- Agronomic: potatoes
- Fruits: melons, berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), berries (strawberries)
- Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
- Additional Plants: herbs
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, networking
- Energy: bioenergy and biofuels, energy conservation/efficiency, energy use, solar energy, wind power
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, marketing management, e-commerce, farm-to-institution, agricultural finance, value added
- Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, cultural control, disease vectors, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, flame, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, mating disruption, physical control, mulching - plastic, prevention, row covers (for pests), smother crops, trap crops, traps, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
- Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
- Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, composting, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: leadership development, social networks, sustainability measures
The goal of this project is to increase the viability of organic and sustainable vegetable farms in the Northeast by providing new management and production skills. Recognizing that there are different styles of learning, we will utilize the most effective delivery mechanisms for farmers by offering multiple mediums –classroom settings, practical hands-on learning, web-based support, mentoring, and written resources—for the delivery and application of information. This program responds to a stated need for learning opportunities for intermediate to advanced organic and sustainable farmers. In both the feasibility study for the Vermont Farm Viability Enhancement Program and a 2006 technical assistance survey of organic and sustainable vegetable producers in Vermont, farmers overwhelmingly supported opportunities for experiential, hands-on learning, and opportunities to learn from their peers. This project will create a series of learning-courses designed to support organic and sustainable farmers who seek new or improved management skills. Four course-topics will be offered: soil and fertility management, organic insect and disease management, on-farm energy management, and marketing. Course content will highlight current research, on-farm innovations and emerging market trends. In the growing season following the courses, three on-farm technical workshops per course will take place to demonstrate practices learned. Of the 100 farmer participants in the learning courses, 70 will learn and implement at least 2 new production practices or marketing skills and 16 farmers will complete an enterprise analysis to measure changes in profitability based on new practices adopted. In addition, 20 farmers will develop a work-plan with a farmer mentor.
Performance targets from proposal:
Course evaluation will be based on post-course assessments and a survey emailed to growers in the season after the courses were taken. We are assuming that of the 25 growers in a course, 15 will respond to a survey sent in October, 8-10 months after their course is completed.
Soil and Fertility Management:
An evaluation survey conducted at the end of the course will show that 25 participants learned two new soil management techniques (chemical, physical or biological) and 17 completed a soil fertility management plan based on soil, plant tissues, or media tests that improved management of the soil for fertility, biodiversity and tilth.
In the growing season after the course has been completed, surveys will show that 15 participants implemented a new management technique and 10 participants positively changed their fertility management based on their soil fertility plan.
Pest and Disease Management:
An evaluation survey conducted at the end of the course will show that 25 participants learned the life-cycle and management for two pests, insects or weeds, or diseases on their farms and 17 developed 2 new management strategies.
In the growing season after the course has been completed, surveys will show that 15 participants implemented a technique that improved pest and disease management; and 10 growers increased their marketable yield of a crop by 10% due to their management changes.
An evaluation survey conducted at the end of the course will show that 25 participants learned two new marketing techniques and 17 developed a draft marketing plan.
In the growing season after the course has been completed, surveys will show that 15 participants implemented a technique and/or developed a new customer relationship/market during the previous growing season; and 10 growers met or exceeded a goal of their marketing plan (such as increasing or maintaining sales volume, implementing new pricing structures, or increasing gross sales).
An evaluation survey conducted at the end of the course will show that 25 participants learned two new on-farm energy management techniques and 17 completed an energy audit, outlining strategies to increase their energy efficiency and/or reduction in energy use.
In the growing season after the course has been completed, surveys will show that 15 producer participants will have implemented two energy saving techniques and practices. These changes will result in a $500 reduction in costs from the previous growing season.
At the end of the growing season in which the 20 producers have participated in the mentoring component, completed surveys will show that 18 participants implemented two new practices that increase the viability of their farms due to management changes, new marketing strategies or production efficiencies.
Quality of Life:
After the growing season in which the producer has participated in the mentoring component, completed surveys will show that of the 20 growers mentored, 16 growers had a positive increase or change in one of the following seven quality of life indicators: 1) Growers were able to take a family vacation; 2) Growers were able to have more time off; 3) Growers increased salaries, savings, or had profit to reinvest back into the farm business; 4) Acquired health insurance; 5) Contributed money to a retirement plan; 6) Growers had a more positive outlook on the farm business; 6) Had a more positive attitude about life and less overall stress; and/or 7) Growers were able to work fulltime on the farm.
After the growing season in which the producer implemented changes as a result of participation in the courses or mentoring program, 13 participants of the 16 conducting an enterprise analysis increased their net profits by at least $1,000.
Six months after online courses are on the web, data collected will show that each course had 1,000 hits with web visits averaging 5 minutes or more. A producer’s questionnaire will show that 100 farmers have decided to make a positive change as a result of viewing online course materials.
An average of 20 producers will attend on-farm demonstrations. After the demonstration, participant surveys will show that 10 producers will plan to implement one new practice.