Funded Projects for 2024

Profitability Benchmarks for NYS Farmers Market Producers as a Risk Management Tool
Project Director: Laura Biasillo (
Co-Project Director: Jack Riffle (
Cornell Cooperative Extension – Broome County
Award Amount: $70,512

Farmers markets are the quintessential entry market channel for beginning farmers and specialty crop producers. In comparison to other market channels, benchmark data related to sales, labor needs or marketing mix does not exist on a regional or statewide level. Due to this, producers are making operational decisions in these areas to support maximum profitability without any data or information to inform those decisions. This project will build benchmarks for direct marketing producers that will not only be regionally specific within the state of New York, but also taking into account the commodities being sold, the location of the farmers market (urban versus rural), and timeframe (weekday versus weekend). These benchmarks will be built using data gathered from producers across the state in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension educators who are strategically and geographically located. Fact sheets will be created and then utilized in both live and virtual training opportunities for New York State direct marketing producers. Producers will develop an understanding of where their operation fits within the profitability benchmarks and implement best practices identified in the areas of pricing, recordkeeping, labor practices, marketing mix strategies, and meeting changing consumer demand patterns in local foods.

Transition and Estate Planning for Maine’s Aquaculture Sector
Project Director: Christian Brayden (
Maine Aquaculture Association
Award Amount: $73,575

This project aims to assist and educate in transition and estate planning for aquaculture farms in Maine, including their roles in goal setting and strategic planning. Project Director Christian Brayden will meet with Maine aquaculture farmers in-person, via zoom, and in webinar format to help begin and progress their transition and estate planning. In initial meetings, Brayden will share the tools and resources that he gathered and created on transition and estate planning for Maine aquaculture farmers. He will then continue to meet with the farmers to provide guidance, share knowledge, and answer questions. Brayden will also host a webinar on transition and estate planning for aquaculture business owners and business professionals who work with aquaculture businesses. Shellfish and seaweed aquaculture farmers in Maine, all of whom operate small farms, many of whom are nearing retirement/transitioning off the farm are the primary target audience for this project. There will be 30 meetings with different farmers and one webinar. The farmers will meet with Brayden multiple times, leading to a total of 40-50 meetings. The webinar and guide created to accompany the meetings will be posted on the MAA website and social media.

Boots to Bushels: Market Garden Training for New England
Project Director: Rebecca Brown (
Co-Project Director: Tricia Lourenco-Boucher (
University of Rhode Island
Award Amount: $74,879

Boots to Bushels – Market Garden Training Program for New England (URI B2B) is a comprehensive 9 month training program for beginning farmers designed to meet the needs of military veterans and beginning farmers. This is a continuation of the University of Maine Boots- 2-Bushels project with expansion to southern New England. URI 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, farm resources, best business practices, plus health and wellness strategies for market scale fruit and vegetable production. Additionally, participants have the opportunity to learn directly from experienced local farm owners through four farm tours. Land access is a major barrier for farmers in southern New England, so we cannot assume that participants have space to practice what they learned in the online course. Instead, we are adding a 10-session hands-on summer course where students will utilize the Teaching Market Garden at URI to practice skills. There will also be two offerings of the summer course and for the 2025 online course and farm tours.

Heat Risk Assessment and Management for Small, Specialty Crop, and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers in Western Massachusetts
Project Director: Margaret Christie (
Co-Project Director: Stephen Taranto (
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture
Award Amount: $ 74,874

This project will help western Massachusetts and other New England farmers, farm workers, and technical assistance providers identify and address risks associated with increasing and prolonged high temperatures caused by climate change. Participants will learn to use heat risk assessment, management and mitigation tools to address on-the-ground production challenges presented by rising, sustained heat events in the region.

Over two hundred small, specialty crop, and socially disadvantaged farmers and technical assistance providers will participate in a series of webinars, on-farm workshops, and one-on-one support opportunities that will help them take steps to reduce risk to their businesses and the local food supply chain. Topics will include the impacts of increasing and sustained high temperatures on key production and post-harvest practices, related to soils and water quality, pest and weed management, crop variety selection, food safety, farmworker health, and urban farming. Fifty farmers will implement an adaptive practice during the grant period.

