2014 Funded Projects

1. Branding and Communication Strategies for Managing Marketing Risk and Improving Farm Viability
Project Director: Kelly Coleman (kelly@buylocalfood.org)
Co-Project Director: Devon Whitney-Deal (devon@buylocalfood.org)
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, Inc.
Award Amount: $27,431

This project will help 75 direct-marketing beginning, small and limited resources farmers with marketing strategies and communication tools to reduce their marketing and financial risk. We will organize two workshop series: a six workshop basic series in Hampden County that covers marketing plan basics: assessing your current marketing, marketing strategies, and direct market communications; and a series of three advanced workshops for Franklin/Hampshire Counties that will address: performing and incorporating market research, pricing for markets, and advanced marketing strategy. Upon completion of either series, farmers will better understand marketing risks; develop, improve, and/or begin to implement a marketing plan; analyze current or potential marketing strategies; and implement strategies to improve their marketing efforts. All series participants will have access to one-on-one expert time to begin implementation and advanced series participants will have additional time with CISA staff to review progress. Series resources will be adapted and made available on-line.

2. MidAtlantic Women in Agriculture Programs 2015
Project Director: Shannon Dill (sdill@umd.edu)
Co-Project Director: Jennifer Rhodes (jrhodes@umd.edu)
University of Maryland Extension
Award Amount: $19,335

The Mid-Atlantic Women in Agriculture programs have gained unforeseen momentum delivering risk and farm management training to women in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. Education in the risk areas of human, legal, marketing and financial are delivered through a variety of learning environments including classrooms, conferences and on farm tours. Specific programming includes five Annie’s Project sites, three Annie’s II sites and one multistate conference.

Educational programs are created to improve content knowledge, encourage risk management implementation and increase farm profitability. The target audience is women with a secondary audience of beginning farmers. Results include writing an estate and business plan, compiling farm financial statements, checking credit reports, marketing products, reviewing lease agreements and understanding regulatory information. Outreach programs in 2015 will reach over 400 women and build on the current network as well as reach out to others that have not yet participated.

3. Managing legal risk through effective written farm lease strategies in Maryland
Project Director: Paul Goeringer (lgoering@umd.edu)
University of Maryland
Award Amount: $28,147

A recently completed survey of University of Maryland Extension (UME) faculty found that 79.5% of responding Educators saw issues related to land leasing as an important or very important issue for Maryland farmers. We propose to offer a series of 4 half-day workshops on the basic principles in farmland leasing, communication with the other party, and on using mediation. Two additional workshops will be held in conjunction with Maryland’s Annie’s II Project. All six workshops will focus on four areas: 1) what to consider when negotiating the lease; 2) online resources available to both landlords and tenants; 3) handling landlord-tenant relationship, and 4) alternative dispute resolution. Materials for the workshops will include an existing leasing publication explaining leasing issues to not only our target audience, but all producers in Maryland. Additional leasing specific materials for Maryland will be developed to aid to aid both landlords and tenants in Maryland.

4. Assessing and Minimizing Risk of Microbial Contamination in Fresh Produce for Small Farms through Hands-on Training and Follow-up
Project Director: Robert Hadad (rgh26@cornell.edu)
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Award Amount: $38,138

I’ve trained farmers in all aspects of farm food safety. Farmers came because of buyers’ demand. With federal regulations coming, the listeria melon contamination killing 34, more farmers are asking for specific training on water and post-harvest handling.

One point where an entire season of safe production practice can go out with the wash water is if improper post-harvest safety steps are not taken with water. Post-harvest training will be hands-on for small produce farms focusing on wash station design, use of wash water with sanitizers, monitoring sanitizer levels, and handling of produce to reduce contamination.

This project will train farmers in assessing microbial risk through the post-harvest process. We’ll detail setup and product flow in the packing area, assist growers with developing SOPs for the important steps and through hands-on training, give them the tools then personal follow-up that provides the incentive/support to help them put principles into safe practices.

