2016 Completed Projects

1. Bridging the GAPs – WV Food Safety Training for Small and Mid-Sized Farms
Project Director: Doolarie Singh-Knights (dosingh-knights@mail.wvu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Ronnie Helmondollar (ronnie.helmondollar@mail.wvu.edu)
West Virginia University Research Corporation
Award Amount: $32,043

Growing consumer demand for local, distinctive foods has increased local food market opportunities in WV. However, recent policies such as the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) and increased produce-related foodborne illness outbreaks has raised anxiety/concerns among consumers and producers alike about the safety of directly-marketed produce.

We provided food safety education to help producers stay well-positioned in the local food movement and meet buyers’ expectations of safe foods, in a cost-effective manner. One-hundred-and-twenty two produce direct-marketers attended a 3-module short-course covering food safety risks, recommended GAPs/GHPs, on-farm food safety assessment, economics of food safety implementation, food safety planning, on-farm mock audits, record-keeping and voluntary certification, and effectively communicating food safety compliance. Six months post-training, 122 producers have reported implementing at least two food safety recommendations, 63 producers reported implementing a food safety plan with appropriate documentation, 36 have expanded sales and profitability, and 10 have successfullly passed their GAPs audits.

2. Building Resiliency and Improving Profitability through Adoption of No-Till Production Systems in Northern Climates
Project Director: Heather Darby (heather.darby@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont and State Agricultural College
Award Amount: $32,069

No-till cropping systems have been shown to reduce crop production costs and can also reduce soil erosion, increase water infiltration, increase soil health, and increase crop resiliency in extreme weather events. Once developed, these systems can mitigate production and financial risks associated with growing a cash crop such as corn and soybeans through improved soil health characteristics. To increase successful adoption of no-till cropping systems, we developed and delivered research-based information on best practices for no-till silage corn production for northern climates. Delivery methods included 7 on-farm demonstrations/field days, one YouTube video, 2 bulletins on best no-till management practices, and a webinar series. As a result, 103 participants indicated that they would try no-till to better manage their risks of growing silage corn. Fifteen farmers in the project adopted no-till on an average of 35% of their total acres. These farmers reported an average cost savings of $55 per acre.

3. Community Accreditation for Produce Safety in Vermont
Project Director: Vernon Grubinger (vernon.grubinger@uvm.edu)
Institution: University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $39,838

This project helps small- and medium-scale farms that are exempt from the Food Safety Modernization Act to reduce risk and maintain credibility in the marketplace. University of Vermont Extension collaborated with the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association (VVBGA) to develop Community Accreditation for Produce Safety (CAPS). CAPS uses an on-line platform where farmers learn about best practices, write produce safety plans, and document plan implementation in order to earn accreditation from the VVBGA.

In 2015, 24 farmers tested the system for uploading required documentation, peer-review, and making revisions prior to become accredited. In 2016, 99 farms used CAPS to write produce safety plans and 64 farms completed the process for accreditation. In 2017, 110 farms used CAPS to write produce safety plans, 91 farms pursued accreditation and 87 achieved it by end of the year. The 91 farms had $16.7 million in annual aggregate sales of fresh produce.

4. Developing Leadership and Human Resource Management Skills for Mid and Late Career Farmers
Project Director: Seth Wilner (seth.wilner@unh.edu)
Co-Project Director: Kelly McAdam (kelly.mcadam@unh.edu)
University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
Award Amount: $27,702

This project addressed the risks mid-career farmers face due to a deficit of labor management and communication skills. Farmers have expressed a deficit of skills and knowledge in:  labor laws, team building, effective communication, improving worker
performance, effectively training workers, performance management, and conflict
resolution. To meet this need, our project team designed four sessions that featured a subject matter specialist who not only provided practical information, but who was also charged with facilitating an interactive curriculum that facilitated participants to share their knowledge and approaches.

Evaluations showed that the 71 mid-career farmers from Northern New England who attended this program increased their knowledge and skills in: agricultural labor law, job recruitment, employee retention, on-boarding new employees, effective training methods for all employees, performance feedback, conflict resolution, leadership, communication, motivating employees, employee recognition methods, labor efficiency, and the ability to calculate the full costs of hiring employees.

5. Environmental Regulations and Legal Education for Vermont Farms
Project Director: Mark Cannella (mark.cannella@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $24,341

This project addressed the legal rights and obligations Vermont farmers face upon the passing
of new Vermont water quality regulations. The regulation changed certain agricultural practices from “accepted” to “required” and the regulation encompasses agricultural businesses both
large and small. The project delivered risk management education to 185 Vermont farmers through workshops located in agricultural counties over an 18 month period. Agricultural producers came together with legal experts to address farmer rights/obligations, document feedback for policy makers, identify specific legal risks on their farms, analyze existing resources  and develop an action plan to mitigate risks to their business. Seven legal education fact sheets and reports were distributed to participants in person and online. One hundred and forty (140) farm managers completed a risk management planning worksheet. Twenty one farms verified that actual changes were made, demonstrating how challenging compliance has become. Several farms made informed decisions to exit farming.

6. Growing Family Communication Skills and Succession Technical Success
Project Director: Darlene Livingston (c-daliving@pa.gov)
Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
Award Amount: $34,199

A 2012 NASS report showed 32,950 farm owners over age 55 control over half the 7,704,444 acres of farmland in Pennsylvania. Family communication and succession planning ensures the land stays in agriculture.

The project focused on growing communication skills including identifying communication and conflict management styles, as well as personalities. 64 participants reported they learned to use the tools when working with others on the farm. Next steps in succession planning were taken by 51 farmers as a result of Growing Family Communication Skills and Succession Technical Success.

