2020 Model State Program- University of Tennessee

Final report for STN20-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $22,222.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2022
Grant Recipient: University of Tennessee
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
State Coordinators:
Rob Holland
UT Extension
Dr. Jason deKoff
Tennessee State University
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Project Information


The University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University wish to continue the sustainable agriculture training the SARE program offers to Extension agents, specialists and other agriculture professionals. In
meeting training needs we will look to gather input from regional agriculture program leaders, Extension agents, program partners, producers and continued input from the state SARE Advisory Committee. The program assistant will continue to focus upon promoting/awareness of the SARE program. The state co-coordinators working with the program assistant will begin seeking out and providing opportunities for more in-depth training related to sustainable agriculture. This will help to develop training with a more direct program focus. All training opportunities provided will be in-line with the mission of SARE:
Profitability for the farm
Taking care of the water and land resources on the farm
Providing a quality of life that looks to research and education

We will also work with agriculture professionals that find other training opportunities to participate in as long as these trainings relate to the mission of the SARE program. These will be treated on a case-by-case basis and the determination of these trainings in meeting the mission of SARE will be determined by the state co- coordinators and the program assistant. All trainees will be required to report on their training opportunities so program impact can be determined and reported. Impacts will be provided in the annual SARE report and the proper Extension reporting areas.

Project Objectives:

Extension Agents, Specialists and other agriculture professionals (trainers) will be provided training that relates to and teaches them about sustainable agriculture. These teaching methods will be via in-service trainings, tours, conferences, educational meetings and participation in professional development activities that will center around the message of sustainability in today’s agriculture environment. The expected outcomes of participants will be an increase in knowledge and awareness levels relating to sustainable agriculture, thus enabling the trainers to better communicate the benefits of sustainability to the clients they serve. The overall objective of this program is to relate to the producer/landowner the ideas of SARE: profitability of the farm over time, taking care of the soil, water and other resources and the overall quality of life to be enjoyed while involved in agriculture pursuits.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Finis Stribling (Educator)
  • Jenni Goodrich (Educator)
  • Annette Wszelaki (Educator)
  • Stephanie Henley (Educator)
  • Roy Bullock (Educator)
  • Rob Holland (Educator)
  • Jason De Koff (Educator)
  • Heather Slayton (Educator)
  • Trent Cash (Educator)


Educational approach:

The primary audience for the professional development sessions that will be implemented for the Tennessee Model State Program is County Extension Agriculture Agents, Subject Matter Specialists and other agricultural leaders in Tennessee to include USDA personnel.  These audience are well positioned to transfer information they learn about sustainable agriculture to farmers, growers and producers in local communities throughout the state. The Professional Development Program (PDP) is based upon the traditional method of “Train the Trainer,” which has been effective with the SARE program.

**Much of the educational training for this program year were suspended due to pandemic restrictions.  The University of Tennessee Extension told agents and others to leave their offices and work remotely beginning March 24, 2020.  Travel was restricted and in-person educational meetings were suspended also.  Funding was used in program years 2021 and 2022; as an extension was granted on the funding.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Western Meat School

To educate Extension Agents and Specialists about direct marketing niche meats and help them in learning the essentials for
direct marketing niche meat from experts in production, marketing, processing & pricing. Learn ways to differentiate meat, manage risk and improve profitability on local farms.


SARE Funding allowed 17 Extension Agents and Subject Matter Specialists participate on this 7-week on-line school.  Fourteen modules were covered during this time period that covered:

  • Marketing
  • Production
  • Handling/Harvesting
  • Processing
  • Packaging
  • Marketing & Pricing
  • (Optional) Hog Model

Participants could be involved in the live on-line program conducted via Oregon State University Extension, or via the YouTube videos sent the following day.  This option allowed participants to view at their own pace.

