Funded Projects for 2022

  1. Annie Goes Online: Risk Management on Your Kitchen Table

Project Director: Robin Brumfield (
Co-Project Director: Madeline Flahive DiNardo (
Rutgers University
Award Amount: $27,521

The goal of “Annie Goes Online: Risk Management on Your Kitchen Table” was to provide production and business management skills specifically geared to our urban farmers as they face post-pandemic challenges. We used the Canvas learning platform to provide online programming that 22 female farmers and their families could access from home. Canvas allowed for six weekly online workshops with pre/post quizzes and team reviewed risk management planning assignments. During the pandemic lockdown, most New Jersey farmers increased their customer base and sales because agriculture provided an essential service, and consumers were able to use contactless pickup. Since New Jersey opened up, a question farmers had was, “How can we turn the new customers we gained during the pandemic into permanent customers?”  Our program addressed this marketing risk and  pandemic supply chain challenges as well as opportunities for expansion into agritourism ventures.   We addressed managing rising labor shortages and costs. Food safety compliance strategies were presented. Other production risks we covered included climate risks/adaptations; building soil health to give crops better resilience to drought; and best management practices for protecting animal agriculture from climate extremes. Finally, presented ways to reduce financial and legal risks by highlighting insurance options for farmers. Pre-post quiz scores showed an increase in knowledge about specific risk management strategies and in a retrospective survey, participants rated themselves as increasing their knowledge in each of the five areas of risk management.  Participants completed optional assignments that can be incorporated into a farm business plan.  The course is available for use by Extension Professionals and producers increased in learning risk management strategies asynchronously.

2. Mitigating Risk in Cut Flower Production

Project Director: Carla Crim (
Co-Project Director: Elizabeth Busche, Spongetta’s Garden (
Cornell Cooperative Extension
Award Amount: $42,000

Nationwide, there has been a big shift in floral trends. Brides, romantics, and home-decorators alike are opting for farm-fresh sunflowers, dahlias, and zinnias over imported roses and carnations. As with the local foods movement, conscious buyers want their flowers in-season, organic, and sustainably produced. In response, thousands of small flower farms have popped up around the country. Flower farming is unique in that most growers are female, and many come into the business without prior agricultural experience. Our project provided new and existing flower farmers with the tools and support needed to manage the production and marketing risk involved in growing cutting varieties. Our educational efforts were geared towards growers in colder climates (USDA zones 5a through 3a), but drew participants from around the country. We offered a total of 12 virtual weekly workshops focused on marketing risk and production risk to over 250 participants. Over the winter, we facilitated a cut-flower track at the Catskill Regional Agriculture Conference for over 60 attendees. At the peak of summer, we hosted an in-person summer intensive with with tours and hands-on activities for 33 attendees. In addition, we provided farm visits and consultations to 13 producers.

3. Maine Farm Resilience Program

Project Director: Ryan Dennett (
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Award Amount: $39,128

This project provided risk management education that advanced-beginning Maine farmers (those who
had been in business for 5-15 years) expressed a need for. Responding to that need, our
content focused on two risk areas: financial and human.

Financial. 4 seminar sessions and 3 farmer-to-farmer forums covered all aspects of
financial management and planning, both short and long term.
Human. 2 seminar sessions and 4 farmer-to-farmer forums addressed multiple factors
that threaten the health and well-being of our family farmers here in Maine, such as
communication skills, stress management, and work/life balance.

The seminar series was delivered online while the farmer-to-farmer forums were a mix of online and 
on-farm engagements. Individual technical assistance to program participants was available in any format. Risk management education was provided through MOFGA’s comprehensive Maine Farm Resilience Program (MFRP), as well as a la carte to any advanced-beginning or established farmer.

We had 12 farms participate in the MFRP program, plus an additional 175 who attended the 7
farmer-to-farmer forums, and improved their economic viability by understanding and
implementing strategies that mitigated their risks.

4. So You Want to Own Rural Land: Maryland Ag Land Legal Project

Project Director: Paul Goeringer (
University of Maryland
Award Amount: $49,996

Rural areas in Maryland continue to see pressure from residents relocating to rural areas from the urban areas of the state. Many of these new residents may not understand the agriculture or agricultural practices that they will be now seeing. As a result of these pressures, many agricultural operators often have questions related to right-to-farm laws, recreational use, trespass, and liability due to livestock concerns. At the same time, many of these new rural landowners often have questions related to legal concerns from the operations neighboring them related to right-to-farm laws.

This project educated these new rural landowners and existing agricultural operators and provided resources for future educational efforts by Extension Educators aimed at new landowners. Specifically, the program used existing resources related to recreational use, Right-to-Farm laws, fence law, estate planning, landowner liability, agricultural leasing, hunting leases, legal issues associated with wildlife, livestock, and property insurance onto online learning modules aimed at new rural landowners. Additionally, Paul and his team held two live half-day programs around the state designed to help educate landowners about the most critical issues who may not learn as well in the online format.

5. Effective Strategies to Enhance Farmers Market Education

Project Director: Lisa Jones (
Co-Project Director: Erica Gallimore (
West Virginia University
Award Amount: $49,293

This project increased the understanding of marketing risk management knowledge of 70 producers through online training via Zoom webinars. In addition, it assisted 14 producers in implementing affordable marketing strategies through mini grants as well as 36 producers through in-person workshops. Several small, beginning, and specialty crop producers in West Virginia tracked sales during the life of the project in order to show implementation of knowledge as measured by changes in sales data. This was tracked by comparing sales during the farmers market season before and after completing educational sessions.