Key risk management outcomes of the project include:
Identification and adoption of farm-relevant heat impact management practices
Application by farmers of new and existing heat risk assessment, mitigation and adaptation tools
Increased capacity for technical assistance providers to help farmers identify mitigation and adaptation practices that reduce heat risk

Building Customer Connections: Creative Direct Marketing Strategies to Mitigate Risk and Improve Farm Viability
Project Director: Kelly Coleman (
Co-Project Director: Kristen Wilmer (
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, Inc (CISA)
Award Amount: $74,926

This project will provide direct marketing farmers in western Massachusetts with strategies and tools to address marketing risk by expanding their customer base and strengthening their relationships with customers. Since 2020, farms have had to contend with skyrocketing input costs, unprecedented market and price instability, and increasing weather variability, all of which pose unprecedented threats to local farm viability. A strong and loyal customer base is critical in enabling farms to mitigate risks such as rising costs, market fluctuations, and weather extremes. Kelly and her team will present a nine-workshop series addressing key branding, digital marketing, agritourism, and customer communication topics. In addition to teaching creative, efficient, and effective marketing strategies, this project will provide farmers with a structured environment in which to practice the strategies, farmer-to-farmer opportunities for sharing insights and learning, and one- one-one support to implement farm marketing improvements. Two hundred farmers will attend workshops or receive one-on-one marketing support. Of these, 100 farmers will report gaining substantial knowledge about effective farm marketing strategies and 75 will use this knowledge to develop new farm marketing strategies. By the end of the project, 40 farmers will verify that they have implemented new marketing strategies that mitigate risk and improve farm viability.

Improving Financial Risk Management
Project Director: Ryan Dennett (
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Award Amount: $46,456

There is a great need among Maine organic farmers to better understand and utilize farm financial reports as tools for assessing risks and making sound business decisions. We have witnessed a wide variability in farmers’ proficiency in creating and using spreadsheets or other financial tools for farm planning, and this is seen across the spectrum from beginning to advanced levels. What we’ve observed is a general lack of functionality, that is, knowledge of ways to use certain farm financials (Income Statement, Cash Flow projections, enterprise budgets) to anticipate and prepare for foreseeable risks or threats as well as for potential opportunities and improvements. A recent survey of our certified organic produce farmers has indicated a very strong interest in improving bookkeeping systems, improving knowledge of where the farm is making or losing money, and improving financial forecasting abilities. Our project will offer several modes of learning, from group webinars to one-on-one technical assistance to short videos, attempting to meet the diverse time constraint needs and learning styles amongst farmers. All modes are designed to enhance and build risk-assessing skills to help farmers effectively and efficiently use financial spreadsheets for planning the long-term viability of their farm.

So You Want to Own Rural Land: Maryland Legal Project Part Deux
Project Director: Paul Goeringer (
University of Maryland
Award Amount: $74,999

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 seeing now. As a result of these pressures, many agricultural operators often have questions related to right-to-farm laws, recreational use, trespass, assistance in better understanding insurance options, and how to work with an attorney. 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 will seek to build upon a previously funded project, provide additional resources to these new rural landowners and existing agricultural operators, and provide resources for future educational efforts by Extension Educators aimed at new landowners. Specifically, we plan to create new resources for working with attorneys and understanding insurance options through online learning modules aimed at new rural landowners. Additionally, we will hold two live, half-day programs around the state designed to help educate landowners who may need to learn better in the online format about the most critical issues.

