2016-2017 Model State Program University of Florida

Final report for SFL16-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $11,110.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2017
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
State Coordinator:
Dr. Marilyn Swisher
University of Florida
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Project Information

Abstract:

Florida activities for 2016-2017 will build upon the basic framework for the model state program. Planned activities include integrating results of SARE funded research and Extension activities, and other relevant research, and use this information as resources for educational programs. We also plan to continue to strengthen our focus on targeted training for Extension faculty at the state and county level, representatives of non-profit organizations, representatives of state and federal government agencies, and farmer representatives. The Model State Program has three priorities: (1) we continue to focus on outreach and training that enhances the environmental and economic benefits of production agriculture, (2) for the past four years we have developed programs that focus on ways to maintain traditional agricultural businesses and foster the growth of new food and agricultural businesses, and (3) we are developing an emphasis on local and regional food systems in order to address issues like infrastructure for processing and marketing and policies that affect the food system.

We have four objectives that flow directly from these priorities: (1) maintain existing and establish new collaborative Extension training and programs with faculty members and county agents at the University of Florida and Florida A&M whose work addresses sustainability in production agriculture, (2) extend collaboration with the emerging organizations that are active in the post-production components of the food systems, particularly the non-profit organizations and governmental organizations whose work fosters the development of food and agriculture businesses, (3) support the development of Extension programs in food systems, including the work of regional Extension specialists whose work often includes both the on-farm production aspects of the food system and the post-farm gate aspects of food system development, and (4) expand the participation of minority, women, and limited resource farmers and professionals in SARE activities and programs, ensuring that these groups and organizations are well represented in the full range of SARE-funded professional development opportunities.

To fulfill these priorities and objectives, our training program funds will be used to address training programs in three subject matter areas: (1) new and emerging solutions for Florida agricultural production, (2) advancing extension capacity in sustainable agriculture, and (3) entrepreneurial innovation in sustainable agriculture.

Our expected outcomes are: (1) state, regional and county Extension faculty will participate in annual SARE in-service training programs that focus on emerging technologies in agricultural production that address critical issues like water deficit and emerging pathogens and pests, and will use this information in their own Extension programs, (2) county faculty members will participate in regional and national training programs in sustainable agriculture, such as the SARE Cover Crops Conference, and will apply the lessons learned in their own programs, such as models for the development of value added products or use of cover crops, (3) at least two of the statewide Extension priority teams will include information and resources about sustainable agriculture and SARE in their professional development training programs and Extension programming, (4) through SARE, Extension agents and farmers will identify opportunities for the development of alternative crops and enterprises and will play key roles in outreach and research projects that focus on alternative crops and enterprises, such as SARE-funded Research & Education, Professional Development, and On-Farm Research projects, (5) regional and local county agents will develop new collaborations with organizations, agencies, and groups working in sustainable agriculture, including non-profit and for-profit organizations involved in post-farm gate food processing, marketing and distribution and policy development, and (6) state, regional and county Extension faculty members and agents will make increased use of resources to support programming in sustainable agriculture, including fiscal resources such as Southern SARE grants.

Project Objectives:

Our overall goal is to incorporate sustainable agriculture into three of Florida’s five Extension programming areas: agriculture and natural resources management, community and rural development, and food systems. The latter of these three programming priorities is a new area of emphasis for Florida Cooperative Extension. Our intent is to apply the systems approach that SARE has developed in its approach to research and extension to SARE programming in Florida through a focus on three areas. (1) We continue to focus on outreach and training that enhances the environmental and economic benefits of production agriculture. (2) For the past four years we have developed programs that focus on ways to maintain traditional agricultural businesses and foster the growth of new food and agricultural businesses. (3) We are developing an emphasis on local and regional food systems in order to address issues like infrastructure for processing and marketing and policies that affect the food system. We have four objectives that flow directly from this systems approach to sustainable agriculture training in Florida:

I. Maintain existing and establish new collaborative Extension training and programs with faculty members and county agents at the University of Florida and Florida A&M whose work addresses sustainability in production agriculture.

II. Extend collaboration with the emerging organizations that are active in the post-production components of the food systems, particularly the non-profit organizations and governmental organizations whose work fosters the development of food and agriculture businesses. Florida has developed new positions in community and rural development that focus on economic development and we will develop collaborative activities with these county and regional agents. The community and rural development focus in Florida Extension reflects the opportunities that are emerging to grow food and agriculture related businesses and represents an opportunity to foster linkages between Extension and the emerging non-profit and private sector leadership in a period in which expansion of food and agriculture businesses serving local and regional food systems is growing.

III. Support the development of Extension programs in food systems, including the work of regional Extension specialists whose work often includes both the on-farm production aspects of the food system and the post-farm gate aspects of food system development. Florida Extension is developing for the first time positions identified specifically with the development of local and regional food systems. We will provide training in sustainable agriculture and support these agents’ programmatic development. We will draw on SARE’s developing work in food systems and use SARE resources such as bulletins (e.g., “SARE and Local Food Systems”), examples of successful projects, and regional field days, conferences and other training programs that emphasize the relationships between sustainable agriculture and food systems.

IV. Expand the participation of minority, women, and limited resource farmers and professionals in SARE activities and programs, ensuring that these groups and organizations are well represented in the full range of SARE-funded professional development opportunities. Partnerships with key leaders in the development of small-scale food and agricultural related businesses and the non-profits that support them are particularly critical in order to ensure that the opportunities for growth in these emerging components of the food system reflect the entire community of players in the food system. Women, for example, have been particularly important in Florida in the development of small-scale processing facilities.

