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


    The University of Kentucky (UK), University of Tennessee (UT), and Kentucky State University (KSU) collaborated to provide training in sustainable vegetable production for agriculture professionals. The long-term goal was to increase sustainably farmed and certified organic vegetable acreage in Tennessee and Kentucky. The immediate goal was to deliver lecture based and experiential training in sustainable vegetable farming to Cooperative Extension Service (CES), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel and other agriculture professionals. This was achieved through hands-on workshops held at the University of Tennessee Organic Research Farm, University of Kentucky Organic Farming Research and Education Unit and Kentucky State University's Third Thursday program. A regional farm tour, highlighting successful sustainable farmers in Kentucky and Tennessee took place in the fall of 2011 to complement the hands-on field training. The effectiveness of the trainings were evaluated using surveys and adjustments made during the program as necessary. Websites were developed containing training information, videos and production information for organic farming. DVDs were also developed based on a day-long multistate training held in Nasvhville, TN in January 2011.

    Project objectives:

    Objectives as stated in funded grant:

    • 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.

    PIs Coolong, Bomford and Wzselaki met with SARE coordinators in their respective states as well as appropriate CES administration in April 2010. Informal advisory group meetings have been held in conjunction with growers associations in both states as well.

    • 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.

    Completed in June 2010. Texts and information coordinated for day-long training sessions.

    • 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.

    Two hands-on trainings were held at the University of Kentucky Organic Farming Research and Education Unit and the University of Tennessee Organic Farm in June and August of 2011, respectively. Approximately 65 agricultural professionals attended these trainings.Two in-field trainings were held in KY and TN in 2010 with and additional two trainings held in 2011/2012 to complete this objective. On September 6, 2011 an in-field training was held at the University of Kentucky Horticulture Research farm from 9 am to 2 pm. This training covered equipment use on diversified vegetable farms, irrigation and fertility management, high tunnel production, weed, disease and insect management in organic production systems. An additional training was held on April 26, 2012 at the University of Tennessee Organic Research Farm. This training covered high tunnel research, tomato grafting for organic producers, fruit production, small scale composting, small scale water collection, heirloom seed collection, Brown Marmorated Stink Bug management for organic farmers, interactions between seeding rates and weed control in organic field and forage crops and reduced-tillage organic vegetables. Approximately 10 Extension professionals attended this training.

    • April-September 2011. Hands-on field training will be delivered in conjunction with the Third Thursday program at Kentucky State University (PI Bomford)

    Trainings were held at the in conjunction with the KSU Third Thursday Program culminating and in organic vegetable production focused field day on July 21, 2012. Topics at this field day included cover crop selection and mowing, roller-crimping, spading implements, high tunnel production and mulching of crops. Tractors and implements were used in the field to demonstrate these technologies. A large mix of Extension Professionals and growers were present. In addition, a day-long organic production training was held on September 27, 2012 mixing field-based topics with lecture topics. The audience was a mix of agricultural professionals from the KY Department of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension Programs. Topics included developing pest management strategies for your organic farm plan, managing soil additions (compost, straw mulch, etc.), becoming certified as an organic grower, and rotational planning.

    Below is a list of workshops and presentations conducted by KSU PI Michael Bomford in conjunction with this project:
    • August Third Thursday - Backyard organic gardens, 8/19/10.
    • July Third Thursday – Organic Soil Fertility and Weed Management, 07/21/11.
    • August Third Thursday – Organic Gardening, 08/16/11.
    • Organic “Train the Trainer” program, Sept. 27 & 28, 2011.
    • Organic Farmers – To Be or Not To Be (with Mac Stone, Larry Brandenburg and Alison Wiediger). Healthy Foods, Local Farms Conference, Louisville KY, 10/15/11.
    • General Organic Track Moderator. Organic Association of Kentucky Conference: Cultivating Organics in the Commonwealth. Bowling Green KY, 03/02/12.
    • Organic Gardening. Growing Appalachia Conference, Prestonsburg KY, 4/14/2012.
    • Season Extension. Growing Appalachia Conference, Prestonsburg KY, 4/14/2012.

