Developing Technical Skills of Service Providers in the Northeast to Assist Farmers with Production of Industrial Hemp

Project Overview

ENE20-159
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $185,371.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2023
Grant Recipients: University of Vermont Extension; Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Heather Darby
University of Vermont Extension

Commodities

  • Miscellaneous: other

Practices

  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop improvement and selection, crop rotation, fertigation, fertilizers, nutrient management, postharvest treatment
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, technical assistance, workshop
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, organic certification
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Problem and Justification:

    Cooperative Extension staff, crop consultants, and NRCS personnel need research-based information to respond to questions coming from farmer clients to address hemp production issues. Given the region-wide expansion of the crop, it is imperative to train ASPs to become more knowledgeable on hemp production to meet the immediate needs of growers. The University of Vermont (UVM) has held events highlighting industrial hemp and over 50% of participants have been ASPs. These events lacked the breadth needed to understand all aspects of the hemp production system. Much of the scientifically backed information published on industrial hemp is tied up in research reports, making it difficult for growers, ASPs, and other stakeholders to easily access and navigate. 

    Solution and Approach:

    This comprehensive training program for technical service providers is a multi-year, interactive educational opportunity. Agricultural service providers throughout the Northeast will be encouraged to engage with regional experts, their peers, and farmers they work with. Those leading the training program will foster an environment where participants have the space to ask questions, actively participate in various aspects of this training, and share their own knowledge on industrial hemp production. Agriculture service providers will be provided with a plethora of educational resources, scientific research findings, webinars, and networking opportunities - both in person and online. The in-person field days will be open to individuals outside of this hemp training program, reaching a wider audience and providing additional opportunities for participants to meet regional hemp stakeholders. Participants will be invited to visit different types of hemp operations throughout the growing season in Maine, New York, and Vermont. Providing a comprehensive training designed for ASPs to learn technical aspects and current research on hemp production, as well as strategies for communicating effectively with farmers, will result in more acres of hemp being sustainably grown and successfully harvested and sold.

    Milestones and Performance Target: 

    The training program will include: a 12-part webinar series, an online classroom platform, 5 optional in-field intensive trainings at hemp farms/a processing facility, access to the UVM Industrial Hemp Conference (2021, 2022, 2023), access to a cross-platform designed virtual reality (VR)/computer-based decision making tool for hemp growers, virtual office hours with members of the advisory board, and Certified Crop Advisor (CCA) credit. We will connect with 100 ASPs for the training, with the expectation that a total of 75 will complete the training program in full.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    75 agriculture service providers (ASPs) to provide accurate technical assistance to 225 farmers who  implement 2,250 acres of sustainable industrial hemp for seed, grain, fiber, and flower in the Northeast. As a result 100 farmers will adopt a new practice with the intent of improving yield, reducing production risks, and/or increasing economic returns on 1000 acres of hemp in the northeast.

    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.