Advisors

  • Brittany Cowart (Educator)
  • Dudley Calfee (Educator)
  • Pete Spyke (Educator)
  • Linda Hart (Educator)
  • Christine Kelly-Begazo (Educator and Researcher)
  • Trevor Hylton (Educator and Researcher)
  • David Dinkins (Educator and Researcher)
  • Ed Skvarch (Educator and Researcher)
  • Howard Gunn, Jr. (Educator)
  • Erin Rosskopf (Researcher)
  • Don Burnam (Educator)
  • Russell Mizell (Educator and Researcher)
  • Alex Bolques (Educator and Researcher)
  • Muhammad Haseeb (Educator and Researcher)
  • Karen Stauderman (Educator and Researcher)
  • George Johnson (Educator and Researcher)
  • Faith Clarke (Educator)
  • Willonese Adams-Tillman (Educator)
  • Lucile Mizelle (Educator)
  • Norma Tillman (Educator)
  • Gene McAvoy (Educator and Researcher)
  • Val Leitner (Educator)
  • Sarah Bossa (Educator)
  • Mimi Williams (Educator)
  • Pamela Hunter (Educator and Researcher)
  • Claudia Jimenez (Educator)

Education

Educational approach:

Our educational approach for our “new and emerging solutions for Florida agricultural production” initiative has two components:

  1. To provide an in-service training where the target audience consists of Extension agents, industry collaborators like representatives of the Florida Strawberry Producers’ Association, and private sector technical advisers.
  2. To facilitate participation by Extension agents, growers and industry representatives, and representatives of non-profit, state, and local organizations in on-farm and on-station research, grower assessments of demonstration and research trials including annual events at any of Florida Research & Extension Centers, field days on-farm and on-station, and workshops

Our educational approach for our “advancing Extension capacity in sustainable agriculture” initiative has three components:

  1. To allow county and state faculty to develop their own training objectives and propose venues that will provide the training they need.
  2. To advertise training opportunities available within the Southern SARE region and nationally that may be of interest to Florida faculty.
  3. To conduct specialized trainings with collaborating specialists and researchers in the state, regionally, and nationally.

Our educational approach for our “entrepreneurial innovation in sustainable agriculture” initiative has two components:

  1. To offer in-service trainings for Extension and community partners.
  2. To facilitate workshops, strategic planning and joint programmatic development for Extension and community partners.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

New and Emerging Solutions for Florida Agricultural Production
Objective:

The cost of agricultural production in Florida is high and traditional agronomic and horticultural production systems increasingly face emerging threats, such as introduced pathogens and pests, compete with other uses for scarce resources, especially water, and face increasing international competition in traditionally high-value crops, such as strawberry. The rapidity with which new challenges emerge requires that Extension agents be knowledgeable not only of technologies and strategies that are fully tested and “ready for use,” but also of the most promising of the solutions under development. Extension must respond quickly as new threats – or opportunities – emerge. Equally important, we need to shorten the distance between research and application, an imperative long recognized by SARE and one of the reasons why grower involvement is stressed in every aspect of SARE programming, including research and education projects.

Description:

Emerging Technologies in a Changing Environment

The purpose of this training is to expose county Extension faculty and other technical advisors to the depth and breadth of emerging technologies relevant to sustainable agriculture in Florida. State and regional Extension specialists and researchers from multiple disciplines are engaged in research related to various aspects of sustainable agriculture unique to Florida growing conditions. The intent of this training is for regional and county Extension faculty and other technical advisers to have access to the most current research findings related to critical issues in sustainable agriculture like emerging pests and pathogens. County faculty and other technical personnel have requested this training because of the need to make sure that county faculty in particular can keep growers informed of progress in addressing the many rapidly developing production problems that emerge in the state – citrus greening being one example. The training is multi-disciplinary, reflecting the growing importance of a comprehensive, systems approach to addressing agricultural production constraints and opportunities.  After completing this training, participants will be able to provide the most current information about potential solutions to production constraints and emerging threats to farmers and other clientele.  

 

Extension and Outreach of Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation in the Southeast

The Florida SARE program is partnered with USDA-ARS to provide strong Extension programming and evaluate the barriers and opportunities for expanding research and use of anaerobic soil disinfestation in Florida agriculture. Once used extensively as a pesticide, methyl bromide is now banned for use as a soil fumigant. There has been considerable research into broad-spectrum chemical alternatives in the U.S., but the results show inconsistent pest control. In conjunction with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), researchers at the University of Florida are investigating a new option: anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD). This is a biointensive method of integrated pest management that involves the pre-plant soil incorporation of a labile carbon source and adequate water to saturate the soil. Florida SARE is responsible for coordinating participatory action research assessments with service providers and growers to evaluate the potential usefulness of anaerobic soil disinfestation and possible barriers to adoption. The technology of anaerobic soil disinfestation is extended through field days, research assessments, conferences, and educational videos.

This year we hosted two research assessments where farmers and agricultural service providers were invited to assess research plots and provide feedback to guide future research efforts about anaerobic soil disinfestation. The participatory action research assessments were held in Citra, FL and Immokalee, FL. During the assessments, participants blindly evaluated each treatment based on plant vigor, fruit quality, pest injury, disease damage and weed cover/vigor.  Next, researchers facilitated discussions about their observations, which yielded several research recommendations for moving forward.

