2023 Southern Model State Program – AU/Southern Region SARE Professional Development Program

Project Overview

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $19,314.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
State Coordinator:
Dr. Ayanava Majumdar
Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

With the help of the Alabama SARE program, educators are able to reach a diverse farming audience, providing research and knowledge. The Beginning Farmer Program is able to create educational materials, provide workshops, and travel for on-site farm visits to new and beginning farmers that includes a substantial number of limited resource and veteran farms. This program provides comprehensive training in organic crop production methods (variety selection, irrigation management, and organic fertilizers to name a few) and sustainable IPM tactics to technical assistance providers (TAPs) from nongovernmental agencies or NGOs and state agencies (NRCS/FSA/Alabama Dept. of Agriculture). TAPs and producers are also part of the SARE program advisory committee. The goal for this program is to provide farmers with webinars, field events, hand-on materials, phone app updates, website use and more. We are currently developing a Farming Basics Incubator Farm Program at EV Smith Research and Extension Center and Farming Basics Podcast as new activities. Throughout the year, on-farm consultations and pest alerts are still the critical need for stakeholders; this service will continue in parallel with the professional development. Every SARE-funded activity is evaluated using robust feedback system and numbers reported via annual reports, flyers, and presentations. All educational videos and major publications acknowledge SARE support.

Project objectives from proposal:

Obj. 1. Publications/scholarly outputs to support educator training and producer support in field.

  • High Tunnel Handbook (Revised Edition) and Farming Basics online course PART 2 will be launched in a phase-wise manner with a combination of modules, videos, quizzes. The online course also generates its own certificate of completion. Four additional sections on a variety of topics will become available in 2023. We will combine Part 1 and Part 2 courses via one registration link to make it convenient for producers and everyone interested.  We also propose establishment of  a Farming Basics Incubator Farm program at the EV Smith Research and Extension Center. Facility building will start this year for hands-on training. With the hiring of three new Extension agents and three new faculty members in ACES Commercial Horticulture Team, there is a need for hands-on training on sustainable agriculture methods and resources to create lasting behavior changes among educators. We are considering developing a portion of the newly transitioning organic research farm at the EV Smith Research and Extension Center as an incubator program for producers and for training Extension and NGO educators for training in sustainable agriculture methods and SARE program resources, including emphasis on grant-writing.
  • SARE Program will be acknowledged on all educational and promotional efforts planned in 2023 and beyond.  
  • Cost assessment: 4 modules x 60 h development time x $15 per hour for Harli Willis (videographer) = $3600. Fringe Benefits (30.7%) = $1105 Personnel total = $4705
  • Promotional materials: $.80 x 1000 promo cards for publicizing Farming Basics and High Tunnel Handbook among educators and producers = $800
  • Floor banners for product promotion at farm incubator program location, grower conference and exhibitions = $400 x 3 = $1,200
  • Social media promotions/campaigns via Facebook, MailChimp, and others = $150
  • Organic Vegetable IPM Slide chart revision and reprint = $2.50 x 2500 copies = $6,250
  • SUBTOTAL = $8,400

Obj. 2. Field train-the-trainer activities

  • Develop two field days in different parts of Alabama to provide training on specialty crop production, marketing, pest management, etc. Along with online webinars, in-person workshops/meetings are planned. All participants will be able to learn about improved crop production and pest management practices. Updated slide charts and handbooks will be distributed to all educators. We will turn the field events into hybrid learning events with live streaming to social media channels that are very popular among clientele.  

Cost assessment:

  • Extension Agent Field Training (day trips only) = $.655 per mile x 300 miles round way x 2 events x 10 Regional Extension Agents = $3,930
  • Program Assistant Ann Chambliss travel to locations (day trips only) = $0.655 per mile x 200 miles round way x 2 events = $262
  • Videographer Harli Willis travel to locations (day trips only) = $0.655 per mile x 200 miles round way x 2 events = $262
  • SUBTOTAL = $4454

Obj. 3. Evaluation activities for reporting from field: Alabama SARE program has a robust monitoring and evaluation system that consists of event evaluations, grower conferences, pre-post tests or polls, electronic evaluations, and on-farm interviews. The program has produced several YouTube impact videos over the years with acknowledgement to Southern SARE; videos are available at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkNoAmOtt___MKj6IBxvWzOdWP0btBq4D. We propose to complete 1-2 impact videos (Harli Willis, videographer) besides doing hybrid field events.


SARE Training and Events

Subject matter topics for train-the-trainer:

  • Crop production, cultivar selection, irrigation and water management, and nutrient management
  • Marketing resources for small farms
  • High tunnel pest identification and management using pest exclusion systems (https://southern.sare.org/resources/high-tunnel-pest-exclusion-system/), biological control and bioinsecticides.
  • Postharvest storage and food safety updates
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.