With the help of the Alabama SARE program, educators are able to reach a diverse farming audience, providing research and knowledge. The SARE Program will continue to develop educational materials, conduct 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). Many of the TAPs and small 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 also proposing 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:
- Objective/Training 1: Publications
Farming Basics online course PART 2 is being launched in a phase-wise manner. Seven additional sections on a variety of topics are currently being edited and added in 2023. We have connected Part 1 and Part 2 courses via one registration link to make it convenient for producers and everyone interested.
Improve and develop new and existing publications. The Urban Market wheel chart is being updated with new information and will be published for handing out this year. A greenhouse handbook is also being added to as a online resource.
Continue editing and publishing the E-newsletter twice a month. Record monthly webinars (11 by REAs and Specialists), update the digital resource blog (major archive for farmers).
- Objective/Training 2: Train-the-Trainer
Develop two field days in different parts of Alabama to target the most important topics. Along with conducting 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.
Establish and create the curriculum for the Incubator Farm pilot program. 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.
Coordinate SARE Advisory Council Meetings (10), organize in-person train-the-trainer meetings (2+ meetings attended by REAs, Extension Specialists, Advisory Council Members, FSA/NRCS Field Staff, Crop Advisers, etc.), attend SARE Administrative Council /Networking Meetings , and attend National Conferences (ESP, ACE, etc.).
- Objective/Training 3: Evaluation.
On-farm interviews during the Fall months of 2023. I plan to visit 4-7 farms for impact data and on-farm evaluation. Event and conference feedback from AFVGA in February 2023, and field days set for Spring and Summer months.
E-newsletter and social media metrics are looked over and summarized on a monthly basis to improve our efforts.
Evaluation data reporting (AEA, NACAA conferences etc.)