- Education and Training: decision support system, extension, focus group
- Production Systems: holistic management
- Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, partnerships, quality of life, social capital, social networks
Problem and Justification: NH agriculture service providers are not well networked or connected across organizations, resulting in inefficiencies in meeting the needs of NH Farmers. Other states such as Maine have formed an agriculture service provider network and found that they were able to increase the efficiency of their work. The farmers additionally gained great benefit from knowing there was one place (webpage) they could go to learn about numerous resources available to them. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the value and need of having a NH Farm Network to provide a structure for working together, a repository for information, and a vehicle for relationship building across organizations.
In a resource-limited state, it is essential that organizations collaborate and build off each other’s work, and do not create redundancy in our efforts. Additionally, by working together we are able to access more resources thru grants and agency partnerships to better meet the needs of NH farmers.
A group of 17 agricultural organizations came together in late 2019 and strongly expressed their desire to form a NH Farm Network. They formalized this desire in collaboration with UNH Extension, and voted unanimously to move forward in exploring forming a network.
Solution and Approach: Our proposed solution is to bring NH agriculture service providers together in a participatory Reading the Farm (RTF) exercise. As demonstrated by the SARE Fellows program, participation in the RTF builds comradery, develops relationships and identifies skills of participants. Our aim is to conduct a RTF training for NH agriculture service providers to bring them together and catalyze a functioning and collaborative working group. Long term needs and knowledge gaps will be identified thru the RTF experience and subsequent focus groups and will inform the structure and the work of the group moving forward. The resulting network will yield the following outcomes: 1) experienced agriculture professionals will transfer knowledge to new staff, 2) new staff will showcase their talents and skills to their community, 3) an on-line platform will be developed to house multi-agency and multi-organization resources for farmers (a one stop shop), and 4) network participants will know where and to whom to turn for the numerous questions they receive in their work with farmers. RTF participants will also increase their skills in holistic farm management, a technique for service providers to deliver advice based on the whole farm system and not just within the specific (niche) program they operate under. This baseline community of sharing and knowledge will be critical to establishing a successful Farm Network for New Hampshire.
Performance targets from proposal:
The 1-year plan for New Hampshire will focus on organizing the “NH Farm Network” for service providers, in the spirit of the Beginning Farmer Resource Network of Maine. In this foundational year, NH SARE will take a leadership role in aggregating information from NH Service providers to create a resource website for farmers. We will assess professional development needs of our states’ agriculture service providers via the Reading the Farm training and focus groups. We will use program evaluation to monitor success.