The Alabama SARE program has a strong history of serving limited resource farmers and building capacity within the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) consisting of Regional Extension Agents (REAs) and Extension Specialists. The Alabama SARE program provides comprehensive training to 15 REAs from multiple Extension teams in organic crop production methods and sustainable IPM tactics (systems-based practices/pest exclusion systems/bio-rational insecticides); by directly collaborating with small organic/naturally grown KEY farmers statewide, we are able to provide hands-on training resulting in valuable learning experience for everyone involved. The SARE Advisory Committee provides feedback on a monthly basis (via Zoom) on relevant programming and new directions for long-term benefit of small farmers. Since small producers may lose 50 percent or more crop in the absence of IPM plan, on-farm consultation and rapid media releases about pests and management tactics are still the critical need for the industry. This proposal aims to continue the efforts in the demonstration of true IPM tactics on-farm along with updating the High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook, Organic IPM and Urban Farming IPM Toolkits that are critical resources for Alabama specialty crop producers. The Farming Basics Mobile App is also a tremendous resource that we will continue to improve with links to many new webinars and videos. All major field and educational media produced will be consistently evaluated for documenting relevant outcomes and impacts. Overall, the Alabama SARE program reaches to about 1,100 family farms annually with projects that benefit other institutions like Alabama A&M and Tuskegee Universities.
Project objectives from proposal:
All SARE train-the-trainer events generally incorporate crop production, irrigation, pest management, food and pesticide safety training since we have subject matter specialists within the team. All events are evaluated carefully for quality and short-term impacts; these are reported annually to SARE. Following are the proposal objectives:
Obj#1. Strengthen train-the-trainer and key farmer training program. PI and REAs will organize three vegetable production/IPM workshops for capacity building with technical assistance providers (TAPs) participating for information exchange on small farms. These workshops will utilize the SARE- funded on-farm high tunnel IPM demonstration plots that will be easily accessible for attendees. All participants will be able to see improved insect and disease scouting and management practices along with discussion on how to develop written organic IPM plans focusing on the three levels of pest management.
Timeline: July 2020 to Oct 2020
Obj#2. Revision and reprint the High Tunnel Crop Production Handbook to include multiple crop production/food safety/pest exclusion chapters along with videos (E-book version). The High tunnel crop production handbook is a major publication that is used by educators and field agents in NRCS and FSA for helping crop producers across Alabama. There is constant demand for updated information that will be delivered through new book chapters linked to educational videos. The handbook and all publications are peer-reviewed publications.
Timeline: May 2020 to Nov 2020
Obj#3. Add new content to the Farming Basics Mobile App as an educational tool. We have developed and released the Farming Basics Mobile App and it is available for free on Android/Apple devices. We are planning to add direct links to educational ‘How to’ videos, the Farming Basics Online Course, and organic IPM recommendations within the app to make it a valuable tool for educators and producers. Another key feature is the direct contact with REAs based on location services. So far there have been 500 downloads of the app in few months and we anticipate growing number of installation in 2020/21.
Timeline: Aug 2020 to Jan 2021