Southern Region Educator Trainings in Eight Farming Systems using unique tools and approaches
The two educational videos completed in 2007, Artisan Cheese Production and Marketing, and Pasture-Based Dairy Farming, have been used in trainings in a number of Southern states. 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, including an enterprise manual, video teaching guide, and in-depth farm profile for each topic, are available for trainings, in addition to videos and educational materials previously produced on six other farming systems.
The remaining four in-person trainings for agricultural professionals have taken place in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.
Training opportunities based on the new dairy-based training systems with Dr. Steve Washburn, who served as project consultant for the Pasture-Based Dairy Farming Video and supplemental educational materials, have taken place throughout the Southeast.
Two interactive Web cast training have taken place on the topics of Management Intensive Grazing of Beef Cattle, and Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing, which incorporated the SARE-funded interactive web-based training modules in IPM for Organic Crops, released through Mississippi State University.
Steve Washburn, North Carolina State University
Geoff Zehnder, Clemson University, Clemson, SC
Julie Sexton, Mississippi State University
Vicki Dunaway, Lady Bug Micro Creamery, Willis, VA
Al and Desiree Wehner, Green Hill Dairy, GA
Jessica and Jeremy Little, Sweet Grass Dairy, GA
Mark Cain, Dripping Springs Garden, Huntsville, AR
Ken Dawson, Maple Spring Gardens, Cedar Grove, NC
Mike Walters, Walters Hatchery, Stillwell, OK
Paul and Alison Wiediger, Au Naturel Farm, Smith’s Grove, KY
Alex Hitt, Peregrine Farm, Graham, NC
Blair and Kim Sanders, Black Hollow Dairy, Dublin, VA
Ann Wells, Springpond Holistic Animal Health, Prairie Grove, AR
Julia Gaskin, University of Georgia
Carl Motsenbocker, Louisiana State University AgCenter
Owusu Bandele, Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA
Daniel Parson, Parson Produce, Clinton, SC
Mark Crenshaw, Mississippi State University
Franklin Chukwuma, Alcorn State University
Terry Holder, Mississippi State University
Josh Payne, Oklahoma State University
Kefyalew Desta, Oklahoma State University
Robert Spencer, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Steve Tate, Goat Lady Dairy
Dr. Ron Morse, State Grazing Lands Specialist USDA-NRCS for Arkansas
- 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 web casts 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.
Two Virtual Farm Tour Videos
o 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.
o 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.
This video has been utilized by Steve Washburn, the video and training materials consultant, at the 2-day dairy grazing conference held in Memphis, TN February 11-12, 2009, sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of America milk producers cooperative. There were about 270 people in attendance. Dr Washburn has also shown the video and shared educational information at a number of additional events, including:
North American Veterinary Conference, Orlando, FL, January 2008
20th National SARE Conference, Kansas City, MO, March 2008
Dairy Farm Pasture Walk, Frankford, WV, April 2008
American Association of Bovine Practitioners, September 2008
Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference, Shenandoah Valley, VA, October, 2008
Exploring Alternatives for Milk Production and Processing, Live Oak, FL, October 2008
On Cowabunga trip with ~35 veterinary students in December 2008, on the bus traveling to VA and PA.
North Carolina Dairy Conference, February 2009.
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.
Professional development trainings have taken place in six targeted states: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Oklahoma. The trainings were planned and produced in collaboration with state SARE coordinators based on Southern SAWG training materials. We have designed each training to meet the specific needs of the host coordinator, bringing in experienced farmer/educators/agriculture professionals.
Southern SAWG provided educational materials for participants that included a video and enterprise manual, with video teaching guide and farm profiles. The range of eight available topics was offered and coordinators chose the ones best suited to their needs.
Four remaining trainings of seven planned under this program have been completed.
o Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing – Raymond, MS 10/29/2008
This training was produced in cooperation with Dr. Franklin Chukwuma of Alcorn State University and Dr. Terry Holder and Dr. Mark Crenshaw of Mississippi State University. The presenter was Daniel Parson, South Carolina farmer and educator. Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing Enterprise Manuals were reviewed, updated, and provided to participants, along with the Southern SAWG Organic Horticulture videos.
There were 21 attendees, all agriculture professionals; affiliations include Alcorn State University, MSU-ES, State Office, and one 4-H Agent.
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.
