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

2010 Annual Report for ES10-101

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

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


2010 Program Summary

Much was accomplished in 2010. 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. In January 2011 a multistate training for sustainable vegetable production was held at the Tennessee Horticulture Expo in Nashville, TN for extension professionals. 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. Dr. Mike Bomford has also been developing additional exhibits for sustainable trainings to be held in conjunction with the Third Thursday program at Kentucky State University in spring and summer of 2011. We are also currently finalizing trip details for a 2.5 day tour of organic and sustainable farms in KY, TN, and VA. This trip will take place from June 27-29, 2011 and will be a way for agriculture agents to see first-hand, sound farming practices.

Objectives/Performance Targets

  • This project was originally intended to be completed in one year. However, unanticipated delays in funding and allocation of resources have altered our timeline. We recently asked and received a 12 month no-cost extension for this project so that we can complete all the stated objectives.

    Goals 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.

    April-September 2010. Hands-on field training will be delivered in conjunction with the Third Thursday program at Kentucky State University (PI Bomford)

    Due to funding delays hands on trainings with the Third Thursday program will take place in spring/summer of 2011 at KSU.

    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.

    Funding delays prevented having two trainings at each location in 2010; however, a single day long training was held in June and August of 2010 in Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively. Two additional trainings are planned for 2011.

    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.

    The tour was delayed due to funding. The tour is currently planned for June of 2011 and will feature stops in KY, TN, and VA and will take place over 2.5 days.

    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.

    Website re-tooling has begun and will be completed by the end of summer 2011.A new website address has been developed for the KY program called:

    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. An information booth at the Expo was also rented by this project to supply production information for sustainable vegetable systems.

    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.

    Websites are being developed with youtube stations so that viewers can observe short 5 minute segments of video recorded during training sessions. In addition the full day training held in Nashville, TN was recorded by UT Agricultural Communications services and will be featured on a DVD available to county offices with accompanying powerpoint lectures.

    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.

    Will be completed in 2012 after the no-cost extension ends.

    May 2011 Final project report will be compiled by lead institution with input from all partners.

    Will be completed in 2012 after the no-cost extension ends.



Most goals were achieved in year one (see objectives above). Although we must still complete one hands-on training session in each state and website development other goals have been achieved. Approximately 65 agents attended the day-long trainings in TN (31) and KY (34) in 2010 and an additional 34 agents and associates attended the day long training held at the TN Hort. Expo in January 2011. Topics that have been covered include:

How to obtain organic certification (Michael Fitzgerald, Kentucky Dept. of Ag.)
Organic fertility management including transplant production (Timothy Coolong, UK)
Building better soils through sustainable management practices (David Butler, UT)
Integrated insect and disease management (Ric Bessin and Kenny Seebold, UK, Bonnie Ownley, UT)
Holistic approaches to management weeds on farms (Mark Williams, UK)
Organic high tunnel production (Annette Wszelaki, UT)
Organic grain production systems (Neal Eash and Forbes Walker UT)
Tomato grafting methods (Cary Rivard, Kansas State University)
Reducing farm energy inputs (Mike Bomford, Kentucky State University)
Farm Equipment for organic production (Lee Ellis, UT)
Organic vegetable farming experiences (Grower talk, Carl and Tina Benson, Forkland, KY)
Crop rotation and compost management on farm (Grower talk, Daniel Parsons, Clinton, SC)

Professionals attending these programs would have received several excellent resources related to sustainable vegetable production. These include: Sustainable Vegetable Production from Startup to Market, Managing Cover Crops Profitably, Building Better Soils, Crop Rotation on Organic Farms, Managing Alternative Pollinators, Manage Insects on Your Farm, Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management, and Building a Sustainable Business. Several SARE Bulletins were also included in attendees materials lists.

Trainings have been recorded so that we can offer both a DVD of the multistate training in Nashville to county offices, but also so that short 5 minute segments of presentations can be presented on youtube channels launched concomitantly with websites devoted to this project.

Surveys associated with training sessions pre and post and with other groups such as the Organic Association of Kentucky (OAK) have helped in planning future programs during this project. In addition, survey results have help steer decisions made for future publications associated with sustainable vegetable production. For example, it has been made clear that one very critical need is a publication for calculating organic-based soil fertility recommendations. Meetings with advisors (growers, agents, administrators, etc.) have also helped shape programming decisions.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes


For many agents we feel that the trainings have exposed them different methods of producing vegetables. Most that would have attended now understand the systems based approach to production that is required for one to move to an organic production system. I feel that we have driven the point that we need to take a systems approach with growers and not one of input replace. Feedback from attendees in general indicates that this has been very educational and at least one attendee is planning an organic vegetable production field day in June 2011, based on the training received in 2010. Some attendees, though a minority, expressed that having to develop a holistic system where inputs cannot be substituted was an indication that organic farming was a flawed production strategy, too complicated to be implemented on a large scale. Despite having hands-on sessions where attendees can actively see how crops can be successfully grown organically a small number of attendees still felt this way.

Our outputs will include DVDs and web-based materials that can be utilized by agents to distributed to growers in their counties. What we have found is that in most counties, only a small number of growers are currently moving to organic production. Although one-on-one interaction is preferred, most will not hold a county wide meeting for a small number of growers. By producing DVD and web-based outreach resources the agents can still a level of assistance to growers in their communities.

This program has been favorably received by agents who have attended the trainings. We feel that after this program is completed they will have the tools necessary to advise growers where to go for organic production. We do not expert attendees to be experts in organic production based on an one day training, but we do expect that they will have access and know where to turn to obtain the necessary resources to help growers make informed decisions regarding organic vegetable production.


Dr. Mark Williams

[email protected]
Associate Professor
University of Kentucky
N-318 Ag. Sciences North
Lexington, KY 40546-0091
Office Phone: 8592572638
Dr. Michael Bomford

[email protected]
Principal Investigator
Kentucky State University
Atwood Bldg. Rm. 125
400 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40601
Office Phone: 5025975752
Dr. Timothy Coolong

[email protected]
Asst. Professor
Univ. of Kentucky
N-318 Ag. Sciences North
Lexington, KY 40546-0091
Office Phone: 8952573374
Dr. Annette Wszelaki

[email protected]
Asst. Professor
University of Tennessee
252 Ellington Plant Sciences Bldg.
2431 Joe Johnson Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996
Office Phone: 8659747208
Dr. Kenneth Seebold

[email protected]
Asst. Professor
University of Kentucky
205 Plant Science Bldg
Lexington, KY 40546-0312
Office Phone: 8592577445
Dr. Ricardo Bessin

[email protected]
University of Kentucky
S-225L Ag. Sciences North
Lexington, KY 40546
Office Phone: 8592577456