Outcomes and impacts:

Participants found this information most useful as a majority of the information presented related to the meat industry in Tennessee as it related to COVID-19 and processing problems seen across the state.  Several of the participants are interested in having a Southern Meat School, or a Kentucky/Tennessee Regional Meat School.  This type of school would be well-received by Extension, Ag Professionals and many producers and slaughter house personnel.  Some of the remarks received following the school included:

  • “The meat shortage consumers experienced in the spring of 2020 has led to tremendous interest in buying local meat. We have a few livestock farmers who are already marketing their products directly to the consumer, and several more who have expressed an interest in doing so. We also have a brand new processing facility that one of our farmers has opened this year.  This course has given me valuable information to pass along to both farmers, and our local processors. For example, having sold beef halves and wholes myself for several years, I thought I was already fairly knowledgeable in marketing meat to consumers. However, the emphasis on thinking about the “why’s” of consumer behavior, as well as some of the labeling requirements were particularly eye opening for me. I have already shared much of this information with our processors in hopes they will benefit personally and pass it along to their clientele.

    I have already had discussions with other agents who attended this program about bringing a similar program to Tennessee. The resources we were provided with will be valuable in teaching our clientele about some of the best practices involved in producing, marketing, and processing meat for consumers. I certainly appreciate the opportunity to attend the course, and would recommend it to my colleagues!”

  •  I learned several things from the Western Meat School, such as strategies for direct meat marketing, and how to improve meat quality. For me these two topics open my eyes to some potential programing that I can provide for the meat producers of Hancock County. All these topics are some of the things that producers in Hancock County face on their operations who are doing either freezer beef, pork, or lamb. Direct Meat marketing is quickly becoming a popular trend in Hancock County, so our producers are doing their best to keep up. Now that we have a meat processing facility here in Hancock County, our producers have more opportunities getting their animals processed which makes life a little easier. Overall I did enjoy the class and would recommend it to others who are new to meat marketing and want to learn more. The class is very much geared to producers.

  • I thought the Western Meat School was very informative.  I was really impressed with the level of knowledge shown by the speakers.  The explanation of the scrutiny of processing facilities was educational for me as well.  I will use this information to educate clientele on the humane way livestock are processed at facilities.  There was a lot of detail given about the procedures regulating the processing stages. 

  • https://westernmeatschool.com/
NAFDMA - International Agritourism Association

Advancement of the agritourism industry by pulling together the knowledge and experience of agritourism operators nationally and internationally. This information can be shared with educators who will use in educational programs.


Two Extension Agents participated in the virtual event to learn more about the Agritourism Industry. NAFDMA’s 2021 Virtual Agritourism Summit offered three days of educational programming including fourteen educational sessions, five farm tours, a virtual trade show, a silent auction and many opportunities such as a live chat and private Facebook group to keep attendees connected with one another throughout the experience. 


Outcomes and impacts:

One attendee commented that by attending the International Agritourism Association Meeting that she was introduce to new ideas, different techniques and tools farmers could utilize in Tennessee if they are interested in starting or expanding their agritourism enterprise.



Mid-Atlantic Dairy Consortium

This program is specifically designed for Dairy and Beef Extension field agents and includes cutting edge technical knowledge, case studies, and innovative Extension programs. Participants of this program will receive digital access to all presentations - including recordings post event, and the opportunity to digitally network with peers and national experts.


This was conducted in May of 2021 as a two-day virtual event. This event, (MAC) Dairy and Beef Extension In-service Training Program has become the premier educational event for Extension agents and campus Extension specialists in states from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions.  Participants in this program represent Dairy and Beef Extension professionals, veterinarians, and consultants from all over the United States and the Mid-Atlantic regions.  Those participating in the program will have the chance to learn about successful programs developed by Extension personnel and National experts.




Outcomes and impacts:

Four Extension Professionals had the chance to take part in this two-day virtual event.  Due to the event taking place just recently in May, responses from the participants have not been completed yet in order to determine program impacts and plans from their participation.

Sustainable Nursery, Greenhouse and Landscaping Educational Tour - Florida

Educational Tour for Extension Agents to learn new methods of sustainable agriculture practices in the greenhouse, nursery and landscape production areas.