We also hosted two field days where farmers, researchers, Extension agents and other agricultural service providers were invited to see our research plots and learn about anaerobic soil disinfestation.  The field days were held in Citra and Immokalee on the afternoons of the research assessments.  At each field day we had interactive activities, field demos and assessments.

 

SSARE 2016 Cover Crops Conference Evaluations

We developed and analyzed the 2016 SSARE Cover Crops Conference evaluations.  We evaluated one workshop session from each track with a pre and post-test.  We evaluated each field demo with a self-assessment of the participant’s confidence level before and after watching the demo.  We also evaluated the whole conference with one final evaluation completed either during the SCCC meeting or online after the conclusion of the meeting.

 

Southern Cover Crops Council

We attended the inaugural Southern Cover Crops Council meeting at the 2016 SSARE Cover Crops Conference and subsequently joined Strategy Team 4.

Objective of Strategy Team 4: Foster basic, applied and participatory cover crop research in the Southern Region; and establish a multi-state research project by Dec. 2019.

 

Cover Crop Diversity through Evaluation and Increase from Breeder Stocks and Germplasm Repositories

We are trying to develop cover crops for use during the summer in the Southeastern region, specifically Florida.  The existing cover crops primarily used throughout the US were bred for cool-season use and do not work in Florida during the summer season.  We primarily use cover crops during the summer season because our production season typically occurs from August to May.  Our role on the project is to capture photos at ever step of the experiment and create videos to post on our project website.

 

Partnership to Explore Integrated Systems for Sustainable High Tunnel Organic Vegetable Production in the Southeast Region

Stakeholder-driven organic high tunnel systems research in the Southeast including GA and FL is lagging behind what has been investigated for cooler climates. Organic vegetable growers would benefit immensely from research evaluating how to optimize these protected culture systems in a way that integrates improved crop performance and resilience, environmental stewardship, and economic viability in humid sub-tropical climates common in the Southeast region. The long-term goal of the project is to develop integrated high tunnel systems to promote the growth and expansion of organic vegetable production in the Southeast.  Our role in this project was to conduct a needs assessment with local farmers, determine research needs topics, and create and distribute a comprehensive questionnaire for organic vegetable growers in Georgia and Florida.  The objective of the comprehensive questionnaire is to determine which research topics from a finite list are most important to farmers to research.

 

Sustainable Organic Strawberry (SOS) Cropping Systems For The Southeast

The long-term goal of the project is to promote the expansion of organic strawberry production in the Southeast. We propose to develop organic strawberry cropping systems that are more environmentally and economically sustainable and resilient to weed, pest, and disease pressure. The project is a collaborative effort of the University and Florida, North Carolina A&T State University, Florida A&M University and Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc. (FOG). The project has three major components: biological research, consumer and economic research, and evaluation and outreach. The main experiment examines the effects of three cover crop treatments and a weedy control on soil health, nematode suppression, arthropod pests, beneficials, and the performance of four strawberry cultivars in open-field production. Four supporting or satellite experiments examine specific aspects of nutrient management incorporating nitrogen contribution from cover crops and supplemental fertilization, efficacy of OMRI-approved materials for management of spotted wing drosophila (SWD) and twospotted spider mite (TSSM), and spot treatment with predatory mites for TSSM, and performance of cultivars in high and low tunnels for cold protection outside sub-tropical Florida. We include two tests of consumer preference for intrinsic and extrinsic traits of organic strawberry, including traits based on production practices and we will develop partial budgets for experimental treatments in the main and supporting experiments. The evaluation and extension components are integrated. We use an Industrial Liaison Panel and research assessments by growers and technical advisers to maintain stakeholder input throughout the project. Extension activities include field days, trainings, and workshops.

 

Growing Cover Crop Use in the Southern Region

As part of the Southern Cover Crop Council (SCCC) planning meeting, the Southern SARE (SSARE) Administrative Council requested input from the SCCC planning group on cover crop research priorities.  The planning group had at least one representative from each SSARE state and territory.  These representatives were asked to get input from stakeholders in their state or territory on their top three research priorities in their area. Methods used to determine input from each state/territory was up to the discretion of the representatives. To complete this task, we decided to create a short online questionnaire and distributed it to as many Florida farmers as we had access to.

 

Outcomes and impacts:

Emerging Technologies in a Changing Environment

This training has been repeatedly requested by Extension agents in Florida and recommended by agents serving on our advisory council.  We offered the training twice, in September 2016 and June 2017, and advertised the trainings throughout the Florida Extension system on repeated occasions and venues.  Despite our efforts, enrollment was too low to justify delivering the program.  We are going to bring this topic to the advisory council at our next meeting and decide how to deliver the desired training in a more appropriate venue or discontinue the effort.

 

Extension and Outreach of Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation in the Southeast

The participatory action research assessment held in Citra, FL took place in October of 2016 and had a total of 12 participants. The assessment in Immokalee took place in November of 2016 and had nine participants. 

