2020 Funded Completed Projects

1. Risk Management Education for Maine Aquaculture Producers Through Strategic Business Planning
Project Director:  Christian Brayden (christian@maineaqua.org)
Maine Aquaculture Association
Award Amount:  $37,943

This project will focus on improving risk management education for Maine shellfish (oysters, mussels, scallops) and seaweed growers by building business knowledge and resiliency through improved recordkeeping, business planning, farm financial benchmarking, and crop insurance participation. The project will be delivered through 2 group training sessions exploring business planning and risk management with producers, followed by one-on-one meetings with Project Director Christian Brayden. Brayden will remain available for, and will encourage, follow-up meetings and phone calls.

The target audience will be shellfish and seaweed growers in Maine, a group traditionally underserved by the federal crop insurance program. The project will target small farms and beginning farmers and ranchers, especially socially disadvantaged new farmers.

The project anticipates two group training sessions and 35 initial one-on-one meetings with producers.

Producers will walk away from the project with a new or improved business plan, a risk management plan, best management practices, and tools to continue strengthening their business and production strategies. Producers will also develop an enhanced knowledge of recordkeeping, business planning, economic analysis, and risk management exercises and controls, such as financial benchmarking and crop insurance. It is estimated that 30 producers will achieve these results.

2. Putting the Tools to Work: Strategies and Support for Sound Business Decision Making
Project Director:  Kelly Coleman (kelly@buylocalfood.org)
Co-Project Director:  Devon Whitney-Deal (devon@buylocalfood.org)
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, Inc. (CISA)
Award Amount:  $33,193

This project will help western Massachusetts farmers address financial risk. Participants will learn to use financial decision-making tools to support real-life farm decisions such as whether to expand or downsize or whether to diversify or specialize. Forty small, sustainable, or beginning producers will participate in workshops, peer cohort groups, and individualized support to reduce the financial risk of major farm decisions. Topics will include financial record-keeping, break-even analysis, enterprise analysis, and partial budgeting. Workshops will be intermixed with cohort conversations so that participants learn about decision making tools, practice using them, and can share real-world implementation challenges with peers. Upon completion, farmers will understand how to assess the risks and opportunities of major business decisions, have tools to evaluate specific opportunities, and will implement new record-keeping and/or decision-making strategies. The information and tools will be adapted and made available online to reach 100 additional farmers. As a result of this project, 25 farmers will have applied new tools to a decision and 20 will have implemented at least one change in their business by the end of the grant period

3. Mitigating Risks for Beginning Farmers Evaluating Entering the Hemp Market
Project Director:  Heather Darby (heather.darby@uvm.edu)
Co-Project Director:  Suzy Hodgson (suzy.hodgson@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont
Award Amount: $30,000

This project will develop and deliver educational resources to 1100 beginning farmers to provide them with tools to decide if/how to enter the hemp market. At least 350 farmers will increase their knowledge on the risks and benefits associated with hemp. Sixty farmers will implement a strategy for minimizing at least one of the five USDA risk management areas – production, marketing, legal, financial, and human risk and 30 will decide to enter the hemp market. The 2018 Farm Bill permitted hemp as an agricultural crop, and beginning farmers attracted by the potential opportunities are rushing towards this emerging market.

Evaluating a new crop and its potential products has its own inherent set of risks, but this evaluation task is compounded for new farmers who are trying to navigate a rapidly expanding, volatile marketplace within new federal and state regulatory framework.  While hemp appears to offer opportunities to new farmers, it poses many significant risks in all categories of risk management.

Through eXtension’s online campus and UVM Extension’s New Farmer network, webinars, factsheets, videos, and other educational resources will be created for farmers. Field days, e-newsletters, and an annual conference will help farmers further evaluate the risks and opportunities of hemp.

4. Reducing Risk and Improving Resiliency for New England Women Livestock Producers in Sustainable Agriculture
Project Director:  Elaina Enzien (elaina.enzien@unh.edu)
Co-Project Director:  Kelly McAdam (kelly.mcadam@unh.edu)
University of New Hampshire
Award Amount: $32,122

This program will provide an opportunity for women livestock producers in all New England states to access the necessary tools to address risks related to communication, farm safety, financial planning, market viability, and pastured livestock systems. Regionally, New England is a leader for number of women producers, however, the number of specialists in business and livestock production within New England are limited. In offering this program regionally it will expand networks between farmers, agriculture service providers, and effectively reduce risk to maintain resilient livestock businesses.

A pre-conference kick-off session will be offered at three locations in New England. Women will learn about communication styles, improving negotiation skills, and participate in a facilitated discussion to help build the curriculum for a virtual conference. The three day virtual conference will have sessions on marketing, financial planning, and production. To apply what they learned, three post-conference field days will focus on farm safety and livestock handling, direct sales marketing, and grazing management.

Fifteen participants will develop and implement a marketing plan and production practices that improve overall farm efficiencies and safety. Participants will understand how to analyze finances within their enterprises and make better decisions to move the business towards their profit goals.

5. Farm Communication Coaching: A Four-Session Approach
Project Director:  Leslie Forstadt (leslie.forstadt@maine.edu)
Co-Project Director:  Karen Groat (kgmediations@gmail.com)
University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Award Amount:  $46,027

Farm Communication Coaching utilizes an evidence-based curriculum to assist farmers in a process to increase communication skills to mitigate human risk. There are two methods to program delivery:

1)     One workshop and one webinar for Maine farmers to increase knowledge and develop personal farm-communication goals and identify strategies (65 farmers).

