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

We worked with Maine shellfish and seaweed producers, predominately those in their first 3 years of operation, to equip them with the tools and resources to begin strategically planning their business and managing their risks.

We hosted a webinar in November of 2020 to provide an overview of aquaculture business planning and risk management. Following the webinar, we met individually with 37 producers on Zoom, using Maine aquaculture-specific risk management and business planning tools, and a suite of COVID-19 resources developed for this project, to discuss each farmer’s history, status, and goals, and set a strategy for the future of their farm. This process included adjusting each farm’s business and production plan to farm-level specifics, and working with growers to establish their recordkeeping practices and risk management strategies. 

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 helped western Massachusetts farmers address financial risk. Participants learned 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. Thirty-seven small, sustainable, or beginning producers participated in workshops, peer cohort groups, and/or individualized support to reduce the financial risk of major farm decisions. Topics included Holistic Management Decision-testing, weak-link analysis, financial record-keeping, break-even analysis, enterprise analysis, and partial budgeting. Workshops were followed by a cohort conversation so that participants learned about decision making tools, practiced using them, and could share real-world implementation challenges with peers. Upon completion, farmers understood how to assess the risks and opportunities of major business decisions, had tools to evaluate specific opportunities, and implemented new record-keeping and/or decision-making strategies. The information and tools has been adapted and will be made available online to reach 100 additional farmers. As a result of this project, at least 16 farmers applied new tools to a decision and 16 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 developed and delivered 12 educational resources to over 299 beginning farmers and stakeholders to provide them with tools to decide if and how to enter the hemp market.

At least 78 farmers increased their knowledge on the risks/benefits of hemp. Thirty farmers implemented a strategy for minimizing at least one of five USDA risk management areas and an estimated 20 used this information to decide to enter or not enter the hemp market. Since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, beginning farmers attracted by the potential opportunities rushed towards this emerging market.

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

Because of Covid-19, all of this project’s risk education was delivered online. Nonetheless, with NERME support and working with partners and collaborators, this UVM Extension hemp project accomplished a full educational series of webinars, factsheets, youtube videos, blogs, and FAQs for farmers and hemp stakeholders.

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 provided an opportunity for women livestock producers in all New England states to access the necessary tools to address risks related to communication, 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 as a region are limited. In offering this program regionally it expanded networks between farmers, agriculture service providers, and effectively reduced risk to maintain resilient livestock businesses.
The project had three phases:

1) First, we offered virtual learning circles on two different occasions with a total of 24 participants. Women learned about communication styles, how to improve negotiation skills, and participated in a facilitated discussion to help build the curriculum for a winter virtual conference.

2) Our winter virtual conference had sessions on marketing and financial planning, which had 68 consistent participants.

3) To allow for networking between conference participants, we offered three post-conference field days that focused on processing, grazing management, and direct sales marketing with a total of 26 participants, 20 of which participated in the virtual conference.

A total of 16 participants implemented meaningful changes that moved their 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 utilized an evidence-based curriculum to assist farmers in a process to increase communication skills to mitigate human risk.  Expanding on the 2018 pilot project,  risk areas of production, marketing, financial, and legal were addressed through the entry point of human risk and the application of skills to enhance farm communication.

 Program delivery included:

1) Online workshops for farmers in Maine, and online webinars for service providers in the Northeast  
to increase knowledge, develop personal farm-communication goals, and identify strategies (65 farmers, 23 service providers).

2) Enrolled 12 Maine farm teams. Meetings were held on-farm when permitted with COVID restrictions, and more commonly held using videoconference technology to support health and safety of farm teams and coaches. Four, 2-hour meetings with two coaches were held over one or two growing seasons, based on preference of farm. Typically two to four team members attended from each farm, for a total of 28 farm participants.

Farmers: completed personalized needs assessments through a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Challenges (SWOC) group exercise, applied skills and developed farm communication plans to address individualized goals.

Service Providers: learned about the farm coaching model, received farm coaching guide and invited to partner for future training/programming.

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

Reducing Risk in Fruit and Veg Production through Improved On-Boarding of New Farm Employees” was intended to help fruit and vegetable farmers in NYS adopt better on-boarding and training practices for their seasonal employees.  We had planned to hold in-person sessions at 10 locations statewide reaching 100 growers followed by a 4 week, online program to support their development of 50 on-boarding plans.

COVID-19 made this a fully online program, with introductory webinars followed by a month of online support using Google Classroom.  Unfortunately the webinars were not effective training mechanisms and the Google Classroom was underdeveloped for teaching and difficult for many farmers to navigate.  We reached 213 farms through webinars, 22 farms enrolled in the Google Classroom site as students, 8 actively worked on their plan during the program and 25 currently have Farm Google Classrooms.

The biggest positive outcome from this grant was helping us improve online-delivery of trainings. We developed an online class using Teachable, which Cornell provided to Extension summer 2021.  The Google Classroom is now better organized as a template for farms to organize their information.  And we developed a website to make resources and instruction more accessible and easier for us to update.

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 provided an opportunity for a cross section of producers, subject matter experts and leaders of agricultural organizations to identify common barriers to profitability and identify strategies to mitigate risk. Annie’s Project (APEFW) coordinated with Pennsylvania Farmers Union and National Dairy Producers to host an in-person meeting and follow-up phone conference meetings for dairy producers  including the Amish Community.

Annie’s  worked with Annie’s Program Coordinators in the Northeast to review, revise, promote, deliver and evaluate Know Your Numbers Know Your Options (KYNKYO) virtual courses for NE producers. We modified previously developed KYKYO curriculum to better fit the diverse operations of the Northeast. We held two sets courses. One set during evenings one during the day for four weeks each. During these same weeks we offered a webinar a week. Podcasts were developed using both materials developed from webinars along with stand alone podcasts looking at ways to improve profitability and reduce barriers to profitability.

Partners have been disseminating what they have produced through their respective communications channels and will continue to do so.

We are unable to document all participants. It is estimated that we have reached more participants than documented due to the unique nature of some participants.

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. The purpose of the project was to provide risk management education to address production, marketing, financial and legal risk as experienced by hemp producers in Pennsylvania. Due to COVID-19, the planned hands-on workshops were partly held in online format and funding was used to develop a “Hemp Production and Research Video Series”. The video series transports viewers to active hemp fields where they learn about the successes and challenges of the crop from real farmers. These easily digestible videos are a gateway to additional science-based information from Penn State and other reputable academic sources.  They were designed to provide a realistic introduction to the risks and opportunities associated with hemp production. In addition, three “Hemp Research Field Walks” were held outside this season. A total of 68 participated in the walks. Overall, 208 unique participants attended the educational webinars and online field day. Two additional articles were published with unique views totaling 139. Altogether, the hemp production and research videos generated 1,642 views (as of 10/20/21).