A four-day tour of nursery, greenhouse and landscape operations in Florida learning about sustainable agriculture practices within this industry.  Eleven Extension Agents/Specialists, one Regional Program Leader and three nursery growers (SARE did not cover these expenses), participated in this tour.  

Outcomes and impacts:

Visits included:

  • Jon's Nursery, Wholesale only, family owned for 50 years, 200 acres, mix their own soil
  • AgriStarts Propagating, indoor facility, small fruits, tissue culture lab
  • Deroose plants, 8-acres under roof, double curtain shade cloth, tissue culture from China
  • University of Florida, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, 100 acres, plant pathology, entomology, horticulturist, fruits, research - 18 stations total
  • Knox Horticulture, formed in 1962, 175 million plugs/year, 37-acres in production
  • Green Isle Gardens, Native plants, restoration of endangered species with agencies, endangered gopher apple (for tortoises)
  • Cherry Lake, 10,000 acres in Florida mostly citrus, grown 15% in volume but cut water use by 50%
  • Lakeridge Winery, 80 acres in production, fertigation, largest winery in Florida

2022 Nursery Tour Presentation_PDF 

Post Tour Evaluation Summary

This group of agents presented a detailed report of their trip to other  Extension Agents in the Eastern Region at the Agriculture and Natural Resources Planning Day held in Knoxville, TN, at the Eastern Region Office on December 12, 2022.  This event and report helped to promote the TN SARE program to other agents in attendance.

Women in Agriculture (agrileadher conference)

Conference for women who are interested in agriculture and food with the opportunity to learn about
and meet women from around the country who share the same interest in agriculture
commodities, marketing, financial management, and life balance


Two-day virtual conference conducted in August of 2022, with three Extension Agents and one area specialist participating. 

Outcomes and impacts:

Participants had the opportunity to learn about farm stress management and resiliency, Finding HER Place at the USDA (a farmer's panel), healthy farmers -healthy business: Sustaining your farm starts with you; the importance of building community, creating a successful economic stream through Agritourism, farm budgeting and bookkeeping, and estate planning for women landowners.



Value-Added Producer Grant Seminar

Educational opportunity to inform farmers with value-added enterprises about resources and funding opportunities as they plan and develop a competitive application for the USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG.)


A 3.5 hour webinar designed to provide tips to producers who wish to develop a strong proposal for the VAPG program.  University personnel, USDA Rural Development personnel and other program partners presented information to assist farmers in developing their proposals; looking at the VAPG review and scoring review; and going through the application a section at a time.  Two previous VAPG recipients related their experiences with the VAPG process and how they used the funding awarded to their operations.  The session ended with a question/answer period with the presenters. 

Outcomes and impacts:
  • 72 producers attended the webinar
  • 38 met the TN Agricultural Enhancement Program (TAEP) qualifications to receive credit for their application B which helps with some Tennessee Department of Agriculture funding through TAEP.
  • On a scale of 1 - 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent, the webinar was rated 4.4.
  • Comments from what was learned:
    • Apply new understanding of the grant program to develop ideas for a grant proposal, advance planning for the process.
    • Assist value-added producers with completing their business planning process and help develop their value-added ideas
    • UT22-12_VA-Workshop-Seminars-printbleeds-2
Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Update for Extension Agents in Tennessee

Inform Extension Agents in the three Extension districts of Tennessee about the SARE grant program and update them about SARE educational program/opportunities in Tennessee.


Presented information to Extension Agents across Tennessee at their annual ANR regional update meetings about the SARE grant program and update them of SARE educational program/opportunities in Tennessee.


Outcomes and impacts:
Sustainable Agriculture In-service Training for Extension Agents and Program Partners

Offer educational information on sustainable agriculture with a focus on specialty crops, farmers markets and direct marketing, through on-site farm visits and the development of an Extension publication, "A Guide for Developing a Farmers Market in Tennessee."

