Developing a Training Program in Sustainable Vegetable Production for Agricultural Professionals in Kentucky and Tennessee

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2010: $59,532.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Timothy Coolong
University of Kentucky

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, broccoli, cabbages, cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), onions, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, chemical control, cultural control, disease vectors, field monitoring/scouting, flame, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, mulches - killed, mulches - living, physical control, mulching - plastic, cultivation, prevention, row covers (for pests), soil solarization, trap crops, mulching - vegetative, weather monitoring, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The University of Kentucky (UK), University of Tennessee (UT), and Kentucky State University (KSU)will collaborate to provide training in sustainable vegetable production for agriculture professionals. The
    long-term goal is to increase sustainably farmed and certified organic vegetable acreage in Tennessee and Kentucky. The immediate goal is to deliver lecture based and experiential training in sustainable vegetable farming. Topics will include sustainable vegetable production, the economic benefits of sustainable and organic farming, and importance of sustainable agriculture for the long-term prosperity of rural communities. Barriers between Extension personnel, traditionally trained in conventional production techniques, and organic farmers will be addressed. Trainings will be developed using organic and conventional grower input from each state and relevant materials generated from previously funded SARE projects,and materials developed specifically for this program. A two-state regional training exercise will also take place. Hands-on workshops will be held at the University of Tennessee Organic Research Farm, University of Kentucky Organic Farming Research and Education Unit and in conjunction with Kentucky State Universities Third Thursday program. A regional farm tour, highlighting
    successful organic farmers in the Southeast U.S. will occur to complement the hands-on field training. The effectiveness of the trainings will be evaluated using a feedback loop model and adjustments made as necessary. Websites will be developed containing training information and profiles from successful organic farms. This website will allow for continued dissemination of information developed from this program after the trainings have ended.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Our long-term goal is to increase the number of farmers using sustainable farming practices in the collaborating states. This will be achieved by having CES, NRCS, FSA and other agriculture professionals better trained in sustainable vegetable farming practices, such that they will be able to assistdiversified vegetable farms enhance crop production. Our specific objectives to achieve this are:
    1. Misconceptions exist for some agriculture professionals about the economic feasibility and value of organic farming. We will bring in organic farmers from each state to demonstrate how and why they are
    successful. In addition 8-10 individuals in each state will be offered the opportunity to tour a number of successful organic vegetable farms in the Southeast U.S. over several days to demonstrate that organic vegetable production is absolutely viable for farmers in Kentucky and Tennessee.

    2. Train at least 50 agriculture professionals each in Tennessee and Kentucky (100 total) at the hands-on training opportunities held during June and September of 2010 in Tennessee and Kentucky. Attendees will be able to better help vegetable farmers adopt more sustainable production practices and better assist organic vegetable farmers in their communities.

    3. By training the trainers, a new group of individuals will now be able to become leaders in sustainable agriculture in each state. This will allow them to train many more people than could be done by a small number of specialists. Providing a comprehensive 1.5-day training including farmers as trainers, to at least 40 agriculture professionals from Kentucky and Tennessee (20 each state).

    4. Materials developed for this program will be available online on websites developed specifically as part of this training program and will include written production materials, web-based modules provided as podcasts, and grower profiles (obtained on the regional trip). This will allow the information developed in this program to “live on” after completion and provide a resource for agriculture professionals to consult.

    Year 1:
    • March-April 2010. Prior to receiving funding project coordinators will leverage CES travel funds to meet together
    with state SARE coordinators from each state, Extension personnel (including CES administration), Departments of
    Agriculture, and successful organic and conventional farmers. Active members from state grower organizations (KY Vegetable Growers Association, TN Fruit and Vegetable Association, etc.) will also be asked to participate.
    • April-June 2010. Collaborators will develop materials in support of a curriculum. The curriculum will utilize previously developed texts (Growing Cover Crops Profitably, Sustainable Vegetable Production: From Start-up to Market, etc.), as well as newly developed information dealing with specific issues relevant to each state.
    • April-September 2010. Hands-on field training will be delivered in conjunction with the Third Thursday program at Kentucky State University (PI Bomford)
    • June and September 2010. A day-long training lecture (morning) and in-field (afternoon) in organic vegetable farming will be held at University Research Farms for the Universities of Kentucky and Tennessee. This will build upon previous trainings conducted by PIs Coolong, Wszelaki and Williams.
    • July 2010. Interested parties (up to 8 participants from each state) will be invited for a regional tour of successful
    organic farms in the Southeast U.S. This tour will serve to allow agriculture professionals to learn production
    techniques from successful farms and bring that knowledge back to their constituents.
    • October 2010. Begin developing a website for delivery of material after the grant period has ended. Currently developed websites, The UT Organic and Sustainable Crop Production Website ( and the KY Sustainable Vegetable Production Program (, will be heavily modified but used as a template for this purpose.
    • January/February 2011. An in depth, multi-state, 1.5-day training will take place for Extension personnel in both states. Nashville, Tennessee is strategically located to so that agriculture professional to potentially attract more participants for Western Kentucky and Tennessee.
    • Podcasts with lectures corresponding to specific trainings and interviews with growers from the farm tour will be uploaded and made available via the project website.
    • Written materials that were made available to participants for the training sessions will be compiled and distributed to county and field offices for farmer education and support.
    • May 2011 Final project report will be compiled by lead institution with input from all partners.

    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.