Using “Tag-Team Training” to Foster Education Program Sustainability Among Organizations Teaching Risk Management for Northeastern Farmers

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $123,249.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2026
Grant Recipient: Cornell Cooperative Extension, Oneida Co.
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Myron Thurston III
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, mentoring, networking, other, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, farm succession, financial management, marketing management, risk management

    Proposal abstract:

    Farming has always been one of the most resource-intensive professions known to man.  As a result, farmers are often required to perform as production experts and even laborers first and foremost. Unfortunately, this does not always leave an excess of time to explore and evaluate new practices for business development, management, and marketing. Therefore, farmers benefit from the guidance of trained educators who can customize education/technical assistance that identifies and meets their needs according to their own schedules.

    From the service provider’s perspective, however, there are sometimes challenges in delivering services to area farmers consistently:

    • Educators are a primary source of farmer training and education, but their employers struggle to find qualified replacements as they move up or on in careers. When employees leave, organizational knowledge is depleted, and recruitment/re-training is costly. This issue has increased exponentially due to the labor shortages we are seeing after COVID-19;
    • Each farm is a complicated, unique business structure. There are few “one-size-fits-all’ solutions to addressing business needs;
    • While group trainings/peer discussions are helpful, producers also need 1:1 technical assistance that “meets them where they are” geographically as well as in terms of skill, business life cycle, and resources.

    Both constituent groups will benefit from this project: Northeaster farmers facing post-COVID sustainability/profitability issues, and Ag educators and service organizations that help farmers meet these business goals but who face staff shortages and turnover, especially post-COVID.  CCEOC believes the most effective solution to addressing these co-dependent issues is to establish a system whereby organizations share resources to 1) minimize program interruptions, and 2) sustain their knowledge base during staffing transition. 

    CCEOC is requesting a grant to implement “Tag-Teaming” -- a system of joint Cross-Training and Co-Teaching within a cohort of organizations willing to explore new methods for staff development and program delivery. Cross-training is process of sharing knowledge, skills, and tools among employees or partners, equipping them to perform tasks they may not previously have been qualified for. Co-Teaching is simply a strategy wherein educators work together regularly.  This project will introduce Tag-Teaming to 36 northeastern educators who agree to work together by forming 18 two-person “Tag Teams” that will collaborate in Cross-Training and Co-Teaching not just over the two-year grant period but beyond.

    Staff will be cross-trained, and farmers will be team-taught. These techniques are not new, and they are proven.  This project will help organizations and educators prepare to manage the negative effects of staffing transitions by forming "Tag Teams" for Cross-Training/Co-Teaching for the benefit of northeastern farmers.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    • 18 Ag Education Teams (=36 educators) will participate in “Tag-Team Cross-Training” to increase their knowledge in the three specified areas of farm business/risk management, as well as their capacity for Co-Teaching (i.e. sharing the responsibilities of planning, delivering, and mentoring others to provide Ag education services)

    • 15 Ag Education Teams (=30 educators) will apply their “Tag-Team Cross-Training” to provide education/technical assistance (group and/or individual) in three high-risk farm management areas -- finance, marketing, succession planning -- to 330 producers

    • 30 participating educators will establish a Professional Development Work Group to provide ongoing mentorship and training (Tag-Team and traditional) for the pipeline of Ag Educators who serve northeastern producers

    • Optional Farmer Performance Target: As a result of engagement with Tag-Team Educators, 115 producers will have implemented a new process or adopted a new practice in the areas of farm finance, marketing, or succession planning during the program

    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.