2017 Funded Completed Projects

1. Agritourism Safety and Liability: Implementing Best Risk Management Practices for Farms Open to the Public
Project Director: Lisa Chase (lisa.chase@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $30,952

As consumer demand for local food and farm experiences has increased in recent years, more farms are opening their barns, fields, and homes to visitors. Agritourism includes many kinds of experiences, such as overnight farm stays, hay rides, corn mazes, and use of farm land for hiking, hunting, snowmobiling and other recreational activities. Agritourism also includes direct sales, such as farmstands and u-pick, as well as educational programs for school children, seniors, and other groups of visitors, often involving demonstrations and workshops around specific topics and skills.

Hosting visitors on farms provides rich educational opportunities for consumers, supplemental income for farms, and public support for agriculture; however, it comes with risks to visitors and farms. The project provided training and resources on agritourism safety and liability for 159 farmers and service providers in Vermont and nearby states. The project team hosted workshops and followed up with farms to conduct safety assessments. Of the 112 farms that participated, 37 farms implemented best risk management practices, including 29 that posted safety signage for visitors about hand washing and other safety measures; 21 that obtained or improved liability coverage; and 27 that established or improved hand washing stations, among other best practices implemented.

2. Educating Massachusetts Farmers on Avoiding Risks in Farm Labor Law Compliance
Project Director: Jennifer Hashley (jennifer.hashley@tufts.edu)
Trustees of Tufts College / New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Award Amount: $37,456

This project developed statewide trainings and educational resources on farm labor law compliance to help producers manage legal risks and avoid labor violations and sanctions. 257 beginning and established producers learned strategies to comply with requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act, Migrant/Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, and other agricultural labor laws.  We conducted three comprehensive training workshops in SE, Central, and Western Massachusetts covering: labor law 101; hiring contractors vs. employees; designing “legal” farm apprenticeships, internships, and volunteer programs; understanding workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance requirements; and other human resource topics selected by legal experts in agricultural labor law. We conducted two regional webinars and recorded an in-person training on farm labor covering labor requirements that were posted online and disseminated broadly and viewed by over 233 producers.  A multi-page brochure on Massachusetts farm labor laws posted online and distributed to 2,500 producers. Additional 1-1 technical assistance to 3 farmers and several non-profit organizations improved labor management compliance through pro-bono legal guidance.   Farmers reported improving their understanding of human resource and legal risk management topics, adopting a new or modified labor management practice, and gaining knowledge to avoid making costly mistakes.

3. Expanding Business Education Programming for Farm Women in New Hampshire
Project Director: Kelly McAdam (kelly.mcadam@unh.edu)
Co-Project Director: Elaina Enzien (elaina.enzien@unh.edu)
University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
Award Amount: $31,168

Women play a critical role in managing and carrying out the marketing and financial aspects of the farm.  Typical roles include bookkeeping, managing the farm’s social media and website presence, interacting with customers, and hiring and managing employees. This project sought to expand educational programming in farm business management to farm women operators through Annie’s Project. The goal in offering this nationally-recognized education program for farm women was to reach more women farmers, while also helping women build networks with other farmers, agriculture service providers, and enhancing their skills in farm business management, communication and leadership.

We did this through three weekend retreat-style programs, not only extending our reach, but strengthening the effectiveness of the program through this type of educational format.  Participants reported to have gained a more in-depth understanding of three out of the four risk areas during the weekend retreat format.

Furthermore, post-course interviews with participants showed that women made changes in their business management practices such as keeping inventory records for the first time and pursuing government programs available to them that they were unaware of prior to the program. There was a significant increase in knowledge in the financial and marketing risk areas.

4. Farm Succession and Preparing for the Unexpected Farm Family Health Crisis
Project Director: Darlene Livingston (c-daliving@pa.gov)
Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
Award Amount: $36,974

Diverse educational opportunities will provide access to farm succession and family health crisis learning materials. Pennsylvania farmers will access the materials through in-depth workshops, webpage devoted to the topics and printed document, Aging Safely, developed addressing potential health crisis situations. Aging Safely will be organized in a manner easily adaptable to other states.Two workshops with 40 participants will blend the topics of family communication, financial, legal, business and tax implications of farm succession along with quality of life and safety considerations for aging farm family members.

Aging Safely will address issues that may arise with deteriorating cognitive, physical skills and family health crisis. 40 family members will learn about available resources, services and emergency helps. Laws related to challenges farm families face when the senior generation refuses medical care will be reviewed. Steps to ensure safety and the highest degree of care for aging farmers and their families will be provided. 200 copies will be distributed through agricultural organizations.

A web based farm succession and family resource page will be developed allowing farm succession and Aging Safely materials to be accessed by 250 people. Links to other valuable succession and senior health resources will also be provided.