Empowering Farmers Adding Value to Manage Risk with Confidence in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Era
Project Director: Lisa Hall Zielinski (
Co-Project Director: Winifred McGee (
The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center
Award Amount: $71,159

All producers making and selling food direct to the consumer, or through ecommerce, face unique risk due to FSMA rules and enhanced liability. This project empowers small-scale specialty crop farmers diversifying by adding value to assess current, or start-up, enterprises. Information provided through the educational presentation, “Your Food Business Recipe,” will equip participants to: apply the basic food safety standards of FSMA specified in the modernized Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) to gain (or retain) their licenses to make and sell selected products (Legal Risk), protect farm investments by procuring venture-specific crop and product liability insurance (Financial Risk), and affirm that the market will bear FSMA compliance costs for their product (Market Risk). Educational tip sheets and a workbook will be developed and distributed to food producers, introducing and reinforcing needed practice change to address operation-specific enterprise risks. The presentation will be delivered through two in-person sessions, six webinars (120 producers) and five tabletop display sessions (250 producers). In- service training for 15 SBDC consultants and other agricultural professionals will equip these advisors to offer team-supported adoption support, as farmers commit to workbook-identified actions. As a result, 100 farmers will report using their workbook to recognize, and proactively mitigate, value-added specific risk.

Reducing Climate Risks by Diversifying Practices
Project Director: Suzy Hodgson (
University of Vermont
Award Amount: $71,381

The past year of unprecedented precipitation, floods, and early frost in Vermont underscored the risks posed by climate-related extreme weather. Producers need help understanding and implementing climate smart practices which reduce the impacts and costs. This project will develop and deliver an educational program to 300 producers to provide them with knowledge and tools for climate smart practices focusing on production, marketing, and financial risks. At least 150 farmers will increase their knowledge of weather/climate risks impacting these areas and the benefits of diversification to reduce risks. 150+ farms will gain better understanding and increase their access to resources to help with climate smart practices. 90 farmers/producers will increase their knowledge of diversification practices and 40 will use design and planning tools for decision-making and 40 will implement a climate smart
practice plan for reducing risks in production, marketing, and finances. With our collaborators, our team will develop and lead field walks and webinars with follow up deep-dive small cohort visits. Supplemented with FAQs, booklet, manuals and tool demos, our program will increase producers’ acumen for making decisions about diversification with climate smart practices reducing the costs of climate-related risks and having positive effects on production, marketing, and financial viability.

Building Human Risk Management Know-How Among Women & Beginning Farmers
Project Director: Beth Holtzman (
University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $73,338

Through this project, 228 women and beginning farmers from the Northeast will increase their knowledge related to managing human resource risk, and at least 70 will adopt ergonomic, injury prevention, safety, wellness, communication and leadership practices that contribute to increased viability and resilience of their operations. Our outreach efforts, conducted primarily through e newsletters, blogs, and social media, will connect 3500 women farmers and beginning farmers with introductory human risk management information geared to the types of diversified, small scale operations typical of this audience. Building on that outreach, we will recruit 228 farm operators, managers and employees to participate in education via a multiple series of multi- session, interactive online workshops. Follow-up, small-group, facilitated peer learning and individual coaching sessions will support participants in decision-making and implementation of new practices on their farms. Best practices in adult education, incorporating gendered aspects both of learning preferences and topic priorities, will guide program development, implementation and evaluation. Educational offerings will help participants develop leadership, communication and decision-making skills and implement farm workplace culture and safety practices that are critical to keeping everyone who works on the farm safe, satisfied and productive.

Leveraging the Livestock Farmers’ Resource Guide
Project Director: Jake Levin (
Berkshire Ag Ventures
Award Amount: $74,941

Berkshire Ag Ventures (BAV) will develop and distribute a Livestock Farmers’ Resource Guide and educational workshops aimed at improving producer use and understanding of production, yield variability, and marketing approaches that equip them to build business knowledge and resiliency. Risk management education topics: production; enhance understanding of yield variability; marketing; direct marketing; bulk sales; wholesale; marketing plans and strategies; human; health, stress, family, and business relationships.

