- Sustainable Communities: community development, local and regional food systems
The science of growing food is more advanced and technical than methods used even 10 years ago. Agricultural production and the food system have evolved into an industry that relies on information disseminated through digital formats and platforms. Successful farmers have embraced technology for farming operations. Aging and rural farmers either embraced the use of technology or have passed the use of digital farming to the next generation or have chosen not to use it at all. With an increased reliance on information technology, the proposed project will collect data to assess the effectiveness and level of adoption and integration of technology platforms. The project explores the digital disparities that exist for black limited resource and mainly rural farmers. The project will explore factors ranging from lack of knowledge and interest to broader societal problems, such as, lack of broadband, internet access, and equipment due to the lack of financial resources.
Limited-resource farmers complain the movement of information from USDA agencies to online platforms, creates gaps and barriers to their participation in agricultural pursuits. Limited-resource farmers are not aware of all the programs and assistance offered by USDA/NRCS and other supporting agencies. Beginning farmers have not enrolled in USDA programs and are not aware of the steps or protocols for enrolling in FSA and NRCS programs. With limited to no knowledge of USDA programs and resources, limited-resource farmers and their farms are at a great disadvantage. These farmers lack the knowledge and resources to access the conservation and agricultural practices needed to sustain agriculture production and their farming businesses. Limited resource farmers have land that is under-utilized due to their inability to access resources. With access to digital information and comparable technology skills, as large-scale farmers, it will allow limited resource farmers to become more competitive.
The proposed project will target Black, limited-resource farmers in Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi. John Littles, Principal Investigator, is an Outreach Provider with USDA. John has been the Executive Director of McIntosh SEED since 2000. The organization has a program specifically designed to provide outreach to farmers of color in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Project partners include James Ford CEO of Square O Consulting, LLC, Handy Kennedy of HKJ Ranch, LLC in Georgia, Calvin Head-Mileston Cooperative in Mississippi, Lonnie Gilbert in Florida, and Lamar Berry in Georgia. The partners’ collective experience ensures successful project implementation. The partners are knowledgeable in USDA programs and have farming experience.
Programmatic objectives of the group include:
- Assessing the technological capacity of black farmers in the targeted group. We will be researching both informational and production technologies.
- Identifying the problems and gaps with targeted farmers accessing and using informational and production technologies
The proposed project will:
(1) Measure farmers’ technology education software and hardware capacity, utilizing a questionnaire
(2) Based upon research results, the project will seek to build the agricultural technology capacity of limited resources farmers, with training sessions .
(3) Increase limited-resource farmers’ access and participation in USDA and Agricultural Extension programs and services using technology.
Project objectives from proposal:
The goal of the proposed project is to examine “How Technology Enhances or Impedes Sustainable Agriculture for Limited Resource Farmers in the Black Belt Region of Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi."
The project will:
- Assess the technological capacity of black farmers in the target group. The project will research both information and production technologies.
- Identify the problems and gaps with targeted farmers accessing and using informational and production technologies
The project will:
(1) Develop and implement a method to identify limited-resource farmers’ technology software and hardware capacity.
(2) Based on research results, develop a platform to address gaps in the agricultural technology capacity of black limited resources farmers through training, peer-to-peer, USDA partners, and university partners.
(3) Based on research results, develop training programs and outreach that will lead to an increase in the number of black limited-resource farmers’ access and participation in USDA programs and services using technology.
(4) Engage with 300 farmers in three states: Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi