Alabama SARE program (Auburn University and Alabama A&M University combined) serves over 1000 small producers, educators, and community gardeners each year since 2010. A major limitation of organic production system is insect pest pressure in the south and the Alabama SARE program directly assists producers in reducing vegetable production loss and sustainable cropping system training. SARE program at Alabama A&M supports small urban farms and community gardeners in the northern parts of the state. This proposal essentially supports the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Program and proposes development of training content using complex digital media and demonstration plots. This proposal will continue to focus on train-the-trainer part more intensively with Auburn and Alabama A&M Universities cross-training Extension agents and county coordinators using a mix of online and on-farm training.
Project objectives from proposal:
Training Objectives: (Audience) Provide training to statewide regional extension agents, and small-farm urban food producers through the use of online curriculum and onsite field-days and workshops.
Objective 1. Subject matter topics for electronic curriculum, Farmscaping, Square Foot Gardening, and Produce Safety (Alabama A&M): Here is a brief description of the elements of the proposes e-curriculum on UrbanAg: Urban Food Production & Sustainable Communities. Modules will include narrated and animated learning materials along with interactive quizzes and web-links. UrbanAg initiative (5 course modules): This will be developed at Alabama A&M and contain a module on intensive small scale production methods utilizing Bioengineered and Conventional crops (corn) integrated with organic IPM. Conventional hybrid and Bioengineered hybrid seed were selected to demonstrate the potential benefits of integrating crop technologies into a sustainable organic production strategy. Corn was selected due to its unique status as an established conventional hybrid crop with novel bioengineered counterparts. (Note: Due to the higher cost for Bioengineered seed, a larger portion of the operating funds for program materials is requested to plant at least half an acre. An equivalent area will be planted with conventional seed. Demonstration/test plots will consist of alternating plots of conventional and bioengineered corn. Pest trap and suppression effects from Bt crops on conventional crops will be evaluated. Cover crop blend will consist of Cereal Rye @ 25lbs/acre ($0.47lb), Oats @ 25lbs/acre ($0.47lb), and Radish 5lbs/acre ($2.89lb).) Online pre and post survey will be administered to participants to determine level of understanding and material adoption.
Mobile Learning Technology Platform: Water Wheels is Urban Home Grounds’, mobile learning platform originally developed for 6-12 grade youth education on water conservation. The Water Wheels also serves as Urban Home Grounds’ mobile learning/training platform integrating programming modules of Urban Gardens and Urban Green. The electronic modules will be designed with end users in mind (e.g., new urban food producers) and may later be expanded to be more inclusive of advanced topics for experienced producers. The curriculum will be mainly shared via Alabama SARE, Vegetable IPM websites, and Urban Home Grounds’ Urban Gardens and Sustainable Landscapes website.
Objective 2. Produce Safety and training: There is a high demand from small-farm urban vegetable and back yard poultry producers for regional workshops and qualified trainers. Support will be provided in the PSA Food Safety training/certification workshops and through online In-Service training modules, newsletters (Metro News), newspaper and magazine articles.
Train-the-trainer: An in-service technical training workshop and on site field-day workshop for REAs (~17), will be conducted Fall 2019 and Spring 2020.