University of Tennessee Training Grant- MSP22

Progress report for STN22-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $20,811.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Tennessee
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
State Coordinator:
Rob Holland
UT Extension
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Project Information


The University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University look to continue the sustainable agriculture training the SARE program offers to Extension agents, specialists and other agriculture professionals. In meeting training needs we gather input from regional agriculture program leaders, Extension agents, program partners, producers and continued input from the state SARE Advisory Committee, along with state co-coordinators. The program assistant will promote awareness of the SARE program, along with a secondary focus on the SARE grant programs, encouraging utilization and promotion of this program. The state co-coordinators working with the program assistant will seek to provide 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
• Care of the water/land resources
• Improving the quality of life
• Focus on production

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. Department information sheets will be developed on major program impacts/research.

Project Objectives:

For the year 2022 - 2023, project objectives will focus on teaching/instruction to Extension Agents, Subject Matter Specialists and other Agriculture Professionals to increase knowledge in sustainable agriculture and the role it plays in the agriculture industry by implementing the following:

  • Conducting In-service training sessions
  • Promoting participation in appropriate meetings and conferences related to sustainable agriculture
  • Promoting awareness of the SARE program with an exhibit at meetings, tradeshows and agents/specialists’ meetings
  • Promoting the SARE program through the New Farmer Academies conducted in Tennessee – three of these are held annually in the state
  • Providing educational materials on sustainable agriculture to Extension Agents
  • Evaluating programs to show knowledge level change in agents, specialists and other agriculture professionals
  • Trainers reporting practice changes noted/reported by producers
  • These evaluations/practice changes will be shown in SARE annual reports and departmental information sheets developed
  • Outreach to a diverse audience


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 implemented for the Tennessee Model State Program is County Extension Agents, Subject Matter Specialists and other agricultural professionals in Tennessee to include USDA personnel and others.  These audiences 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.

This funding has received an extension (12 months) through June 30, 2024.  A final report will be submitted at that time.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Grazing Schools for Extension Agents in Eastern and Western Regions of Tennessee

Educate Extension Agents on proper and sustainable practices of forage production


Provide educational information to Extension Agents on rotational grazing practices, forage quality, estimation of forage on a per acre basis and tips on forage production. Training to be held in the Eastern and Western Extension Regions with Dr. Katie Mason, UT Extension Specialist in Animal Science conducting the trainings.

Outcomes and impacts:
  • Two educational field days were held for Extension Agents
  • Topics
    • Purpose of Grazing Management
    • Making a Grazing Plan
    • Group Discussion
      • What is working on producer farms?
      • Common questions Extension Agents receive?
      • What programming/resources can be helpful to Extension Agents?
    • Field Demo 1
      • Forage Availability and Stocking Rate
    • Field Demo 2
      • Fencing Kits (provided by SARE Funding) and Forage Allocation
    • The 5th edition of "Southern Forages" was provided to each agent for their own educational purposes.
    • Following the trainings agents received a PDF of the "Concepts and Research-Based Guidelines for Forage-Livestock Systems in the Southeast Region," SARE Book.
  • A portion of the survey results included:
    • 22 Total Agents participated - mostly agents with 1 - 5 years of Extension experience
    • Overall usefulness of program (5 = Excellent); 4.9
    • Teaching effectiveness of Instructor (5 = Excellent); 4.7
    • Purpose of Grazing Management - 24% increase in knowledge
    • Making a Grazing Plan - 34% increase in knowledge
    • Forage Availability and Calculating Stocking Rate - 35% increase in knowledge
    • Fencing Kits - 26% increase in knowledge
  • What did you learn that you will use?
    • Ideas for field days; desirable species; comparing fencing materials
    • Fencing program at county level
    • Will definitely use fencing kit in future field days
    • Making a grazing plan was helpful - I plan to buy a fencing kit for our county or area cluster of counties
  • What topics need more clarity or should be included in future programming:
    • Multispecies Grazing
    • Fertilizing Pastures
    • Forage Management 
    • Grazing Behavior
    • Understanding Forage Tests
    • Production Costs


A recent Fencing Demonstration using the SARE Forage Kits provided provided this information:

Agent in East TN provided the training for 86 attendees. 

We set up a paddock and an exclusion fence for a wetland area in a pasture setting.  The Extension Agent and NRCS discussed the different fence posts as well as the reel and polywire options.  Having the visual and hands-on components was a great addition.  After using the kit a short, portable ground rod may be a good addition.  We used a pigtail post for our demo paddock. 


Currently have ordered 600 Field Pocket Forage Guides for Agents' use in their counties as well as 200 forage sticks for demonstrations purposes.



Southeast Regional Fruit & Vegetable Conference

Extension Personnel learn the latest information relating to the production of fruits an vegetables in the Southeast.

  • SARE funding provided the opportunity for four Extension Agents in East TN to attend the 2023 Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference. 
  • The University of Tennessee Horticulture Fruit & Vegetable Team attended multiple sessions at this conference to increase educational awareness to support producer initiatives and agent in-service training topics at the state level in Tennessee.

