Rural Women as Agriculture Leaders
The purpose of this project is to assist and enable groups of rural black women that are small scale producers in southwest Georgia, to develop viable businesses based on vegetables, herbs and other agricultural products. Currently, these women, who live in six counties in the southwest corner of Georgia, include some with expertise and training in various aspects of small scale agricultural production and processing. They have access to small plots of land and little equipment. Virtually every county in the area has a high rate of poverty, especially among the ethnic minority population. The project will help these women, who are or seem to be limited resource farmers, apply information and education available to them so as to develop their businesses and communities.
Workshops and Planning Sessions
To hold workshops and Group planning sessions. The workshops would provide information and the planning session would provide an opportunity for structured exploration of ways in which the information presented in workshops could be applied to specific businesses. Through the proposed planning sessions, the women would also be able to build consensus and develop a working network.
Since there is strength in numbers, the project staff and the participants sought to publicize the project activities and recruit more women like themselves who are interested in developing agriculture-related businesses.
In order to replicate the project in other areas or for other groups, the participants would look for opportunities to communicate with women from their community and communities in Alabama and Mississippi.
The participants were given information in workshops and group planning sessions to assess their skills, and they were given the opportunity, as a group, to apply them to their businesses.
Workshops and Group Planning Sessions:
Four workshops and planning sessions were held in 2006 covering five topics: 1) Goal-setting and Decision making, 2) Resource Evaluation, 3) Production and value-added processing, 4) Marketing, and 5) Financials.
The women defined their farming goals and developed plans for growing herbs, cut flowers and other vegetables in raised beds. The groups were able to determine how they could function more efficiently as a team using the skills, contacts and abilities of each team member and also decided that a cooperative structure would work best for everyone.
The participants sessions about marketing and market plans was invaluable in that many of the participants began to think of and identify ways to market and make their product unique and identify the customers they were targeting. The session on using the internet for marketing was by far the best session in that many of the participants had little to no exposure to the web. The session (held in a computer lab) taught them the basics of maneuvering using search engines and how/where to access important marketing information.
In the workshop and planning session on Finance, the women learned, many for the first time, about the types of information that had to be documented and programs offering financial assistance.
Information about the project goals, and workshops, and opportunities in Agriculture was disseminated to SRBWI members, farmers associated with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and farmers in general via email, mailings, and announcements at local meetings in the counties and other gatherings.
Local outreach activities in 2006 took place with the Dougherty County (Albany Georgia) group participating as a vendor in the local Women Infant and Children’s (WIC) market. They were able to introduce the community to the project and the concept of sustainable farming on a small scale as an income producing activity and career.
Another group in Early County (Blakely Georgia), reached out to the community by giving away their produce to families in the county. This provided an avenue for them to introduce others to the project and the concept of small-scale farming and cooperative marketing.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Based on evaluations, one-on-one discussions, and changes in farming practices, the workshops were extremely insightful and motivating to the participants. Approximately 15 to 35 women were in attendance for each workshop, representing five to seven counties in SW Georgia. As a result of these sessions, five counties agreed to begin working together cooperatively and one woman from each county was chosen to serve as a representative for decision-making purposes.
The community has been positively impacted by seeing southern rural black women growing and selling produce and value-added products. This is evidenced by many young and older women from the represented and surrounding communities inquiring about the project, ways to become involved and/or bring such a project to their community. Many are enthusiastic about the options the project offers with farming and value-added production. One community was motivated to begin developing a community garden to expand the opportunity for participating to women and men irregardless of farming related experience.
The Dougherty County women were featured in the Southern Region SARE publication Snapshots for their value-added activities in canning.
Southwest Georgia Project
624 West Oglethorpe Boulevard
Albany, GA 31701
Office Phone: 2294309870