2017 Funded Projects

1. Agritourism Safety and Liability: Implementing Best Risk Management Practices for Farms Open to the Public
Project Director: Lisa Chase (lisa.chase@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $30,952

As consumer demand for local food and farm experiences has increased in recent years, more farms are opening their barns, fields, and homes to visitors. Agritourism can be defined as a commercial enterprise on a working farm or ranch conducted for the enjoyment, education, and/or active involvement of the visitor, generating supplemental income for the farm or ranch. Agritourism includes many kinds of experiences, such as overnight farm stays, hay rides, corn mazes, and use of farm land for hiking, hunting, snowmobiling and other recreational activities. Agritourism also includes direct sales, such as farmstands and u-pick, as well as educational programs for school children, seniors, and other groups of visitors, often involving demonstrations and workshops around specific topics and skills. Hosting visitors on farms provides rich educational opportunities for consumers, supplemental income for farms, and public support for agriculture; however, it comes with risks to visitors and farms. The proposed project will provide training and resources on agritourism safety and liability for 100 farms in Vermont and nearby states. The project team will host three workshops and follow up with farms to conduct safety assessments, resulting in 20 farms that complete safety plans and implement best risk management practices.

2. Educating Massachusetts Farmers on Avoiding Risks in Farm Labor Law Compliance
Project Director: Jennifer Hashley (jennifer.hashley@tufts.edu)
Trustees of Tufts College / New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Award Amount: $37,456

This project will develop statewide trainings and educational resources on farm labor law compliance to help producers manage legal risks and avoid labor violations and sanctions. 120+ Massachusetts beginning and established producers will learn strategies to comply with requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Migrant/Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and other agricultural labor laws.  We will conduct three comprehensive training workshops in SE, Central, and Western Mass covering: labor law 101; hiring contractors vs. employees; designing “legal” farm apprenticeships, internships, and volunteer programs; understanding workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance requirements; and other human resource topics selected by legal experts in agricultural labor law. A producer panel will present labor management practices and lessons learned. A regional webinar on farm labor will cover labor requirements in all six New England States, be posted online and disseminated broadly to over 300 producers.  A multi-page brochure on farm labor laws will be distributed to 1,500 producers. Additional 1-1 technical assistance to 15+ farmers will improve labor management compliance through pro-bono legal guidance.   Farmers will report improving their understanding of human resource and legal risk management topics, adopt a new or modified labor management practice, and gain knowledge to avoid making costly mistakes.

3. Expanding Business Education Programming for Farm Women in New Hampshire
Project Director: Kelly McAdam (kelly.mcadam@unh.edu)
Co-Project Director: Elaina Enzien (elaina.enzien@unh.edu)
University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
Award Amount: $31,168

According to the 2012 USDA National Agriculture Census, women are involved in 69% of farm operations in New Hampshire, either as a principal operator or in partnership with a spouse or other partner.  New Hampshire leads the nation in the percentage of farms that sell their products direct to the consumer.  Women play a critical role in managing and carrying out the marketing and financial aspects of the farm.  Typical roles include bookkeeping, managing the farm’s social media and website presence, interacting with customers, and hiring and managing employees.

Since 2014, Annie’s Project, a nationally-recognized education program for farm women, has been offered every two years in New Hampshire to enhance the farm business skills of women in the state.  With 35 women having participated in the program since it’s inception, still there are an astounding 3,052 women farm operators in the state, many of whom we clearly have not yet reached.

This project seeks to expand Annie’s Project offerings around the state in an effort to reach more women farmers, while also helping these women build networks with other farmers, agriculture service providers, and enhancing their skills in farm business management, communication and leadership.

4. Farm Succession and Preparing for the Unexpected Farm Family Health Crisis
Project Director: Darlene Livingston (c-daliving@pa.gov)
Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
Award Amount: $36,974

Diverse educational opportunities will provide access to farm succession and family health crisis learning materials. Pennsylvania farmers will access the materials through in-depth workshops, webpage devoted to the topics and printed document, Aging Safely, developed addressing potential health crisis situations. Aging Safely will be organized in a manner easily adaptable to other states.Two workshops with 40 participants will blend the topics of family communication, financial, legal, business and tax implications of farm succession along with quality of life and safety considerations for aging farm family members.

Aging Safely will address issues that may arise with deteriorating cognitive, physical skills and family health crisis. 40 family members will learn about available resources, services and emergency helps. Laws related to challenges farm families face when the senior generation refuses medical care will be reviewed. Steps to ensure safety and the highest degree of care for aging farmers and their families will be provided. 200 copies will be distributed through agricultural organizations.

A web based farm succession and family resource page will be developed allowing farm succession and Aging Safely materials to be accessed by 250 people. Links to other valuable succession and senior health resources will also be provided.

