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

    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 Alabama, Arkansas and Louisiana. The training Is designed to expand the expertise of tnese 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: bask: principles and practices of organic vegetable production, high tunnel usages and best production practices, certification, marketing and economics. 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 CDROM 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 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.