Integrated learning courses for sustainable livestock production
The goal of this grant is to increase the viability of livestock operations in the Northeast by providing new tools and information offered in a way that can measure improvements in management and overall success of their farm operation. Recognizing that there are different styles of learning, we will develop the most effective delivery mechanism for farmers; using practical hands-on learning and written resources.
In this project, we will create a series of learning courses supporting livestock producers who wish to add or improve certain management skills to their operation. A series of 4 course topics will be offered over a 1 - year period. Each course will last 2 months, meeting every 3 weeks for practical/hands-on learning. Attendees will go back to their farms to apply these new skills, and journal their experiences and observations. Farmer mentors will work with participating farmers to establish goals and farm management plans. Pre and post assessments will be conducted to evaluate the project and identify changes in management based on participation in the course. On-farm technical workshops will take place during the second year of the grant. Three farmer participants from each of the 4 courses will host an on-farm technical workshop demonstrating the practices that they have learned.
These courses will attract a wide audience of producers, including new farmers, who have a desire to improve and develop skills in managing their land, tending to livestock health and nutrition and growing product for market. Technical workshops and farmer mentoring are important components of the project offering multiple mediums for the delivery and application of information.
1. Of the 60 farmer participants in the learning courses, 40 will develop a work plan with a mentor and will adopt 3 new practices realizing an overall improvement in the sustainability of their farm.
2. Of the 40 that develop a plan and adopt new practices, 12 will hold on-farm technical workshops for at least 240 attendees demonstrating the practices they have learned.
Time-line: 3 Year Grant
NOFA-VT was notified of its funding approval in April, 2003, but the money was not available until May of 2003. The first thing we did was advertise to bring in another dairy/livestock advisor to assist in the grant and other dairy/livestock related outreach. This person was hired in July, 2003. The planning and promotion of the courses did not start right away due to staffing, so our current timeline that we are using has the planning of the grant from July 2003 – January 2004, courses starting in March 2004 – March 2005, and the On-Farm Technical Workshops taking place March 2005 – March 2006. The evaluation and post-assessment by the planning teams and participating farmers will take place from March 2006 – October 2006.
1) Farmers and researchers (the planning team) will be brought in from around the northeast to assist in planning the courses.
Instead of having one planning team to plan all 4 courses, we decided that it would be more effective to have separate planning teams relative to each of the course topics. This would allow us to pull in individuals within their specialty for input in areas where their time would be most productive.
So far, we have had one conference call with the planning/evaluation team for the course ‘Soil Health and Growing Quality Feed’. The planning/evaluation team will meet by conference call at least one more time prior to the start of the course, which is scheduled to start in March, 2004. The ‘Grazing’ course plans are under way and the first scheduled conference call with the planning/evaluation team is scheduled to take place early in January, 2004. The course is expected to start in April, 2004. ‘Animal Health and Nutrition’ will take place in the fall of 2004 and the ‘Growing for Market’ course will start in January, 2005.
2) Promotion of the courses
Promotion of the courses has occurred through the farmer mentor training that took place in October, 2003, the NODPA Newsletter, ODAIRY E-mail discussion list and the Vermont Pasture Network E-mail discussion list. Promotional material including registration information specific to the first two course topics (‘Soil Health & Growing Quality Feed’ and ‘Grazing’) will be going out in January, 2004 to an extensive list of extension and other resource agencies, agricultural magazines and local papers.
NOFA-VT collaborated with Land-Link Vermont and the Vermont Pasture Network (both part of the UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture) to organize a farmer/mentor workshop and training. This training helped us identify potential mentors that we did not know about and allowed us to make connections with those farmers that we have identified as mentors. The workshop was very useful as it also helped us to determine how best to work with the farmer: mentor relationship when the courses are taking place. This workshop happened in October, 2003 at Vermont Technical College. There were 25 farmers in attendance and another 30 that were unable to attend but want to be considered for a mentor role in one or more of the courses.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
There are no specific results yet