Expanding Opportunities for Sustainable Small Farm Specialty Crop Producers: Training Educators in Feasibility Analysis, Marketing, and Community Building

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $74,980.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Glenn Muske
North Dakota State University

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: melons, apples, berries (other), berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), lentils, onions, peas (culinary), radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals
  • Animals: bees, bovine, poultry, swine, sheep
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: free-range, grazing management, pasture fertility
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, e-commerce, farm-to-institution, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, composting, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, analysis of personal/family life, community services, sustainability measures


    In 2013, North Dakota Extension began an effort to develop the local foods efforts. As determined by an advisory panel of producers and service providers, two needs were outlined. The first need were the elements that drive any successful segment of the economy, ample production and sufficient demands. For North Dakota, this meant expanding the number of producers, expanding the size of existing producers, and helping the producers become better equipped in terms of their production, marketing, sales, management, and profit-analysis skills. To achieve this, required the second element, advisors, mentors, and support agencies that are prepared, and feel comfortable, in providing advice, assistance, and guidance.

    The program would, if successful would: 1) increase the numbers of small specialty crop producers; 2) bring more products into the marketplace; 3) expand the marketplace; 4) encourage more and varied marketing; and 5) encourage the use of sound food safety practices at all levels. 

    The program offered a series of three educational programs taking a broad look at the local foods efforts in North Dakota. Topics such as building community, food safety, small farm management, the local foods movement in general, marketing and profitability were provided.

    The 28 participants, 12 Extension educators and 16 ND agency and community leaders, attended the trainings. These individuals, alone or in teams, then developed 16 local projects to develop local foods in their home area. This allowed for the blending of the training received with local needs.

    The results of the projects are identified in the accomplishments section.

    Project objectives:

     Objectives/Performance Targets

    The project objectives were met as noted in the accomplishments section. These included:

    1. This project aims to expand the background, increase the skills and provide a toolbox to those individuals often called upon to answer the questions of the individual expressing the desire to meet the local food demand. Educators will feel more equipped and motivated to work with the small farm specialty crop producer.
    2. To reinforce the skills acquired and to ensure continued project activity, participants will agree to implement local programming that will enhance/expand local foods understanding, use and production either through individual efforts or teams.


    Similar to the objectives, the proposed accomplishments were also met although some were not met during the initially proposed time frame (See comments following).

    • January-March, 2013 – Market program and solicit applications - Done although recruitment time was extended
    • April, 2013 - Local/Regional Foods: Definitions and Determining Feasibility session. Delayed due to extended recruitment campaign. Session feedback was obtained.  
    • June, 2013 – Launch online resource center along with online collaboration site. Begin to add regular posts and information to the online locations.
    • July-August, 2013 – Develop mini-grant materials to guide participants.
      • Vision to Action worksheet was developed and provided to participants at first session to help them plan their proposed project.
    • October, 2013 - Building Community and Food Safety session was held in March, 2014 and feedback was gathered.   
    • February, 2014 - It’s a Business: Making It Profitable session held and feedback gathered. Final project plans gathered. .
    • March, 2014 – end – Market local projects being undertaken. Assist in developing greater consumer awareness of local/regional food opportunities. - Done
    • March, 2014 – Mini-grant applications due and awards made - Done
    • June, 2014 – Conduct mid-point evaluation. - Done - Mid-term report Participant Sharing 12 2 2014
    • July, 2014 – Announce availability of resource center generally to small farm producers and those supporting that group. Also expand use of center by publicizing its availability to educators in general. -Done
    • New - December, 2014 - 2nd round of grants announced and awarded. - Done
    • September, 2015 – Final online survey to study program process and effectiveness and to assess impact and efficiency -  Survey done in Nov and in-person at the fourth meeting of the group.
    • September, 2015 – Final mini-grant reports due - Deadline extended until Nov 2015
    • October-November, 2015 – Conduct interviews with selected educators and program participants. Finalize evaluation and reports. - As entire group had the opportunity to meet in person, each project offered comments of their accomplishments and hurdles they faced.



    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.