Building Capacity to Support Small Farm Profitability

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2001: $57,644.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2004
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Gary Huber
Practical Farmers of Iowa

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, display, extension, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, marketing management, agricultural finance, market study, value added
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, transitioning to organic
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships


    Farmers and ranchers in the North Central Region are increasingly seeking specialized production and marketing information. These demands for new information have meant that Extension agents are increasingly facing requests for cutting-edge information where little published materials exists.

    A previously funded project (USDA IFAFS grant 00-52101-9624) supported the collection of information by project partners from Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin on techniques, success stories, and experiences on specialized production and marketing topics. This previous project used this information to publish forty case studies that showcased specialized production and marketing strategies.

    The partners in this previous project saw an opportunity to use these case studies to help agricultural educators successfully respond to requests from their clients. This led to an NCR-SARE grant that helped project partners convert thirty-two of these case studies into seven PowerPoint presentations. The grant also allowed project partners to compile auxiliary information and resources and conduct training so that agricultural educators could effectively use these materials when responding to requests from their farmer and rancher audiences. The project also distributed over 1,000 resource CDs to agricultural educators who did not receive the training.

    Thirty-two case studies on specialized production and marketing topics were grouped based on themes and developed into seven PowerPoint presentations. These PowerPoint presentations included information, graphics, and photographs from each of the thirty-two case studies, as well as scripts for agricultural educators to use during their educational programming. A total of 1,500 CDs containing these PowerPoint presentations and the original case studies were produced. Supplementary materials and resource lists were also compiled. Training workshops on using the materials were conducted for 284 Extension staff and other agricultural professionals in Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri. Each attendee received a CD and supplementary materials that they could use in educational programming. Copies of the CDs were also distributed to Extension staff and other agricultural professionals in the North Central SARE Region and nationally.

    Project objectives:

    The project’s short-term outcomes were:
    1. Extension employees learn about seven categories of production and marketing topics that focus on cutting costs and reaching new markets;
    2. Extension employees gain confidence in the feasibility of the ideas and practices presented;
    3. Extension employees gain knowledge and materials to effectively discuss, promote and advise on these new production and marketing topics;
    4. Extension employees use these materials for programming directed at agricultural clients, leading to increased farmer/rancher adoption of more profitable practices and higher farm/ranch profits.

    The project’s intermediate outcomes were:
    1. Extension delivers programs on these profitable, sustainable practices;
    2. Extension accesses additional resources for further programming and self-education;
    3. Extension incorporates sustainable concepts into mainstream programming for all clients.

    The project’s long-term outcomes were:
    1. Additional Extension, agency advisors and researchers advise or refine these strategies;
    2. Programming and research routinely incorporates profitability alongside environmental issues.

    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.