2023 Standard Education Grants
The project team will verify that 35 farmers achieve an understanding of each of our 5 core knowledge outcomes and that 25 farmers select legal strategies appropriate to their needs in each of 3 different subjects. This totals 175 (355) instances of improved knowledge and 75 (253) instances of decision-making accomplished. Specifically, it is anticipated that farmers will improve their knowledge of the following subjects specific to farm succession: 1) wills, trusts, and business structures, 2) living, revocable, and irrevocable trusts, 3) governance document clauses and strategies, 4) tax issues, and 5) using professionals effectively. Farmers will also develop their decision-making skills on the above topics through worksheets/activities.
This project provides the information and support farmers need to efficiently and effectively manage risks in farm succession planning in 8 northeastern states. Specifically, this project addresses the risks of farm transition and estate planning plus financial risk. 85% of our current audience are either women, beginning farmers, or specialty crop producers.
Rachel and her team expects to achieve these objectives by creating an online video and text guide on each of the 5 subjects listed above, to meet different learning preferences and paces. They will distribute the videos/guides individually and as an online course.
Farm operations are evolving as consumer demand for a farm-to-table connection grows and as the economics of commodity production continues to push producers to find means to differentiate their operations and their products. Agritourism is one avenue producers have been utilizing more in recent years. An agritourism enterprise connects agricultural production with on-site experiences, education, and direct sales for consumers. A fundamental element for any enterprise to be successful is to have a detailed, clear business plan. AgPlan has been used to initiate over 75,000 business plans since its inception in 2007, or over 5,000 annually. AgPlan includes a variety of business plan templates to help users tailor their plans to their particular industry or niche. However, AgPlan is lacking a template tailored for agritourism operations. In response to strong demand, this project will develop a new business plan template within AgPlan specifically designed for agritourism businesses, along with an accompanying curriculum and resources. Outreach from our diverse team coordinating across the four regions will enable many more producers to benefit from AgPlan’s simple process to develop a detailed, professional business plan so they can effectively enhance their operations’ financial position and meet their goals.
Boots-2-Bushels (B2B) is a comprehensive 9-month market gardening education and training program for beginning farmers with an emphasis on military veterans, their family members, and farmers with disabilities in Maine. This proposal will build on lessons learned from the 2021- 2022 project, which includes expanding the geographic reach of online participants and homework that culminates in a farm business plan. Led by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Maine AgrAbility and collaborating with the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), B2B will provide instruction using the “Five Fs” framework (Farming, Family, Finances, Future, Fitness) to address production, marketing, financial and human sources of agricultural risk. During ten weeks of online instruction by subject matter experts, students will be introduced to production, marketing, and best business practices for small fruit and vegetable farms. Participants will further implement this knowledge by attending monthly farm field days that highlight and demonstrate various aspects of the “Five Fs”. This grant will provide support for two years of hands-on field days at demonstration farms, farm coaching on communication and resolving conflict, incentives to participate in programs, adaptive equipment for demonstration, and one and a half years of remote, online instruction.
Labor-Movement will provide on-site human risk management training for producers and farm crews which address the health, production and financial risks inherent in daily activities. Topics will include understanding that health, function, fitness and skill are a progression of movement health, the principles of lifting and lowering safely with variable weight loads, and how to protect the back to reduce injury potential during farming.
This two-tiered project includes:
(1) 32 single-event, two-hour Movement Workshops in Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York, impacting 425 farmers.
(2) Year-round Farm Coaching for 6 Maine farms: each participating in 3 Movement Workshops and 5 Coaching Days, with 2 group Zoom sessions at each season’s end. 50 farmers will be involved.
All training sessions will provide small groups of farmers with explanations, demonstrations, handouts and opportunities to discuss health and wellness risks, and opportunity to develop and practice sound movement strategies. Risk sources include repetitive motion tasks, lifting and lowering inappropriately and confinement of movement due to space. Evaluations via pre and post workshop surveys.
Human health, production and financial risks can be decreased by training producers to move efficiently for their body’s ability, thereby decreasing injury potential and increasing economic viability.
Farm Coaching assists mid to late career farmers and farm teams in the state of Maine to meet challenges involving communication and personal well-being, including talking about and planning for personal finances. As farm businesses grow beyond start-up and move into the “restrategizing phase,” human risks become more complex. What worked in the beginning requires culling and refinement as the business grows. The topics that relate to this project are sustainability in farm families and farm teams, leadership development for farm managers, labor management, financial literacy and record keeping.