Presentations (average) 4.3 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Enterprise manual 4.7
o Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing – Baton Rouge, Louisiana 11/12/2008
This training was produced in cooperation with Dr. Carl Motsenbocker of Louisiana State University AgCenter and Dr. Owusu Bandele of Southern University. The presenter was Paul Wiediger, farmer and educator. (Paul Wiediger and his wife Alison Wiediger own and operate Au Naturel Farm, the subject of one of Southern SAWG’s two organic horticulture videos.) Enterprise manuals were reviewed, updated, and provided to participants, along with Southern SAWG Organic Horticulture videos.
There were 85 attendees, including 41 agricultural educators and professionals, plus a number of students and farmers.
Topics covered included: Introduction to Organics; Soil Health & Soil Building; Cover Crops & Compost; Marketing; Planning for Production—Recordkeeping; Planting: Seeding, Transplants, Field Prep; Drip Irrigation; Challenges to Organic Production: Weeds, Pest, & Disease Control; Rotations; Equipment; Harvest & Post Harvest Handling; and Season Extension.
Participant response to the workshop was overwhelmingly positive. Evaluation details will be included in the final report in June 2009.
o Pastured Poultry Workshop – Sallisaw, Oklahoma 11/19/2008
This training was produced in cooperation with Dr. Josh Payne and Dr. Kefyalew Desta of Oklahoma State University. Mike Walters of Walters Poultry was the presenter. (Mike Walters and his wife Teresa own and operate Walters Poultry, the subject of Southern SAWG’s pastured turkey video.) Resources and materials were provided, including the Southern SAWG Pastured Turkey video, and updated enterprise manuals.
There were 18 attendees, including 15 agriculture professionals and 2 farmers.
Topics covered included: Feed; Health Issues; Genetics; Hatchery Selection; Pasture Management; Brooding; Free Range Issues; Shelters: Predators; Business Planning; Marketing/Labeling/Working with Customers; and Processing.
Presentations (summary of 13 aspects of the presentation): 3.9 on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest
Poultry Enterprise Manual: 3.9 on a scale of 1 – 5.
o Dairy Goat Fundamentals and Opportunities (including the Art of Fromagerie and Marketing Goat Cheese) – Montgomery, Alabama 11/20/2008
This training was produced in cooperation with Robert Spencer, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Resources and materials were provided, including the Southern SAWG Artisan cheese Production and Marketing video, and newly created enterprise manual. The presenter (for Southern SAWG) for the Art of Fromagerie and Marketing Goat Cheese was Steve Tate, of Goat Lady Dairy. Alabama Cooperative Extension staff provided presentations on Dairy Goat Production, Value-Added Opportunities, and Dairy Fundamentals and Regulations. There were 16 attendees, all agriculture professionals.
Presentations (summary of the two cheese-making segments of the workshop) 4.4 (on a scale of 1 – 5 with 5 the highest)
Artisan Cheese Enterprise Manual: 4.2 (on a scale of 1 – 5).
Two interactive Web cast trainings (webinars) have taken place. The two-hour trainings, based on Southern SAWG educational programs, were on the topics of Management Intensive Grazing of Beef Cattle, chosen through an electronic survey of Southern NRCS and Extension agents; and Organic Horticultural Production and Marketing, incorporating the SARE-funded interactive web-based training modules in IPM for Organic Crops, released through Mississippi State University. Each participant received a copy of the MIG or Organic Horticulture video, and was able to view and download the enterprise manuals for their topic.
The trainings were recorded, with the recordings made available to participants to view again and share.
o Management Intensive Grazing of Beef Cattle 12/11/2009
Presenter was Ron Morse, State Grazing Lands Specialist USDA-NRCS for Arkansas. Dr. Morse developed much of the original educational materials and video script for Southern SAWG’s MIG course and video, and adapted the materials for this two-hour webinar presentation.
Forty-eight Extension agents, NRCS personnel, and other agriculture educators throughout the South participated. Approximately 50 percent reported that this was the first webinar they had attended.
The presentation got high marks. Most participants rated the effectiveness of the training method as well as the materials from Good to Excellent. Twenty-seven out of twenty-eight respondents said that they found the workshop useful for their service to farmers/producers.
The ease of access to high-quality training without the time and expense of travel was cited as a significant benefit. Full evaluation details and follow-up with participants will be included in the final report in June 2009.
o Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing 12/16/2008
Presenter was Daniel Parson, educator and farmer, Parson Produce, South Carolina. Mr. Parson had presented the daylong Organic Vegetable training in Mississippi in October 2008, and adapted the materials for the two-hour online format.
Fifty-seven Extension agents, NRCS personnel, and other agriculture educators throughout the South participated. Approximately 50 percent reported that this was the first webinar they had attended. All responding participants rated ease of use and effectiveness of training method from Good to Excellent.
