- Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops
- Education and Training: extension, workshop
- Pest Management: integrated pest management
- Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
- Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
The key partners for this proposed project are Tuskegee University (lead institution), Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN), the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), North Carolina State University, University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Auburn University, and Virginia State University. The overall goal is to enhance the knowledge base and practical skills of Extension personnel, mentor farmers and other personnel, in organic agriculture. The specific objectives are to 1) Organize and conduct a series of in-class workshops and hands-on training exercises and 2) Develop educational resources which will be used by educators in the SSARE Region States. The proposed training activities include strategies for building soil fertility in organic systems, organic pest management, organic tillage systems, crop rotation and biodiversity, economics of organic agriculture, and organic standards and certification. The target audience includes Extension agents, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel, Forest Service Agents (FSA), and mentor farmers from four states in SSARE Region. The target audience will be reached through workshops, hands-on training exercises, and by the development and distribution of organic training resources. The expected results are increase in organic agriculture knowledge base and increased confidence by the target audience. The acquired knowledge will be used by to assist farmers who are certified or determined to transition to organic agriculture methods. The educational resources developed will be used for future learning on organic agriculture. Evaluation of results will be done using questionnaire surveys, self reporting, observations, and follow up calls to the target audience.
Project objectives from proposal:
The overall goal is to enhance the knowledge base and practical skills of Extension personnel, mentor farmers and other personnel, in organic agriculture. The specific objectives are to 1) Organize and conduct a series of in-class workshops and hands-on training exercises and 2) Develop educational resources which will be used by educators in the SSARE Region States.
Collaborators from multi-state institutions, that include 1862 Universities (Auburn University and North Carolina State University), 1890 Universities (Tuskegee University and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff), and Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN) will team up and combine their expertise and experience to train the target audience from three States in SSARE Region. To prepare for the program implementation, collaborators will meet with the target audience in their respective states and identify their training needs in organic agriculture. Collaborators will then hold their first teleconference meeting to discuss these training needs and assign the training topics. Strategies to compile effective educational resources will also be discussed during the teleconference.
To accomplish the first objective of organizing and conducting a series of in-class workshops and hands-on training exercises, professionals from the aforementioned institutions will use research-based knowledge, and the lessons and experiences learned from previous training workshops and demonstrations. Successful teaching modules will be tapped from the previous projects and modified to meet the specific objectives of this proposed program. These modules will also cover a diversity of horticultural enterprises (olericulture, floriculture, and pomology). The training will emphasize a systems approach to organic agriculture (e.g. the use of biological pest control and promotion of biodiversity). The proposed training topics include strategies for building and maintaining soil fertility in organic agriculture systems; organic pest management; organic agriculture tillage systems; crop rotation and biodiversity; economics of organic agriculture; and organic standards and certification.
A series of in-class training modules will be delivered by the collaborators and invited experts during a two-day workshop in May 2011 hosted by Tuskegee University. Educational resources developed by the professionals will be used during the training workshop. The target audience will make a visit to a successful organic farm in Milstead Community, Macon County, Alabama. The farm owner has agreed to participate in this proposed project and also serve as a mentor farmer.
A teleconference meeting of collaborators will be conducted in June 2010 to discuss the outcome and feedback from the training workshop. The lessons learnt will be used during the advanced workshop and hands-on experiential learning.
Preparation of organic demonstration plots for the advanced hands-on experiential learning at North Carolina State University will be accomplished between October 2011 and April 2012. The target audience will attend the two-day hands-on workshop in North Carolina in May 2012, which will include the art of composting, cover crops assessment, organic pest control methods, and organic tillage among other topics. The workshop training sessions will be recorded in multi-media to facilitate future distance learning.
The second objective of compiling and distributing educational resources will be achieved during the period October 2010 to May 2011 and June 2011 to April 2012. Each collaborator will contribute in his/her area of expertise in organic agriculture. Educational resources will be tapped by the collaborators from several sources, including the USDA National Agricultural Library, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM), Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), Rodale Institute, ATTRA- National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, and The Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, among others. Each collaborating institution will be assigned a topic for compiling educational resources, which will be in the form of CDs, DVDs, newsletters, fact sheets, and extension bulletins. The educational resources will be posted on a website maintained by the lead institution. Efforts will be made to ensure that resources are also accessible through other existing websites such as eXtension and eOrganic.
Project evaluation by lead institution will be done to assess the success of the project during the implementation period (first evaluation in June 2011) and also close to the end of the project (June 2012). A project evaluation expert hired by the lead institution will assist in the evaluation process and provide guidelines on how to improve the effectiveness of the project.
In June 2012, project reports by the lead institution with participation of the collaborators will be compiled. The results of the program will be presented in the form of non-peer and peer reviewed publications, including the Journal of Extension.