Methods include workshops, video production and sharing, and farm coaching. 1) Three workshops will be offered on “Communicating about Personal Money Values and Personal Money Goals” that will result in farmers understanding their own needs and challenges in discussing personal financial topics. 2) Three, 8-minute videos will be produced interviewing farmers about successful planning for personal financial goals. Viewers of the videos will understand strategies for personal financial planning, and establish steps to address their personal goals. 3) Six farm teams in Farm Coaching will develop individualized communication plans that incorporate personal financial goals.
This project will provide free marketing training to 350 Adirondack region (Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Warren, St. Lawrence, Lewis, Jefferson, Herkimer, Oneida, Saratoga and Washington County) farmers, agriculture-focused small business owners and farmers’ market managers to assess, strategize and implement a diversified marketing plan to help them grow a reliable and diverse customer base. Participants will receive one-on-one coaching to expand skills and knowledge related to website management, social media marketing, customer relationship management, event planning, and more.
This project will also create opportunities for 220 farms to participate in regional cooperative marketing efforts to promote increased buying of local food and agricultural products, participation in agri-tourism, and business-to-business sales of wholesale local food and products through the Adirondack Harvest program.
Mid-Atlantic agricultural producers often struggle to understand labor laws and understand issues related to health insurance and retirement planning. This project will develop an updated labor handbook for agricultural employers in Mid-Atlantic. The guidebook will focus on agricultural labor laws that employers should be aware of and, at the same time, how to take advantage of benefits that many potential employees might be demanding, such as health insurance, retirement savings programs, and others. Information and resources will also be provided to help employers better plan for retirement and healthcare access through insurance. Paul and his team will offer two in-person workshops to provide an overview of the handbook and how to use it in their operation, provide in-depth information about health insurance and retirement planning options for employees, offer resources that help operators understand and choose appropriate employee benefits options, and allow agricultural operators the opportunity to ask questions that the handbook may not address. Finally, short videos will be recorded to develop online learning modules about the same topics and resources that can create an avenue for those who cannot attend the workshop to learn the material and ask questions.
The cut flower industry is an emerging agricultural industry in New York State. Since it is a new industry, few specific Extension educational materials are available to help producers assess and reduce financial and marketing risks. This project aims to help cut flower producers gain confidence to determine the cost of producing their flowers and implement new pricing strategies. A cost calculator will be developed and shared across New York State to assist growers in determining the cost of growing various cut flowers. The cost calculator will help growers estimate the cost of producing up to eight different flower species and will be shared across the state throughout at least four workshops (at least 80 participants). At the workshops, growers will be taught how to use the cost calculator. The project team will provide follow-up support to growers before the second workshop session. Stephen and his team will develop the curriculum for a second workshop based on what is learned from working with the small group of cut flower growers. At the second workshop, growers will then determine markets based on the cost calculator. The final cost calculator, including a presentation/video and any additional materials created, will be released to the public.
Many resources are available to guide farmers through the farm succession process. However, these resources often only provide a cursory overview of the personal financial assets needed to fund a viable lifestyle for the retiring farmer. The Setting the Stage for Succession – Tools for the Retiring Farmer project seeks to address this problem by addressing the financial and human sources of agricultural risk for retiring farmers in Pennsylvania that are in the farm transition process or in the planning stages of farm transition.
The topics addressed in this project include envisioning and developing retirement goals, defining personal versus business assets by developing a personal balance sheet using the FarmPro PA Excel spreadsheet, developing a retirement budget, determining when and how to apply for Social Security, and determining when and how to apply for Medicare.
The project will entail providing tools and education via a series of four introductory webinars, four in-person workshops, one virtual workshop, and individual consultations, so that the participants will understand, develop, and implement the major steps needed to ensure their desired retirement lifestyle while still being able to transition a viable business to the next generation or operator.
Berkeley and Jefferson Counties are two of the seven counties in West Virginia that have gained population in the past 10 years. With increased population comes increased development pressure for farmland. The 2017 USDA Agriculture Census indicated that the average farm size in both of these counties was decreasing, while the average age of the farmer was increasing. This project will provide four monthly risk management education sessions around estate and transition planning to farm producers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Of the producers that have been surveyed in this topic area, 60% of them indicated an uncertainty around where to begin as a major barrier towards establishing a transition or estate plan.
