- Vegetables: cucurbits
- Education and Training: decision support system
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, marketing management, value added
- Pest Management: integrated pest management
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Abstract: Creating a Technical Support System for Rhode Island Small-Scale Farms The University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension is requesting funding to support a two year project to develop and implement a system of technical support for the currently under-served and diverse group of RI farmers and growers engaged in the production of food, fiber and other non-ornamental agricultural crops and alternative enterprises. Further, we are committed to developing a collaborative, more efficient and cost effective program delivery model which can realistically be maintained beyond the SARE funding period. Working with our strategic partners, the RI Division of Agriculture and Marketing (Div/Ag), and the RI Center for Agricultural Promotion and Education (RICAPE), we will develop and implement a new model of farmer/producer information and support services in Rhode Island, The Extension led model we propose includes the development of resource partnerships in a multi-disciplinary case management approach to delivering a broad range of timely information, training, development opportunities, and consulting services and on-the-ground advice to farmers. Extension will also reconnect with farms by creating phone and e-communication channels for client intake, information resources and networking. We expect to reach 250 farmers over the term of this project. Farmers will benefit from information, training, problem solving recommendations, and in-depth consulting regarding increasing production, adoption of new sustainable agricultural practices, farm viability and diversification enterprises, marketing, and farm development. The project will undertake special outreach efforts with farms where technical assistance is needed most and where there is greatest potential to increase profitability – Rhode Island’s small-scale food and fiber farms and producers, farm heritage sites, and alternative enterprises. There is a new optimism in RI agriculture growing out of the tremendous popular support for keeping working farms part of the RI landscape. We believe this project will provide critical support needed to help farms realize their potential and keep agriculture viable in RI.
Performance targets from proposal:
Of the 200 farmers/producers accessing information resources through call-in and electronic means, 100 will use the information gained to address immediate production issues and improve farming practices. Of the 50 farms participating in the case management component of our project, we project that 35 will undertake new and substantive sustainable production practices, crop diversification and/or alternative enterprises/marketing or other farm viability improvements.