The Resource Guide is an online, regional (Berkshire-Taconic) directory of outlets for product, sources for supplies, and other contacts including trucking, technical support, processors, etc. Workshops will give tools for marketing and measuring yield variability that farmers can use to strengthen their businesses and secure reliable diversified income streams. Two workshops will be delivered, one live and one on Zoom. The primary audience is livestock farmers in the Berkshire-Taconic Region. As an outcome, at least 280 livestock farmers will be more informed and will access tools and techniques supporting them to make strategic decisions to improve their business resulting in a more resilient local meat production system.

Building Social Interaction Among Aging Farmers Provides Value and Encourages Transition Plan Development
Project Director: Darlene Livingston (
Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
Award Amount: $74,756

A novel approach utilizing Ireland’s successful model, Farmer’s Yards, will develop peer groups for older farmers. Farmer’s Yards will create a platform and excuse for 50 older farmers to gather for social interaction with local peers. Designed to fit the older generation’s aspirations, interests, needs and values, farmers develop a place to belong outside the farm. It will contribute to their sense of purpose, happiness and self-worth as physical capacities gradually diminish decreasing farming abilities as they age.

Three Farmer’s Yards groups will reach the ‘hard to reach’ older population of the farming community with educational topics of interest and value to them. Topics will include current ag issues, long-term care needs, farm transition and others. Empowered by the increased knowledge farmers will discuss aspirations for their farm as they learn the importance of developing a succession plan. They will learn to share their goals and desires with family. Farmers and their families will participate in three webinars and/or a workshop to facilitate continued succession planning. Aging farmers will be in control as they lead their family through the planning process. They will maintain their purpose and self-worth through social interaction within Farmer’s Yards groups while transitioning the farm.

WV Agrimeats Excellence
Project Director: Holly Morgan (
West Virginia Farmer Market Association
Award Amount: $23,279

This project aims to address marketing and legal risk, with a specific focus on enhancing the diversification risk knowledge of 50 producers. Participants will receive training on West Virginia Meat Regulations and Poultry Exemption.

The initiative seeks to empower 50 producers by providing marketing knowledge, with a specific emphasis on proper labeling and pricing. Building on the 2017 Northeast-funded project “Profitable Meat Marketing through Pricing & Strategy Education,” the MeatSuite Pricing Calculator will assist in pricing products for farmers market sales.

To gauge the effectiveness of the practices presented in the five-part webinar series and the on-farm demonstration, 15 small and beginning producers from West Virginia will commit to active participation throughout the grant period. These producers will monitor their sales and track the total products available in 2024 and 2025. The data collected will provide valuable insights into whether the program contributes to more effective inventory management, potentially influencing sales and profitability.

By the project’s end, five producers will start poultry processing under the West Virginia Poultry
Exemption, and two more meat producers will enter the market, demonstrating tangible
outcomes and expanded capabilities from the comprehensive project.

Building Grant Literacy and Research Skills Among New York State Tree Fruit Growers
Project Director: Bonalyn Nelson (
Cornell Extension
Award Amount: $22,814

This project addresses financial risks faced by New York State commercial tree fruit growers due to inexperience with grants as a funding source for farm projects. A variety of federal, state, and local entities make business grants available to help farms increase revenues, profitability, and long-term viability. But many New York State commercial tree fruit growers are unfamiliar with farm grants and procedures for identifying the best grant for their needs. Consequently, growers often bypass grants despite the high cost of capital and uneven access to commercial loans.

This program will address this problem by building grant literacy and research skills among commercial tree fruit growers in New York State. The program consists of six online sessions that will increase awareness of farm grant opportunities and building skills needed to target suitable grants. Participants in the proposed program will learn how to identify components of a project plan that may qualify for a grant, research available grant opportunities, understand selection criteria and grant requirements, and choose the best funding opportunity for their project. Information will be reinforced with weekly skill building assignments. Two participant surveys will measure program impact.

Landowner Rights and Responsibilities in West Virginia
Project Director: Jesse Richardson (
Co-Project Director: Doolarie Singh-Knights (
West Virginia University
Award Amount: $74,172

The project will address a broad range of topics under the general topic of property rights and responsibilities in West Virginia. Specific topics include trespass, hunting, nuisance, animals, refuse, water rights, fences, adverse possession, eminent domain, carbon contracts, wind and solar leases, right to farm laws, and agritourism. The balance between landowner rights and the responsibility of landowners to the public will be discussed.

