Building Capacity in Organic AGriculture: An Integrated Approach to Training Agricultural Information Providers
1. Improve the knowledge, attitudes and skills of agricultural information providers, primarily agents and specialists with the Cooperative Extension Service (CES), the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Master Gardener Association trainers from Georgia in the integrated systems of producing, handling and marketing certified organic fresh produce, crops and ornamentals. The training seeks to improve the interest and abilities of participants to deal directly with questions from those interested in starting, converting to, and currently engaged in organic farming and gardening.
2. Provide a comprehensive training and resource manual in producing, handling and marketing certified organic produce, ornamentals and row crops in a format that can be continually supplemented and updated. We developed a three-ring binder of diverse sources of key materials for reference plus human, electronic and published sources of additional information.
3. Equip and motivate agricultural information providers and the Georgia Master Gardener Association to organize learning events and activities in organic agriculture to ensure the multiplier effect of this training program. The training manual will contain information on establishing demonstration plots and on-farm experiments. Information on current on-farm experiments in Georgia will be included, such as that funded by a SARE Producer Grant at Glover Family Farms. The Georgia Master Gardeners Association (GMGA) holds basic and advanced training programs throughout the State. In both these programs, CES agents and GMGA teachers trained in organics could teach on organics.
4. Develop links among agricultural information providers in Georgia and Alabama, and with sources of information among growers, researchers and extensionists in the Carolinas. This program will develop the links among growers, information providers and researchers within Georgia that are vital to developing Georgia’s organic industry. By including participants from Alabama, we hope to build a network among agricultural information providers interested in organic agriculture between the two States. Given that more research and extension as well as production of organics is found in North Carolina, links will be fostered among participants and resources in NC.
5. Achieving these short-term objectives helps Georgia Organics realize the following long-term objectives:
·Increase the number of farmers, particularly smaller and limited resource farmers, involved in organic production, the number of acres under organic production and the dollar volume of organically grown produce and ornamentals in Georgia.
·Realization of increased profits to small and medium family farms in part due to information providers who are better equipped concerning organics.
·Producers and information providers who demand from universities in Georgia and Alabama more research-based information to improve organic production, handling and marketing.
·Improved soil health, soil conservation and water quality as more acres in Georgia and Alabama are shifted from conventional agriculture to certified organic production.
The training will be offered as a separate series in north, central and south Georgia due to different agroecologies in the State and to facilitate agent participation. Each series comprises an intensive workshop followed by six monthly on-farm demonstrations, the Georgia Organics Annual conference, and a capstone workshop in early December 2000. Since Alabama does not have an organization similar to the Georgia Organics, agricultural information providers from Alabama will be invited.