in Florida will provide information for identifying the unique needs within each CES district. Training for local nonprofit organizations by Extension agents will provide food and agriculture nonprofit organizations with access to the wealth of materials IFAS offers through EDIS as well as our expertise at IFAS research and education centers around the state. This proposed project is intended to enhance collaboration between Extension and local nonprofit organizations in Florida, with a focus on organizations that share Extension’s programmatic goals with regard to sustainable agriculture, conservation of resources, and improved nutritional outcomes, particularly for food insecure communities.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Online Resources
Objective:

Objective 2: Establish an electronic repository of training materials on nonprofit capacity building in food and agriculture organizations.

Description:

We are building a web space to include training materials for extension agents to use when coaching farmers through nonprofit startups. 

Outcomes and impacts:

An online course is in development in lieu of webpage.

Educational & Outreach Activities

3 Journal articles
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

25 Researchers
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.