Motivating Teams for Enterprise Facilitation
1. Create a social infrastructure for development of sustainable agricultural enterprises.
2. Develop agents’ skills in Enterprise Facilitation.
3. Develop a mechanism for self-sustaining multiplication of enterprise facilitation skills.
Although U.S. agricultural agencies are admired worldwide for successes in increasing production of commodities, less emphasis has been directed in recent years to organizing farmers for marketing and processing their production. What has been in short supply is the combination of expertise in ecologically-sound agricultural systems and skills helping farmers organize teams to create new enterprises.
Our approach is to enmesh all training and educational materials with agents actively working with individuals and producer groups. For example, some products groups are investigating include various new aquaculture products (freshwater shrimp, paddlefish, largemouth bass), a fried green tomato product, value-added dairy products, food-grade soybean products, and processed meat products. This research has involved consumer sensory testing, attribute preference measuring, and market development needs within several market channels (restaurant, retail supermarket, wholesale, etc.). Each of these initiatives involved working through the steps of market research and product development with county extension agents and persons from other service agencies with a view toward equipping them to help other entrepreneurs in their areas and to developing case studies, educational workbooks and trainings.
Farmer Entrepreneur Cases A series of case studies were developed with a focus on key early venture decisions made by farmer entrepreneurs. Specifically, the cases investigated how the entrepreneurs (1) identify and develop their business idea, (2) develop their initial market, (3) capitalize their effort, (4) deal with regulatory issues relating to their specific venture, and (5) manage growth, particularly in the early stages following a successful launch.
Some of the cases developed, reviewed, and published to date include the following: Green River Preconditioned Cattle Sale, Pecans in Paducah, Red Barn Farms, R-Grow Organic Soil Conditioner, Fairview Produce Auction.
PRIMER A farm diversification decision tool was developed. This workbook has been used in over a dozen training settings and has been published both in print and on the web. The six point evaluation process includes user-friendly worksheets to aid the farmer to evaluate important dimensions to a diversification decision; Profitability, Resources available and needed, Information sources, Marketing, Enthusiasm of the producer (and key partners) for the enterprise, and Risk. Over 2000 of these workbooks have been distributed and expanded training using this tool is anticipated to begin this winter in Kentucky.
Ideas to Enterprise A business planning workbook for farmers was developed. Several training programs were provided in Kentucky based on these materials. The training specifically matched a county extension agent with a farmer entrepreneur of the agent=s choosing. The team worked through the intensive business plan development together with a view toward building the agent=s confidence in facilitating the development of future business plans. A total of fifteen teams completed the training and number of new farm-based enterprises were successfully launched as a result.
Facilitator/Organizer Case Studies As the project has progressed we have realized that agents lack basic skills in group dynamics. So, we have sought out successful organizers of collaborative, sustainable rural enterprises and profiled them on our website at: http://www.deltanetwork.org/skills/cases/casestudies.htm.
Our emphasis on partnerships with other agencies has led to a number of spinoff project: A Delta Export Center has been established with ASU/University of Arkansas. Agent-farm entrepreneur training in tobacco intensive production areas has been developed for Kentucky and Tennessee. A subsequent grant (ARC) allowed this training to be expanded to Appalachian counties. We have also expanded partnership with an intensive business planning curriculum, NxLeveL for agricultural entrepreneurs and assisted in pilot stage offerings in several states.