Model State Program - Program Assistant - Georgia

Progress report for SSGA21-A03

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $33,333.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2022
Grant Recipient: The University of Georgia
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
State Coordinators:
Dr. Timothy Coolong
University of Georgia
Co-Coordinators:
Dr. Mark Latimore
Fort Valley State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

The SARE Advisory Committee had a conference call on February 5, 2021 to discuss committee memberships, review activities for the year, and discuss future training needs. The SARE Logic Model training objectives are conservation tillage systems, organic production, grazing-based animal production systems, composting, direct marketing, and local food systems. The Committee decided upon trainings and conferences to support for the upcoming year that would address several of the SARE Logic Model training objectives. Specifically, the Committee felt that more opportunities needed to be present for training in organic peanut production, cover crops and conservation tillage, grazing, online marketing for farms, GAP programs, and grazing production systems.   In addition, travel support for Extension agents to attend conferences (National Grazing Lands Conference) were discussed. All of these activities increase knowledge and confidence in participating agriculture professionals which then translates to an increased ability to assist organic, resource-limited, and small farmers.

Project Objectives:

The long-term goal of the Georgia Model State Program is “increased use of sustainable agriculture practices by producers at multiple scales supported by a knowledgeable network of agricultural professionals ensuring a high proportion of diverse, profitable, and environmentally-friendly farm operations."  We plan to accomplish this by hosting workshops and educational opportunities, and offering scholarships to Extension agents and specialists, agricultural professionals, NRCS personnel, agricultural and environmental researchers, and community leaders.  The SARE Advisory Committee has used the Georgia Model State Program Logic Model to identify the following six areas of focus for training workshops and scholarships: conservation tillage systems, organic production, grazing based animal production systems, composting, direct marketing, and local food systems.

Advisors

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Education

Educational approach:

The SARE Program Assistant assists the Georgia SARE program to provide education opportunities in sustainable agriculture. The SARE assistant helps coordinate educational materials for county agents when they deliver programs as well as invited speakers (growers).  The SARE assistant helps arrange outreach and education efforts that coincide with large conferences/meetings such as the Southeastern Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference and many others. The program assistant also helps coordinate advisory panel meetings were we  identify topics that are important to our clientele. The program assistant helps with hosting workshops, offering scholarships to conferences, and delivering educational classes regarding sustainable agriculture throughout the state of Georgia. Agents are provided training in sustainable agriculture through foundation training for new agents, conference scholarships, providing access to SARE books and materials, and support in their county programming. We manage an e-mail listserv, a Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Facebook page and a Sustainable Agriculture at UGA website – all of which provides a wealth of information to the public regarding sustainable agriculture production practices, pertinent agriculture regulations, farm business resources, and an up-to-date list of local and regional programs and events happening in sustainable agriculture.   

Education & Outreach Initiatives

LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS/ORGANIC PRODUCTION – Journeyman Farmer Training
Objective:

Local food systems were identified by the SARE Advisory Committee as an area where more training was needed to increase the capacity of Extension and other agricultural professionals to provide technical assistance to growers. Funding from this grant allowed us to support a virtual multi-county Journeyman Farmer Training Program with printed materials and shipping costs so that workbooks could be sent to participants’ homes and eliminate in-person contact.

Description:

Local food systems were identified by the SARE Advisory Committee as an area where more training was needed to increase the capacity of Extension and other agricultural professionals to provide technical assistance to growers. Funding from this grant allowed us to support multi-county Journeyman Farmer Training Programs with printed materials and shipping costs so that workbooks could be sent to participants’ homes and eliminate in-person contact.

Description:

In 2021-2022 a Journeyman Farmer Program was offered in-person in Lincoln, Columbia, and McDuffie, Paulding and Carrol Counties. The SARE program supported printing costs for materials as well as providing the Building a Sustainable Small Business book from SARE publishing.  The Journeyman program was part of a larger 2 year long program focusing on new growers getting into agriculture. (17 participants)

The Journeyman Program is also currently being offered in western (Paulding/Carrol Counties) Georgia led by Extension Agents Mary Sheffield and Paula Burke. (33 participants)

Outcomes and impacts:

In 2022 the program was held in person with 50 attendees (17 from Lincoln, McDuffie, and Columbia counties) and 33 from (Carroll and Paulding counties) participating.

Because of the popularity and success of the Journeyman Program Fort Valley State University led and effort along with the the UGA SARE/ Sustainable Agriculture team worked working with the Small Business Development Center and Fort Valley State University to get the Journeyman Program approved as an FSA educational course that can be used to satisfy the education requirement for FSA loan recipients. This was successful in Fall 2021.

ORGANIC PRODUCTION – Scholarships and Travel for the 2022 SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference
Objective:

The Southeast Fruit and Vegetable Producers Conference is the largest conference of its kind in the region, uniting growers and educators and offers over 80 hours of instruction. Topics range from fruit and vegetable production, including organic practices, to marketing and business. The SARE Advisory Committee indicated organic production as an area of training emphasis, and the objective of offering scholarships to this conference is to better familiarize agents with organic and sustainable practices.

Description:

In 2022 the conference was held in-person again. We sponsored area vegetable agent Mr. Ty Torrance (Tift/Colquitt/Worth counties) to attend.

Outcomes and impacts:

The attendee gained knowledge that will be used to aid farmers in their counties in implementing more sustainable practices and local and direct marketing of their products. Both agents indicated satisfaction with their experience, and an interest in attending the conference in the future

Cover Crops and Conservation Tillage
Objective:

We wanted to demonstrate warm season cover crops for application after early spring crops are harvested in Georgia.