The project will develop a landowner rights and responsibilities booklet, and hold [3 or 4] regional workshops within the state to educate agricultural producers and their neighbors on important property issues.

After reviewing the booklet and participating in a workshop, 175 producers will:
describe the rights a landowner has in the use of their property;
explain the duties that landowners have towards their agritourism visitors, on-farm store customers, neighbors, strangers, and the government;
apply property rights and landowner responsibilities to their operations;
devise strategies to maximize revenue from their operations by exercise property rights while respecting the responsibilities to neighbors; and,
formulate plans to minimize legal liability arising from infringing on the rights of other landowners.

Cultivating Success: Risk Management Education for Microgreens Producers
Project Director: Claudia Schmidt (
Co-Project Director: Francesco Di Gioia (
The Pennsylvania State University
Award Amount: $74,403

Microgreens production is a rapidly growing sector that has captured the attention of both rural and urban producers. This indoor crop is a promising diversification strategy due to its quick growth cycle, year-round production capabilities, space-efficient cultivation, and strong demand in premium markets. However, commercial production brings challenges: consistently producing high-quality microgreens, food safety, managing disease, budgeting, and securing reliable markets. As the microgreens supply chain matures, producers face marketing and pricing uncertainties due to unpredictable market trends.

This project aims to provide risk management education addressing production, marketing, financial, and legal risks for agricultural producers interested in exploring or improving their microgreens production. We plan to organize local workshops, allowing for hands-on training and information exchange among producers. Additionally, webinars will enable us to connect with current and prospective microgreens producers across the Northeast. Throughout the project, our team will develop factsheets addressing all targeted risks, which will be available on the Penn State Extension and AgriRisklibrary websites. We anticipate over 400 producers will attend webinars, 20 per workshop, and over 1,000 unique website views for ‘learn now’ videos and extension articles. This project is a comprehensive initiative to enhance microgreens production through knowledge sharing and risk management education.

Pricing Education for Producers Using Direct to Consumer Markets
Project Director: Todd Schmit (
Cornell University
Award Amount: $74,999

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) markets play an important role for NY’s farms including many that depend on them exclusively for income. In DTC channels, farms are positioned as “price makers” rather than “price takers,” however, producers are not confident in their pricing. New farms enter DTC channels to escape price risks in commodity markets only to struggle with pricing. In our work, we have observed relatively low prices in farmers markets and other DTC channels. We propose to train producers on price setting and reference weekly USDA NY Farmers Market Price Reports which we will produce beginning in 2024. The price reports will show farmers market product price averages for Certified Organic and non-certified products. We propose to also publish monthly grocery store prices for the same product list. We propose to offer in-person and online trainings teaching farms how to “support” pricing through marketing efforts. Trainings will reference results from our research on customer spending at farmers markets. Trainings will prepare producers to better understand consumers and the dynamics of marketing effort and pricing, preparing them to charge prices that benefit their operations. In addition to trainings, this project will produce farmer-oriented resources for our university website.

Expanding WV Agritourism Development through Education, Cluster Development and Promotion
Project Director: Doolarie Singh-Knights (
Co-Project Director: Jennifer Friend (
West Virginia University
Award Amount: $77,724

Agritourism in the United States is gaining traction as a sustainable model for enhancing farm viability and sustainability as consumer demand for farm-to-table connections grow and traditional production economics push producers to explore farm diversification and differentiation. West Virginia (WV) is uniquely positioned to capitalize on agritourism opportunities having the highest family farms/capita in the nation and a traditional tourism product rooted in agrarian heritage and nature-based recreation. Yet, many WV agritourism operators still lack the holistic business skills-set, as well as partnerships/alliances and network support, to benefit from this viable opportunity.