  • Two-day educational event for Extension Agents and program partners
  • Focus on sustainable agriculture with specialty crop production, farmers markets and direct marketing
  • Development of "A Guide for Developing a Farmers Market in Tennessee," using this at the training as well as making copies available to Extension Offices, TN Department of Agriculture, TN Association of Farmers Markets, other program partners and at the annual Pick TN Conference
Outcomes and impacts:
  • Tours and learning opportunities at the following:
    • Specialty Crops, Blueberry, Blackberry and Elderberry Farm, Blue Honey Farm - https://bluehoneyfarmstn.com/
    • Grapes in Tennessee, Arrington Vineyards, - https://arringtonvineyards.com/ 
    • CSAs, Farmers Markets, Specialty Crops Farm, Delvin Farms - https://delvinfarms.com/ 
    • 12-South Farmers Market,  - https://www.12southfarmersmarket.com/ 
    • Specialty Crops, Event Space, Hemp Farm, Allenbrooke Farms - https://allenbrookefarms.com/ 
    • Pick-up, Delivery, Wholesale of Meats from local farm, Southern Ridge Farm - https://southernridgefarm.com/ 
    • Diverse Fruits and Vegetables grown organically (not certified) - Athena Harvest Farm - https://www.athenasharvest.com/
    • French & Italian Heirloom Veggies, Artisan Pasta, Cheeses, CSAs and Farmers Market, Farm and Fiddle Farm - http://www.thefarmandfiddle.com/home.html 
  • Publication Developed - PB1918 web (Agents will receive these publications and other partners accompanied with information indicating SARE provided funding for printing of this resource.)
  • Some comments from the evaluation of this event:
    • Favorite Part of Training
      • Learning about the outlets farmers use to efficiently market their products and grow their own produce.
      • Meeting a diverse group of farmers and seeing their unique operations. Learning about their various paths to farming and obstacles they encountered in the business. 
      • Seeing how farmers operate differently based on their knowledge, land, education and resources.
    • What did you learn?
      • Possibilities for diversification to share with producers in my county.  Looking at the addition of different enterprises.
      • The demand for certain specialty crops from chefs and markets in Nashville, TN. How interns and seasonal labor is found for various farms. Labor is a limiting factor for many operations.
      • Grants with farmers and businesses, and looking at consumer interest and marketing.
      • I have scheduled five follow-up meetings to discuss further grant opportunities to farmers I met during this training. I learned ag businesses with markets or processing facilities could be great fits for renewable energy programs within USDA.
  • Attendance
    • 21 Extension Personnel
    • 2 TN Farm Bureau Representatives
    • 3 Farm Service Agency Representatives
    • 2 TN Department of Agriculture Representatives
    • 1 USDA - Rural Development Representative
    • 1 Producer - Serves on Various Boards - FSA, TN Fruit/Vegetable Board, others

Educational & Outreach Activities

26 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Online trainings
9 Tours
59 Travel Scholarships
14 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

248 Extension
2 Researchers
6 Nonprofit
14 Agency
73 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

2 New working collaborations
4 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
60 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

The SARE program is a great benefit to agents and specialists in Tennessee as it provides them a means to learn more about sustainable agriculture.  This is done by allowing a number of travel scholarships to agents/specialists where they can learn first-hand by attending conferences, workshops and tours on a variety of subjects.   The need is to branch out more to other agriculture professionals other than Extension to promote teaching, training and application of sustainable agriculture practices to producers. The promotion of the SARE program in Tennessee has this year and will continue to be done in the following ways: (limited in 2020 and 2021 due to COCVID-19 issues)

  • Annual Agent In-Service Trainings
  • Annual Regional/State Agents Professional Association Meetings
  • Personal and Group Emails
  • Individual Visits with Agents/Specialists
  • State Website 
  • Promotional Banners and Exhibits at Trade-Shows, Agent In-Services and Planning Meetings
  • In-service Trainings
  • Other Educational Opportunities
  • Efforts are made to exhibit a seamless SARE program that includes Extension Personnel from the University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University.
32 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
210 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.