Implementing Tennessee’s Strategic Plan for Sustainable Agriculture: Utilizing On-Farm Case Studies for Teaching Advanced Management and Marketing to Extension Staff
Specific learning objectives were developed for each teaching location on six farms. Our efforts focused heavily upon using the systems approach to decision-making and to train county Extension faculty to teach farm families about the development and implementation of alternative management and marketing strategies. Obviously, the systems approach involves integrating production, management, marketing, and environmental concerns into a total plan, including the development of marketing plans. The training was an advanced series for Extension personnel on these topics with application of the teaching materials to actual farming operations and farm families in a given Extension service district. Attention was focused on behavioral changes in the Extension staff which should stimulate their audiences to implement positive changes.
Specific objectives were as follows:
• Extension personnel will learn and teach farmers improved strategic planning and
• Extension personnel will learn and teach farmers improved marketing strategies.
The sustainable agriculture planning process in Tennessee identified the systems approach to decision making and implementation of improved marketing strategies as high priority subjects. The training program included using a case study approach in addressing these subjects. Training was originally conducted in 12 sessions on six different farms across the state. Specific subject matter was modified to match different educational program needs for Tennessee’s diversified agriculture. Relevant examples were tailored for each training location.
As follow-up to the original training, nine additional value added and systems analysis training sessions were conducted. Two hundred and forty-one (241) individuals participated in the training.
Training sessions involved integrating production, management, and marketing into a total plan. Information management systems were incorporated as a critical part of total resource evaluation on case study farms. Value added was emphasized in follow-up training.
Advanced management and marketing training topics were taught in classroom style sessions with Extension personnel for the first half of the training. The second half of the training was conducted on an actual farm. Extension personnel discussed management and marketing strategies used on the farm by the farm family. The discussion focused on an evaluation of strengths and weaknesses of decisions made on the farm and the likely outcome of alternative decisions. In follow-up training, Extension agents had hands on experience in using computerized systems analysis tools. One training sessions was conducted on a dairy farm.
Project goals and objectives involved teaching agents to teach the above subjects to farmers. Actual experience in working with a given farm family reinforced the relevance and importance of the subject matter. As a part of the training process, farm families interacted and discussed Extension agent suggestions and recommendations. Farm families at the six locations were an integral part of the teaching package.
Results and Impacts
A total of 678 agent days of training was conducted in the 21 training sessions.
A comprehensive evaluation of the original training revealed the following outcomes:
• Agents indicated a 30 percent perceived increase in their knowledge and understanding of long-run strategic planning.
• Agents reported a perceived 32 percent increase in their ability to assist a farm family in addressing the “right” questions and developing a long-run farm plan.
• Agents also indicated a perceived 27 percent increase in their abilities to help farm families develop and evaluate management and marketing alternatives.
Feedback from Extension agents over the past several months indicated they have effectively utilized teaching materials included in the training. Final sustainable agriculture training under this project will focus on continued follow-up to this training and further application of the systems approach to decision making with emphasis on advanced farm management and marketing strategies.