Growing Urban Agriculture Resilience and Development (GUARD): Professional Development Program for Urban Agriculture Educators in the Southeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2024: $79,763.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2026
Grant Recipients: University of Florida; Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Catherine Campbell
University of Florida
Cody Gusto
University of Florida
Gilbert Queeley
Florida A&M University


No commodities identified


No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Due to rapid urbanization in the Southeastern United States (US),
CUA is an increasingly important agricultural sector in the
region. The project team’s peer-reviewed research on CUA farmers
and the Cooperative Extension Service personnel (CES) who serve
them identified two key needs to support the long-term
sustainability of CUA. First, CUA farmers lack professional
networks that provide mentorship and information sharing, and
previous attempts to create these networks have failed. Second,
local regulations and policies are the primary barriers faced by
CUA farms, and neither CUA farmers not CES have the knowledge and
skills to address these barriers. Our Growing Urban Agriculture
Resilience and Development (GUARD): Professional Development
Program for Urban Agriculture Educators in the Southeast will
address both of these barriers. This train-the-trainer program
and its informational tools and resources that will help CUA
farmers navigate local policies and regulations. Via listening
sessions, this project will also identify best practices for
developing CUA farmer information and resource sharing networks
and implementing training programs for CUA farmers. The GUARD
program will create publicly accessible factsheets, educational
training materials, and train-the-trainer resource guides, all of
which will be reviewed and revised based on feedback from CES
personnel and minority urban farmers. Mitigating these critical
barriers faced by CUA farms in Florida will increase quality of
life for CUA farmers and increase the sustainability and
profitability of their farms. This program can also improve
quality of life for community members by increasing the
availability of sustainably grown food within urban areas.

Project objectives from proposal:

Our prior research identified two key needs to support the
profitability and sustainability of CUA farms. First, CUA farmers
are seeking a network for strategic information sharing,
peer-to-peer support, and mentoring. One farmer stated “If I
could have heard someone like myself speak 10 years ago, that
would have been helpful.... versus trying to invent things
myself” (Campbell, et al., 2023). Second, CUA farmers frequently
have problems with laws and policies that do not apply to rural
farms, such as municipal land-use policies, ordinances, zoning
laws, and code enforcement. CES and existing education programs
for small farms or emerging enterprises lack the information,
tools, and resources to help CUA farmers identify and understand
which policies apply to their operations and what they need to do
to comply with these policies. Given these key needs, we propose
to develop a program which meets the following two objectives:

Objective 1: Identify stakeholder-driven best-practices
for communication, coordination, and peer-to-peer learning
between CES personnel, CUA mentor-farmers, and existing and
aspiring CUA farmers.

CUA farmers and CES who educate them have struggled to establish
and maintain the connections required to facilitate education,
training, information, and resource sharing. While CUA farmers
are seeking professional networks and methods for information
sharing, our research found that previous efforts led by both CES
and by CUA farmers failed to gain traction and, hence, have
lacked long-term sustainability. Previous efforts were
unsuccessful because the needs and perspectives of CUA farmers as
a group were not taken into account in the attempted planning and
development of these professional networks. We will conduct
listening sessions of CES and CUA farmers to identify
stakeholder-driven best practices for providing education and
sharing information and resources among CES and CUA farmers to
foster long-term sustainability. This objective will achieve the
following outcomes:

  • This project will create a set of stakeholder-driven
    best-practices to be used to develop local networks for CUA
    farmers that will be disseminated as a part of the training
    materials in objective 2.
  • The project will strengthen the relationship between UF,
    FAMU, and CUA farmers to increase knowledge exchange and capacity
    to collaborate on CUA programming by training at least 50 CES and
    CUA mentor-farmers by June 2026.
  • The long-term impact of the GUARD program will be increased
    dissemination and utilization of evidence-based information among
    CUA farmers and CES supporting the long-term sustainability and
    profitability of CUA farms in Florida.

Objective 2: Develop a “train-the-trainer" CUA
educational program to increase the knowledge and capacity of CES
and mentor farmers to help CUA farmers comply with local policies
and regulations.

This training program will provide tools and resources to foster
peer-to-peer learning and skill-building among CES personnel, CUA
mentor-farmers, and CUA farmers, including those that are
minority owned and operated. This objective will achieve the
following outcomes:

  • 90% of program participants will increase knowledge,
    attitudes, and skills related to addressing local policies and
    regulations that govern their CUA operations.
  • 80% of program participants will increase knowledge and
    self-efficacy at how to work with local government to amend
    regulations to be more supportive for the long-term
    sustainability of CUA.
  • 50% of Extension agents or CUA mentor-farmers will have
    offered or intend to offer a CUA training or mentorship to
    existing or aspiring CUA farmers within 6 months of attending a

Meeting these objectives within the proposed project timeline
will ultimately enhance the capacity of CUA farms in
Florida—whether they are established or emerging farms or farms
that are minority-owned and operated—to be economically,
environmentally, and socially sustainable.

By adopting a train-the-trainer model, in which farmers educate
and mentor other farmers, our program will increase the reach,
effectiveness, and impact of the program.  Training CES and
CUA mentor farmers on how to understand and comply with municipal
regulatory policies will ensure that CUA farmers have
knowledgeable, trusted, and locally accessible mentors. Beyond
the immediate impact of increasing the knowledge, skills, and
self-efficacy of Extension professionals and mentor-farmers, our
train-the-trainer approach will facilitate increased
communication, coordination, and peer-to-peer learning between
CUA farmers of varying types of operations and levels of
experience. We intend for this emerging network of advisors,
mentors, and newly established or aspiring urban farmers will be
better able to (1) find and interpret the local policies that
govern CUA in their areas; (2) comply with existing policies and
successfully submit required permits; and (3) when appropriate,
work with their local government to amend local regulations to be
more supportive for the development and long-term sustainability
of CUA in their county or municipality.

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.