5. Identify, Diagnose, and Manage Risk Zones in Commercial Vineyards Through the Extension of Sensor Technologies Research
Project Director: Luke Haggerty (llh85@cornell.edu)
Co-Project Director: Kevin Martin (kmm52@psu.edu)
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Award Amount: $41,703

This project will capitalize on recent research of sensors and software that gather and aid in the interpretation of vineyard variability. Crop load management has been central to control risk and maintain quality. Technology and research have recently allowed crop zonal crop load management within blocks. Sensors have the ability to gather relative vine size, soil, and yield data. Successful commercial adoption requires education to allow growers to diagnose the causes of variability and create differential management plans to decrease variability, thereby increasing fruit quality and industry sustainability. Over 200 grape growers from the Lake Erie grape region will receive the information through weekly small grower meetings and electronic newsletters, resulting in 30 growers producing management plans based on data collected with tractor mounted sensors.

6. Connecting New and Expanding Farmers to Endangered Farmland in the Northeast
Project Directors: Jennifer Hashley (jennifer.hashley@tufts.edu)
Tufts University c/o New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Award Amount: $36,685

To address legal and financial risks of contracts and farmland leasing, this project will help beginning and experienced, small-to-mid-sized farmers in Massachusetts and surrounding states learn about farmland identification, acquisition, and develop strategies to address land tenure, financing, and asset management. Beginning farmers and other farm seekers will understand farm access, affordability, and tenure and how various land acquisition strategies affect business planning and profitability. Through extensive outreach, 4 regional landowner meetings, 4 farmland leasing workshops, 2 webinars, online self-study, and individual technical assistance, up to 125 farmers will complete applications, review available properties, and receive technical assistance to develop land acquisition plans, find and assess properties, and negotiate tenure arrangements. New Entry’s interactive farmland map will be expanded for land seekers. Project partners will make farmer referrals, assist with local outreach to identify and assess available land, and encourage owners to make land available, including through succession planning.

7. Addressing production, liability and food safety risks of value added processing in on farm residential kitchens.
Project Director: Diane Hirsch (diane.hirsch@uconn.edu)
Co-Project Director: Lori Pivarnik (pivarnik@uri.edu)
University of Connecticut
Award Amount: $45,271

New England state food regulators are being urged to adopt regulations that allow farmers to enhance farm profitability by processing value-added foods in their on-farm home kitchens. The rules vary in their ability to mitigate risk from foodborne illness from the products produced. Operations are generally not required to document food safety procedures, attend training, or undergo an inspection. A training program will be developed and piloted in CT and RI. 40 participating farmers will understand the risks/benefits of processing value added food products as a way to diversify their operation, including financial risks, and will learn skills to reduce risk for food safety liability. 20 farmers will adopt safe food processing practices; 10 farmers will develop food safety plans/procedures. A meeting will be held for New England region regulators and Extension educators to share the curriculum and address adaptation for use throughout the region.

8. Reducing Financial, Human and Production Risks through Tractor and Mechanization Education
Project Director: Beth Holtzman (beth.holtzman@uvm.edu)
Co-Project Director: Kristen Mullins (kristen.mullins@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont Extension Women’s Agricultural Network
Award Amount: $32,939

This project will deliver tractor safety, use, maintenance and farm mechanization education to 75 beginning farmers (<10 years in commercial operation), farm workers and farm apprentices from VT, NH, MA, NY and CT. Participants will gain tractor safety, use and maintenance skills, and knowledge necessary to make production and financial decisions regarding farm mechanization. As a result, participants will be better able to manage human, financial and production risks associated with scaling up commercial operations.

Participants who enroll in the 6-month program will obtain education via 3 webinars and participation in small-group, hands-on trainings (offered in VT, NY, MA). Problem solving, farmer-to-farmer learning, web based resources and individual consultations via email and phone will support farmer learning and implementation of change.

