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

2013 Annual Report for ENC12-131

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

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


2013 – The project started slower than expected. The difficulty was recruiting individuals to participate in the program. With a small grant attached to help them complete a local project, we expected that recruitment would be easy, in fact anticipating that we would have to turn people away. This however did not prove to be the case and we ended up having to recruit people by making several additional broadcasts of the opportunity, by contacting district Extension directors, and by making one-on-one contact. The graduate student involved in the project, Megan Myrdal, did a great job of making these contacts from leads we were able to gather but also, at times, just making a cold call to someone or to an organization we knew might be interested. 

Eventually a great group of excited participants were found and the project had its first session in Nov, 2013. At the session, participants had the chance to meet each other and to learn what each one would like to accomplish over the course of this project. We had some great speakers who helped lay the groundwork regarding what local foods are and what they can mean to the individual, the family, the community near and far. The returns from local food included health, economic and sustainability. 

As 2013 ended, the next workshop was being planned for March, 2014. Also the group received Vision to Action worksheets that would be the planning document for their local efforts.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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.


  • January-March, 2013 – Market program and solicit applications

o   Done. Response was lower than desired so first educational session was delayed and additional marketing was done including one-on-one calling and encouragement to participate. Potential base of participants was expanded to include more community and local food leaders who will also be crucial in building the ND local food capacity.


  • April, 2013 – Local/Regional Foods: Definitions and Determining Feasibility session. Conduct evaluation pretest and gather feedback from session.

o   Delayed – Held on Nov 5-6 until November – Delay allowed for additional recruitment of participants. For the first session, 28 people submitted applications or contacted Abby or Glenn


  • June, 2013 – Launch online resource center along with online collaboration site. Begin to add regular posts and information to the online locations.

o   Launched – Can be found at: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/smallbusiness/small-farm-farm-diversification


  • July-August, 2013 – Develop mini-grant materials to guide participants.

o   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. Gather feedback from session.
  • Postponed until March 6-7, 2014

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes


  1. Planned cohort of 30 participants who will agree to attend all three sessions. Goal is to have 10 – 15 Extension educators, 5 -10 other North Dakota educators, and 5 – 10 out-of-state participants.
    • 28 signed up. 12 Extension educators (one from out of state) and 16 ND educators and community leaders – 2013
  2. Session handouts and PowerPoint slides – This material will be useful as individuals/teams develop their own local programs.
    • Handouts provided at workshop. Materials also sent between sessions – 2013
  3. Online resource center will be developed and available to all
  4. Collaboration tool will allow for internal communication among cohort and trainers. Questions can be posted for feedback and ideas. Responses will be summarized and developed into a frequently-asked question section. Goal is to develop a peer learning atmosphere where not only can educators help each other but eventually market managers, institutional and restaurant buyers, and producers will participate in helping drive forward the idea of local/regional foods.
  • Listserv built to allow for group communication – 2013



  • Increased awareness of the importance and possibility of locally/regionally grown food for health, taste, and economic reasoning among educators, producers, market makers, and consumers.
  • Expanded awareness of marketing opportunities and potential new products
  • Enhanced educator skills in responding to questions by producers and consumers as well as community building skills to form networks around this topic.
  • Increased awareness of data resources and how they can be used in the feasibility study of new business ideas.
  • Gain knowledge regarding food safety issues throughout the food production and distribution system.
  • Develop business skills of educators and eventually trainers in the area of business planning, pricing, and marketing. Not only will specific knowledge in each area be examined but so will the understanding of the interaction between these elements
  • Enhance motivation and confidence of educators in helping producers take sustainable agricultural ideas into the marketplace.
  • Encourage and increase the motivation of producers to consider small farm specialty crops as a viable business.


2013  Report – Feedback from first session indicates excitement for the program. People were excited to hear about the things other people were working on already. The participants were also excited to have a network of others interested in local foods. Listserv has had some use. PIs use it on a regular basis to pass along information to participants.


Dr. Abby Gold

Assistant Professor
North Dakota State University
351 EML
Dept of Food and Nutrition
Fargo, ND 58105
Office Phone: 7012317478