2019 Funded Completed Projects

1. Annie’s Project: Farming in New Jersey’s Cities and the Urban Fringe
Project Director: Robin Brumfield (brumfiel@njaes.rutgers.edu)
Co-Project Director: Deborah Greenwood (deborah.greenwood@rutgers.edu)
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Award Amount: $39,700

Annie’s Project, a nationally recognized educational program that addresses risk management for women farmers, provides training in the five areas of farm risk: marketing, production, financial, human, and legal. Some challenges are common to all farms, while some are unique to urban locations. Annie’s Project: Farming in New Jersey’s Cities and the Urban Fringe, nicknamed Urban Annie’s Project (UAP), expanded the basic scope of Annie’s Project curriculum, with urban-focused topics including short-term leases, contaminated soil, water availability, and access to capital and resources. UAP built on past successes, introducing urban agricultural initiatives with a series of six 3-hour evening classes.

Annie’s Project New Jersey recognized the growing demand for urban agriculture training and adapted its original programming to meet this need, subsequently creating the first urban-focused Annie’s Project. UAP had a significant impact on the participants’ self-rated knowledge/understanding of urban farming risks.

To determine program success, we administered a retrospective evaluation to attendees (N=23) on the last day of class. It measured the level of ‘understanding/knowledge’ of the five risks before and after programming using a Likert scale. Participants increased their understanding/knowledge in every single topic, confirming that the program had a positive impact.

2. Building Farm Resilience: On-Farm Leadership Development and Human Resources Training
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: $31,110

This project provided farmers in western Massachusetts with tools and approaches to address human risk and legal risk. By creating a positive workplace environment and improving compliance with labor laws, family and small-scale farms can build resiliency and mitigate the effects of family emergencies and workforce changes to improve their long-term economic viability. Eighty-three small specialty-crop or value-added producers participated in the program, which included 5 workshops, 1 farmer-to-farmer video-conference, 49 one-on-one meetings, and resource materials, to learn strategies for on-farm leadership development and best practices in labor management. Topics included cultural humility and dexterity, conflict resolution, performance management, employee policies, building a positive workplace culture, and employee management challenges unique to the pandemic. As a result of participation, farmers and farm managers increased understanding of employee management and communication strategies, on-farm leadership development options, legal requirements, and best practices in staff training. Farmers and farm managers gained skills to evaluate their own labor management and to begin to implement improvements in their labor management and training efforts. Farm labor management information and tools were adapted and made available online. By the end of the project, 26 farmers had implemented at least one improvement in their farm labor management.

3. Educating Produce Growers & Workers in the Farm Food Safety Aspects of Efficient Reasonable Cleaning of Wash-Line Equipment
Project Director: Robert Hadad (rgh26@cornell.edu)
Cornell University
Award Amount: $44,267

Our project looked to create an educational program focusing on critical practices of farm food safety. From harvest through produce washing to packing, and storage, a great deal of fresh produce can be cross-contaminated in a small space of the wash/pack facility. The key to reduce this risk is through a thorough understanding of facility hygiene and sanitation especially with equipment not designed to come apart and be cleaned. Cleaning of food contact surfaces such as hands, tools, and equipment needs to be understood. The design and layout of facilities is another important attribute that can affect the reduction of risks. Fundamentally, workers and the farmers themselves need an educational program that is easy to understand, applicable to their unique farming enterprise, and makes financial sense to implement.

We broke down the intensive subject of facility and food contact surface cleaning into component parts starting with harvest, causes of contamination, and prevention through the facility then equipment cleaning weaving ways of addressing the how’s why’s, and methods of achieving success. Participants brought up issues we had not considered so that was successfully addressed. Over 55% of farms reported coming away with practical and Implementable understanding food safety practices.

4. 2019 West Virginia Farmer Tax Education Outreach Program
Project Director: Lisa Jones (llagana@mail.wvu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Tom McConnell (trmcconnell@mail.wvu.edu)
West Virginia University
Award Amount: $37,590

This project helped small farm producers manage financial risks through the understanding of agricultural taxes.

We conducted four regional in-person comprehensive training workshops – two in the North and two in the South of West Virginia, covering agricultural exemptions, expense tracking, completing a Schedule F, the IRS Farmers Tax Guide, and other tax topics selected by financial experts in agricultural tax law. We distributed a multi-page record journal for tracking expenses to 1,500 producers. We delivered educational content via four regional in-person classes, two webinar sessions, four YouTube videos, and one in-person class at the annual West Virginia Small Farm Conference in February 2020 to further reach small farmers.

As a result, small farmers and participating accountants reported:

80% had a better understanding of agricultural taxes
80% had a better understanding of how taxes relate to estate planning
100% had a better understanding of how taxes relate to end-of-life care
60% had a better understanding of how taxes relate to farm transfers
80% decided to use skills to manage tax liability
60% implemented skills to claim prepaid expenses on taxes
60% implemented at least 5 tax tips to reduce financial risk
60% implemented hiring an accountant
80% implemented expense tracking

5. Tackling Farm Succession Planning and Stress on the Farm
Project Director: Darlene Livingston (daliving@pafarmlink.org)
Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
Award Amount: $36,177

A multifaceted program ensured successful farm succession and farm stress education and engaged a diverse group of Pennsylvania farmers. The Healthy Farms, Healthy Minds resources initiated conversations regarding the importance of farmers addressing mental health challenges.

Video conferencing was utilized for farm succession workshops educating 35 participants at four locations across Pennsylvania simultaneously. Facilitators and speakers ensured all locations participated in the program and were provided opportunities to ask questions. Workshop topics included family communication, finances, senior generation income options, legal implications, selecting a qualified attorney, and stress management.