    Presentations (*Slides archived at
    • Michael Ward, Michael Bomford, and Tony Silvernail. Effectiveness of Row Covers Against Late Frost in Unheated High Tunnels. Kentucky Academy of Science Meeting, Bowling Green KY, 11/13/10
    • Michael Bomford and Brian Geier. Heirloom Tomatoes. Fairview Produce Auction, Christian County KY, 1/26/11.
    • Michael Bomford. Organic Pest Management. Russell County (KY) Extension Office. 2/15/11.
    • Tony Silvernail and Michael Ward. Organic Seed Starting. Third Thursday Thing, Frankfort KY. 2/17/11.
    • Michael Ward, Michael Bomford, Tony Silvernail, and Jon Cambron. Effects of Row Covers on High Tunnel Soil Temperature. Association of Research Directors Conference, Atlanta GA, 4/10/11.
    • Michael Ward and Michael Bomford. Effect of Row Covers on High Tunnel Temperatures and Yield in Spring. Kentucky State University Earth Day Festival, Frankfort KY, 4/22/11.
    • Michael Bomford. It's Organic... But is it Sustainable? (Prezi). Third Thursday Thing - Organic Weed & Fertility Management, Frankfort KY, 07/21/11.
    • Michael Bomford. High Tunnel Production. Sustainable Commercial Urban Farm Incubator Workshop, Cincinnati OH, 09-03-11.
    • Michael Bomford, Tim Coolong, and Tony Silvernail. A Hands-on Demonstration of the Organic Certification Process Using the KSU Farm as a Teaching Example. Organic ‘Train the Trainer’ seminar, Frankfort KY, 09/27/11.
    • Michael Ward and Michael Bomford. Row Covers Moderate Diurnal Temperature Flux in High Tunnels. International Symposium on High Tunnel Horticultural Crop Production State College PA, 10/17/11.
    • Joni Thompson, Michael Bomford, Jon Cambron, Michael Ward, Anthony Silvernail, Cristen Flewellen, and Christopher Gaines. Effects of plastic and hay mulches on soil temperature and moisture in organic heirloom tomato production. Kentucky Academy of Science Meeting, Murray KY, 11/05/11.
    • Michael Bomford. Reducing Energy Costs on Vegetable Farms. Indiana Horticultural Congress, Indianapolis IN, 01/18/12.
    • Michael Bomford. Organic/Sustainable Vegetable Production in High Tunnels, Including Economics. Indiana Horticultural Congress, Indianapolis IN, 01/19/12.
    • Joni Nelson, Michael Bomford, Jon Cambron, Michael Ward, Anthony Silvernail, and Cristen Flewellen. Effects of Plastic and Hay Mulches on Soil Temperature and Moisture in Organic Heirloom Tomato Production (Poster). Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference, Little Rock AR, 01/21/12.
    • Michael Bomford. Organic Sweet Sorghum and Edamame Soybean Production and Processing. Virginia Association of Biological Farmers, Richmond VA, 02/10/12.
    • Michael Bomford. High Tunnels for Organic Production. Third Thursday Program, Frankfort KY, 02/16/12.

    • Summer cover crop demonstration planting, Kentucky State University Research and Demonstration Farm, 2011-12.
    • Vegetable mulch trials, Kentucky State University Research and Demonstration Farm, 2011-12.
    • Organic high tunnel demonstration and row cover trials, Kentucky State University Research and Demonstration Farm, 2010-12.

    • 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.

    In January of 2011 a multistate training was conducted in Nashville, TN with participants from KY and TN. Due to feedback from agents from earlier trainings the 1.5 day schedule was modified to a single day schedule.There were 34 extension agents signed up for this training from KY and TN and several more came to the training without preregistering. Although the training was intended for agriculture agents, growers were allowed to attend. Approximately 100-150 growers were attending various sessions at any given time.
    uly 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.

    Due to delays in the original funding this objective was completed in September 20-22nd, 2011. This three-day tour had 19 participants as well as PIs Coolong, Williams and Wszelaki. Seven sustainable farming operations were visited in KY and TN. The purpose of this tour was to demonstrate various ways in which growers have diversified their farms to enhance the long-term sustainability of their operations. The intent was that agents could then use this information in their own counties when working with farmers who would like to diversify. The following farms were visited: Elmwood Stockfarm, Georgetown, KY; O’Daniels Organics with Joe O’Daniel and Paul Wiediger, Bowling Green, KY; Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, Austin, KY; EcoGardens CSA, Scottsville, KY; Windy Acres Farm, Orlinda, TN; Delvin Farms, College Grove, TN; and Skipping Rock Dairy, Philadelphia, TN. All of the attendees felt that they learned quite a bit about a wide variety of agricultural practices including dairy ( value added: cheese), beef, poultry, grain, fruit and vegetable production.

    • 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.

    This objective was altered. In lieu of creating podcasts, the Departments of Agricultural Communications from the University of Tennessee and Kentucky assisted in creating a two-DVD set filmed during the day-long organic training session held at the Tennessee Horticulture Expo in January 2011. Each DVD contains three chapters with presentations covering the following: tomato grafting (Cary Rivard, KSU), building your soil for organic farms (David Butler, UT), working with less fossil fuels (Michael Bomford, KSU), organic weed management (Mark Williams, UK), becoming organically certified (Michael Fitzgerald, KDA) and planning your vegetable rotations around cover crops and composting (Daniel Parson, Parson Produce). DVDs have been distributed to each county office in KY and TN.

    • 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.

    Websites were modified at UT to include more organic production information; while an entirely new site was developed at UK ( to meet the needs of the target audience. Several powerpoint lectures were developed for this training program and placed on the websites for Extension professionals to use when necessary. These sites will allow for the information developed during this project to be used after this project is completed.

    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.