The assessment in Citra was split into two groups, “growers” and “service providers.” Growers concluded that the best performing treatment was ASD 0.5. The next best treatments were the yard waste (6T & 12T) with molasses. There was a negligible difference in terms of preference for the 6T or 12T yard waste rate. The untreated control (UTC) was consistently the least desirable treatment. Service providers concluded that the best performing treatment was ASD 0.5. The next best treatment was the grower standard, PicChlor-60. Again, the UTC consistently performed the poorest. Since there were less participants in Immokalee, the assessment was conducted in one group with all growers and service providers together. Immokalee participants concluded that the best treatment was the grower standard, PicChlor-60. They concluded that the worst treatments were the UTC and SSA (soil symphony).

In terms of research design, participants recommended continuing to study organic fertilizer options, carbon amendments, nitrogen sources, disease suppression and ASD. Participants recommend eliminating the standard use of herbicide and SSA (soil symphony) as a treatment option. Due to the use of herbicide this year, weed assessments were irrelevant because a negligible amount of weeds were present. Yard waste as a nitrogen source elicited mixed recommendations but more participants recommended eliminating yard waste rather than keeping it. Participants recommend adding weed pressure, organic inputs, mulch alternatives, cover cropping, different treatment rates, and composted litter. Participants want researchers to present them with a system at an assessment and, ultimately, be able to recommend a system to growers.

The field days were held in Citra and Immokalee on the afternoons of the research assessments.  About 10 people attended in Citra and about 30 in Immokalee.  Participants learned how to apply the necessary materials and accomplish anaerobic soil disinfestation, how to perform a leaf petiole test to determine the nitrogen status of the plant, how the economic analysis of each treatment is determined and how the anaerobic soil disinfestion treatment economically compares to the grower standard treatment, and how to harvest the tomato plant’s roots to determine the nematode damage.

Three literature reviews were completed in reference to our Extension and outreach role in this project.  One literature review is about the use of participatory action research (PAR) in agricultural studies, how our PAR approach in this project is unique and how it enhances the breadth of the biological data. The second literature review is about how farmers and service providers use internet-sourced information in their decision making and the third literature review is about how consumers use internet-sourced information in their decision making.  The latter two reviews are helping us create more useful videos and web-based materials that benefit farmers, service providers, and consumers.

We presented a poster about our anaerobic soil disinfestation participatory action research findings at the National Small Farms Conference in Virginia Beach, VA in September of 2016. 

NSFC-ARS-ASD-Poster-2016

During the fall field trials, we took video footage and about 3500 photos of the project in Citra, Immokalee, and Boynton Beach. We are currently working with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Communications department to produce eight short videos about anaerobic soil disinfestation, our research study, and how agricultural scientists conduct research.  We are also working with a web developer at UF to create a project web page that will present information about anaerobic soil disinfestation, our project findings, and our videos to the public. 

 

SSARE 2016 Cover Crops Conference Evaluations

Workshop Evaluations:

The post-test evaluation scores were all significantly higher than the pre-test scores except for the workshop session evaluated in the “Beneficial Insects, Pollinators, and Pest Control” track.  This indicates that almost all of the workshop sessions were relevant, beneficial to the participant, and accomplished the learning objectives.

Field Demo Evaluations:

After watching the field demo, participants self-rated their change in confidence level about the demo topic on a scale of -3 to +3 (-3 = much less confident and +3 =much more confident).  On average, all participants had an increase in confidence level by at least +1 and the “Management of Soil-Borne Diseases” demo had an average confidence level increase of +2.36. This indicates that the field demo topics were relevant, informative, and beneficial for participants.

Whole Conference Evaluation:

In total, there were 136 completed evaluations. See all of the questionnaire findings in our reports below.

Whole-Conference-Evaluation-Report

CC-Conference-Q-5

CC-Conference-Q-6

CC-Conference-Q-7

 

Southern Cover Crops Council

We attended two Strategy Team 4 meetings over the year.  As a team, we have developed a proposed working title for the research proposal and critical objectives for each cover crop specialty area.  At the last team meeting, we nominated the core team members (including Mickie Swisher) and developed a rough draft timeline for the proposal.

 

Cover Crop Diversity through Evaluation and Increase from Breeder Stocks and Germplasm Repositories

The PI on this project is selecting out hardseededness in hairy indigo and reduced photosensitivity in sunnhemp varieties.  Photos are being taken to document the progress made during the experiment and we will begin producing videos over the next year.

 

Partnership to Explore Integrated Systems for Sustainable High Tunnel Organic Vegetable Production in the Southeast Region

We conducted a needs assessment with eight farmers through phone interviews – four from Georgia and four from Florida.  Our findings are presented below in our interview report.

High-Tunnel-Interviews-Report

After completing our phone interviews and reviewing the findings, we created a follow-up questionnaire for the eight farmers to complete to help refine our research topics for the comprehensive questionnaire.  Our findings are presented below in our follow-up questionnaire report.

High-Tunnel-Follow-Up-Questionnaire-Results

After analyzing the follow-up questionnaire results, we created a comprehensive questionnaire and distributed the questionnaire to organic growers in Georgia and Florida.  Outcomes will be reported in next year’s report once we finish collecting the data and analyze the results.

 

Sustainable Organic Strawberry (SOS) Cropping Systems For The Southeast

We conducted one research assessment with strawberry producers. Local strawberry producers and service providers assessed our research plots and provided feedback regarding what they liked about our research, what they disliked, and what was missing that we should consider in the future.

We conducted one training with service providers familiar with organic cropping systems. Local service providers assessed our research plots and provided feedback regarding what they liked about our research, what they disliked, and what was missing that we should consider in the future.