5.Good to Great – Improving Labor Management on Fruit and Vegetable Farms in New York State
Project Director: Elizabeth Higgins (emh56@cornell.edu)
Co-Project Director: Mary Jo Dudley (farmworkers@cornell.edu)
Cornell University
Award Amount: $50,000

In Good to Great: Improving Labor Management on Farms in New York State, Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) and the Cornell Farmworker Program (CFP) reduced two areas of risk for fruit and vegetable farmers – Human Risk (labor supply, recruitment, and retention and employee management and communication) and Legal Risk (labor regulations) by improving producer management skills.  The primary method of program delivery was through a 4 workshop series, which we offered at 5 sites but we also ended up doing eight 1/2 hour webinars in order to reach producers across the state. We followed up with workshop participants by email and used newsletters, a website, and social media (Facebook) and YouTube videos to help reach additional growers.  We also held three part-day trainings on managing a Latino workforce at Ag Expo, NOFA-NY and Eastern NY Fruit and Veg School, and a 2-hour webinar on employing foreign-born workers.  In the first year of the program we did have farmers adopt improved employee management methods, and improve legal compliance to help decrease worker turnover. In one year we were able to document 27 improvements on 21 farms in the areas of employee manuals, legal compliance, improved trainings, and improved working conditions.

6. Making It Happen: Profitability & Success
Project Director: Dorothy Suput (dsuput@thecarrotproject.org)
TSNE-The Carrot Project
Award Amount: $31,000

Making It Happen is an outcome-based risk management training to help producers understand and incorporate financial management tools into their business practices. The primary Risk Management Education Objective is to reduce financial risks that threaten farm profitability by building business knowledge and allowing for greater resiliency. The training provided producers with the tools –– and the ability to use them –– to improve decision-making. Participants learned and applied financial management tools to their business that helped them answer questions such as: “Can I pay my bills?”, “Is a capital investment worth it?”, “Is this the right price?”, or “Should I add a new product line?” The training consisted of two webinars, two trainings, and optional follow-on one-on-one assistance; an online session was also offered. There were 28 in-person and 12 online participants for a total of 40. Participants resided in Massachusetts (59%), New York (11%), VT (12%), CT (3%), and ME (3%), with an additional 12% outside the Northeast. Participants included small and beginning farmers, sustainable and socially disadvantaged producers, and producers of value-added goods. After the training, 74% of respondents reported an increase in understanding of the financial management tools, and 91% reported incorporating at least one tool into their business practices. 

7. Mitigating Production and Environmental Risks through Best Management of Subsurface Tile
Project Director: Heather Darby (heather.darby@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont and State Agricultural College
Award Amount: $40,104

Since the late 1800s, farmers have used subsurface tile drainage to produce high yielding crops on marginal soils. Many farmers consider tile drainage as the most important risk management tool available to them and this view has become even stronger as farms experience erratic weather.

Climate models indicate that the Northeast will experience excessively long, wet periods. Over the past 50 years, the amount of precipitation falling as heavy events has increased disproportionately in the Northeast compared to other U.S. regions. This has spurred a rapid increase in tile drainage installation. However, research has indicated potential negative impacts of tile drainage on water quality. Therefore, the project’s goal is to help farmers implement best management practices to successfully install tile drainage and manage fields to reduce the potential environmental risks.

Through this project educational events (conferences, field days, and webinars) and materials (factsheets and survey) were developed and delivered to 906 stakeholders. As a result of these efforts,  95% of the participants that responded to post event surveys indicated increased knowledge about best management practices of tile-drained fields; and 79 farmers adopted or improved at least one practice to reduce environmental risks related to subsurface tile drainage use.

8. Profitable Meat Marketing through Pricing & Strategy Education
Project Director: Matthew LeRoux (mnl28@cornell.edu)
Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins County
Award Amount: $35,973

This project addressed marketing and financial risks faced by many northeast livestock producers struggling with profitable market channels and appropriate pricing.  Producers are caught between commodity prices and inconsistent value-added market prices.  Lack of marketing and pricing strategies limit farm profitability. We taught livestock producers to use marketing strategy and the online “Cornell Meat Price & Yield Calculator” to manage the risks of commodity and value-added channels.  Through 4 articles, 13 workshops, and the online calculator, we reached thousands of producers who learned to manage livestock marketing risks, primarily marketing channel selection, price risk, meat-cut inventory management, and marketing cost accounting.  We focused on 3 complementary topics: 1) Marketing strategy and objective development; 2) Understanding channel-specific costs and; 3) using our online tool to ensure profit through channel pricing. 80% of producers that attended workshops reported they will adopt new marketing techniques and there were 1,233 uses of the Calculator tool. Using producer data entered in the Calculator tool, we measured how farmers changed their pricing and the impact on profitability.

9. Reducing Marketing and Financial Risk thorough Data Analysis Pricing Using Cloud-Based Technology
Project Director: Seth Wilner (seth.wilner@unh.edu)
Co-Project Director: Pamela Bruss (pamela.bruss@unh.edu)
University of New Hampshire
Award Amount: $37,859

This project worked to address the risks farmers face through lack of data and decision making in pricing, crop planting, yield, and sales channel. As farmers become more competitive it becomes increasingly more important for them to make data-driven decisions based on their farm business data, as well as understand regional market trends in local produce production and consumption trends. The five active farmers who used this software package diligently captured critical data about their farm operations to optimize pricing, understand harvest relationship to sales data and were able to share the information in a seamless way across the farm. This resulted in an increase in profits of about 1%, lower than anticipated based on the fact that farmers were reluctant to make changes despite the suggestion of the software, when they did make the adjustments, they were made in small increments.

Those farms that used the software did have a huge increase in awareness of crops being planted, harvesting and sales ratios to better plan for the 2018 year. This resulted in reducing time, costs in cost of goods sold and other overhead. In our post-survey results, we did see a shift of improved user experience and ability.