Creating Sustainable Agriculture Farmer-to-Farmer Networks through Professional Trainings and an Agricultural Educator Toolkit
The creation of farmer-to-farmer networks (or communities of practice) is an important tool for agricultural professionals to reach sustainable agriculture producers. 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.
We will train a total of 40 agricultural professionals on the nuts-and-bolts of developing successful farmer networks in Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana. Trainings will occur in 4 locations, with an average participation of 10 individuals per site.
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 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.
To date, we have completed a draft of the toolkit for developing farmer-to-farmer networks. The toolkit has been reviewed by grant partners from OSU, University of Idaho, AERO and Washington State University. The toolkit will be published by Oregon State University’s Extension and Experiment Station Communications department and will be available for download and printing in February of 2013. The publication will become a Pacific Northwest Extension publication ensuring its wide distribution throughout the Northwest. The name of the toolkit is Creating Farmer Networks: A toolkit for promoting collaborative farm communities. The toolkit includes topics like planning your network, recruitment, network development including structure, communication, programming, evaluation, tips for success, common problems and facilitation resources. We also include many examples of surveys, outreach materials and links to more resources.
We have also been meeting regularly with partners via phone and email and have begun planning the workshops that will take place in March and April of 2013. Dates for workshops have been set in Montana, Washington and Oregon and we are narrowing in on dates for Idaho. We have communicated partners’ outreach responsibility and have decided on a design for the workshops. The first half-day workshop will be for agricultural professionals in which we present on the toolkit that has been created. All participants will receive a copy of the toolkit as well as any other resources we put together. The next morning, we will facilitate a half-day steering committee breakfast meeting with regional women farmers to begin their launch of the local women farmer network. The workshops will take place back to back. We’ve worked closely with partners in each state to narrow in on a region and a target audience so that we reach our intended outcomes and audience. We have consulted 8 times with partners about the most effective way to begin a network and continue to be a resource for them as they get started.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The toolkit will add to electronic and print resources that will encourage agricultural professionals to use farmer networks as sustainable agriculture tools and educational resources. Agricultural professionals from a cross the Northwest and the United States will be able to access the toolkit to help them start and lead a network.
The trainings will benefit farmers by enhancing the quality of life of farmers and ranchers, promoting crop and livestock diversification and promoting positive and sustainable stewardship of natural resources.
The trainings will also lead to an understanding of how to create such networks as well as increased motivation to start a network with the support of the project leadership team. Agricultural professionals who participate in the trainings will have improved skills and ability to design and implement farmer networks in their region. Agricultural professionals will walk away with a toolkit and ability to begin implementing the tools learned.
The project will go a step further in working closely with project partners to implement networks in the four regions. Long-term outcomes for this project include improved quality of life for producers involved in the farmer networks and an increase in the economic viability of sustainable farmers as a result of shared knowledge in marketing and production.
Sustainable AG & Food Systems Program Coordinator
432 N. Last Chance Gulch
Helena, MT 59601
Office Phone: 4064437272
Regional Director of WSU Latino Farming Program
11768 Westar Lane, Suite A
Burlington, WA 98233
Office Phone: 2069147948
Idaho Small Farms Cultivating Success Coordinator
University of Idaho
20 E. 5th St., Room 336 PO Box 8068
Moscow, ID 83843
Office Phone: 2088832267
OSU Extension Research Associate
Oregon State University
15210 NE Miley Rd
Aurora, OR 97002
Office Phone: 5036781264
OSU Extension Small Farms Instructor
1849 NW 9th Street
Corvallis, OR 97330
Office Phone: 5417666750
Small Farms Instructor
569 Hanley Road
Central Point, OR 97502
Office Phone: 5417767371