Sustainable Poultry, Pastures, Soils, and Vegetable Education in Minnesota

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $73,952.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Timothy Arlt
University of Minnesota Extension

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), leeks, lentils, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, brussel sprouts
  • Animals: poultry


  • Animal Production: grazing management, pasture fertility, pasture renovation, grazing - rotational
  • Education and Training: general education and training
  • Soil Management: soil microbiology, soil chemistry, organic matter, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    This proposal to fund curricula development and educator training for small farms on small flock poultry management, soils, pastures and vegetable production is based on a 2010 survey of small and beginning farmers in Minnesota along with an informal training needs assessment by the University of Minnesota Extension (Extension). The curricula development and trainings will be conducted in collaboration with the Sustainable Farming Association of MN (SFA). Survey results showed that these four topic areas are of high interest or are currently in production on a majority of small farms. Organizational restructuring of Extension in 2004, resulted in a loss of expertise in these areas among its locally-based staffs that typically interact most with these farmers. Extension and SFA are partnering to address the need for curricula and educator training in these areas based both on research and practicality. Farmer members of SFA will play an integral role in development, teaching and evaluating this new curricula and SFA organizationally will take the lead on facilitating selection of farmers and will co-facilitate the training sessions. Administration, fiscal management, curriculum development, evaluation of the methodology and of the training sessions will be led by Extension. Evaluation is critical to achieving successful outcomes including: increasing knowledge and understanding; preparing staffs to work more closely with farmers in these topic areas; providing basic curriculums; increasing programming over the next year; beginning a vegetable production unit within the Extension Small Farms program; and building stronger relationships between Extension, other agencies and sustainable farmers across Minnesota.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The main audience for this project is Extension educators. We will also be offering the training to other agricultural educators and agency personnel, as well as, to other Extension educators from surrounding states. Locally-based Extension educators in MN have direct contact with farmers around these topics and need to have the training and resources to answer questions and provide technical assistance to farmers. Some of these local educators also staff the Farm Information Line, which receives calls from a diverse group of farmers and this will be another way to utilize the training and information. Input from several educators and from the SFA has helped to guide this proposal. We will have 15-25 U of M Extension educators participating in each of these training opportunities.

    Inputs – Extension is asking eight educators to be participants on the farmer/educator teams. This commitment will be written into their annual plans of work. All of these staffs are funded through county dollars. Extension is also covering the costs for financial management, monitoring and reporting, and will be providing support for curriculum development and design from non-federal funds.

    Activities – Each topic team will consist of at least two educators and two SFA farmers who will meet 4-8 times over the course of the project. Teams are charged with curriculum development, training for this curriculum and evaluation of the curriculum and training. Some of the meetings will be in-person and others with be via web-based systems. Each team will provide at least one one-day training for the curriculum. Our hope is that curricula will emphasize research based systems and management strategies, focused by practicality that farmers bring to the teams. By doing so, we should be able to increase educators’ knowledge, skills and abilities around sustainable systems and at the same time be able to provide them with the tools necessary to increase educational offerings to beginning, small, and transitional farmers. The connections established between SFA farmers and educators will help to bring the groups together around other projects, events and activities. Additionally the coordination between the PI and SFA office should help to strengthen these connections and working relationships.

    Evaluations of these training sessions and subsequent use of the curricula will be conducted by the teams with guidance from the evaluation specialist. The project coordinator and evaluation specialist will conduct post-training evaluations and write the final report to NCR-SARE.

    Outputs – A curriculum around each of these topic areas is the major output. However, some lasting partnerships of farmers and educators will also occur. Our goal is to be able to offer 2-3 farmer training opportunities around each of these topics each year for three years following training of educators. These will be located across the state and developed in partnership between Extension and SFA. Our goal is to train 100 farmers each subsequent year for three years.

    Outcomes – A major outcome is that the four curricula developed will be used by educators across the state. Currently there is little effort devoted to sustainable agriculture education as a result of lack of curriculum. Through increased knowledge and understanding of the topics, educators will be able to adapt educational programs to customer needs and assist farmers with technical questions in these four program areas. We will also post these curriculums to our Small Farms website and make them available to other educators.

    We hope to be able to show increased partnerships between sustainable farmers and Extension educators over time. While the grant and evaluation periods are short, we believe that we will be able to show an increase of 5 partnerships between educators and SFA farmers and a sense of increased relationships established between SFA farmers and 10 Extension educators. An intermediate to long term goal is to increase the involvement of Sustainable Farmers in a broader range of Extension agriculture programs than just Small Farm programs.

    Measureable outcomes include: 10 educators will use these curricula for programming over each of the subsequent three years and that at least 8 educational events or activities will be held each year during this time. (Our expectation is that some educators will program together.) Long term outcomes include: increasing numbers of successful small farms using sustainable methods for poultry and vegetable production; increase in sustainable soil management and pasture management techniques on small farms; established educational partnerships between SFA and Extension; and an increase in the number of small sustainable farmers selling food locally.

    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.