We used feedback from the research assessment to modify our research design for the following strawberry production season. Specifically, we eliminated one strawberry variety, Festival, that was generally disliked by strawberry producers. By integrating end-user feedback, we contribute to the expedition of technology adoption in agriculture.

On-farm field trials began this summer at two local farms. We will capture photos of the research process regularly throughout the production season in order to create a video demonstrating field trial results. The videos will consist of photomontages alongside interviews with PIs. The video will be uploaded to a website accessible to the public. We will analyze farmer notes and records to qualitatively assess on-farm decision-making processes.

 

Growing Cover Crop Use in the Southern Region

We decided to create a short online questionnaire and distributed it to as many Florida farmers as we had access to.  Thirteen farmers completed the questionnaire in our very short two week turn-around time.  

Overall there are many consistencies among the responses to the various topics covered in this questionnaire. We identified five primary themes that emerge regarding barriers to adoption of cover crops by non-users, challenges to users, and general and specific research needs to address the barriers and challenges. Research needs with regard to pest management were clearly identified. This was identified as a general research need, one of the top priority specific research topics, and three of the moderate priority research topics dealt with pest management needs. Another need that was identified repeatedly had to do with benefits of cover crops on soil health and biology, both over the short and long term. Respondents reported that a barrier to adoption by non-users is that they are not convinced of the long-term benefits of cover crops on soil health and they also said that users do not see the anticipated long-term benefits on soil health. Not surprising, the effects of cover crops on the soil was identified both as a general research need and as a specific research need. The need for nutrient budgets was also identified as a challenge for users. Taken together, these results show that this is another high priority area to address in research and outreach. The difficulty of managing cover crop establishment, termination and residues emerged as a barrier to adoption, a challenge for experienced users, and a moderate priority specific research need. Florida’s winter production season and multiple planting seasons in much of the state complicate these decisions for growers. Overall, the economics of cover crop use also emerged as both a concern and a high priority specific research topic. This finding points to the importance of incorporating economic evaluation into both research and extension activities. Finally, not surprising given the combination of soils, climate, and cropping systems in Florida, a top priority specific research topic was breeding and selection of both cover crop varieties and mixtures. Given that on-farm demonstrations and/or trials and field days were the two top priorities for Extension activities, an integrated approach in which on-station research is extended to on-farm trials is clearly important. It will also be critical to create field days and other educational venues where the high priority needs identified above are addressed in depth. The concept of a “one-stop shopping” website is also a priority for outreach and the needs and opportunities identified through these responses may serve as a way to organize the information in that venue.

Our complete findings are presented below in our Florida cover crop priorities report.

Florida-CC-Priorities-Results

To share these results, we created a poster and presented our findings at the 2017 SSAWG Conference in Lexington, KY.

Growing-CC-Use-in-the-Southern-Region_Poster_Sattanno

 

Advancing Extension Capacity in Sustainable Agriculture
Objective:

This initiative provides advanced individualized training in specialized topics in sustainable agriculture. The expertise of the Florida SARE program only extends so far. This initiative permits county and state faculty to participate in training relevant to their state and county programs that may not be a focus or an emphasis in the other Florida SARE initiatives. The objectives are to 1) increase participation in trainings related to sustainable agriculture that are associated with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, 2) increase participation in relevant national and regional trainings offered by other programs and organizations, and 3) encourage participants to develop individualized programs of study relevant to sustainable agriculture. The intended outcomes are that training recipients will apply what they learn in county and state programs.

Description:

Successful Grant Writing for Extension Programming

The funding opportunities for community-based and farm organizations provide important resources to foster community and agricultural development. County faculty and the new regional Extension agents increasingly have to seek external resources to support their programs. Both public organizations, like USDA, and private foundations offer grant opportunities that can provide fiscal resources for Extension programs in sustainable agriculture. Successful proposal development is a learned skill. While the specific requirements for each proposal will vary, depending on the donor’s goals, objectives, and proposal requirements, there are commonalities to virtually all proposals. Understanding the major factors that donors commonly use to evaluate proposals is key to writing winning proposals. The objective of this program is to provide participants with an understanding of key factors that donors commonly use to evaluate proposals and how to respond to these factors.  After completing this training, participants will be able to:  

  1. Write a problem statement that is responsive to the donor’s funding priorities. 
  2. Develop goals, objectives, and outcomes to address the problem statement. 
  3. Develop and describe objective-based activities. 
  4. Construct an appropriate evaluation strategy. 
  5. Develop an objective-based budget. 

 

Changing Communities Using a Theory of Change

County faculty are under increasing demand in Extension to demonstrate that their programs create community-level change. Donors who fund grants and government agencies want to see that Extension programs go beyond creating change at the individual level — they want to see significant movement in critical indicators for entire communities, for the county, and ultimately for the state. Examples of community-level indicators might be things like reduced average water use in municipalities, increased tax revenues from agriculturally based businesses at the county level, or decreased incidence of obesity among youth in specific communities. They also want Extension faculty to effectively address complex issues that involve both individual attitudes and behaviors and structural barriers. It is true that individuals have to change their behaviors to get community level change, but that is just one component of community-level change. Programs that will achieve these kinds of broad-based, systemic changes require concerted efforts to increase resources and opportunities and reduce barriers at a broader, community scale. As a result, Extension agents have to adopt a strategic, systems approach for their programs in sustainable agriculture. This strategic approach requires a theory of change — a path of related events that must occur at multiple scales and with multiple actors for change to occur. It also typically requires developing strong, mutually beneficial partnerships with other agencies and organizations. This training will give participants an opportunity to develop their own strategic theory of change to address a complex problem that is critical to their work in Extension. Extension agents have requested this training. After completing this training, participants will be able to: 

  1. Use a theory of change to develop objectives and a strategy to improve outcomes of sustainable agriculture and food systems Extension programs for communities. 
  2. Identify community partners needed to implement the strategy and achieve the objectives of collaborative community-based programs for sustainable food and agriculture systems. 
  3. Select community-level indicators they can use to monitor and evaluate their program impacts. 