This project will provide whole-farm planning and risk-management training to grow 50 new/expanded agritourism operations and 4 ‘regional agritourism clusters/trails’ throughout WV. Further, we will support these operations through mentoring, community ‘clustering’ partnerships and networking opportunities. This project also provides professional development to 10 agricultural service providers/educators working with agritourism operators in WV.

Our efforts will help WV agritourism operators improve the viability and sustainability of their operations, and the development of the local agritourism sector through comprehensively addressing the following crucial interlinked issues – strengthening rural agribusiness productivity and creativity, building agribusiness and tourism entrepreneurial linkages, promoting sustainable agriculture and tourism, and encouraging agribusiness and rural community resiliency.

Reducing Risk by Reducing Language Barriers
Project Director: Richard Stup (
Cornell University
Award Amount: $75,000

Communication can be a huge barrier to success on almost all farms. We have surveyed many farm employees and one of their main desires is to learn to communicate effectively in the English language. This project would provide Spanish-speaking employees a guided instruction for lower-literacy learners in the basic skills of English plus a new appreciation of their farm through a hands-on mentorship between employee and owner. We believe that through mentorship, a partnership between an English-speaking employee and the Spanish-speaking employee, we can try to cultivate a relationship that will last beyond this course. The risk management education subject topics for this project would be learning how to manage more effectively by learning agriculturally based English catered specifically to their farm. The methods we will use to deliver this instruction is through Cornell-on-demand, pre-recorded videos that will be showcased through the Moodle app. We will also require one day of mentorship; daily homework assignments (Monday-Thursday) and an in-person Zoom conference call (Fridays) to finalize the teaching week. Our audience is specific to lower-literacy adults that speak Spanish and work in agriculture, primarily within the state of New York but not exclusive to New York residents.

Unraveling Risk in Farm-provided Employee Housing
Project Director: Richard Stup (
Cornell University
Award Amount: $75,000

This project will be the next phase of Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development’s research and outreach in risk management associated with farm-provided employee housing. The objective will be to help operators better understand the true cost of the employee housing they provide, the risks associated with poor management of those assets, and the potential return on investment realized by improving farm-provided employee housing. Applicable farms will participate in four components: 1. a voluntary, non-regulatory evaluation of their farm-provided employee housing, 2. a survey capturing the data necessary to determine the true cost of the employee housing they provide, 3. a farm-provided employee housing management plan, and 4. a round table information exchange with other operators providing employee housing.

The initial on farm research components will identify strengths and weaknesses of different models of farm-provided employee housing. Using this information, best management practices and benchmarking tools will be developed into an interactive template-style planning manual. Operators will use the manual to develop a living farm provided employee housing plan. The project will culminate with group sharing of information at regional workshops. Through this project, operators will be armed with previously non-existent tools which reduce risk, improve workforce stability, and enable growth.

Knowledge, Attitude and Prevention Practices of Agricultural Producers About Ticks and Tick-Borne Disease Risk in Vermont
Project Director: Cheryl Sullivan (
University of Vermont
Award Amount: $69,047

Ticks and tick-borne diseases (TBD) are increasing in northern New England. Vermont has some of the highest reports of Lyme disease and anaplasmosis in the US. Vermont is rural with a strong agriculturally-based economy. Tick bites and TBD are a serious occupational hazard for outdoor workers, e.g., farmers and woodland managers. The risk of acquiring TBD for farmers and their employees can be reduced by their knowledge about ticks and bite prevention. This project focuses on human risk among farmers and their employees by reducing health hazards associated with ticks and TBD. It also addresses production risk through management practices that reduce animal exposure to ticks. A survey will determine knowledge of Vermont agricultural producers about ticks and TBD and prevention practices used. Knowledge gaps will be identified so useful, practical information are disseminated to the target audience. The economic viability of participating farms will be improved by reducing exposure of farmers, their employees, livestock and pets to TBD through targeted messaging with 2 posters, 3 factsheets, 1 recorded webinar and 56 site visits. On-farm sampling will be conducted to generate data on tick abundance among different crops and management practices. We will reach 2,000 agricultural producers through this initiative.

