- Animals: goats, sheep
- Education and Training: focus group, networking
In our area (Northwest Arkansas), we have a large ethnic population and large affluent population that both want the products of sheep and goats, but don’t know where to find them. We have a group of limited-resource and part-time farmers who are raising excellent sheep and goat products, but don’t know how to sell them. And lastly, we have a group of producers who are isolated from each other and do not have a way of communicating. We also have a wonderful group of support personnel, including local Extension agents, who want to help but don’t know how, because the emphasis in this area has been large-scale confinement poultry and cattle operations, with little information available for other kinds of livestock enterprises. The primary objectives of this project will be to establish a goat and sheep producer network to include counties from Northwest Arkansas and Northeast Oklahoma for education and support, while encouraging sustainable agricultural methods. This will be done through gathering and compiling producer data and publishing a directory in print form and on a web-site. The directory will be available through the local Extension office and web-site to consumers as well. Additionally, we will hold six educational events in Northwest Arkansas and will participate in six producer meetings to offer support and information to producers. The public events will increase awareness about sheep and goat products, and introduce the farmers to potential customers. The events and festivals will be educational both for the public and producer, and will attract a diverse audience such as ethnic groups that enjoy eating lamb and goat, fiber enthusiasts, and agricultural businesses from this area. In addition, we will use the events and meetings to distribute and collect surveys to inform support personnel (such as Extension) about needed programs and information, therefore helping them to help the producers. Finally, I will build a web-site holding a producer directory and educational materials, and maintain the site for one year. We will compile a list of sheep and goat producers at the beginning of the project and continue to add as the network expands. We will track the growth of this network from March 2006 to March 2007. We will conduct a needs assessment survey of the network. This information will be used to guide future programs and strengthen and update the producer network. We will distribute and collect evaluations of each event and meeting and use this input for future topics.