Training Agriculture Professionals and Educators to Support Diversified Vegetable Farmers with Cost Analysis

Progress report for SPDP22-16

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2024
Grant Recipients: Oregon Tilth; Mississippi Small Farm and Agribusiness Center at Alcorn State University; Alabama Cooperative Extension, Auburn University; Tuskegee University; Sustainable Food Center; Louisiana Central; Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Cooperative Extension; Sprout New Orleans; Carter Farms
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Tanya Murray
Oregon Tilth
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Project Information


Crop specific cost information is foundational to financial planning and ultimately to operating economically sustainable farms that support farmer livelihoods and allow farmers to remain in business for the long-term, yet many farmers don’t have these vital business records.

A needs assessment conducted by the Mississippi Small Farms and Agribusiness Center (MSFAC) found that the majority of farmers in their program are operating without financial records:

A second critical barrier is financial planning. Approximately 90% of NBFRV in the current grant are farming without records or farm business plan. Without viable financial records or farm business plan, producers miss out on tracking their spending, using records to mitigate financial risks, management of agricultural credit, budget forecasting, and financial analysis….”  (MSFAC-Farm Management Education Program, 2020). 

Oregon Tilth and Oregon State University’s Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems have developed Know Your Cost To Grow (KYCTG), an online curriculum and cost calculation app that guides diversified vegetable farmers through a process to determine crop specific costs of production and utilize cost information in business planning and decision-making.

We will train MSFAC and educators from seven additional organizations in the Southeast to use the KYCTG program. Employing a “learn by doing” approach to deliver this training, we will coach trainee organizations as they support a cohort of farmers with going through the curriculum. This approach will provide trainees with hands-on experience, leading to the proficiency and confidence required for adoption of KYCTG as a key component of their programming going forward.



Project Objectives:

The primary goal of this project is to train agricultural professionals and educators to become skilled and confident at using the KYCTG program.

Specific objectives for agricultural professionals and educators include proficiency with:

  • Identifying key cost related records for farmers to focus on, emphasizing inputs that are variable with production volumes and crop specific (especially labor inputs).
  • Supporting farmers to develop systems to capture in-season records using the time study approach.
  • Identifying and implementing effective strategies for providing accountability and coaching to farmers through the in-season record keeping process.
  • Supporting farmers with utilization of the web based KYCTG cost calculation app.
  • Utilizing cost information to identify opportunities to increase crop profitability and make decisions about crop mix. 

As a result of participating in this train-the-trainer program, trainers will incorporate KYCTG into their regular program offerings and will recommend this program to colleagues.

By equipping these service providers with the KYCTG program, we will expand the reach of this program, ultimately empowering more farmers to make more informed business decisions, improving the long-term economic well-being and quality of life of farmers and leading to more economically sustainable farms.



Educational approach:

The overall approach that we will be taking to implement this train-the-trainer program is based on an experiential educational teaching philosophy that engages each trainer in delivering the Know Your Cost To Grow Program to a small cohort of farmers so that they can learn directly from their experience while working under the guidance of PI and KYCTG program creator, Tanya Murray.

This training approach and the methods that will be utilized have been informed by the PI’s experience working with agriculture service providers and educators on a national pilot of Know Your Cost To Grow that was launched in late 2019 and ran through 2020. Through this pilot project it became clear that the best way for service providers to understand the concepts and costing process in KYCTG and to develop the confidence necessary to lead farmers through this program is to take a learn-by-doing approach. By being immersed in utilizing the KYCTG program with farmers, trainers both gain a better understanding how the program works and witness first-hand the how farmers experience the program. 

The KYCTG Program consists of three modules: Record It, Calculate It and Analyze It.  Trainers will be introduced to each module through a virtual training conducted by the PI. Each virtual training will integrate exercises and case studies that capture realistic farm scenarios, requiring the trainers to put themselves in farmers’ shoes as they work through the online modules. For example, for the Record It module, trainers will practice identifying the crop-specific variable costs in a crop production scenario that includes direct, indirect, variable, and fixed costs. They will also brainstorm about potential systems to capture in-season records that they themselves would use, along with strategies for implementing the recordkeeping practice of conducting time studies that is central to the KYCTG program. For the Calculate It model, trainers will be provided with a set of records from a case study farm to practice using the web based KYCTG cost calculation tool. They will use the cost results from a case study farm as they go through the framework in the Analyze It module and practice identifying opportunities to increase crop profitability and make decisions about crop mix. The case studies will be designed to bring up questions and issues that farmers who have participated in the program thus far have had. The PI will encourage trainers to think through these questions and issues individually and discuss their thinking with other service providers in their trainer-cohort. 

The PI will assist trainers with recruiting farmers to participate in the train-the-trainer program. Two of the cooperating organizations that will be participating in the program, The Mississippi Small Farm and Agribusiness Center at Alcorn State University and Tuskegee University Cooperative Extension are explicitly focused on serving limited resources and underserved farmers. Trainers from the six other organizations that are participating in this project will be asked to prioritize recruitment of diversified vegetable farmers who are members of socially disadvantaged groups.

After participating in the training for each module, trainers will conduct a training on the module for their farmer cohort with the PI in attendance (virtually) in a support role. Trainers will also conduct follow-up meetings with farmers after each training to support farmers with implementation of the processes covered in each module. The PI will help field farmer’s questions as they apply the KYCTG process to their individual cost analysis and will develop a shared FAQ document that all trainers can refer to as they respond to farmer questions during the training program and in the future. Through these follow-up meetings and via response from farmer evaluations trainers will receive feedback on where their training (and the curriculum) is effective and where changes might be made.