Description:

A demonstration was conducted in spring 2022 in two locations in Georgia - The Durham Horticulture Farm in Watkinsville, GA and the Crisp County Watermelon Research Park in Cordele, GA.  Warm season cover crops included buckwheat, sorghum x sudan grass hybrid, cowpea, sunn hemp, and lab lab.  Field days will occur at each site in June 2022 where agents can attend and view performance of warm season cover crops.

Outcomes and impacts:

The outcomes will be that agents will be more familiar with growth habits of warm season cover crops.  While many growers in Georgia use cool-season cover crops, warm season cover crops are sparingly utilized since they would be planted during the main growing season. Nonetheless, there are situations where warm season cover crops would fit into niches.  Our outcome will be that once familiar with these cover crops that agents would work with farmers to utilize them more often.

Local Food Systems - Organic Trainings
Objective:

A small grower/local food organic production training was held on Sept. 23, 2022 at the UGArden facility. The objective was to introduce new growers to organic practices. This training was held as part of the Athens Area Sustainable Grower's Group in conjunction with Athens-Clark and Barrow County Extension.

Description:

Cover cropping, organic fertility, and small equipment was discussed in a hands-on 3 hour session. Retailers focused on organic farming techniques were present.

Outcomes and impacts:

There were nearly 30 attendees representing a variety of different production systems and farms. The hands-on component was particularly successful. SARE PI Coolong presented at this program on cover cropping.

Food safety training for small growers
Objective:

A food safety training will be held June 26, 2022 at the UGA Durham Horticulture Farm with the objective of teaching small growers how to improve sanitation and washing of produce.

Description:

This training will be several hours and hands on. A bubbler https://blog.uvm.edu/cwcallah/2021/10/06/building-a-better-greens-bubbler/ will be constructed and shown how to be used by growers. UGA SARE is sponsoring purchasing the parts for the bubbler.

Outcomes and impacts:

Outcomes and impacts will be that local small farms are better equipped for managing produce food safety on their farms. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Minigrants
1 On-farm demonstrations
2 Online trainings
1 Published press articles, newsletters
6 Tours
2 Travel Scholarships
9 Webinars / talks / presentations
4 Workshop field days
2 Other educational activities: Sustainable Agriculture at UGA/ SFSI Listserv- The listserv is used to distribute news, event/workshop announcements, resources, and other information for farmers, gardeners, or the general public about sustainable agriculture. The listserv has grown each year, and now has 1,004 unique recipients as of. The Sustainable Food Systems listserv (SFSI) has 121 unique recipients. For the period of July 2019 - April 2021, 35 new addresses were added to the Sustainable Ag listserv to receive the Sustainable Agriculture newsletter.

2) Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Facebook page- The Facebook page is used to distribute news, event/workshop announcements, resources, and other information for farmers, gardeners, or the general public about sustainable agriculture. There are 759 followers of the Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Facebook page.

3) Sustainable Agriculture at UGA Website - The website is used to distribute news, event/workshop announcements, resources, and other information for farmers, gardeners, Extension personnel, or the general public about sustainable agriculture. Between July 1, 2019 and April 30, 2021, the Sustainable Agriculture at UGA website has had 52,140 page views. This is a significant increase in the number of visitors, possibly due in part to the reasons mentioned above, the switch to mostly online instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and increased promotion of the website through social media, the Journeyman Farmer program, and other avenues.

4) UGA Sustainable Food Systems Initiative events- The Sustainable Agriculture team works with the Sustainable Food Systems Initiative at UGA as part of their executive committee. The SFSI meets twice a year, and plans sustainability and food systems related events for the upcoming year. The Sustainable Agriculture Program Assistant plays a role in executing these events. In the last year and with the help of Sustainable Ag at UGA, the SFSI has hosted a panel discussion on Interdisciplinary Careers in Sustainable Food Systems, co-hosted a screening and panel about the film “Hearts of Glass,” participated in a collaboration with UGA’s Grow It Know It program to create farm-to-school sustainable agriculture lesson plans for K-12 students and teachers, coordinated the National Needs Fellowship recipients and Sustainable Food System Graduate Certificate administration, and are looking forward to an upcoming film screening and panel discussion of the film “Gather”, about Native American food systems. The SFSI also hosted the Agriculture Food and Human Values/ Association for the Study of Food and Society joint conference in May 2022.

Participation Summary:

15 Extension
1 NRCS
3 Researchers
2 Nonprofit
3 Agency
2 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
120 Farmers/ranchers
300 Others

Learning Outcomes

300 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
12 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
8 New working collaborations
7 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
Additional Outcomes:

We continued to fund train the trainer activities, particularly scholarships to Extension professionals in 2021. However, we are currently revamping the program assistant position to take on more leadership in urban agriculture in Georgia. We are transitioning to using more funds to focus on train the trainer activities that ultimately reach urban and underserved  audiences.  We anticipate that scholarship funding will decrease with this new direction, but that ultimately our reach will increase dramatically with the number of farmers who are served by agriculture professionals in urban environments.

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

We include SARE training when any new agents are hired into the UGA system. We discuss what SARE can do for them and their clientele.  During programming at the GA Association of County Agriculture Agents, SARE is discussed. Further, PI Coolong includes SARE discussions in many of his county and regional meetings with growers.  We have continued to reach out and expand partnerships with groups in and around Georgia. Additionally, by providing conference scholarships and support (for example - via Journeyman Farmer program) for Extension personnel we have afforded Extension agents the opportunity to build their knowledge and skill set around sustainable agriculture so that they may more effectively encourage sustainable practices among their constituents. We also promote SARE via the list serv, quarterly newsletters, social media, and in-person events so that we may reach and wide and diverse audience.

300 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
50 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
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.