 

Advanced Individualized Training

The target audience consists of county Extension faculty who are members of a Florida Extension Professional Association. Scholarships are available to support travel to a professional development program in which the faculty person will receive training in topics relevant to sustainable agriculture. Appropriate topics are identified by the Florida SARE advisory council each year. Examples of topics include sustainable animal production or food safety. The objectives of this scholarship program are to: 

  1. Enhance participant’s ability to develop and deliver local extension programming relevant to the goals of the Florida SARE program, drawing upon experiences in other states in the Southern Region and nationally. 
  2. Expand programming for sustainable agriculture in three extension priority areas – agricultural production, community and rural development, and food systems. 

 

Principles Guiding Practice: A Case Study Analysis of the Principles of Sustainable Agriculture for Diverse Farms

Dr. Marilyn Swisher gave an oral presentation during the 7th National Small Farms Conference on September 22-24, 2016 in Virginia Beach, VA. The title of the presentation is, “Principles Guiding Practice: A Case Study Analysis of the Principles of Sustainable Agriculture for Diverse Farms.” Early proponents of sustainable agriculture faced considerable resistance and a long-lasting discussion of what constitutes sustainable agriculture ensued. This controversy has re-emerged recently in the discussion of agro-ecology and sustainable intensification as strategies for sustainable agriculture. Fourteen agricultural professionals participated in a guided discovery learning process on seven agricultural operations that many in Florida consider good examples of sustainability. The seven operations included large and small farms, organic and conventional, livestock and crop enterprises, and traditional and direct sales marketing approaches. The objective of the process was to identify the principles that the operators use to guide their specific management decisions, including decisions with economic, environmental and social consequences. Participants studied information about each operation and created a set of questions to ask the manager(s) about the underlying philosophy and principles that guide the management prior to spending one to six hours on site. The information was analyzed in small groups after the visit, and a summative analysis was completed after all seven sites were visited. Although these operations are very diverse in terms of characteristics like size, enterprise mix, capitalization, technology used, marketing strategies and manager experience, the study showed consistent similarities in the principles that guide their decision-making and nine broad principles of sustainable agriculture were identified. Most of the contemporary theoretical concepts about social, economic and environmental sustainability are reflected in the operating principles of these businesses.

 

Graduate Student Grant Writing Workshops

2017GradStudentGrantWritingWorkshopFlyer

This two part hands-on workshop was open to any University of Florida graduate student interested in improving their grant proposal writing skills. Dr. Mickie Swisher discussed the keys to writing a successful grant proposal. Students had the opportunity to work on their own proposals at the workshop, as well. Each session of the workshop covered different aspects of proposal writing – from literature reviews to budgeting, so students needed to attend both sessions, if possible. Students from any department were encouraged to attend.

At the end of the training, the participants were able to:

  1. Explain why proposals are rejected.
  2. Identify the key elements of a call for proposal.
  3. Craft their own proposal.

 

Grant Proposal Mentoring

We reach out to recently hired faculty members in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, especially those with significant Extension responsibilities, to offer assistance in pre-proposal research and proposal development on topics related to sustainable agriculture.  These are one-on-one or small groups mentoring sessions.

 

Meeting with Associate Dean of Extension at UF

We reached out to the Associate Dean of Extension for Community and Youth Programs to discuss ways to involve more county faculty with these programming responsibilities in SARE related activities and trainings.

 

Outcomes and impacts:

Successful Grant Writing for Extension Programming

We offered this training at the Annual Extension Professionals Association of Florida Conference in September 2016.  There were about 30 participants and the training was well received. The average pre-test score was 70% and the average post-test score was 80%.  After each training we review the evaluations and determine ways to improve so that we conduct a more beneficial training each time it is offered.

 

Changing Communities Using a Theory of Change

This training was previously offered in April 2016.  The average pre-test score was 82% and the average post-test score was 85%, so there was no significant difference.  We have updated our training and evaluations and will offer it again in September 2017.

 

Advanced Individualized Training: 

We sponsored ten travel scholarships for Extension professionals and farmers to attend 6 different conferences across the country.  Upon completion of the trip, scholarship recipients were required to send a report to us about the conference, what they learned, and how they are currently using or plan to use what they learned in their work.  The conferences that we sponsored travel to were:

  1. 2016 Food Distribution Research Society Conference
  2. 2016 Women in Sustainable Agriculture Conference
  3. 2016 Professional Agricultural Workers Conference
  4. 2017 Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference
  5. 2017 Georgia Organics Conference
  6. 2017 Museum of Design Atlanta Exhibition

 

Principles Guiding Practice: A Case Study Analysis of the Principles of Sustainable Agriculture for Diverse Farms

This presentation was later published and the resulting article was selected by UF IFAS as one of 22 high-impact publications among several thousand articles published by UF IFAS faculty this year.

