On-Farm Training in Organic Pest Management Practices for Small, Diversified Farms
Project members and stakeholders met in January to identify specific topics for inclusion in the training and to develop a schedule of training events for the year. A total of four training events that included classroom, laboratory and on-farm sessions were held in 2010 with 251 participants. First year training focused on the concepts of ecologically-based disease, insect and weed management. Results of participant surveys indicated that over 90% were highly satisfied with the training format and content, and viewed the training as a valuable professional development opportunity that enhanced their ability to help farmers implement sustainable/organic pest management practices.
1. With stakeholder input identify key disease, insect and weed management strategies and resources promulgated in the “Pest Management for Organic Crops” Curriculum that are appropriate for on-farm training in sustainable/organic pest management.
2. With cooperating farmers and instructors develop the training curriculum and schedule for a series of on-farm classes to demonstrate preventative and biologically-based disease, insect and weed management strategies.
3. Promote and conduct the on-farm classes over a two-year period with instructors experienced in sustainable/organic farming and in disease, insect and weed management.
4. Conduct follow-up interviews with training participants to assess their level of satisfaction with the training, and whether they were able to use the knowledge and skills gained to effectively teach farmers about the concepts of sustainable/organic pest management.
Project team members and stakeholders met in January to identify specific topics for inclusion in the on-farm training in sustainable/pest management and to develop a schedule of training events for the year. Key pest management strategies from the web based “Pest Management for Organic Crops” curriculum that were recommended by the team and stakeholders as most appropriate for small scale farmers were selected for inclusion in the training. Project team members met subsequently in-person and by conference call to develop the training curricula for 2010 and 2011, and to finalize a schedule and locations for on-farm training events to be held in 2010. Information on the training program and schedule of events was disseminated by the South Carolina SARE Program, Clemson and South Carolina State University Extension, and other organizations including the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, and Lowcountry Local First.
The project advisory group recommended that training events include laboratory sessions when possible where participants can gain experience with disease and insect identification. Therefore training events at Clemson and Presbyterian College (Clinton, SC) were organized to include laboratory sessions for hands-on training in disease and insect identification. A total of four training events were held in 2010 with 251 participants. Participants included 1890 and 1862 Extension agents, NRCS and South Carolina Department of Agriculture personnel, and farmer educators. Please refer to the link at the end of this section for a description of the training events. Instructors for the training included Dr. Powell Smith (Insect Management), Dr. Mark Boudreau and Dr. Tony Keinath (Plant Disease Management), Dr. Mark Schonbeck (Weed Management), Mr. Daniel Parson (Integration of Pest Management Strategies into the Farm Plan), and Dr. Geoff Zehnder (Insect Management and NOP guidelines).
Online surveys completed by training participants indicated that over 90% were highly satisfied with the training format and content, and viewed the training as a valuable professional development opportunity that enhanced their ability to help farmers implement sustainable/organic pest management practices. Survey information on specific components of the training were summarized and considered by the project advisory team in planning for the 2011 training events.
2011 training events will include the following topics: Organic Pest Management Workshop and Tour of Clemson Organic Farm Demonstration Plots (June 4-5); Ecologically Based Pest Management Workshop, Coastal Research & Education Center, Charleston, SC (June 21-22); Organic Disease Management, Presbyterian College and Bush River Farm, Clinton, SC (June 28); Organic Weed Management, Clemson University and Organic Farm (September date TBA).
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The training program will produce a core group of agriculture professionals with expertise in organic/sustainable pest management who will in turn be able to help farmers to effectively implement biologically-based pest management strategies. Farmers who have the knowledge to o develop cost-effective and environmentally sound pest management plans will be more competitive in the marketplace and will be able to meet the increasing demand for local and sustainably-grown foods. The benefits of the project will continue beyond the project period through a network of cooperating farmers and agriculture professionals who will share information and personal experiences with pest problems and solutions.