Training Agricultural Professionals to Meet the Needs of Small Farmers-phase II
This project builds on a previous Northeast SARE funded two-day training for agricultural professionals designed to better understand and serve the small farm sector in the twelve northeast states. In this project, multisector state teams will replicate (and customize) the regional training for state and local service professionals. Each training will incorporate a working typology of the small farm sector, skill-building in listening to and working with small farmers, program design and outreach. Farmers are team members and integrated into the trainings. Also, a one-day training will take place at the SARE Professional Development program (PDP) meeting and will include state Small Farm Contacts.
Out of 353 agricultural service professionals in ten states (Cooperative Extension educators, USDA agency personnel, non-governmental organization staff, and state agricultural agency staff) reached by this project, 220 will develop enhanced understandings, new skills, employ innovative program resources and delivery strategies, and reach and serve targeted small farm constituents.
In phase I, twelve state teams received training at a regional two-day event. The purpose of this project, phase II, is to replicate the overall intent of the regional training — to improve service providers’ understanding, skills, and knowledge to better meet the needs of the small farm sector — at the state level, for state and local service professionals. State teams participating in the regional training were invited to submit proposals for project funding to help design and implement a state-based training event. The project team created a request for proposals that specified criteria for proposals, including requirements for farmer participation at all stages, outcomes reporting, and integration of typology, skill-building, and partnership development into the training. This RFP was circulated to all state team leaders.
We met our milestone of ten teams submitting proposals to implement state-level trainings.
One proposal was submitted jointly by two states. The project team reviewed the proposals
according to agreed-upon criteria and scoring systems, and approved or made recommendations
for conditional approval pending modifications to the proposals to strengthen the outcome.
Subsequently one team withdrew.
This brought us to our next milestone, that of nine teams moving forward with trainings. Each state team negotiated a sub-contract with the project coordinator to receive funding ($5,000 per state team) to support the design and implementation of the training. The project co-leaders serve as coaches for the teams, with each leader coaching four state teams. Special attention was paid to including farmers on teams, in the planning, and in presentation of the training. Most state-level trainings will take place between January and March of 2002. In New York, 137 service providers and farmers attended trainings in four regions of the state during October. A project team sub-committee was formed to design the one-day follow-up training session for the Northeast SARE PDP program coordinators. This will take place in February in Baltimore, MD. Each state’s small farm contact will be invited to attend, thereby increasing the communication and partnership between each land grant university’s PDP coordinator and small farm contact.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
It is clear from the responses by the state teams to the opportunity to organize state trainings, that this project has had an impact on service providers in every northeast state. State teams are enthusiastic, and, in most cases, the project funds have been matched with cash and/or in-kind contributions from other agencies and organizations. There is evidence of substantial partnership building within the teams and with state organizations in the planning phase of each team, and a consistent commitment to include and compensate farmers.