Building Capacity in Organic AGriculture: An Integrated Approach to Training Agricultural Information Providers
Improve the knowledge, attitude and skills of agricultural professionals on organic growing.
In January 2002, Georgia Organics gave a session on organic agriculture at the annual convention of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. This convention was attended by approximately 1200 agricultural professionals and producers in Savannah, Georgia. The session was conducted by two organic growers, Skip Glover of Glover Family Organic Farms, Inc. and Andrew Stocklinski of Blue Meadow Farm. The session was organized and facilitated by George Boyhan, Ph.D., an extension specialist who took GO’s Building Capacity in Organic Agriculture Training Program for Agents and Educators in 2000.
On March 7, 2002, GO’s executive director was an invited stakeholder to the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service stakeholder meeting to help shape ARS’ research agenda in Georgia. As a result of GO’s participation the needs of organic farming in the south were discussed in small group and plenary sessions, and became part of the meeting’s report. Others participating were commodity representatives and farmers, as well as ARS and university researchers. ARS and university researchers have participated as presenters and learners in GO’s Building Capacity in Organic Agriculture workshops, which lead to this invitation to participate in the ARS stakeholder meeting.
Per the request of the Young Farmer Teachers, these teachers devoted their annual conference for all 55 teachers and administrators in Georgia to be a one-day session on organic agriculture. This was held on March 13 near Fort Valley at Camp John Hope, an FFA-FHA facility, and on the certified organic farm of Peter and Billie Cimino.
GO was asked to give a panel presentation at the national meeting of agriculture extension agents held July 30 in Savannah, Georgia on organic farmer cooperatives. Organic farmer Andrew Stocklinski who is a member of the Georgia Grown Co-op gave the presentation.
Other activities could not be planned as the executive director of Georgia Organics moved out of the southern region on March 27, 2002. However, she still continued to run Georgia Organics allowing GO to respond to requests for training ag professionals until a new director started January 16, 2003. The Building Capacity Program has been run by the former executive director and is now run by the new executive director until further notice.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
GO has trained via its own workshops over 200 agricultural professionals and given presentations to over 400 agricultural professionals at the conferences and in-service trainings of ag professionals. The quality of GO’s workshops helped open doors to providing presentations at the existing meetings of agricultural professionals. This reaches another tier of professionals who are mildly to keenly interested to learn about organic farming, but, for whatever reason, could not get to GO’s workshops.
A request during the training of the Young Farmer Teachers for curriculum or other materials to take to the classroom lead GO to submit a request for SARE PDP funds to develop curriculum for these teachers as well as that of the agricultural extension agents who conduct Master Gardener Training. Several agents have asked GO to either do the three-hour section on organics that is part of the Master Gardener Program or to provide them with materials so that they can better cover this topic. Rather than do it for them, GO will better equip these agents to do it themselves. A curriculum design team is being established that will include RC&D and NCRS field staff to try to also meet their needs for instructional materials as much as possible.
A major outcome of the Building Capacity Program was the motivation it gave to several researchers involved to get research going that would address the needs of Georgia’s current and future organic growers. This lead GO to submit a planning grant request to SARE with supporting letters from 46 researchers and farmer organizations throughout the Southeast. SARE’s support, as well as additional support from the ARS, provided for a survey of organic growers and the South’s first Farmer-Researcher Roundtable on Organic Horticulture. The results of this were a list of priority research questions and researchers assigned to address the key issues. This impact of our PDP-funded program gave impetus to a SARE R&E funded project, rather than R&E funded work moving into a SARE PDP funded project.
With the track record and funds remaining available, Georgia Organics has been able to leverage additional funding for in-depth workshops and field days for agricultural professionals and growers on organic agriculture from the EPA, the RMA and several foundations.
SARE PDP Enhancement funds have enabled us to provide a Resource Manual on Organic Agriculture that is made available at all GO events. It is also publicized in GO’s newsletter and website.