- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: display, extension, mentoring, networking, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, marketing management, e-commerce, farm-to-institution, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, employment opportunities, social networks, sustainability measures
Rural areas often have access to a variety of production agriculture expertise. University Extension Educators, Resource Conservation and Development coordinators and assistants and vocational agriculture instructors are commonly consulted for advice and guidance, especially in the area of sustainable agriculture practices. Unfortunately, these resource experts often feel unqualified when it is time for a product or service to move to the marketplace. They need targeted professional development in how to create a feasibility and marketing plan, and how to conceptualize and organize an on-line direct marketing web site. The goal of this project proposal is to increase the small business knowledge, skills and confidence of recognized public sector agricultural experts so that they can better consult with sustainable agricultural producers as they formulate and develop business enterprises. Specifically, it is designed to increase the: 1) number of agricultural clientele assisted; 2) diversity of sustainable agricultural ideas that move to the marketplace; and 3) quality of the feasibility, marketing and online direct marketing web site plans of agricultural producers contemplating the development of sustainable agricultural business enterprises. This will be accomplished through: 1) three face-to-face trainings and a series of follow-up Internet webinars; 2) the development of a web-based “tool box” of resources, which will include regionally relevant agri-entrepreneur examples; 3) new/strengthened educational individual and institutional networks, and 4) and an evaluative case study.
Project objectives from proposal:
Process evaluation indicators are:
• number of participants actively involved (includes counts on the number of participants attending trainings and webinars and number of participants completing monthly journaling on the website template)
• the level of consistency of participant expectations with program delivery
• the level of consistency of resource dispersal with program delivery
Impact - A pre and post on-line survey will be the cornerstone of the impact assessment. Indicators will closely follow the proposed logic model. Indicators include:
The level of awareness of the importance, functions, and interaction between the components of a feasibility, marketing and on-line direct marketing web site plans; the level of knowledge on the resources available to help you collaborate with producers as they develop a feasibility, marketing and on-line direct marketing web site plans; the level of motivation in working with producers as they take sustainable agricultural ideas into the marketplace; the level of confidence in working with producers as they take sustainable agricultural ideas into the marketplace; the level of skill in working with producers as they develop feasibility, marketing and on-line direct marketing web site plans.
The number of sustainable clientele assisted (in the development of feasibility, marketing and on-line direct marketing web site plans); changes in educational programming to integrate knowledge of feasibility, marketing and on-line direct marketing web site plans; confidence in discussing a wide range of sustainable business ideas with producers as they develop feasibility, marketing and on-line direct marketing web site plans; confidence in discussing in-depth sustainable business concepts as it relates to the development of feasibility, marketing or on-line direct marketing web site plans quality of the business advice or suggestion as it relates to the development of feasibility, marketing or on-line direct marketing web site plans; the number of peers that are consulted on issues relating to sustainable agriculture feasibility, marketing and on-line direct marketing plans.
In addition to the quantitative data, qualitative data in the form of on-line focus groups interviews will be conducted at the end of the grant period to reveal themes initially documented in the journal activity and later interpreted through the focus group. It is anticipated that themes for both the self-reflection (e.g. “What helped me improve my ability to work with sustainable new businesses?”) and actual actions with potential new entrepreneurs (e.g. “What resources or techniques worked best with this clientele group?”) will emerge. A select group of participants will be asked to participate in the focus groups using Adobe Acrobat technology. Ultimately the themes will evolve into a set of “improved practices” for the target audience and for the participating institutions as they work to build human capacity in this area.
From both the qualitative and quantitative data, an evaluative case study will emerge. It is hoped this over-arching case study will prove valuable for individual educators as well as agricultural institutions as they work with sustainable agri-entrepreneurs.