Elevating Farm Management Data for Maryland
Project Director: Elizabeth Thilmany (
Co-Project Directors: Paul Goeringer ( and Shannon Dill (
University of Maryland
Award Amount: $75,000

In the past two years, the University of Maryland Extension (UME)’s web pages on custom work charges, rental rates, and crop budgets have collectively garnered over 12,000 views, with custom work charges and rental rates receiving 4,424 and 2,889 unique views respectively. These well-utilized resources highlight the demand for accessible, up-to-date data within Maryland’s agricultural community.

Our project will modernize access to this information by developing a user-friendly digital dashboard focused on market volatility analysis, data-driven decision-making, crop insurance utilization, policy/zoning overlays, and access to other essential risk management data, like land rent, land value, custom rates, and crop budgets.

We aim to empower all producers in Maryland to increase efficiency and profitability by utilizing these specific risk management tools and strategies. A “beta team” approach will use farmers’ direct input to guide the digital dashboard’s development and refinement, ensuring it is a relevant and valuable tool.

This project is a collaborative effort between the UMD Departments of UME and Agriculture and Resource Economics. We are committed to keeping our data resources updated and beneficial to all Maryland producers, providing them with the knowledge and tools necessary to manage production risks and build a more resilient agricultural future.

Intensive Biosecurity Planning Workshops for Beef Producers
Project Director: Hannah Walters (
PA Beef Council
Award Amount: $74,965

The Intensive Biosecurity Planning Workshops for Beef Producers will target operations across Pennsylvania and several Northeast states. Up to 10 intensive, hands-on workshops will be designed to educate 15-20 producers each on the importance of having and implementing a biosecurity plan. Industry professionals will assist producers in creating individual, customized plans to take home and implement.

Biosecurity is a preventive measure to keep diseases out of an operation and prevent the spread. It is a key principle in the National Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program. BQA provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers on how good husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management conditions. It is a pillar in the development of Secure Beef Supply, a foreign animal disease response program.

Development of thorough, complete biosecurity plans is integral to the continuance of operations should an outbreak occur. It would allow producers with no evidence of infection to move animals to processing or other premises and maintain continuity of business. A biosecurity plan will allow producers to mitigate production, marketing and financial risk by being prepared and having the proper information available if an outbreak occurs on or near their farming operations.

Cranberry Succession Planning
Project Director: Brian Wick (
Co-Project Director: Bonnie Soule (
Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association
Award Amount: $36,513

The last definitive survey of the Massachusetts cranberry growers was conducted nearly 20 years ago. At that time, the average age of a grower was 56 years old and most growers did not have retirement plans. Since then, the industry continues to face many challenges, including climate change, labor, marketplace fruit type preferences, increasing costs, etc. We are starting to see a transitional change where older growers are looking to retire some or all of their acreage but often have no clear plan as to how to do this.

This grant project will educate cranberry growers on succession planning. Our overall goal is to help growers plan for their farm’s future, identify options, and make decisions that ultimately strengthens the Massachusetts’ cranberry industry and our base of growers. This will be accomplished through a robust planning workshop and follow-up educational opportunities. There will also be a comprehensive grower survey conducted to gather more information after the education outreach efforts. The survey results will be designed to help identify education gaps and better focus subsequent educational programming.

2024 Exploratory Projects

Exploring Grain Marketing Price-Risk Decisions among Farmers in the Delmarva Region
Project Director: Kofi Britwum (
University of Delaware
Award Amount: $9,922

Agricultural prices are inherently volatile, influenced by economic, production, and climatic shocks. As a result, the ‘when and where’ of farm sales can have a telling effect on farmers’ earnings. Whereas traditionally selling in spot markets offers limited control over prices, forward contracts and other hedging instruments empower farmers to make strategic sales decisions. Nationally, approximately 10% of corn and soybean farmers traded in futures contracts in 2016 (Prager et al. 2020), suggesting that overall use of futures is minimal, and perhaps more so in some states. Anecdotal evidence from Extension specialists suggests limited use of futures markets by grain farmers in Delaware and surrounding areas, with little known about farmers’ preferences for strategies such as futures and options. This project proposes to explore Delmarva grain farmers’ interest and involvement in risk management strategies such as hedging to enhance financial stability. Focus group discussions will be carried out to determine the extent of utilization of various price-risk management instruments, with findings guiding the development of surveys. The surveys will assess farmers’ interests and potential challenges when utilizing hedging instruments. Findings will guide the development of a robust curriculum on grain marketing alternatives and refine educational outreach opportunities for grain producers.