The presentation received high ratings. Many participants said that they found the speaker to be very effective and knowledgeable. All twenty-four who responded to the question said that they found the workshop useful for their service to farmers/producers. Full evaluation details and follow-up with participants will be included in the final report in June 2009.
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 was 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 Web casts: we are gathering feedback from participating educators so that we can assess the effectiveness and ease of use of this medium as a training tool. So far, the response has shown 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, and will be included in the final report. We are also asking educators to offer suggestions and to comment on how the training has changed their professional attitudes.
Each event has been 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 several of the trainings, state collaborators obtained additional support to expand the audience to area producers and students as well as agricultural professionals. To date, 254 people have attended in-person workshops; 138 of these are educators/agricultural professionals. Through the webinars an additional 105 agriculture professionals have received training. Hundreds more have been reached through exposure at more than 20 events, including the Southern SAWG Annual Conference, to the materials and trainings. 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 3.9 to 4.7 on the same scale. Each evaluation measures a variety of elements; the responses are being used to make changes and improvements for the future.
Sample comments: Cheese Making: Area I lacked knowledge in but had the opportunity to learn about and interact with; Liked the organization and presentation of practical information; Liked the basics of goat cheese/any type cheese production on small scale; liked actual producer presenting. Pastured Poultry: The content was good and timely; Liked free-range topics; Provided information on a subject that is not readily available; Concept presented in a professional way. Organic Production and Marketing (Mississippi): [presenter] very knowledgeable about the subject; Good and practical; Liked the marketing; Lots of good info and publications to read later; Liked cover crop information; Good notebook. Management Intensive Grazing of Beef (webinar): Presenter has first hand experience. Frequency of rotation portion was especially well presented; Very practical. Information that is very needed.
Organic Production and Marketing Webinar: Great slides and well-organized. I really enjoyed the format; Well presented in the time frame and good overall discussion of organic veg. production.
Some areas for improvement: Participants in the Pastured Poultry workshop would have liked more in-depth information on critical areas such as processing and brooding sources, more information on marketing, and more hands-on demonstrations. Also requested to have materials available online. A participant in the Mississippi Organic Vegetable workshop would have liked more information on farm design and crop placement, and another wanted more information on weed control. Two participants in the Dairy Goat/Cheese Making workshop suggested having hands-on demonstrations. In the webinars, especially the first, there were a few technical difficulties that were sorted out, and some lessons learned on this first web-based training venture. Although participants received instructions on how to join the training, access the audio and materials, and ask questions, there were a few instances of additional support (which was provided) being needed for these functions. This may be unavoidable to some extent, especially for those attending a web-based training for the first time, but in the future additional methods will be explored to help ensure that the instructions are received and understood.
Here are some of the ways participants will use materials and what they have learned:
o My knowledge about this enterprise (Dairy Goat/Cheese Making) has been significantly expanded. This will allow me to better answer questions from clientele and direct their questions to the appropriate person.
o Develop workshops
o Introduce producers to alternatives (Pastured Poultry)
o Will use handouts, copies of training materials, and verbal recommendations
o I will use this information to pass on to farmers (Organic Vegetable)
o Conduct workshops for farmers and other Extension staff (Organic Vegetable)
o Will use to deal with a niche group that has shown an interest in organic crop production
o Demonstrations and workshops with small groups (Organic Vegetable)
o Will be used to answer producer questions (Organic Vegetable)
o Helping small farmers keep in business
o I will pass along ideas to producers, especially the rotation frequency and layout principles (MIG webinar)
o [Encourage] Intensive grazing to decrease the amount of fertilizer application than compared to a continuous grazing system (MIG webinar)
o I plan to use this information in the form of a workshop to educate individuals who are thinking of transitioning to organic systems. Great info! (Organic Vegetable webinar)
o Share IPM training materials with growers (Organic Vegetable webinar)
Here is a sample of comments on how the training has contributed to and/or changed participants’ professional attitudes:
o Learned that the lack of pesticides in organic production is not a major disadvantage
o I can add marketing techniques for my farmers to use in direct setting
o Enlightened me on organics
o Aided in some best practice management tips in horticulture production
o Cover crop information, rotation emphasis will be incorporated into my work
o Always be open minded for new ways to make money for farmers
o Brought opportunities to light for me
o I’m more open to pastured poultry production and recommending it to producers
o Expanded knowledge base
o [Learned] ways of producing value added products
o Makes me a better educator
o I am more aware of issues facing organic producers and appreciate what our clients go through on a daily and seasonal basis
o Makes me better able to serve clients