- Education and Training: demonstration, workshop
- Energy: energy use
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, agricultural finance, risk management
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities
This program was developed to provide education to Ag lenders and other USDA government personnel who assists farmers seeking to benefit from programs initiated by the 2008 Farm Bill. The areas of focus were Hoophouse systems (unheated greenhouses) and Organic production. These were two technical areas that our USDA staff were not familiar with and requested technical training and information resources. An in person approach was preferred and offered a unique opportunity for farmers who typically do not engage with USDA field staff and the staff to come together and “learn about each others trades”. This program not only shared technical information but demonstrated a successful organic field crop farm and successful organic farm using hoop houses. The USDA staff shared their programs and roles to implement the Farm Bill which ended in farmers that never considered applying for crop insurance applying and learning about the various insurance programs. This was truly an unexpected outcome of the program. Mutual learning is the most rewarding and beneficial approach of education, from my perspective. On farm programs always have multiple benefits for those delivering and those receiving.
We provided two on farm workshops. One farm was an organic field crop production system and the other was an organic hoophouse vegetable farm. Both offered farmer presentations, technical information and a “field visit”. Questions were directed by field staff to the farmers and MSU staff. Contacts were made that are still used for reference when additional information is needed or clarification.
The final evaluation was not conducted as intended due to lack of opportunity (budget cuts by agencies) for the field staff to engage with farmers. Therefore program director of grant interviewed the two supervisors of each group to summarize the impact of the program and evaluate the outcome of the technical program.