The West Virginia Farmers Market Association was a critical partner on this project, offering mini-grants to implement marketing strategies, one-on-one technical assistance with product labels, and engaged their network to recruit participants. Their partnership allows for marketing resources to have a longer life beyond the grant period and continued networking of producers.

6. Learning Modules Create Foundational Support for Beginning Farmers Success

Project Director: Michelle Kirk (
Co-Project Director: Darlene Livingston (
Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
Award Amount: $49,998

Farming is hard, beginning/aspiring farmers want to succeed but face challenges almost daily. A blended learning program of video learning modules created by ag professionals sharing their area of expertise, and related resource materials educated 127 beginning farmers on various risks associated with farming.  They learned to mitigate those risks through knowledge and understanding gained from the modules.

In addition, 24 students from a rural area in Pennsylvania logged in to the learning platform and will complete learning modules in the days ahead. Not only will the students gain knowledge and understanding for their potential farming career they may also share pertinent programs with farm family members to assist in the family farm business.

Eight learning modules were developed. Topics include: NRCS, RMA, Rural Development, state programs, land leasing and access, financials, diversification, business planning and value-added niche marketing.  A Spanish overview/land access module for English as a second language farmers was also developed. 

The COVID-19 pandemic created increased demand for online learning platforms. In 2019 the Economic Research Service (ERS) reported 71% of households had someone working off the farm. Learning modules available 24/7 provided an efficient and convenient learning tool for 127 beginning farmers and 24 students to date.

7. Venturing Beyond the Pumpkin Patch – Expanding Diversification Options for Agritourism Operators in the Northeast

Project Director: Claudia Schmidt (
Co-Project Director: Sarah Cornelisse (
Penn State University
Award Amount: $41,170

Financial and time constraints limit small-sized agritourism operators’ access to consultants and international producer organizations, which offer unique diversification options. This project aimed to address these limitations by providing training on marketing, production and legal risks associated with agritourism diversification for small farms looking to explore different agritourism activities. The project team successfully hosted five webinars, with a total attendance of 592 participants. The webinar evaluation revealed that 90% of attendees found these to be extremely and very useful and 72% of attendees planned to further investigate the introduced diversification options as an opportunity for their farm or agritourism business. By the end of the project period, these webinars had garnered an additional 469 views. The reach of our diversification webinars extended far beyond the Northeast, attracting attendees from over 40 U.S. states, as well as Canada and other countries. In-depth agritourism consultations using GIS were held with four producers. Additionally, the project produced nine educational articles, which collectively received 1,216 unique page views. In-person education sessions were also conducted, attended by 103 agricultural producers and agritourism operators. Overall, this project bridged an important gap for small agritourism operators, providing them with valuable knowledge and resources to diversify their offerings and succeed in the industry.

8. How Profitable Will My New Orchard Investment Be? Reducing Risk in Commercial Tree Fruit Production through Training Growers How to Calculate Long-Term Profitability

Project Director: Elizabeth Higgins (
Cornell University CALS
Amount: $21,504

In this project Cornell University regional fruit specialists will focus on one area of risk for tree fruit growers – financial risk (Cost of Production and Benchmarking, Business and Strategic Planning). The method of program delivery will be a hybrid class with a one-day, in-person workshop held at five locations state-wide for participants to use enterprise budgets to create financial projections for a new orchard on their farm. The workshop will be preceded by two live online classes to prepare participants with the background and technology for the workshop. The audience is New York tree fruit growers who want to make wise investment decisions for new orchards. Participants will be able to test various new orchard scenarios with different varieties, orchard systems, and risk-reducing technologies for profitability, payback period, and return on investment. Growers can decide whether to go forward with a new orchard, and will have a plan for that orchard. These efforts will reduce the risk of long-term unprofitability. The project staff will train 50 farms and be able to document improvements on 25 farms.

9. FarmPro PA Farm Financial Managerial Tools and Skills Building Tools for Professionals

Project Director: Paula Ledney (
Co-Project Director: Lynn Kime (
Penn State University
Amount: $50,000

Financial and production records give producers insights into better decision-making. Accurate and timely farm record-keeping tools are useful for the farmer to plan and develop realistic budget forecasting. The main purpose of the FarmPro PA project was to teach farmers how the balance sheet, cash flow statement, income statement, and financial ratios provide the information needed to pursue effective risk management strategies that enhance farm profitability. To accomplish this purpose, the FarmPro PA Excel Spreadsheet tool was created. This tool is a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet package that farmers can use to create their balance sheet, cash flow, and income statements and automatically calculate commonly used financial ratios. The tool was presented to farmers via two series of four webinars that provided an overview of each financial statement with a subsequent interactive demonstration of how to use the spreadsheet to develop the statements and how to interpret the results. The two series of four webinars attracted 316 registrants, with all registrants receiving access to the webinars, webinar recordings, and two versions of the FarmPro PA tool.

10. Developing & Piloting a Novel Design Workshop for Hemp Fiber

Project Director: Suzy Hodgson (
Co-Project Director: Heather Darby (
University of Vermont
Award Amount: $4,999

This project will develop content and pilot a design-based approach to learning which brings together growers of hemp with design, building, and energy efficiency professionals. The aim is to improve understanding of the marketing, production, and financial risks and opportunities of novel hemp fiber products and consider ways in which hemp fiber products can be brought into the marketplace.

There is wide interest in the potential use of natural hemp fibers instead of non-renewable fossil fuel-based fibers. Given the imperative to take more actions on phasing out climate-damaging products and processes, natural fibers like hemp are under the spotlight to be viable substitutes and solutions. Because material and design performance standards are one of the most important criteria for buildings, this exploratory education pilot project will bring together architects, designers, and builders to share their knowledge and start to bridge the gap between demand and supply.