Producers that attend all of the sessions throughout this project will be eligible to seek free consultations to start the estate or transition planning process with legal and financial professionals. The goal of this program is to increase the number of farms that have a formal transition or estate plan in place.
The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive sap-feeding pest that was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014 and is now spreading across the US Northeast. In Pennsylvania, SLF has caused significant damage to both grapevines and wine production. Grape growers have reported vine decline in productivity and health and, in some cases, even vine death following heavy SLF infestations. In addition to the reductions in yield it causes, SLF is also a nuisance for wine tourism.
This project aims to provide risk management strategies and practical information to address production risks for Northeast grape growers and winery owners. We will track the spread of SLF during the season and make this information available across the Northeast. We will hold two local workshops, allowing for the exchange of information between growers. Three webinars are planned which will allow the team to reach vineyard and winery owners across the Northeast. In addition, the project team will produce extension deliverables for production risks and disseminate information on management strategies during the project duration. It is expected that over 30 producers will attend each webinar, 20 will attend each workshop, and more than 300 wine industry members will view the online risk management articles and videos.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County, New York, seeks to address substantial identified financial, legal and human risks by supporting business and succession planning, financial records management, contracts, leases, liability risk, and labor management. This project builds on previous successful work, providing a framework of understanding of these risk management areas as well strengthening relationships with and awareness of the service providers needed to fully address the various risks involved in farming and agribusiness. The groundwork will be laid through networking events that address the risks described above. Farmers will be referred first to FarmNET and the New York Agricultural Mediation Program, both of which offer quality, free services to New York agricultural producers. After initial planning support, farmers will then be provided with financial support to cover one-on-one work with service providers. The project team anticipates that farmers will walk away with imperative needs addressed in business and succession planning, legal issues, and financial management. The project will primarily impact transitioning and retiring producers, beginning producers, and small farm operators in Essex County, and is anticipated to reach approximately 400 farmers through outreach and help approximately 32 producers complete key documents with service providers.
This project aims to help landowners; through presentations, extension resources, and peer groups; evaluate land use opportunities they have or could have in the future to further Maryland producers’ ability to create and follow a strategic business plan. Topics covered include, but are not limited to, solar leasing; policies impacting changes in land use; estate planning; taxation; and agricultural leasing.
The target audience is all landowning producers in Maryland, including landowners who are not currently farming or ranching their land. Additionally, Elizabeth and her team will provide workshops open to ag service providers and extension educators in Maryland so that they can learn more about the processes, risks, and opportunities of solar-siting and other land use opportunities.
The project will deliver two in-person workshops with a projected audience of 20 producers each. Additionally, there will be two virtual workshops offered with a projected audience of 20 producers. The virtual workshop presentation components will be recorded, edited, and posted on the UMD ag law website as a legal resource. The breakouts and discussions will not be recorded to allow participants to speak freely. In total, it is estimated that 80 Maryland landowners or producers will gain an understanding of the regulatory process behind solar siting and agency in their land-use decisions.
2023 Exploratory Projects
This exploratory project will support small-scale specialty crop producers in the Berkshire-Taconic region to address increased production risks associated with climate change and seasonal precipitation variability by demonstrating how soil moisture sensing aids irrigation management and performance throughout the 2023 growing season. Working with a demonstration farm, the project will teach producers how to install and use field soil moisture sensors, record and interpret soil moisture data, and adjust irrigation management during a field day in Fall of 2023. Based on the outcomes and lessons from this exploratory project, future programming will be developed to create fact sheets; educational workshops and presentations; increase the number of demonstration farms; and facilitate peer & service provider networks that encourage increased utilization of moisture sensing in Northeast specialty crop production.
The Starting and Improving Farms Conference will assist individuals seeking to begin production and existing farms seeking to diversify in their decision-making process. The two- day conference will feature at least three educational tracks; agri-tourism, horticulture, and livestock. On day one the project team will offer a day touring farms, agribusinesses, and University research facilities to expose attendees to possible opportunities for their operations. The second day, the team will feature a morning plenary session covering business, marketing, and financing presented by extension and industry personnel and afternoon sessions will split into the three multi-session tracks to provide in depth training by extension faculty and educators.
Conference attendees will learn about resources and assistance provided by extension to new and existing farms. The project team will distribute an evaluation tool to assess the knowledge and skills gained during the conference and inquire how extension can assist with current and anticipated future needs.