Building Momentum for the Starting and Improving Farms Conference
Project Director: Megan Chawner (
Co-Project Director: Chelsea Hill (
The Pennsylvania State University
Award Amount: $10,000

This grant will build on the success of last year’s Starting and Improving Farms Conference in PA continuing to assist individuals hoping to begin production and existing farms seeking to diversify their operation. This two-day conference will feature four educational tracks-agritourism, horticulture, livestock, and finances- all of which will explore various topics of risk, including production, marketing, financial, legal, and human. The first day will feature tours of farms, agribusinesses, and research facilities to expose attendees to possible business opportunities. The second day will feature a morning plenary covering general business topics. Afternoon sessions will split into four multi-session tracks and provide in-depth training by faculty, educators and specialists. The attendees will be better prepared to handle the risks inherent in their operation, and better informed about the methods and tools available. An evaluation tool will be used to assess the knowledge and skills gained during the conference.

Cut Flower Growers: Initial Risk Management Training and Programming Needs Analysis
Project Director: Jonathan Ebba (
Co-Project Director: Jesse Wright (
University of New Hampshire
Award Amount: $9,990

UNH Extension’s work shows that cut flower farmers are a rapidly growing group in New Hampshire. While Extension provides direct technical assistance (DTA) to these growers, it has not developed a programmatic focus for this group. Our DTA shows that growers lack basic understanding in Marketing and Financial Literacy and Record Keeping. We will meet twice with a cohort of 6 cut flower growers as a focus group to assist organizing a conference in the Fall of 2024 and to focus our programming at it. This conference is expected to host 50 and will have four educational sessions and a moderated listening session. This will dovetail with the launch of a formal needs assessment and logic model to direct future work with cut flower growers. This proposal fits both objectives of the Exploratory Projects grant in that it utilizes a producer education workshop as a vehicle to explore suitability of a future Standard Education project. This exploration will allow us to: Assess the educational and programmatic risk management needs of this group. Assess the viability of creating a local trade association to amplify future educational efforts. Establish UNH Extension as a valuable source of education and expertise to this industry.

Herds & Her: Empowering Women in Dairy
Project Director: Samantha Gehrett (
The Pennsylvania State University
Award Amount: $9,241

The “Herds & Her” workshops in 2024 aim to empower women in the dairy industry through hands-on training. Topics include disease detection, reproduction, financial planning, milking procedures, and milk quality, all with financial implications. Pennsylvania’s dairy industry, ranked 8th in the U.S. for milk production, contributes $14.1 billion to the state’s economy. Of the 5,787 dairy farms in Pennsylvania, 5% are operated by women, who are considered socially disadvantaged farmers by the USDA. They face a wage gap of 40% compared to men. This workshop aims to bridge this gap by providing an inclusive environment for skill improvement.

Mitigating Tar Spot in Southwest New York
Project Director: Katelyn Miller (
Cornell University
Award Amount: $9,999

Tar spot is an emerging disease in New York State and was identified for the first time in 2021. Four of the five counties in Southwest, NY (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben) have found the disease in their corn production. This creates an additional production risk and profitability risk to corn growers in the SWNY region. All field corn producers are at risk of experiencing this disease on their farm, making this a pertinent topic to discuss and prioritize outreach. With this project, producers will gain an understanding of how the pathogen develops, the scouting efforts involved in identifying this disease, and management options that are available to them. Information will be presented through a meeting, a newsletter article, and a press release. The total estimated reach is 6,440 producers and industry representatives.