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

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $99,736.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:
Jim Lukens
Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy), peas (culinary), tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, networking, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, community-supported agriculture, marketing management, agricultural finance, market study, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, eradication, physical control, mulching - plastic, smother crops, soil solarization, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships, sustainability measures


    Ten separate trainings on organic and high tunnel production methods were held in four different states (Arkansas, Alabama, Kentucky and Louisiana) for NRCS, cooperative extension, farmer mentors and other agricultural service providers.  Trainings included both classroom and on-farm presentations. Over 240 individuals participated in the events. 

    Project objectives:

    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 Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana) will participate in trainings offered through this project. 

    1. 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; and practices to build soil health, control pests, produce healthy crops and conserve resources; emphasizing the differences in how this is done in a high tunnel vs. in the open field.

    1. Participants will take home tools and resources that can be readily accessed to gain further knowledge about these farming systems. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. 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.

    1. Southern SAWG and project collaborators will gain improved understanding of where further training is needed in order for NRCS and Extension agents to better serve new client farmers using organic and/or high tunnel production systems.


    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.