Facilitators led 76 farm members in farm unit discussions identifying at least one challenge and potential solution for their farm. Farmers gained confidence when solutions were identified.

Other targeted topics included legal updates, meeting the goals and needs of both generations. Beginning farmers who successfully purchased and/or leased a farm from non-family members also shared their experiences with farm owners seeking someone for their farm.

7. Managing Marketing and Legal Risks Associated with Direct Markets for Local Foods in West Virginia – WV Market Ready Program
Project Director: Doolarie Singh-Knights (dosingh-knights@mail.wvu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Debra Friend (debbie.friend@mail.wvu.edu)
West Virginia University Research Corporation
Award Amount: $35,479

Growing demand for local products requires increased producer capacity to successfully compete in locally accessible, higher-value markets. This project provided holistic curricula, training, planning tools and supplemental resources for 11 Agricultural Service Providers (ASPs) and 71 producers throughout West Virginia, to help them better understand how to manage marketing and legal risks associated with local foods direct markets. The project team: 1) Created two publications (WV Market Ready Toolkit of presentation materials; and the WV Guide to Legal Issues in Direct Marketing); 2) Conducted two state-wide face-to-face short-courses, each comprising one market-ready module and one legal risk mitigation module; 3) Used training modules in one online short-course; 4) Used ‘Dropbox’ file as a clearinghouse of project resources for sharing project information. Four months post-training, 11 ASPs incorporated project curriculum into farmer trainings, and 71 producers implemented five ‘market-ready’ recommendations and three legal risk-mitigation strategies aimed at increasing sales and/or market access.

8. Managing Volatility in Oil and Natural Gas Royalty Income on the Farm
Project Director: David Messersmith (dtm101@psu.edu)
The Pennsylvania State University
Award Amount: $35,000

This project addressed legal and financial risks on diverse family farms, large and small, associated with oil and natural gas royalty income. Many farmers in Pennsylvania are using royalty income streams from energy development to supplement farm income and to make important capital investments. Additional farms in Pennsylvania and other energy states such as Ohio, West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, etc. are being impacted as development continues. However shale well production declines and price volatility introduce significant levels of risk to the royalty income stream and ultimately to the farm family and farm business.

This project addressed reading oil and gas royalty statements, understanding volatility in energy markets, and making farm management decisions based on expected royalty income. In addition, participating farmers, educators and industry supporters gained access to Penn State’s Royalty Calculator & Decline Curve Web App (shaleroyalty.org) so they could visualize expected future royalty income.

9. Protecting Profitability for Small and Beginning Farmers in Maryland and Delaware through Holistic Planning
Project Director: Laurence Crane (laurencec@ag-risk.org)
National Crop Insurance Services
Award Amount: $29,933

This project assisted small, beginning, and limited resource producers of specialty crops in Delaware and Maryland to protect profitability by responding to production (NAP, crop insurance), marketing (strategies, farmers markets), financial (record-keeping and analysis), legal (liabilities, estate planning), and human resource (labor) risks, by developing their own personal risk management plans.

Three sequential workshops (18 hours) supplemented by personal assignments and individualized counseling (60 hours) were delivered in each state to 53 producers via a partnership of subject matter experts and local educators. Participants developed the skills and understood their own operations sufficiently to establish written goals for each of the five areas of risk specific to their farm, delineated three specific actions to reach each goal, and committed to implement their personal risk management plan.

Educators supported and monitored their progress and interviewed each participant at the end of the project, recording the number of actions completed and goals reached.

10. Recordkeeping Strategies and Tools for New and Beginning Producers to Promote Good Business Management and Farm Program Participation
Project Director: Jennifer Hashley (jennifer.hashley@tufts.edu)
Trustees of Tufts College
Award Amount: $36,373

This project brought together farmers and experts from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont around the central theme of strategies for increased and efficient on-farm record keeping, with a special focus on financial record keeping. Through NERME funding, New Entry Sustainable Farming project offered 6 different webinars or workshops with key leaders in the field of financial record-keeping. New Entry staff also built out an entire webpage of links and resources dedicated to farm financial data management. Finally,  New Entry staff worked to provide 1-on-1 technical assistance to the farmers in our programs, providing resources and templates to help farmers to develop strategies for working record keeping into their business practice and laying the foundation for each farmers’ ability to apply for cost share programs, grant programs, and federal loan programs. New Entry was able to meaningfully engage with approximately 254 farmers through our workshop series and 1-on-1 technical assistance, with the added benefit of having compiled resources that will serve farmers in the area for many years to come.

11. Reducing Marketing, Legal and Production Risk for Specialty Crop Producers by Adding Value
Project Director: Winifred McGee (wwm1@psu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Litha Sivanandan (litha.sivanandan@mail.wvu.edu)
The Pennsylvania State University
Award Amount: $32,290

This project taught under-served and specialty crop producers the benefits of drying surplus fruit and vegetables, individually or in a shared kitchen, to address the production, marketing and legal risks associated with experiencing product not sold. The project also addressed the methods, protocols and costs of adding value to this excess to empower farmers to make informed decisions about adoption. Educational materials that were developed showed producers how to determine when to consider drying fruit/vegetables, explore the feasibility of adding value, and, when appropriate, launch adoption strategies. Thirteen meetings (172 participants), one webinar (21 attendees), and two on-line videos (60 views) were held, including hands-on training in processing of apples, zucchini, and berries. At Greater Johnstown Career and Technology Center (GJCTC), interested culinary students were taught commercial food drying methods, equipping them to provide cost-effective, safe co-packing to interested farmers. As a result, 6 farmers began drying commercially.