- Crop Production: crop improvement and selection, crop rotation, multiple cropping
- Education and Training: extension
This program provides an educational program and support network for WV agricultural service providers (ASPs) primarily Extension agents, focusing on topics identified by ASPs and producers: specialty crop production and handling for use in diversified small farms. This training will raise the knowledge and skill level of agricultural services providers, resulting in better service to WV farmers and ultimately will help lead to stronger WV agribusinesses, improved local foods systems, increased rural development, and long-term partnerships among ASPs.
A needs assessment conducted by the WV SARE state programs in 2013-2014 (51 ASPs and 36 farmers, 131 and 162 sent out respectively) revealed gaps in how important each group felt sustainable agriculture is to farmers – ASPs felt less than 10% of the farmers felt it was very important, yet over 85% of the farmers felt it was important. Suggesting that our ASPs might not know our farmers needs or knowledge as well as they believe. In the farmers survey, over 81% (17/32) felt specialty crop topics were important or very important. However, less than 13% of our farmers felt competent in their knowledge of specialty crop production. Only 5 of 51 ASPs report being competent in specialty crops, thus identifying a need for training of our ASPs and farmer leaders to support the farmers request for more specialty crop trainings.
This project will complement the WVU project, directed toward business planning and risk management training, by delivering a specialty crop production & handling educational program and resource materials to ASPs who work with specialty crop producers. Trained ASPs will be prepared to help farmers improve their production and handling systems, and integrate their businesses into the larger risk management framework for their farms. Rather than training Extension agents with a one size fits all training or on how to just grow one or two specialty crops, the project’s focus will be on providing the array of options for each topic in specialty crop production and management, such as marketing, siting, equipment, fertilization, pest control, etc., and teaching them how to apply these concepts to any specialty crop grown.
Performance targets from proposal:
10 agricultural service providers who gain practical knowledge and skills in specialty crop production and handling best management practices and specialty crop businesses will confidently design and deliver related educational programs and services, including but not limited to workshops, webinars, presentations, fact sheets/other educational materials, and individual consultations, to 100 small scale producers who manage more than 2,000 acres of farmland.
50 farmers who manage more than 500 acres adopt at least one BMP in specialty crop production and handling.