Throughout the growing season, trainers will conduct regular check-ins with the farmers in their cohort. These check-ins are a key part of the KYCTG program. They provide farmers with a crucial dose of accountability and encouragement to help them stick with doing the recordkeeping that is required to calculate crop-specific costs of production. The PI will support trainers by providing a variety of approaches for conducting these check-ins and will help come up with solutions for re-engaging farmers if there are lulls in their participation.

The PI will hold debrief meetings for trainers after each member of the trainer-cohort has conducted their farmer training on each module. These debrief meetings will create a space for members of the trainer-cohort to reflect on their experience conducting trainings and will be part of our measuring incremental learning outcomes as part of our project evaluation process. The PI will address questions about the KYCTG process and the module contents along with offering suggestions for addressing challenges that may have some up in delivering the training. Trainers will be encouraged to share their successes and challenges with conducting the module training with one another. This approach facilitates peer-to-peer learning between trainers and leverages the trainers’ expertise as educators who will undoubtably have insights that will benefit the other members of their trainer-cohort and the future delivery of the program. A final debrief meeting in the second quarter of 2024 will provide trainers with an opportunity to reflect on their overall experience from start to finish and will provide the PI with an opportunity to measure overall learning outcomes. We will also dedicate time at this debrief session to develop an outreach plan for involving more farmers and trainers in the Southeast in offering the Know Your Cost To Grow program.  

All trainings and meetings with the PI will take place using a virtual meeting platform. Trainers will choose whether to hold farmer training virtually or in-person, depending on COVID-restrictions in their regions.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Know Your Cost To Grow Train-the-Trainer Orientation Meeting

Introduce trainers to each other and to the Know Your Cost To Grow Program
Go over key training activities and timeline.


On September 26th 2022, we held an hour long virtual orientation session to introduce the participating service providers to the Train-the-Trainer program.

Outcomes and impacts:

Trainers develop an understanding of the purpose of the KYCTG program and the training activities.

Record It Training #1

Trainers understand time study approach for accounting for labor and process for doing time studies as well as strategies for getting time studies done.


Virtual "Record It - Part 1" trainings were offered on three different days during the last week of October 2022 to accommodate trainer schedules and availability. Trainers were asked to prepare for the virtual training by reviewing the Record It module and using a case study example to complete the time study plan worksheet. The case studies were designed to capture realistic farm scenarios, requiring the trainers to put themselves in farmers’ shoes as they work through the Record It module. This gives the trainers practice at identifying the crop-specific variable costs (primarily labor) in a crop production scenario that includes direct, indirect, variable, and fixed costs. Trainers were also asked to come with questions about the Record It module and to review the "Time Study Tips" section of the Record It module and share a tip that resonated with them as a way to brainstorm about potential systems to capture in-season records and strategies for implementing the record keeping practice of conducting time studies that is central to the KYCTG program.

Outcomes and impacts:

Not all trainers were able to complete the "homework" for this session, however, the training still allowed trainers to experience the "Record It" module content. The training was focused on the following keysteps from the Record It module, identifying: activities to do time studies on; units to use measure time studies; when to start/stop the clock and how to record time studies in the field.

Record It Training #2

Trainers have a clear plan for training farmers on Record It and their role in this process (for the Train-the-Trainer program).
Trainers have a general understanding of the KYCTG costing process.
Trainers understand the records farmers will need.


Virtual "Record It - Part 2" trainings were offered on three different days in late November/early December of 2022 (11/28, 11/29 and 12/1)to accommodate trainer schedules and availability. A revised plan for the training process was presented to trainers for feedback. We talked about why information about the labor requirements of different crops is important for decision-making. The time study approach was reviewed in more depth. We also talked about the recruitment farmer process.

Outcomes and impacts:

Trainers had a clearer understanding of why information about the labor requirements of different crops is important for decision-making and how the time study approach is used in KYCTG - this contributes to their ability to follow farmers through the KYCTG process and ultimately become a KYCTG facilitator.

Intro to KYCTG for Farmers

Trainers observe how farmers engage with the following key topics in KYCTG:
>Why knowing crop-specific costs is useful for business decision making.
>How the costing processing KYCTG works.
>What records they will need to keep to determine their farm's crop-specific costs of production.
>Developing their Time Study Work Plan


Each trainer recruited a farmer to participate in the program in 2022-2024. Each trainer/farmer pair attended a virtual Intro to KYCTG for farmers aimed at introducing farmers to the KYCTG approach. Trainers shadowed the sessions.

Outcomes and impacts:

Trainers observed how farmers are engaging with the KYCTG program and increased their familiarity and comfort with the program content.

Farmer-Trainer Individual Sessions

Trainers observe the development of a time study work plan and see the set up of a workbook in the Know Your Cost To Grow web-based application. (This is where time studies get entered and are used to determine costs.)


Each farmer/trainer pair participated in a virtual meeting focused on refining the farmers time study work plan (activity list, units, time study start and stop and record keeping plan) and setting up their workbook in the KYCTG web-based application.

Outcomes and impacts:

Trainers observed how farmers are engaging with the KYCTG program and increased their familiarity and comfort with the program content.

Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Online trainings

Participation Summary:

3 Extension
6 Nonprofit
9 Farmers/ranchers

Project Outcomes

9 New working collaborations
9 Farmers reached through participant's programs
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.