By the project’s conclusion, 40 participants will report that the project helped them improve tractor safety, operation and maintenance and/or make mechanization decisions for their farms.

9. Managing Legal Risks of Value-Added Food Production
Project Director: Mariane Kiraly (mk129@cornell.edu)
Cornell Cooperative Ext. Delaware County
Award Amount: $15,000

This project addresses the legal liabilities small farms undertake in processing and selling value- added farm products at both wholesale and retail venues. Due to limited experience with product liability, legal labeling, food handling safety, required licensing, and requirements for a scheduled process, these farmers are at risk for failure to comply with New York State regulations and federal food safety requirements. Three workshops will be offered: one targeting farmers interested in or already producing a value-added meat product; one targeting farmers interested in or already producing a value-added dairy product; and one targeting farmers interested in or already producing a value-added horticulture product. One hundred farmers from a five county region in the Catskills (Delaware; Schoharie; Otsego; Sullivan and Chenango) will participate in this value- added food production program. Within nine months of their workshop 50% of participating farmers will improve the regulatory compliance of their products.

10. Tackling the Challenges of Succession and Transition Planning for the Farm Family
Project Director: Darlene Livingston (c-daliving@pa.gov)
Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
Award Amount: $37,944

Momentum developed through “Project Succession”, with 217 participants to date, is the foundation for continuing succession/transition planning work in Pennsylvania.

Challenging family situations were uncovered that make succession/transition plans difficult and complex. 75 participants in four workshops will develop skills to address these issues; empowering families to communicate, resolve roadblocks and talk about items that are uncomfortable to discuss.

Breakouts will provide a setting for young farmers and senior farmers to share in a non contentious atmosphere. Positive experiences and challenges will emerge from group conversations. Breakout facilitators will share these with the entire workshop audience. This will encourage conversation between both groups of people in a safe environment. Brainstorming solutions will follow.

The results of breakouts and brainstorming sessions will serve as an online resource. Participants will understand and analyze business entities, tax considerations, and legal documents. Time will be allocated for question/answer periods with legal and accounting professionals.

11. Preparing for Later Life Farming
Projector Director: Meredith Melendez (melendez@njaes.rutgers.edu)
Co-Project Directors: Nicholas Polanin (polanin@njaes.rutgers.edu), Robin Brumfield (brumfield@aesop.rutgers.edu), Jenny Carleo (carleo@aesop.rutgers.edu)
Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension
Award Amount: $23,949

The Preparing for Later Life Farming program will assist multi-generational New Jersey farm families prepare for farm transition. This eight hour one day program will be offered in three New Jersey locations. We anticipate 80 farmer participants. Farm transition curriculum will be developed utilizing materials from the Rutgers Later Life Farming website, the University of Vermont’s Farm Business Succession Educational program, the University of Iowa’s Evaluating Your Estate Plan program, and evaluation materials from the National Annie’s Project program. Curriculum developed will be made available to farm risk management educators through the Rutgers Later Life Farming website. We expect that participants will: improve their ability to communicate desires for the farm; begin determining the future of the farm; assess future financial needs; identify potential sources of income; understand the legal and financial realities of farm transfer; begin assembling their expert team members; and develop an outline of their estate plan.

12. Farm Transfer Education for New England and West Virginia
Project Director: Robert Parsons (bob.parsons@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont
Award Amount: $33,149

We build on past years’ work to provide educational programs on farmland transfer and transition in New England and West Virginia. Why West Virginia? We extend the program’s expertise and educational tools to collaborate with WVU Extension (McConnell) and WVU College of Law, through Jesse Richardson, Esq., who has been involved in the New England program since 2007.

For 2014-15 we will conduct 4 daylong workshops in New England and 4 in West Virginia for 360 participants, conduct 4 info sessions in New England, meet with an estimated 30-40 farmers through personal consultations, and provide Train-the-Trainer education to 30 attorneys in West Virginia on Farm Transfer issues in collaboration with WVU College of Law continuing education program. In addition we will redesign (by Heleba) our on-line video library (26 videos) to enhance their usability and ease of download to interested viewers.

