- Education and Training: focus group, mentoring, networking, workshop
- Farm Business Management: grant making
- Sustainable Communities: leadership development, partnerships
A 2014 statewide needs assessment of 51 agricultural service providers (ASPs) and 136 producers conducted by the WV SARE state programs identified “accessing funding opportunity/grant writing” as one of the top five producer gaps out of the 27 competencies surveyed. ASPs rated this gap in in the middle of their needs, most likely because more than half had no intention of doing any programming in this area. Additionally, WV has experienced significant change in personnel in agricultural agencies and an increase in community based organizations providing agriculture services; many of these new personnel also lack this skill set. We are also not seeing an increase in producers applying for funding opportunities, participating in grant reviews or investigating partnership possibilities among themselves or with agriculture service providers or their agencies. Further, proposals being submitted to grant agencies by producers, community-based and non-governmental organizations often contain deficiencies and are not competitive, and this is limiting funds coming into or staying in our state – funds than could address new ideas or concerns of producers and communities. Few if any of the ASPs working directly with producers have experience in grant research, writing and/or management. Therefore this 3-year professional development program will provide ASPs training on how to research an idea, write a successful proposal and manage a funded project for themselves as well as working with others (producers and/or agencies/organizations) on developing grant proposals as well as delivery of educational programs to producers using hands-on exercises and resource materials.
More grant research, writing and management experience throughout the state by project-trained ASPs will help strengthen WV´s agribusinesses, improve local foods systems, increase rural development, and build long-term partnerships among ASPs, producing significant service and learning multiplier effects. The program is targeted to ASPs with diverse expertise from across the agencies and communities working in the WV agricultural landscape. The team will be led by successful grant writing professionals in the agriculture industry with support from staff in agencies/organization working in the area of sponsored programs and groups/individuals successful in obtaining grant funding.
Starting with our WV Needs Assessment Results, we will hold a focus group in the first year to identify specific sustainable agriculture problems that can be addressed through grant funded projects, people and groups that ASPs may be directed to for further information. The grant writing and management training will train 12 ASPs in Years 1 and 2 and a second set of 12 ASPs in Year 3. Beyond the classroom training, the trainees will be expected to identify a specific sustainable agriculture problem to develop a grant proposal including growers, organizations and associations either alone or in teams. We anticipate delivering a comprehensive hands-on team-based educational program that will raise the knowledge and skill sets of a broad group of ASPs to provide better service to WV producers and improve business, community and agency partnerships.
Performance targets from proposal:
24 agricultural service providers (ASPs) who gain practical knowledge and skills in identifying and assessing funding opportunities, researching, developing and reviewing a proposal, managing and reporting on a funded project, effective adult learning, building partnerships and strategic planning will confidently design and deliver related educational programs/services, including but not limited to workshops, webinars, educational materials, individual consultations and mentoring to 60 producers. 12 of the ASPs will submit a grant application to address a sustainable agriculture concern either individually or in collaboration with others.