Farm to Freezer: An immersive train-the-trainer program for extension agents, producers, and processors in the SE farm-direct beef and goat industries

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2024: $79,820.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2026
Grant Recipients: Animal and Dairy Sciences Mississippi State Univer; Tuskegee University
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Derris Burnett, PHD
Animal and Dairy Sciences Mississippi State Univer
Dr. Clarissa Harris
Tuskegee University
Dr. Brandi Karisch
Mississippi State University
Dr. Leyla Rios
Department of Animal & Dairy Sciences at Mississippi State University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

The pandemic and other factors have exposed “a food system that
is rigid, consolidated, and fragile (Secretary of Agriculture Tom
Vilsack, 2021).” The closure of many of the large meat packing
plants during the beginning of the pandemic led to supply chain
disruptions that lasted weeks. These disruptions also,
ironically, fostered the resurgence of the small meat packing
industry and increased marketing opportunities for underserved
producers. Federal and local governments subsidized the
construction of small processing facilities to expand capacity,
but this also exposed a training gap among underserved producers,
processors, and extension agents. Therefore, there is a critical
need for programs to foster better producer-processor
relationships and equip extension agents to support this sector.
Our team includes experts in extension, meat processing, and
regulatory requirements who will deliver comprehensive hands-on
workshops on farm-direct beef and goat marketing and create a
dynamic train-the-trainer experience for stakeholders in the
farm-direct pipeline.

Project objectives from proposal:

Our overarching goal is to improve the long-term viability and
quality of life for small and underserved meat producers and
processors and increase the productivity and sustainability of
small-scale producers via these marketing outlets. Given the
critical need for training
described in the summary, we will convene producers,
processors, and extension agents to train these
stakeholders on the processes, pitfalls, and potentials of
farm-direct marketing. We will utilize our network of
participating farmers to collect data, images, and other material
to develop workshop materials relevant to the SE. Our
specific objectives are to:


  1. Objective 1: Develop a system of best practices and
    science-based tutorials to improve producer-processor
    These resources will facilitate new
    customer onboarding and decrease confusion on topics including
    how much meat to expect, packaging, pricing, label regulations,
    testing and fees. By equipping our producers, processors, and
    agents with this valuable training, they can help optimize the
    farm-direct pipeline and  implement more sustainable
    management strategies that are driven by an improved
    understanding of the end products that satisfy their specific
    markets. Eliminating ineffective management practices,
    unrealistic processing requests, and other inefficiencies that
    do not directly augment the quality or quantity of farm-direct
    products will ultimately increase the sustainability and
    profitability of the meat production pipeline for small
    producers in the Southeast. This will also instill the
    confidence and competencies necessary for small-scale producers
    to interact with local processors and marketing outlets to more
    effectively merchandise and retail their products.


  1. Objective 2: Develop and implement training workshops
    that begin on the farm with live animals and end up with
    packaged products for retail.
    These workshops will
    focus on the core concepts and considerations as well as the
    interdependent relationships needed for an effective
    farm-direct meat processing pipeline. Program
    participants will visit farms ranging from intensive feeding to
    grass fed and browsing operations for beef and goats.
    Participants will then participate and/or observe the harvest,
    fabrication, packaging, weighing, and labeling of these
    products to demonstrate the actual dressing percentage, cutting
    yield, etc. These trainings and resources will assist
    producers, processors, and agents in identifying production
    targets, estimating yields, and calculating break-even pricing.
    Participants will be given pre- and post-assessments on their
    understanding of the workshop content. Success of the program
    will be determined by the ability to effectively improve the
    knowledge base of the participants in these categories such
    that they can implement these concepts as they provide
    scientifically sound guidance and advice for local producers
    and processors. We will also enlist an outside evaluator to
    assess the overall effectiveness of the programs content and


  1. Objective 3: Empower and support a network of
    processors, producers, and co-operatives to maximize the
    efficiency of the farm-direct meat pipeline in outlying
    These refined modules will serve as valuable
    tools for the target audiences beyond the funding period and
    made available via the Mississippi State and Tuskegee Extension
    outlets. This program will continue to serve as a valuable tool
    for the target audiences including continued education of
    producers, processors, and extension agents beyond the funding
    period through the continued progressive and modular curricula.
    We plan to record each workshop, and advanced workshops can be
    designed to build on the basic principles and address specialty
    topics as they become relevant to the industry. In addition,
    this content can be used to provide introductory experiential
    programming for K-14 students at local schools and junior
    colleges which will help sustain the talent pipeline necessary
    to ensure the long-term sustainability and viability of the
    small-scale meat production pipeline. In this manner, the
    current proposal addresses an immediate need, and provides a
    platform upon which future content can be housed and NextGen
    talent can be trained.


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.