    The primary focus was fruit production, specifically blueberry and caneberry, as Tennessee has  multiple sites across the state with grants in place focusing on these crops. The caliber of presentations was very helpful, ranging from weed control options to cultivar selections, along with IPM strategies and flavor profiles (the how-to’s on how to engage the general public on taste-taste trials). This conference also provided the opportunity to network with colleagues form across the southeast who are actively engaging with similar projects.

Outcomes and impacts:
  • 2023 Schedule of Events
  • Educational Session @ SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference
    • Educational Session at SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference
  • Poster Session @ SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference
    • Poster Session at SE Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference
NAFDMA (North American Farmers Direct Marketing Association)

This association is dedicated to advancing the farm direct marketing and agritourism industries. This annual meeting provides these opportunities to its members.


One Extension Marketing Specialist from the Center for Profitable Agriculture attended this meeting/training in 2023.  This event included an in-depth workshop about on-farm retailing, a myriad of educational sessions, networking opportunities with producers and other service providers, and behind-the-scenes tours of six farms and businesses.  Educational sessions provided to help direct farm marketers and agritourism operators become more sustainable by:

  • Understanding and using key performance indicators to make business decisions
  • Pricing strategically
  • Utilizing merchandising strategies such as store layout, product placement and signage to drive sales
  • Adding value by telling your story/farm branding
  • Creating quality, active experiences for consumers to build loyalty
  • Managing your time effectively by organizing your day, scheduling focus times, and saying  no to time stealers


Outcomes and impacts:

Information learned has and will continue to be used in providing individual technical assistance to Tennessee producers, developing educational materials and in planning educational programs.

Note these innovative but simple marketing and educational techniques:

Salsa and Jam




Sustainable Agriculture In-service Training to include the Pick TN Conference

Educate Extension Agents with concepts of sustainable agriculture practices on small farms and specialty crops.


Held in February 2023, the Southern SARE Sustainable Agriculture Inservice Training hosted a total of twenty-one Extension Agents and six students from the Herbert College of Agriculture. The purpose of the training was to help participants learn more about sustainable agricultural practices and encourage them to use these ideas in their county extension programs. This event featured classroom training and tours of local farms based in Davidson County. The classroom portion of the training was held at the Central Region Extension Office located on the campus of the Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville. Kevin Ferguson of the UT Center of Farm Management along with CPA staff members Rachel Painter and Troy Dugger addressed attendees before an additional presentation was given by members of Cul2vate.  Cul2vate is a group of people who serve people in the Nashville.  People who need a fresh start are employed and trained on the farm to work, grow and harvest produce then donate food to fight food insecurity.  Please note: 

Additional visits were made to the Nashville-based Galena Garlic Company and Honeytree Meadery. Galena Garlic markets olive oils, spices, and other products made from garlic. Honeytree Meadery specializes in sustainably sourced honey from their own apiary to produce local blends of mead made available out of their brick and-mortar location in East Nashville. As the final portion of the two-day training, participants attended educational presentations at the Pick TN Conference in Franklin. Attendees participated in the Pick TN Conference by participating in various educational seminars and interacting with other industry representatives.

Outcomes and impacts:

Comments from the end-of-program survey included:

  • I loved learning about local and unique producers. I enjoy learning about the different marketing  strategies.
  • I liked seeing a facet other than just producers.  The marketing side of things is something I'm always looking to learn more about.
  • I learned there is a need for more garlic in the state.  I contacted two of my producers about growing garlic this coming year.
  • I learned a lot about IPM and sustainable land stewardship. Most of my clientele are homeowners and gardeners interested in environmental conservation.
  •  Bigger market for Honey Producers (mead), as well as Garlic Production, equipment innovation, networking/creating relationships with people and vendor entities that allows me to help/answer producers/farmer's Market vendors questions.
  • I learned about high tunnel crop rotations and scheduling of crops.
  • I would love to learn more about greenhouse production, vertical farming, and controlled environment agriculture. Including the economics and if/how it could be done affordably and/or profitably.

Sustainable Ag Training



Educational & Outreach Activities

15 Consultations
6 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
1 Tours
25 Travel Scholarships
4 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

48 Extension
86 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

86 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

The SARE program is a great benefit to agents, specialists and agriculture professionals in Tennessee as it provides them a means to increase their level of sustainable agriculture.  This is done by allowing a number of travel scholarships to agents/specialists/ag professionals, where they can learn first-hand by attending conferences, workshops and farm tours covering a wide array of learning opportunities.   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: 

  • Annual Agent In-Service Trainings
  • Annual Regional/State Agents Professional Association Meetings
  • Personal and Group Emails
  • Individual Visits with Agents/Specialists
  • Farm Visits
  • State Website 
  • Promotional Banners and Exhibits at Trade-Shows, Agent In-Services and Planning Meetings
  • Efforts are made to exhibit a seamless SARE program that includes Extension Personnel from the University of Tennessee and Tennessee State University.
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.