- 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
The goal of this project proposal was to increase the small business knowledge, skills and confidence of recognized public sector agricultural experts in Nebraska and neighboring states so that they can better consult with sustainable agricultural producers as they formulate and develop business enterprises. Specifically, it was 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.
The project had both process and impact performance targets. Process target indicators were: • the number of participants actively involved (includes counts on the number of participants attending trainings and webinars) • the level of consistency of participant expectations with program delivery and of the project resource dispersal as per a telephone survey with participant’s mid-way through the project. Impact targets are divided into both short-term and intermediate-term. A pre and post survey was the cornerstone of the impact assessment. Indicators closely follow the proposed logic model and they included: 1) Short-Term • 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 participants 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 participants take sustainable agricultural ideas into the marketplace; • the level of confidence in working with producers as participants take sustainable agricultural ideas into the marketplace; • the level of skill in working with producers as participants develop feasibility, marketing and on-line direct marketing web site plans. 2) Intermediate-Term • 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. 3) End of program case study, “Guidelines for Improved Practice ” In addition to the quantitative data, qualitative data in the form of on-line focus groups interviews/comments were initially planned at the end of the grant period during the late fall of 2011. This process was modified and the use of a website discussion board/blog was substituted as a form of communication for the group. The blog was established in the winter 2010 and spring of 2011 and several times questions and comments were posted but the group never fully used the technology as a tool. It was hoped that the blog, housed on the Nebraska SARE website, would spark comments in areas such as 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?”) would emerge. To compensate for the low participation on the blog, a select group of participants were asked for their input on “lessons learned” so that a list of initial “promising practices” for the target audience and for the participating institutions could be composed as they work to build human capacity in this area.