Building Sustainable Farm Resiliency through Farmer-Centered Business Solutions

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2024: $74,681.00
Projected End Date: 05/30/2026
Grant Recipient: Pacific NW CSA Coalition
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Holly Hutchason
Pacific NW CSA Coalition
Mary Columbo
Wild Roots Farm
Jay Hughes
Pacific NW CSA Coalition
Lily Matlock
Lil Starts
Melissa Streng
Sun Love Farm
Michelle Week
Good Rain Farm


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: business planning
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems

    Proposal abstract:

    In the PNW, organizations like
    Rogue Farm Corps, Headwaters Incubator Farm, and Extension
    programs offer instruction in sustainable farming. However, no
    organization comprehensively addresses the business decisions
    needed to scale up small agricultural enterprises. Our Coalition
    of 200+ farmers who practice small-scale, diversified farming,
    consistently report an absence of resources to help them make
    critical business decisions. Common examples include
    understanding laws around hiring labor, providing employee
    benefits, and finding financial and legal professionals that
    understand the unique challenges of diversified,
    direct-to-consumer agriculture.

    In 2022, these farms generated
    $24 million in locally consumed food, benefiting our communities
    and local economy. Yet, this intensive farming often leads to
    high farmer burnout, with over half of them closing within 6
    years. Key reasons include job dissatisfaction, managing too much
    with limited resources, and handling administrative tasks beyond
    their expertise. Our project aims to address these challenges and
    promote farm business sustainability. 

    This project enhances the farming
    community quality of life by 1) identifying farmers’ critical
    business needs and existing gaps, 2) developing resources and
    solutions to address those needs, 3) establishing a peer-to-peer
    network to communicate experiences and share best practices, and
    4) facilitating opportunities for farmers to obtain and implement
    these solutions. By strengthening the business capabilities of
    PNW farmers, the number of sustainable farms thriving beyond 6
    years of operation will increase, promoting biome stewardship:
    "Our environmentally sensitive and direct to consumer farmers are
    only sustainable if they can keep running their farm businesses
    year after year.
    SARE grant

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Through participation in the
    peer-to-peer communication framework and access to our resource
    database, we aim to achieve specific outcomes enhancing farmers'
    quality of life, bolstering their financial resilience, and
    fostering the growth of small sustainable farms for responsible
    land stewardship. As emphasized in SARE grant project ONC23-118,
    "Sustainable direct-to-consumer farmers thrive by sustaining
    their farm businesses year after year."

    Research Objectives


    Objective 1: Using a farmer-centered approach, perform needs
    assessment: on which business decisions do farmers need the most
    assistance to sustainably scale their operations? 

    We will collaborate with a core
    team of farmers (the project Producers) who have experience
    scaling up their operations, to develop surveys, and facilitate
    focus groups and listening sessions to identify our regional
    farmers’ most pressing business challenges.

    Objective 2: Synthesize data and develop curriculum materials
    to respond to the greatest business needs as determined in
    Objective 1. 

    Quantitative and qualitative data
    analyses will be conducted on the information collected in
    Objective 1. Each identified topic will be investigated by
    cataloging best-known-methods, interviewing farmers and
    agricultural professionals, and identifying professionals that
    can lead information sessions and trainings, among other
    potential outcomes.

    Objective 3: Design educational series to communicate findings
    in effective and accessible format.

    Farmers have reported “webinar
    fatigue”, reluctance to wade through uninformative websites, and
    frustration with “waiting on hold for hours” to get answers
    specific to agricultural questions. Using information gleaned in
    Objective 1), the Farmer Core Team will assist in applying SARE’s
    “Sustainable Agriculture through Sustainable Learning” best
    practices to develop educational formats and delivery approaches
    that our farmers are most likely to consume. These are
    anticipated to include such formats as peer-to-peer learning
    circles, working sessions with professional advisors, panel
    discussions, training sessions, and development of a resource

    Education objectives: 

    Objective 1: Create a farmer-friendly resource library to
    archive learnings.  

    Housed on the existing PNWCSA
    “Farmer Resource” website, this will allow for the findings of
    this project to be accessible to all agricultural

    Objective 2: Facilitate the peer-to-peer learning network.

    Led by the Farmer Core Team, a
    peer-to-peer learning network will be established amongst
    agricultural stakeholders. By hosting in-person events on their
    farms, and communicating through a listserv, farmers growing
    their businesses will interact with each other and share their
    experiences, providing educational and social support for their
    fellow farmers. 

    Objective 3: Increase knowledge and understanding of business
    decision making among farmers.

    PNWCSA and the Farmer Core Team
    will offer a series of educational sessions and workshops
    addressing needs identified in Research Objective 1. Delivery
    method and pedagogy will be aligned to specific topics to
    maximize value and accessibility.

    Objective 4: Empower more farmers to make better-informed
    business decisions, improving their economic well-being and
    quality of life.

    Through attending educational
    sessions, having access to materials in the resource library, and
    being part of a peer-to-peer learning network, farmers will be
    equipped to make higher-quality business decisions in a more
    efficient manner.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.