2)     The program will enroll 12 Maine farm families. Meetings will be held on-farm or with videoconference technology as requested by the farmer. Four, 2-hour meetings with two coaches will be held over one or two growing seasons. At least two family members will participate from each family, for a total of at least 24 farmer project participants.

Farmers will:
·        complete personalized needs assessments,
·        develop farm communication plans to address individualized goals,
·        implement strategies over 1-2 growing seasons,
·        meet with coaches to refine the plans for the next season.

This project expands on a 2018 pilot project where a four-session curriculum was produced and tested with eight farm families. Based on data from that pilot, it is expected that the risk areas of production, marketing, financial, and legal will also be addressed through the entry point of human risk and the application of skills to enhance farm communication.

6. Reducing Risk in Fruit and Veg Production through Improved On-Boarding of New Farm Employees
Project Director:  Elizabeth Higgins (emh56@cornell.edu)
Co-Project Director: Jessica Skellie (js2686@cornell.edu); Mark Wiltberger (mw883@cornell.edu)
Cornell University
Award Amount:  $29,631

In “Reducing Risk in Fruit and Veg Production through Improved On-Boarding of New Farm Employees” Cornell University regional fruit and vegetable business management specialists and Cornell’s Ag Workforce Development Program will focus on two areas of risk for fruit and vegetable farmers – human risk (labor supply, on-boarding, training, and communication) and legal risk (compliance with labor regulations and safety) by helping farmers adopt better on-boarding and training practices for their new employees.

The method of program delivery will be a hybrid class with a 2 hour, in-person session held at 10 locations state-wide followed by a 4 week, online program to support the development of on-boarding and training plans.  We will also use presentations at meetings, newsletters, websites, and social media to reach additional farmers and farm organizations.

Our audience is NYS fruit and vegetable farm owners and farm managers who want to improve their skills in hiring and training new farm employees. Participating farmers will adopt improved employee on-boarding and training methods helping to get workers productive on the job more quickly, improve legal compliance, increase job satisfaction for new hires, and decrease worker turnover. We will train 100 farms and be able to document improvements on 50 farms.

7. Mitigating Risk Across Common Barriers to Profitability
Project Director: Doris Mold (doris@anniesproject.org)
Annie’s Project–Education for Farm Women
Award Amount:  $30,000

This project will provide an opportunity for a cross sector of producers,  subject matter experts and leaders of agricultural organizations to identify and address common barriers to profitability and identify strategies to mitigate risk.  On a national level, APEFW will educate producers using a combination of recorded podcasts, and face-to-face meetings in coordination with Pennsylvania Farmers Union focusing on dairy producers (including an Amish community) in Pennsylvania.  These efforts will expand on the informal discussion format from Kristine Ranger’s exploratory grant. In that grant, they learned about commonalities and the need to include risk management topics of market, human, and financials. Four meetings will be with Annie’s Project participants in the Northeast covering the Know Your Numbers curriculum that was developed and piloted under an earlier ERME grant. APEFW will collaborate with Pennsylvania Farmers Union to identify and produce webinars, and from the webinars, develop and produce podcasts. The project team anticipates impacting a minimum of 2000 participants through Annie’s Project, and 450 members in PFU. A series of documents with Frequently Asked Questions will be created by transcribing the audio. All partners will disseminate the end products through their respective communication channels.

8. Farm Health and Safety Best Practice Training
Project Director: Jim O’Connell (jmo98cornell.edu)
Co-Project Director: Jason Detzel (jbd222@cornell.edu)
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County
Award Amount:  $29,289

Proposed topics: equipment safety, safe animal handling, zoonotic diseases, repetitive motion injury. Many injuries on farms and ranches are caused by improper animal handling procedures and equipment. Proper equipment safety is important and necessary in agriculture. Safe animal handling also requires proper training and equipment. Cattle, sheep, and pigs are larger than their handlers and can quickly overpower and escape, causing injury and damage. Zoonotic diseases are a growing concern and it’s critical to recognize and prevent them from our food systems. Repetitive motion injuries occur when the same action is done over and over again. Activities such as pruning or harvesting fruit crops, and “bucking” hay are common culprits. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County is a leader in providing technical assistance and training to farmers. We have over 4,000 people in our database, which would be used to communicate event notices. Equipment, safe animal handling, and repetitive motion workshops would be delivered through a combination classroom/hands-on setting. Zoonotic diseases will be delivered in a classroom setting. The target audience is Hudson Valley livestock and fruit farms. 11 total workshops. We expect farmers will have an improved understanding of on farm risks. 139 producers will achieve the outlined results.

9. Hemp Risk Management Education in Pennsylvania
Project Director:  Claudia Schmidt (czs786@psu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Alyssa Collins (aac18@psu.edu)
The Pennsylvania State University
Award Amount:  $30,000

With the legalization of industrial hemp production in Pennsylvania in 2018, the acreage of hemp produced has expanded from just under 600 acres in 2018 to an estimated 5,000 acres in 2019. As the hemp supply chain is developing, farmers are not just faced with production risks but, as we do not know how markets will develop, with extensive marketing and pricing risks. In addition, as regulations are adapting, producers and their customers may face legal risks as well. The purpose of the project is to provide risk management education to address production, marketing, financial and legal risk as experienced by hemp producers in Pennsylvania. We will hold local workshops, which will allow for hands-on instruction and exchange of information between producers. Webinars will allow us to reach existing and potential hemp producers across the Commonwealth. The webinars will be recorded and made available on the Penn State Extension website. The project team will produce factsheets for all targeted risks during the project duration, which will be made available on the Penn State Extension and AgrRisklibrary website. We expect an attendance of 60+ producers per webinar, 20 producers per workshop and 500+ website views for hemp risk management factsheets.