NOFA-NH Technical Consultancy Program
The Technical Consultancy Program contracts experienced farmers and related professionals from around the state to provide short-term assistance to support the success of beginning farmers and the viability of their farms. This is reminiscent of the cooperative extension model that is available through land grant universities, but different in that it is designed specifically to support organic and sustainable growers, and because it provides a dynamic ‘consultant marketplace’ of active professionals instead of a more limited teaching staff.
The program is modeled after a similar, successful program at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (http://www.nofany.org/technicalconsultancy), which was developed from a SARE Sustainable Farmer Education program from 2001.
NOFA-NH’s staff structure does not currently include any technical experts. The lack of technical experts is a growing issue as more and more beginning farmers turn to the organization for organic-specific growing and production advice. By “hiring” a suite of experts “in the field”, NOFA-NH will be able to respond to these organizational inquires.
1. NOFA-NH will hire five farmer technical consultants and produce and disseminate a Farmer Technical Consultant directory.
2. A minimum of 20 beginning farmers in NH will be provided with technical expertise through the program in 2014-15 utilizing the 100 collective hours available to the consultants.
Activity: NOFA-NH has hired consultants, produced and disseminated the directory, and the program has been used by five NH beginning farmers.
Barriers: We’ve hit a common barrier in the process of starting a new program: marketing said program and getting folks to use it. We launched in the late spring, just as farmers were hitting peak workloads, and beginning farmers have yet to understand the program as a resource. In January 2015, the Technical Consultancy Program and consultants will be at four farming events meeting farmers and discussing the program. We hope that this one-on-one approach to marketing the program will lead to more use between now and spring. This is pushing our project timeline out a little further, but we believe this kind of face-to-face marketing is the best way to make folks aware of the new resource.
3. NOFA-NH will compile the questions and answers developed through the program into an online community of practice and make it available to all farmers.
So far, five beginning farmers have been in consultation with technical consultants.