 

Graduate Student Grant Writing Workshops

In total, 12 graduate students responded to both the pre-test and post-test evaluations at the workshops. The average pre-test score was 63%, and the average post-test score was 81%. The results indicate that post-test scores were significantly higher than pre-test scores, indicating that the grant writing workshop is successful in increasing grant writing knowledge among graduate students.  In addition, 6 out of the 13 funded SSARE Graduate Student Grants this year are from students in Florida.  We also received a thank you letter for our help in the workshop from one of the funded students that took our training.


Grant Proposal Mentoring

One recently hired regional specialized Extension agent in sustainable agriculture was awarded a SSARE On-Farm Research Grant.  Two recently hired associate faculty members at UF submitted two grant proposals to USDA/NIFA.

 

Meeting with Associate Dean of Extension at UF

As a result of this meeting we were able to gain further institutional support for our SARE programming such as supplementing travel funds for Extension agents to attend our trainings and promoting our trainings through their listservs and at the regional Extension meetings.

 

Entrepreneurial Innovation in Sustainable Agriculture
Objective:

This initiative focuses on advancing research and extension that provides support for nontraditional agricultural businesses and promotes sustainable food systems to address social and economic issues in communities. Farms and other agricultural and natural resource based businesses face a complex of challenges that can limit establishment of new businesses and growth of existing businesses. These challenges vary from community to community and may include regulatory barriers, quality and availability of labor, infrastructural needs, and policy. Healthy growing agricultural and natural resource based businesses can contribute to local development and economic vitality if these barriers can be addressed. The objectives of this initiative are to 1) build additional nontraditional business opportunities for farms and other agricultural and natural resource based businesses, 2) increase their contribution to social and economic community development, 3) increase public support for agricultural and natural resource related businesses and 4) increase collaboration between Extension and community based organizations and government agencies to address these barriers and enhance opportunities to establish new businesses and help existing ones grow. The intended outcomes are that (1) Extension professionals will collaborate with public, non-profit, and private sector partners to address community agricultural and natural resource-based business development and (2) that Extension and community-based partners will identify and be able to acquire additional resources to leverage Extension and SARE funds.

Description:

Business Retention and Expansion for Agriculture and Food Related Businesses

This program seeks to strengthen the local economy by increasing the competitiveness of local food and agriculture related businesses. The program was developed at Ohio Extension Service and we collaborate with two faculty members there to deliver the training. State and county Extension professionals identified this training as a priority in the statement conference on community development conducted by Florida Extension Service. The program is unique because it trains faculty in how to build a community-based project that starts with community food and agriculture business leaders, local organizations, and non-profits in conducting developing an inventory of all agriculturally related businesses in the county. This team then develops an action plan to support and expand business opportunities. Ultimately the report provides the basis for seeking support for business development, ranging from infrastructural development, to educational opportunities, to policy changes. After completing this training, participants will be able to:  

  1. Develop and implement a partnership-based process to develop a database of information that identifies the opportunities and barriers for retention and growth of agriculture and food related businesses in an area, usually a county.  
  2. Work with the partners who participated in developing the database to develop and implement strategies to secure the support of community decision-makers that will lead to the retention and expansion of existing agriculture and food related businesses.

 

Florida Food Policy Council

The Florida Food Policy Council works toward fair and healthy food for all Floridians. The first general meeting of the membership was held in April 2016 in Fort Myers, in concert with the UF/IFAS Regional Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference. Over the last year, the Council held regional meetings in the NE, Central, NW, and NE regions of Florida.  The Council currently has over 100 members. (Florida Food Policy Council). 

 

Potato Processing Plant Meeting

David Dinkins has been working on projects focused on enhancing marketing options for producers of potatoes and other core crops produced in the Tri-County Agricultural Area (TCAA) in Florida.  In July 2016, he met with an organization that operates a Putnam County based food processing facility that is interested in processing potatoes to make french fries. Since potato is the key crop in the TCAA and producers have faced significant challenges marketing their crops for the last several years, an option such as production for the French fry market warrants further investigation.  David hosted a meeting in August 2016 bringing many different Extension specialties together to discuss the project and determine what resources can be brought to the table to assist processors and growers wanting to investigate the feasibility of this project.

 

Central Florida Food Systems Committee

The purpose of this committee is to set goals for the Central Florida Food Systems Initiative, develop working groups such as productions systems, connecting buyers to producers, schools and community gardens, and other groups the committee suggests. This committee also works together to obtain funding sources.

 

Local Foods Impact Conference

Outcomes and impacts:

Business Retention and Expansion for Agriculture and Food Related Businesses

We funded 10 Extension agents around the state of Florida to attend this 2.5 day training.  Pre and post-tests were completed by participants of the Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) workshops. These tests measured change in knowledge, confidence, and intent. In total, eight sets of pre and post-tests were administered. Four of the sets measured whether the BRE individual workshops (Introductory Workshop, BRE Coordinator Workshop, Taskforce Workshop, and Data Analysis Workshop) affected change in knowledge. Two of the sets measured whether the sessions overall affected change in confidence. One measured change in confidence in participating, and the other measured change in confidence in taking leadership. The last two of the sets measured whether the sessions overall affected change in intent. One measured change in intent to participate and the other measured change in intent to lead.

