Southern Region Educator Trainings in Eight Farming Systems using unique tools and approaches

2007 Annual Report for ES06-086

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $121,968.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Karen Adler
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Southern Region Educator Trainings in Eight Farming Systems using unique tools and approaches

Summary

Two new educational videos are now available in DVD format: Artisan Cheese Production and Marketing, and Pasture-Based Dairy Farming. Each twenty-minute video takes the viewer on a virtual farm/enterprise tour focusing on successful producers who show and discuss the key components of their operations in detail.

Materials and resources are complete for an enterprise manual, video teaching guide, and in-depth farm profile for each topic. These will be available for upcoming trainings, in addition to educational materials previously produced on six other farming systems.

Three in-person training have taken place; four more in-person trainings and two Webinars are being scheduled to take place by November 2008.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  1. Expand the knowledge of at least 300 agricultural educators in one or more of eight different high-value, alternative farm enterprises, so that they can see the actual value of these enterprises for family farmers.

    Effectively train at least 300 agricultural educators in concepts, strategies, and applications of whole systems sustainable farming systems, focusing on one or more of eight different farm enterprises of prime interest to Southern producers.

    Equip at least 300 agricultural educators during the project period to effectively utilize farmer-centered, whole systems curricula, containing unique audiovisual tools in one or more of eight sustainable farm enterprises, in educating their clientele.

    Create two new multi-media curricula for sustainable dairy farming enterprises.

    Motivate at least 300 agriculture educators to provide the farmers they serve, and their colleagues who also serve producers, with cutting-edge educational information in one or more of eight sustainable farming systems for the South.

    Expand the knowledge and skills of at least 80 agricultural educators in the use of internet-based webcasts for effective distance education.

    Provide agricultural professionals with a greater knowledge of available resources than that to which they have been exposed, yet which are available to agricultural professionals, regarding sustainable production and marketing in one or more of eight farming systems.

    Demonstrate the effectiveness of utilizing farmer trainers in educating agricultural professionals.

    Demonstrate the effectiveness of high-quality virtual farm tours in educating professionals.

    Demonstrate the effectiveness of utilizing a diverse Project Team to create effective training materials and trainings for educating agricultural professionals.

    Disseminate to all interested southern agricultural educators the availability of the curricula on the eight farm enterprise systems through appropriate electronic venues.

Accomplishments/Milestones

Two Virtual Farm Tour Videos

Artisan Cheese Production and Marketing—Sweet Grass Dairy, GA
Released August 2007
This video featuring Jessica and Jeremy Little, owners of Sweet Grass Dairy, provides information about start-up and development of a handcrafted cheese enterprise. It highlights the importance and value of milk production practices, use of refurbished and adapted equipment, and a diversified marketing strategy. It provides an overview of everything from cheese making regulations and techniques to financial accounting and business management.

Pasture-Based Dairy Farming—Black Hollow Dairy, VA
Released November 2007
Blair and Kim Sanders, owners of Black Hollow Dairy, near Dublin, VA, decided seven years ago to switch their enterprise from a conventional system to a pasture-based seasonal grazing system. In this video they share their knowledge and expertise on many aspects of their seasonal grazing system, including calving; milking; feeding; breeding; fencing; pasture management; equipment, featuring their efficient milking parlor; and recordkeeping (with the help of their computer-savvy children). For the Sanders, the advantages of this type of operation far outweigh any challenges; they have been able to stay in business, be profitable, and enjoy a high quality of life.

Video clips may be viewed at http://www.ssawg.org/virtualfarm.html. Videos are provided to participants in events produced under this project; they can also be ordered at http://www.ssawg.org/order.html.

Trainings
Professional development trainings are to take place in six targeted states: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The trainings are planned and produced in collaboration with state SARE coordinators, based on Southern SAWG training materials. We design each training to meet the specific needs of the host coordinator, bringing in experienced farmer/educators/agriculture professionals.

Southern SAWG provides educational materials for participants that include a video and enterprise manual, with video teaching guide and farm profiles. The range of eight available topics is offered and coordinators choose the ones best suited to their needs.

Three trainings of seven planned under this program have been completed, taking place in Georgia and South Carolina.

Organic Production and Marketing – Spartanburg, SC 4/9/2007
This training was produced in cooperation with Dr. Geoff Zehnder, of Clemson University. The workshop presenter was Alex Hitt, North Carolina farmer and educator, with additional materials presented by Geoff Zehnder. Topics covered included: Introduction to whole farm system planning; farm design considerations and crop scheduling; soil building and crop rotations; in-field soil preparation, seeding, and transplanting; marketing; and recordkeeping. There were fifty-three attendees, including fourteen agriculture professionals. Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing Enterprise Manuals were reviewed and updated, and provided to participants, along with the Southern SAWG Organic Horticulture videos.
Evaluations:
Presentations (average) 4.7 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Enterprise manual 4.7
(Corresponding video was provided to participants but not shown as part of the training.)

