- Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, networking, study circle, workshop
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
The creation of farmer-to-farmer networks (or communities of practice) is an important tool for agricultural professionals to reach sustainable agriculture producers. Communities of practice approach learning as social participation. Various data shows that when farmers come together, new opportunities arise for increased economic viability, quality of life and community interaction. Agricultural professionals can take this approach in their educational programming to increase the success of sustainable agriculture producers. In addition, farmer networks can also hone in on particular audiences. For instance, women farmers are emerging as an important segment of the agricultural community with 30% of principal operators in the U.S being women. Despite this, women farmers continue to be underserved in agricultural education and technical assistance. Farmer networks designed around this important target audience show real and lasting impact on women farmers’ livelihood and farm businesses. With this in mind, this project aims to accomplish a number of objectives related to farmer networks. The first objective is to design a toolkit for developing farmer-to-farmer networks. The toolkit will include information on the relevance and impacts of farmer networks, a facilitation manual, and corresponding outreach materials including sample fliers, a list of potential activities and class offerings, possible organizational structures, and an explanation of on-line social networking opportunities. As well, the toolkit will include information on leadership training for farmers. Second, we will design and conduct four half-day trainings in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana for agricultural professionals on the nuts and bolts of starting a farmer network. In addition, we will design and conduct four half-day meetings with pilot women farmer networks in WA, OR, ID and MT. OSU Extension faculty will consult with leaders of the pilot networks throughout the three-year project. The trainings with agricultural professionals are broad in scope encompassing many types of professionals working with farmers, while the initial women farmer meetings are specific to the partner with a desired outcome of four new women farmer networks operating in the partner states. Evaluation of outcomes will be a key component. Evaluation includes surveys of agricultural professionals attending training sessions, phone interviews with each of the women farmer network leaders as well as a sample of 15% of the participants in the farmer network trainings. Interview questions will assess the success of the trainings and consulting. Interviews will capture the number of farmer networks created as well as anecdotal information about the challenges and successes of these networks and possible behavior changes as a result. Finally, we will provide an in-depth written survey for our partners to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and its delivery.
Project objectives from proposal:
We will train a total of 40 agricultural professionals on how to develop successful farmer networks. Trainings will occur in 4 locations, with an average participation of 10 individuals per site. In addition, we will consult with leader(s) of 4 pilot Women Farmer networks in Montana, Oregon, Idaho & Washington. Each of these networks will have approximately 2 leaders, with a projected membership of 20 farms in each. Network leaders may be agricultural professionals or other leaders in the local agricultural community. Network membership will be comprised of women farmers and women interested in learning more about sustainable agriculture. The total number of individuals participating in the pilot Women Farmers network in all four states is 80. We plan to work with a total of 120 individuals during the course of this project.
The project includes four half-day trainings in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana for agricultural professionals on the nuts and bolts of starting a successful farmer network. As well, we will hold four half-day meetings with pilot women farmer networks in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. During the first year, we will hold 16 consulting sessions (four with each state partner) with leaders of the pilot women farmers’ network. There will be additional consulting sessions as needed with a minimum of 10 during the second and third years of the project. The trainings with agricultural professionals are meant to be broad in scope encompassing many types of professionals working with farmers, while the initial women farmer meetings are specific to the partner with a desired outcome of four new women farmer networks operating in the partner states.
The project will produce an on-line and paper toolkit for developing farmer-to-farmer networks. The toolkit will include information on the relevance and impact of farmer networks, facilitation manual, and outreach materials including sample fliers and brochures, a list of potential activities for farmer networks, sample list of class offerings, a list of options for organizational structure of the network, an explanation of on-line social networking opportunities and other resources available to farmer networks. As well, the toolkit will include information on leadership training for farmers engaged in networks. The project will also produce partnerships between the Oregon State University Extension Small Farms program and the Washing State University Extension, the University of Idaho, and the Alternative Energy Resources Organization.