5.Good to Great – Improving Labor Management on Fruit and Vegetable Farms in New York State
Project Director: Elizabeth Higgins (emh56@cornell.edu)
Co-Project Director: Mary Jo Dudley (farmworkers@cornell.edu)
Cornell University
Award Amount: $50,000

In Good to Great: Improving Labor Management on Fruit and Vegetable Farms in New York State, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and the Cornell Farmworker Program (CFP) will focus on reducing two areas of risk for fruit and vegetable farmers – Human Risk (labor supply, recruitment, and retention and employee management and communication) and Legal Risk (labor regulations) by improving producer management skills. Farm labor is the highest variable cost for fruit and vegetable production and access to a reliable labor force is one of the key areas of concern for NYS farm owners.  The primary method of program delivery will be through workshops, we will also follow up with workshop participants by email or phone, and will use newsletters and social media to help reach additional growers. Our target audience is NYS fruit and vegetable farmers who want to improve their skills in hiring and managing farmworkers.  We will offer multiple sessions of four HR workshops, and two full day trainings on employing foreign-born workers with an emphasis on workers from Mexico/Guatemala.  Farmers will adopt improved employee management methods, improve legal compliance and decrease worker turnover. We will be able to document improvements on 50 farms.

6. Making It Happen: Profitability & Success
Project Director: Dorothy Suput (dsuput@thecarrotproject.org)
TSNE-The Carrot Project
Award Amount: $31,000

Making It Happen is an outcome-based risk management training to help producers understand and incorporate financial management tools into their business practices. The primary Risk Management Education Objective is to reduce financial risks that threaten farm profitability by building business knowledge and allowing for greater resiliency. The training will provide producers the tools –– and the ability to use them –– to improve decision-making. Participants will learn and apply financial management tools to their business that will help them answer questions such as: “Can I pay my bills?”, “Is a capital investment worth it?”, “Is this the right price?”, or “Should I add a new product line?” The training consists of two webinars, two trainings, and follow-on coaching, one-on-one assistance and learning tips, for 45 farmers and steps to ensure results verification. The target audience will reside in urban and rural areas of Massachusetts and New York’s Hudson Valley, including small and beginning farmers, sustainable and socially disadvantaged producers, and producers of value-added goods. The expected results are that 85% will increase their understanding of and use the financial management tools, and 65% will incorporate at least one tool into their business practices.

7. Mitigating Production and Environmental Risks through Best Management of Subsurface Tile
Project Director: Heather Darby (heather.darby@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont and State Agricultural College
Award Amount: $40,104

Since the late 1800s, farmers have used subsurface tile drainage to produce high yielding crops on marginal soils. Many farmers consider tile drainage as the most significant and important risk management tool available to them. In recent years, this view has become even stronger as farms experience an erratic climate.Climate models indicate that the Northeast will continue to experience excessively long, wet periods. Over the past 50 years, the amount of precipitation falling as heavy precipitation events has increased disproportionately in the Northeast compared to other U.S. regions. This has spurred a rapid increase in tile drainage installation. However, research has indicated potential negative impacts of tile drainage on water quality. Therefore, the project’s goal is to help farmers implement best management practices to successfully install tile drainage and manage fields to reduce the potential risks of those adverse effects.

The project will conduct webinars, a workshop, on-farm field days, fact sheets, and a user survey. As a result, 95% of 300 Vermont farmer participants will indicate increased knowledge about best management practices to use in tile-drained fields; and 50 farmers will adopt and/or expand at least one practice to reduce environmental risks related to subsurface tile drainage use.

8. Profitable Meat Marketing through Pricing & Strategy Education
Project Director: Matthew LeRoux (mnl28@cornell.edu)
Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County
Award Amount: $35,973

This project addresses marketing and financial risks faced by many northeast livestock producers struggling with profitable market channels and appropriate pricing.  Producers are caught between commodity prices and inconsistent value-added market prices.  Lack of marketing and pricing strategies limit farm profitability. We will teach livestock producers to use marketing strategy and a new online “Livestock Yield & Price Calculator Tool” to manage the risks of commodity and value-added channels.  Through 4 articles we create, 11 workshops, and the on-line calculator tool, we will reach at least 8000 producers who will learn to manage livestock marketing risks, primarily marketing channel selection, price risk, meat-cut inventory management, and marketing cost accounting.  We will focus on 3 complementary topics:   1) Marketing strategy and objective development; 2) Understanding channel-specific costs and; 3) using our online tool to ensure profit through channel pricing. At least 165 producers that attend workshops will set marketing objectives and learn how to use the Price Calculator.  Using producer data entered in the Calculator tool, we will measure how many farmers change their pricing and the impact on profitability. By project end, over 300 farms will have used the Calculator and make pricing adjustments to ensure profitability in every channel.

9. Reducing Marketing and Financial Risk thorough Data Analysis Pricing Using Cloud-Based Technology
Project Director: Seth Wilner (seth.wilner@unh.edu)
Co-Project Director: Pamela Bruss (pamela.bruss@unh.edu)
University of New Hampshire
Award Amount: $37,859

This project addresses the risks farmers face through lack of data and decision making in pricing, crop planting, yield, and sales channel. As farmers become more competitive it becomes increasingly more important for them to make data-driven decisions based on their farm business data, as well as understand regional market trends in local produce production and consumption trends. Farmers have expressed a need to collect, enter, share and analyze data that can be easily accessed without much effort or fore-thought. The 40 farmers from Northern New England who are trained to use the software package, Cabbige, will capture critical data about their farm operations in the 2017 growing season to optimize pricing, understand harvest relationship to sales data and will be able to share the information in a seamless way across the farm. This will result in increased profits, increased productivity, and improved quality of life through better communication.