- Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, organic fertilizers
- Education and Training: extension, mentoring, workshop
- Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, physical control, cultivation, prevention, sanitation, soil solarization, trap crops, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
- Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
- Soil Management: green manures, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil chemistry, organic matter, soil physics, soil quality/health
Demand for organic produce has increased the need for information about organic agriculture production practices, particularly from beginning and conventional farmers. A survey of 15 agricultural experts in Georgia, documented over 700 producer inquiries on organic production practices in 2006 (Georgia Organics, pers. com.). Limited expertise in this emerging sector has resulted in the demand for technical support going unmet by existing resources within the University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University Cooperative Extension. The University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and Georgia Organics propose to expand the capacity of Extension by designating and training regional organic production agents that would from an Organic Production Team with Land Grant Specialists and Researchers and farmer advisors. Ten county agents including at least one agent from each of four districts and one representative of the 1890 Land Grant College would participate in an initial training. The on-farm workshop will focus on organic vegetable production systems and soil management with both a classroom and field component. In addition, each agent will work closely with an experienced organic farmer from their area to gain hands-on experience with local organic production techniques. The participating agents will be able to assist farmers and other agents by responding to inquiries on organic production and conducting programming. Evaluation will be conducted through a pre- and post workshop survey to determine change in responses for information and in knowledge.
The primary objective of the project was to expand the capacity of the University of Georgia (UGA) and Fort Valley State University (FVSU) Cooperative Extension to deliver technical information to new and transitioning farmers in organic agriculture. A secondary objective was to improve communication between county agents, extension specialists, other research scientists and interested NGOs on work in sustainable and organic production being conducted in Georgia and to create a mechanism where questions generated by farmers and agents could reach researchers.
Specific goals were to:
• Increase the knowledge of participating agents in the practical application of an organic systems approach to production so that they can better respond to technical requests,
• Increase the confidence of participating agents so they can respond to requests for technical support from organic farmers,
• Continue county agent learning by forming an Organic Production Team with participating county agents, specialists and interested farmers,
• Use the Organic Production Team to serve as a conduit between extension and University resources and the research or technical needs identified by new and transitioning organic producers, and
• Foster the lateral spread of information to other county agents as well as other farmers through field days, farm tours or workshops.