“Grazing Georgia” Grass-Fed Ruminants Workshop – Tifton, GA 4/25/2007
The second training, a Grass-Fed Ruminants Workshop, was produced in cooperation with Julia Gaskin, University of Georgia, SARE Coordinator in Georgia, in Tifton at NESPAL (National Environmentally Sound Production Center). Other collaborators included the American Grassfed Association, and The Animal Compassion Foundation (a Whole Foods Market Foundation). Ann Wells, DVM and livestock producer, presented on behalf of SSAWG. Other presenters included Dennis Hancock of UGA, Dennis Chessman of NRCS, Dwight Fisher of USDA-ARS, Will Getz of Fort Valley State University, and farmer/educators Will Harris and Bill Hodge. The Southern SAWG video on Management Intensive Grazing Systems was shown. Topics covered included: What Does Grass-fed Mean?; Forages and Grazing Management; Paddock Design and Fencing; Water Sources and Riparian Management Animal Health, Animal Handling, and Body Condition Scoring; Integrated Livestock Systems; Emergency Pasture Supplementation; Economics of Grass-fed Production; Putting the System Together – Panel discussion and Q & A; and Pasture Walk and Discussion on forage types and diversity, tools for monitoring pasture forage value, deciding when to move animals, watering systems, soil quality, and body condition scoring, and a demonstration of overgrazing effects on roots. Enterprise manuals were reviewed, adapted, and expanded, and provided to participants, along with Southern SAWG Management Intensive Grazing of Beef videos.
Evaluations:
Presentations (summary of nine aspects of the presentation) 3.9 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Notebook materials (summary including usefulness) 4.1
Video (summary including usefulness) 4.1

“Grazing Georgia” Grass-Fed Ruminants Workshop – Watkinsville/Athens, GA 5/16/2007
A second Grass-Fed Ruminants Workshop was produced in Georgia, at the J. Phil Campbell Natural Resource Conservation Center in Watkinsville (Athens), also in collaboration with Julia Gaskin and UGA, the American Grassfed Association, and the Animal Compassion Foundation. Resources and materials were provided, including the Southern SAWG MIG Beef video, and updated enterprise manuals.
Evaluations:
Presentations (summary of nine aspects of the presentation) 4.2 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Notebook materials (summary including usefulness) 4.4
Video (summary including usefulness) 4.4

Plans are underway with project consultants and collaborators to develop the remaining in-person trainings in coordination with workshop and presentation schedules of targeted audiences of agricultural professionals in the selected states, including Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. These trainings will be completed by November 2008.

Training opportunities based on the new dairy-based training systems are being developed with Dr. Steve Washburn, who served as project consultant for the Pasture-Based Dairy Farming Video and supplemental educational materials.

The provider for two interactive Webcast training has been chosen, and the research and development for materials and logistics are underway. The two-hour trainings based on Southern SAWG educational programs will take place in the summer and fall of 2008. An electronic survey is being developed for southern NRCS and Extension agents for input in choosing the first system to be presented as a Webcast. The second Webcast training will be focused on organic horticultural production and marketing, incorporating the SARE-funded interactive web-based training modules in IPM for Organic Crops, released through Mississippi State University.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The intended outcome for this project is to equip a minimum of 300 educators with new training methods and valuable tools for long term use in educating producers in sustainable systems.
One projected impact is that agricultural professionals who attend the trainings will be prepared to confidently and creatively assist their clientele to safely enter or significantly improve on these systems and enterprises. Each event is being evaluated on-site by participants to help us gauge the effectiveness and impact of the curriculum and training materials (enterprise manuals and videos). Regarding the use of Webcasts: after they are completed, we will seek feedback from participating educators so that we can assess the effectiveness and ease of use of this medium as a training tool. Based on the input of the Project Team, we expect this training medium to be highly effective. Follow-up feedback from participants of all trainings will be gathered to assess and measure the effectiveness and usefulness of the trainings and materials. We will also ask educators to offer suggestions and to comment on how the training has changed their professional attitudes.

Each training is prepared by working closely with the Project Team and state collaborators to adapt the materials and curricula to best meet the needs of those agricultural professionals expected to attend. For each of the trainings that have already taken place, the state collaborators obtained additional support to expand the audience to area producers as well as agricultural professionals. To date, 114 people have attended workshops, with approximately 45 being educators/agricultural professionals. Overall evaluations have rated the curricula in a range from 3.9 to 4.7 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as the highest. The materials have been rated from 4.1 to 4.7 on the same scale. Each evaluation measures a variety of elements; the responses are being used to make changes and improvements as necessary. Sample comments: Liked the variety of topics, rapid pace, video, and materials, pasture sticks and books; Gained knowledge and networking; Liked information on forages and paddock management, and video; Liked Ann Wells [producer/veterinarian/educator]–seems most experienced in subject by profession and practice. Puts entire system together; Presentation content and notebook for reference were very good. Course was very well organized. Good session.

Here are some of the ways participants will use materials and what they have learned:

“Very useful information for application to my job .”(County Gov’t–Economic Development)

“Farmer’s Market Presentation to vendor. Will do GROW Workshop–Soils/IPM.” (Clemson Extension)

“Distribution of copies of materials provided to other ag professionals and producers.” (NRCS)

“Notebook is good reference guide.” (Researcher)