Introductory Workshop:

In total, 24 participants responded to the pre and post-test for this workshop. The lowest possible knowledge score was 1, and the highest possible knowledge score was 6. The average pre-test knowledge score was 3.33, and the average post-test knowledge score was 4.81. Overall, the results indicate that post-test scores for this workshop were significantly higher than pretest scores, indicating that the workshop was successful in increasing knowledge among participants.

BRE Coordinator Workshop:

In total, 25 participants responded to the pre and post-test for this workshop. The lowest possible knowledge score was 1, and the highest possible knowledge score was 6. The average pre-test knowledge score was 1.88, and the average post-test knowledge score was 4.50. Overall, the results indicate that post-test scores for this workshop were significantly higher than pretest scores, indicating that the workshop was successful in increasing knowledge among participants.

Taskforce Workshop:

In total, 24 participants responded to the pre and post-test for this workshop. The lowest possible knowledge score was 1, and the highest possible knowledge score was 6. The average pre-test knowledge score was 3.51, and the average post-test knowledge score was 4.80. Overall, the results indicate that post-test scores for this workshop were significantly higher than pretest scores, indicating that the workshop was successful in increasing knowledge among participants.

Data Analysis Workshop:

In total, 21 participants responded to the pre and post-test for this workshop. The lowest possible knowledge score was 1, and the highest possible knowledge score was 6. The average pre-test knowledge score was 3.45, and the average post-test knowledge score was 4.89. Overall, the results indicate that post-test scores for this workshop were significantly higher than pretest scores, indicating that the workshop was successful in increasing knowledge among participants.

Confidence in Participating and Leading:

In total, 6 participants responded to the pre and post-test measuring confidence in participating. The lowest possible confidence score was 1, and the highest possible confidence score was 6. The average pre-test knowledge score was 3.32, and the average post-test knowledge score was 4.61. Overall, the results indicate that post-test scores for this workshop were significantly higher than pretest scores, indicating that the workshop was successful in increasing confidence among participants.

In total, 6 participants responded to the pre and post-test measuring confidence in leading. The lowest possible confidence score was 1, and the highest possible confidence score was 6. The average pre-test knowledge score was 2.93, and the average post-test knowledge score was 4.22. Overall, the results indicate that post-test scores for this workshop were significantly higher than pretest scores, indicating that the workshop was successful in increasing confidence among participants.

Intent to Participate and Lead:

In total, 8 participants responded to the pre and post-test measuring intent to participate. The lowest possible confidence score was 1, and the highest possible confidence score was 6. The average pre-test knowledge score was 2.77, and the average post-test knowledge score was 4.82. Overall, the results indicate that post-test scores for this workshop were significantly higher than pretest scores, indicating that the workshop was successful in increasing confidence among participants.

In total, 7 participants responded to the pre and post-test measuring intent to lead. The lowest possible confidence score was 1, and the highest possible confidence score was 6. The average pre-test knowledge score was 2.65, and the average post-test knowledge score was 4.15. Overall, the results indicate that post-test scores for this workshop were significantly higher than pretest scores, indicating that the workshop was successful in increasing confidence among participants.

Overall, the BRE training was very successful and we plan to host another training in 2018.

 

Florida Food Policy Council

Mickie Swisher and her Ph.D. student, Alia DeLong, are both members on the Council and will continue to participate in the meetings and provide input.  These meetings have been an additional opportunity for us to network with agricultural professionals around the state and promote the Florida SARE Program and other SSARE activities.

 

Potato Processing Plant Meeting

Mickie Swisher and Kaylene Sattanno attended the meeting and Mickie provided ideas for possible funding opportunities.  At the conclusion of the meeting, the group consensus was to pursue assessing the feasibility of the potato processing plant.  Currently, the team is seeking funding opportunities to fund the study.

 

Central Florida Food Systems Committee

We are serving on the committee and have attended two planning meetings.  We are currently establishing project goals and identifying potential partners, collaborators, and funding opportunities.

 

Local Foods Impact Conference

Kaylene Sattanno attended the conference and explored how to best measure the impacts of local food investments, improve coordination across USDA agencies, and evaluate the extent to which disparate local food investments are complementary and reinforcing. Beyond metrics, this conference provided an opportunity to share local food stories with incoming members of the new Administration and Congress.

 

Educational & Outreach Activities

72 Consultations
17 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Online trainings
12 Published press articles, newsletters
58 Study circle/focus groups
20 Travel Scholarships
9 Webinars / talks / presentations
5 Workshop field days
13 Florida SARE Advisory Council Meeting - 1
Florida SARE Newsletter Emails - 12

Participation Summary

160 Extension
4 NRCS
11 Researchers
7 Nonprofit
6 Agency
9 Farmers/ranchers
2 Others

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

12 Grants received that built upon this project
15 New working collaborations
113 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
588 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

The University of Florida now has four regional specialized Extension agents (RSA) focused on sustainable agriculture and/or food systems across the state.  Thus, four out of our five state Extension regions now has a sustainable ag and/or food systems RSA.

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

We distribute SARE educational materials at all PDP trainings and at other professional development venues in Florida when appropriate to the audience. We distribute SARE materials to general public audiences through the work of county faculty and collaborators in our programs. For example, over 300 publications were distributed in 2015 at the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference. 

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.