The Alabama SARE program (https://southern.sare.org/sare-in-your-state/alabama/) has a strong history of serving limited resource farmers and building capacity within the Alabama Cooperative Extension System consisting of Regional Extension Agents (REAs) and Extension Specialists. As a team leader, Dr. Majumdar (PI) has recently hired four REAs and one Specialist – so there is a greater need for professional development with AU/ACES. The Alabama SARE program also provides comprehensive training in organic crop production methods and sustainable IPM tactics (namely, systems-based practices, pest exclusion tactics, and biorational insecticides) to many technical assistance providers (TAPs) from nongovernmental agencies of NGOs that are also part of the Alabama SARE program advisory committee. Due to COVID-19 travel and group size restrictions, we are proposing a hybrid model of professional development with two online webinars, two field events in central and north AL where REAs/Specialists and TAPs will gather for hands-on training at IPM demonstration locations. Two IPM field videos will also be completed and available to producers via the Farming Basics phone app that is already available to all. Since small producers may lose 50 percent or more crop in the absence of IPM plan, on-farm consultations and pest alerts are still the critical needs for over 1,000 small farmers across AL; this service will continue in parallel with the professional development plan during the pandemic so farms don’t fail. Every SARE-funded activity is evaluated using robust feedback system. All IPM videos and publications (like the organic IPM toolkit slide chart, https://www.aces.edu/blog/topics/farming/the-organic-vegetable-ipm-toolkit/) acknowledge SARE support.
Project objectives from proposal:
Obj. 1. Strengthen train-the-trainer (REAs/TAPs) training program and promote networking.
Obj. 2. Develop five field demonstration videos on various topics.
Obj. 3. Add new content/features to the Farming Basics Mobile App as an educational tool.
Obj. 4. Improved communication with SARE Advisory Committee and other stakeholders.