Education efforts will further educate all the farmers on farm transfer issues, enable 15% of them to develop a transfer plan, and enhance the expertise of Extension faculty and attorneys in West Virginia on farm transfer issues resulting in compounded education results for years to come.

13. WV Annie’s II – Building on Risk Management Improvements for Female Agripreneurs in WV.
Project Directors: Doolarie Singh-Knights (dosingh-knights@mail.wvu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Brandy Brabham (Brandy.Brabham@mail.wvu.edu)
West Virginia University
Award Amount: $ 12,843

Project offers advanced risk-management education for beginning/mid-level women-in-agriculture across WV. Ninety-five participants attending 6 short-courses (5 face-to-face sites, each with 6 modules – 18 contact hours; 1 online) delivered over 6 weeks, will evaluate several risk-management strategies and adopt at least two new initiatives, ranging from farm and family financial management, marketing and business planning, farm and food safety planning, networking and partnership opportunities, and estate and succession planning and communication. This will help strengthen participants’ farm profitability and long- term viability; improve inter-generational connections and communications; and build long-term partnerships among agribusinesses and agriculture service providers, producing learning and networking multiplier effects beyond the life of the grant. Varied pedagogical methods will be integrated to tailor program to targeted audience, including hands-on/interactive face-to-face and on-line curriculum, mentoring/coaching clinics and field trips to explore whole-farm decision-making; partnerships with related agencies to streamline educational programs, and networking opportunities to help improve business connections.

14. Growing Agritourism and Farm-Based Education in West Virginia – Managing Risks for Improved Income Diversification
Project Directors: Doolarie Singh-Knights (dosingh-knights@mail.wvu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Daisy Bailey (daisy.fryman@mail.wvu.edu)
West Virginia University
Award Amount: $25,014

The project will provide education, planning tools, and supplemental resources to encourage and develop agritourism/farm-based education enterprises for 60 existing or new agritourism operators. Five risk management considerations (production, marketing, financial, legal and human) will be addressed. Three short-courses (2 face-to-face sites each with 4 modules – 20 contact-hours; 1 online – 6 weeks), provid e tools and coursework leading towards an agritourism specific three-page business plan with supplemental risk management tools (eg. farm/food safety plan) upon completion. Project topics will include: Emerging Opportunities and Consumer Demand – Assessing Your Agritourism Potential; the Business-Side of Agritourism; Farm/Food Safety; Event and Emergency Planning; and Innovative Strategies to Market your Agritourism and Farm-Based Education Enterprise – Social Media, Collaborations and Partnerships. The collaborative capstone trip by participants is a 3-day agritourism tour. Six months after the workshop series, 40 participants will have implemented two risk management tools/practices and 15 will have launched a new/improved agritourism/farm-based educational enterprise.

15. Managing Human Risk on Vermont Organic Farms
Project Director: Enid Wonnacott (enid@nofavt.org)
Co-Project Director: Caitlin Jenness (caitlinjenness@nofavt.org)
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont
Award Amount: $26,500

This project will address the human and legal risks of beginner and advanced sustainable and organic farmers throughout Vermont. Production practices for these types of farming practices require significant manual labor, resulting in increased risk to farm functioning and profitability related to labor management. The emphasis will be on:
a) employee management and communication, b) interpersonal relationships,
c) labor regulations, and
d) labor supply, recruitment and retention.
We will deliver these services in a series of three courses, hosted in two regions of Vermont for a total of six courses. Through participation, at least 70 farmers will understand the impact human resource management practices have on profitability, production and quality of life. Of those participants, 35 will implement at least one HR management change. Six of these farmers will work with a farm adviser to develop a comprehensive human resources plan with an implementation timeline for their farm.