- Education and Training: focus group, mentoring, networking, technical assistance, workshop
- Farm Business Management: grant making
Problem and Justification: A 2014 statewide needs assessment of 51 agricultural service providers (ASPs) and 136 producers conducted by the WV SARE state programs identified “accessing funding opportunity/grant writing” as one of the top five producer gaps out of the 27 competencies surveyed. ASPs rated this gap in in the middle of their needs, most likely because more than half had no intention of doing any programming in this area. Additionally, West Virginia has experienced significant change in personnel in agricultural agencies and an increase in community based organizations providing agriculture services; many of these new personnel also lack this skill set. We are also not seeing an increase in producers applying for funding opportunities, participating in grant reviews or investigating partnership possibilities among themselves or with agriculture service providers or their agencies. Further, proposals being submitted to grant agencies by producers, community-based and non-governmental organizations often contain deficiencies and are not competitive, and this is limiting funds coming into or staying in our state – funds than could address new ideas or concerns of producers and communities. Few if any of the ASPs working directly with producers have experience in grant research, writing and/or management. Therefore the previous 3-year professional development program provided ASPs training on how to research an idea, write a successful proposal and manage a funded project for themselves as well as working with others (producers and/or agencies/organizations) on developing grant proposals as well as delivery of educational programs to producers using hands-on exercises and resource materials. We will use this fourth year to provide support to the grant-trained ASP's to provide education and grant support to farmers including grant programs designed specifically for farmers, or programs that fund collaborations with other service providers
Solution and Approach: In the previous 3-year project, over 24 ASPs total were trained in grant writing and management. The 1st group trained has been successful in obtaining their own grants including several who received their first grant. With completion of the 2nd group of trained ASPs, we anticipate deploying these trained ASPs to deliver a comprehensive hands-on team-based educational program that will raise the knowledge and skill sets of the WV producers and improve business, community and agency partnerships. The trained ASPs will be provided materials to use in their own trainings including evaluation and verification materials as well as funds as needed to support travel and their own programming.
Performance targets from proposal:
18 agricultural service providers of the 24 previously trained in how to research, identify, and apply for a grant program will provide 10 trainings to 60 more West Virginia agricultural producers and farmers in evaluating grant opportunities, writing a proposal, reviewing proposals, managing a funded grant and/or partnering with others on a project.