Expanding the Expertise of Agricultural Professionals to Serve New Constituents: Practical Training on Organic Horticulture and Hoophouses

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $99,980.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Jim Lukens
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Pamela Kingfisher
Southern SAWG

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy), peppers, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: ornamentals


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, multiple cropping, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will provide practical training and supplemental resources on organic horticultural crop production and high tunnel production for NRCS, Extension and other agricultural professionals in Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. The training is designed to expand the expertise of these agents so that they can provide effective technical assistance to new constituents – current, transitioning and aspiring organic farmers, and farmers developing high tunnel production systems. Trainings will be delivered by a team consisting of a scientist, a farmer trainer, a former NRCS agent and an on-farm host farmer, all selected for proven ability to deliver effective instruction. Two-day trainings will be conducted at two locations in each state. Each of these trainings will consist of one and a half days of classroom instruction and a half day of training at a successful, diversified organic farm. Classroom instruction will include: basic principles and practices of organic horticultural production; and high tunnel construction, usages, best production practices, and financial considerations. Applicability of federal programs being administered by NRCS will be taught. On-farm training will expand on the classroom material and will provide a more direct look at the practical aspects of organic and high tunnel production systems. A library of supplemental educational materials, including, but not limited to, a CD-ROM developed by Southern SAWG featuring materials from land grant institutions and farmer experiences, will be provided to all participants. Our goal is to train at least 210 professionals with this project.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall goal of the project is to equip NRCS, Extension and other agricultural professionals with the tools and resources to provide effective technical support to producers whose farming systems include organic vegetables and/or high tunnel production and those who want to transition to these production systems. Specific objectives include:

    1. At least 210 agricultural professionals in three states (70 professionals in each state of Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina) will participate in trainings offered through this project.

    2. Participants will gain improved understanding of the principles and the practices of organic farming systems and high tunnel production. Lessons to be taught will include, but not be limited to, principles of diversity and holistic systems; practices to build soil health, control pests, produce healthy crops and conserve resources; and high tunnel construction and usages.

    3. Participants will take home tools and resources that can be readily accessed to gain further knowledge about organic farming systems and high tunnel production. This will include user-friendly electronic and hardcopy materials on organic practices, high tunnel production, research and resources, and related NRCS programs that they can easily share with others or refer to when called upon to provide needed technical information to area producers.

    4. Participants will gain improved capacity to deliver technical assistance to producers seeking to develop economically viable farms using organic and/or high tunnel production systems. This capacity will be gained by utilizing the information presented in the training and in the take-home materials.

    5. Participants will be better able to help more farmers gain access to USDA farm programs that are right for them because of information and resources about organic and high tunnel production that they gain through these trainings.

    6. Southern SAWG and project collaborators will gain improved understanding of best techniques and strategies for educating agricultural professionals on organic and high tunnel production systems in order to carry out effective trainings for more agricultural professionals in the future.

    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.