Developing Successful Organic Horticulture Farms: Practical Training for Agricultural Professionals

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $62,915.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Jean Mills
Southern SAWG

Annual Reports

Information Products

Organic Management of Weeds, Pests, and Crop Diseases (Conference/Presentation Material)
Organic Horticulture Outreach (Conference/Presentation Material)
Dripping Springs High Tunnel Overview (Conference/Presentation Material)
Building Soil Quality and Managing Nutrients (Conference/Presentation Material)
Fayetteville Farmers Market (Conference/Presentation Material)
Outreach a Grassroots Approach (Conference/Presentation Material)
Dripping Springs Garden--a whole farm system (Conference/Presentation Material)
Vegetable and Cut Flower Production and Marketing (Conference/Presentation Material)


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, compost extracts, cultural control, flame, mulches - living, physical control, prevention, traps
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Abstract: This proposed project brings together three key elements: an already developed and well-tested farmer-led organic production training course, a practical science-based body of research and experience, and agriculture professionals seeking information about organic methods. The project, led by Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), will provide practical training and resources on organic horticultural crop production to enhance the capacity of Extension, NRCS, and FSA personnel to provide effective technical assistance to current and aspiring organic farmers. Key partners include Virginia and Tennessee organic farmers, Virginia Extension, NRCS and FSA personnel, Extension personnel on the Deep South Fruit and Vegetable Growers (DSFVG) Conference planning team, and Tennessee Extension personnel. Two-day trainings, delivered by both scientists and farmers, will be conducted at three locations in Virginia. Each of these trainings will consist of one day of classroom instruction, and one day of hands-on training at a successful organic farm. These trainings will build on well-received No-Till trainings for agricultural professionals recently conducted in Virginia. In addition, a one-day training will be offered at two winter conferences, the DSFVG Conference and the Southern SAWG Conference, to reach audiences over a wider geographic area. Instruction will focus on principles, practices, economic viability and decision-making in organic farm management. Supplemental training materials, including Southern SAWG's comprehensive organic vegetable CD-ROM featuring materials from land grant universities and farmers around the country, will be provided. We will train at least 120 professionals. We will use pre- and post-training questionnaires to evaluate this project.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Project Goal and Objectives:
    The overall goal of the project is to equip Extension, NRCS, FSA and other agricultural professionals with the tools and resources to provide effective technical support to organic producers whose farming systems include horticultural crops. Specific objectives include:

    1. At least 120 agricultural professionals will attend trainings offered through this project.

    2. Agricultural professionals will gain improved understanding of the principles and the practices of organic farming systems. Lessons to be taught will include, but not be limited to, principles of diversity and holistic systems, as well as practices to build soil health, control pests, produce healthy crops and conserve resources.

    3. Agricultural professionals will take home tools and resources they will readily access to gain further knowledge about organic farming systems. This will include user-friendly electronic and hardcopy materials on organic practices, research and resources that they can easily share with others or refer to when called upon to provide needed technical information to area producers.

    4. Agricultural professionals will gain improved capacity to deliver technical assistance to current and aspiring organic horticultural producers seeking to develop economically viable farms. This capacity will be gained by utilizing the information presented in the training and in the take-home materials.

    5. Agricultural professionals will have the ability to provide general information on organic certification to those exploring certification as a result of the materials concerning organic certification they receive with these trainings.

    6. NRCS, FSA and other USDA personnel will be better able to help organic farmers gain access to federal conservation and farm credit programs because of information and resources about organic farming that they gain through these trainings.

    7. Agricultural professionals will be motivated to continue building their capacity to serve organic farmers and to communicate information learned to others in their field.

    8. With this project, another goal is to learn the best techniques and strategies for educating agricultural professionals on organic production in order to develop effective trainings for more agricultural professionals in other states in the future.

    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.