Healthy Farms, Healthy Minds, a resource covering farm stress, depression and suicide, was created by WellspanPhilhaven. Printed copies were distributed to all farm succession workshop participants, and each was given a copy to share with someone else. The brochure was also introduced at the Cornucopia, an event highlighting agriculture at the state capital. Many elected officials asked for copies, and Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture sought a quantity to pass out across the state. It was then used at all mental health round tables the Department of Ag held across Pennsylvania. This is the first and best resource available that relates to farmers in such a manner.

A mental health video was also developed and uploaded to the internet (and thus is available 24/7). To date 89 people have accessed it. In addition, a project team member was invited to present during the Pennsylvania Department of Ag Mental Health Town Hall, and that event had 2,000 unique views.

6. Risk Management Strategies for Female Agritourism Operators in Pennsylvania
Project Director: Claudia Schmidt (czs786@psu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Sarah Cornelisse (sar243@psu.edu)
The Pennsylvania State University
Award Amount: $27,300

As small farms struggle to remain in business, interest in diversifying with agritourism options has increased in Pennsylvania. We have observed that agritourism enterprises are often headed by a female member of the farm family. This project addressed production, marketing, legal, and human resource risk as experienced by female agritourism operators. The risks addressed were chosen based on educational requests received, questions posed, and the existing literature on female agritourism operators.  A web-based video series featuring interviews with female agritourism operators discussing specific experiences with marketing, financial, legal, and human resource risk experiences was developed and published to the Penn State Extension website. By project conclusion, there were 447 unique views of the individual videos.  Due to COVID-19, in-person workshops were modified to a webinar format with accompanying materials provided electronically following each webinar session and at the conclusion of the complete series.  71 individuals registered for the webinar series and there were 83 webinar participants across the four sessions.  Five articles on relevant topics were published with unique views totaling 568.  17 webinar participants identified actionable risks for their farm operation during the workshops and 2 have implemented steps to manage these risks after three months of workshop completion.

7. Reducing Farmer Risk from Ticks and Tick Borne Diseases
Project Director: Kenneth Smith (kas294@cornell.edu)
Co-Project Director: Ashley Russell (anr72@cornell.edu)
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chenango County
Award Amount: $45,137

The project purpose was to reduce health and economic risks to farmers by producing a series of presentations, videos, and posters that show how to: avoid ticks and tick bites, safely remove and identify ticks, and how to manage farms to reduce tick numbers.

Early in the project, before Covid-19 restrictions ended in-person meetings, we met with more than 200 farmers and heard their questions about how to manage ticks on their farms. In-person meetings identified farmer concerns about the safest tick pesticides, and about pets and livestock carrying ticks.

With the help of farmer input, we were able to create 4 tick disease prevention videos. These videos had more that 425,00 views during the grant period. The videos were: Identifying Tick Habitat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0VHpQz6okA&t=14s, Removing Tickshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlkQ1tQb8Xk&t=23s, Avoid Disease with Tick Repellentshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGupNHBxIeY&t=24s; Dress to Avoid Tickshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e0QOH-9nvM.

We also created a series of posters showing farmers how avoid ticks and tick born illness available in English and Spanish at http://ccechenango.org/. These posters were viewed by 12,080 people during the grant period.

We also created a full Ticks and Tick Borne Diseases Webinar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjbwjw2t-kY&t=21s. More than 140 people participated in or viewed the webinars

8. Making It Happen: Profitability & Success 2020 (MIH2020)
Project Director: Dorothy Suput (dsuput@thecarrotproject.org)
The Carrot Project; Third Sector New England, Inc.
Award Amount: $21,986

MIH helped producers develop the skills and understanding to use 4 key financial management tools (Cash Flow Budgeting, Sensitivity Analysis, Competitive Analysis, and Scenario Planning) to reduce their financial risks.

29 participants were composed of 25 producers with at least one year of operating experience, 3 small business specialists, and one potential start up. All resided in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, or Rhode Island.

Two in person and one online trainings were held, consisting of: prerequisite webinars, 10 to 11 hours of instruction, and applying skills to a producers’ own numbers. In addition an estimated 3 to 4 hours of individual producer homework took place.  Additional training and support was provided to seven producers who opted in to our follow-up 1:1 business assistance.

Results: 23 participants increased their understanding of the financial management tools, 28 practiced using the tools, 21 decided to use at least one tool in their business, and 15 implemented (used) at least one tool.

9. Building Resiliency and Reducing Producer Risk through Improved Soil Health and Water Management
Project Director: Laura Wood (lwood@shorerivers.org)
Award Amount: $30,420

This project addressed the production risks related to degrading soil health and excess or insufficient water, and the potential legal risks stemming from water quality regulations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Healthy soil and the right amount of water are two of the most crucial elements for profitable yields. This project educated producers on how innovative cover cropping techniques and water management through conservation drainage can make their farms more resilient. The 58 project participants were row crop farmers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Participants attended workshops on reducing production risk through improved soil health and conservation drainage. Workshops focused on educating producers on these two techniques, the production benefits of implementation, demonstrating techniques in practice, and how proactively implementing best management practices (BMPs) for production benefit can prevent regulatory risk in the future as the Maryland Department of Agriculture works to meet Chesapeake Bay water quality goals. Participants received a comprehensive informational packet that included an overview of conservation drainage and cover crop practices, the impacts on yields and farm profitability, and information on implementation and the associated costs that can be used to evaluate how these practices could work on their own farms.