Funded Projects for 2022

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

Project Director: Robin Brumfield (brumfiel@njaes.rutgers.edu)
Co-Project Director: Madeline Flahive DiNardo (flahive@njaes.rutgers.edu)
Rutgers University
Award Amount: $27,521

The goal of “Annie Goes Online: Risk Management on Your Kitchen Table” is to provide production and business management skills specifically geared to urban farmers as they face post-pandemic challenges. The project will use the Canvas learning platform to provide online programming that 50 women farmers can access from home. Canvas will allow networking beyond the six weekly online workshops through threaded group discussions and team reviewed risk management planning assignments. During the pandemic lock down, most New Jersey farmers increased their customer base and sales because agriculture provided an essential service, and consumers were able to use contact-less pickup. Since New Jersey opened up, the number one question the farmers have is, “How can we turn the new customers we gained during the pandemic into permanent customers?” The program will address this marketing risk as well as the current supply chain challenges. Robin will address managing rising labor shortages and costs. The production risks will cover include climate risks/adaptations; building soil health to give crops better resilience to drought; equipment and electrical safety; and best management practices for animal agriculture. Finally, Robin plans to present ways to reduce financial and legal risks.

2. Mitigating Risk in Cut Flower Production

Project Director: Carla Crim (ceh27@cornell.edu)
Co-Project Director: Elizabeth Busche, Spongetta’s Garden (spongettasgarden@gmail.com)
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 food’s 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. This project will provide new and existing flower farmers with the tools and support needed to manage the production and marketing risk involved in growing this beautiful, but inherently complicated specialty crop. The regional educational efforts will be geared towards growers in colder climates (USDA zones 5a through 3a). Carla will offer two, six-week workshop series over the course of the 18-month project. The first will cover production risk, and the second will focus on marketing risk. In addition, mentor-ship to 12 producers will be provided. Carla expects that at least 100 new and diversifying farmers will implement new growing or marketing practices because of this project, making flower farming more sustainable and profitable in the region.

3. Maine Farm Resilience Program

Project Director: Ryan Dennett (rdennett@mofga.org)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Award Amount: $39,128

This project provides risk management education that advanced-beginning Maine farmers who have been in business for 5 -15 years have expressed a need for.

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

Ryan anticipates that 30 farmers from the MFRP program, plus an additional 224 who attend the seven farmer-to-farmer forums, will improve their economic viability by understanding and implementing strategies that can help mitigate their risks.

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

Project Director: Paul Goeringer (lgoering@umd.edu)
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 will seek to educate these new rural landowners and existing agricultural operators and provide resources for future educational efforts by Extension Educators aimed at new landowners. Specifically, the program will use 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 will hold two live half-day programs around the state designed to help educate landowners who may not learn well in the online format about the most critical issues.

5. Effective Strategies to Enhance Farmers Market Education

Project Director: Lisa Jones (lisa.lagana@mail.wvu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Erica Gallimore (egallimore.wvfma@gmail.com)
West Virginia University
Award Amount: $49,293

This project will increase the understanding of marketing risk management knowledge of 75 producers through multi-week online training using the WVU Extension Service Online Learning Community platform. In addition, it will assist 20 producers in implementing affordable marketing strategies through annual in-person workshops. West Virginia small, beginning, and specialty crop producers will commit to participation over the life of the grant project in order to show effective implementation and knowledge increases through the improvement in sales. This will be tracked by comparing sales during the farmers market season at the start of the project to the second farmers market season after participants have completed the educational trainings.

The West Virginia Farmers Market Association is a critical partner on this project, as they will offer one‑on-one technical assistance to program participants in order to further implement marketing strategies and connect them to a peer network of farmers market participants for knowledge sharing. This partnership will allow for the spread of marketing resources beyond the life of the grant and continued networking of producers to spread knowledge of how affordable marketing solutions benefit their agribusinesses.

6. Learning Modules Create Foundational Support for Beginning Farmers Success

Project Director: Michelle Kirk (mkirk@pafarmlink.org)
Co-Project Director: Darlene Livingston (daliving@pafarmlink.org)
Pennsylvania Farm Link, Inc.
Award Amount: $49,998

A 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture reported that Pennsylvania had 12,664 young farmers (14% of total producers), the highest of any state, 4% are Hispanic. Continued success of Pennsylvania agriculture requires easily accessible educational opportunities focused on beginning farmer needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an increased demand for online learning platforms. In 2019 the Economic Research Service (ERS) reported 71% of farm households have at least one person working off the farm. A limiting factor for continued learning, it’s imperative online programming expansion continues. Learning modules will be available 24/7 on the PA Farm Link website for convenient beginning farmer access.

Farming is hard, beginning/aspiring farmers want to succeed but not all will without assistance. A blended learning program of video learning modules, written materials and professional assistance will be offered to educate beginning farmers on various risks associated with farming and how to mitigate those risks through using collaborators programs/resources. Six learning modules will be developed. Topics include: NRCS, RMA, state programs, financials, diversification, business planning and niche marketing, land access and leasing. A Spanish overview/land access module for English as a second language farmers and translation instructions for all modules will be included. 108 beginning farmers will complete modules by September 2023.

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

Project Director: Claudia Schmidt (czs786@psu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Sarah Cornelisse (sar243@psu.edu)
Penn State University
Award Amount: $41,170

Agritourism activity has the potential not only to keep small- and medium-sized farms in business but also to provide important local economic development spillover effects. Yet even as US agritourism sales nearly doubled from 2007 to 2017, only 28,575 farms reported such activity in 2017. A 2019 Pennsylvania survey found that operators would like “more information about agritourism options.” At the same time, financial constraints limit access of small producers to consultants and international producer organizations that expose more unique options making them reliant upon producer networks and extension information. This project will provide training on marketing and legal risks of agritourism diversification for small farms exploring different agritourism activities. The project team will host at least five webinars to introduce and discuss new diversification opportunities, develop extension articles and information sheets to share best practices and budgets for five less popularly adopted agritourism options, and assist five operators in the Northeast in their assessment and adoption of new agritourism ventures. Case studies, information sheets, and articles will be shared on the Penn State Agritourism website. Activities will result in the launch of five new agritourism enterprises and at least 150 small farms exploring different agritourism opportunities.

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: Mark Wiltberger (mw883@cornell.edu)
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: John Wodehouse (jpw20@psu.edu)
Co-Project Director: Lynn Kime (lfk4@psu.edu)
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 is to provide risk management education to address financial, production risks and human risks in a variety of farming enterprises.

The FarmPro PA project achieves this vision through the development of eight agribusiness & financial management workshops and two virtual workshops where we expect 15 people each (face to face) and up to 60 people in each webinar. FarmPro PA project offers a rare opportunity for agriculture and natural resource stakeholders from Pennsylvania to better understand and implement new cash management strategies, increase awareness and analyze profitability, build and analyze the balance sheet to monitor equity position, learn record keeping integration, and understand how farm records help portray financial health.

The FarmPro PA Excel record keeping tool will make calculations easier for producers. At the heart of FarmPro PA are eight professional development short course sessions for producers to learn farm finance and how to use the FarmPro PA tool.

10. Reducing Production Risk: Education, Recordkeeping, and Applying for Micro Whole Farm Revenue Protection

Project Director: Jeffrey Cole (jcole@thecarrotproject.org)
The Carrot Project/TSNE
Award Amount: $84,590

This project includes education, training, and 1:1 business technical assistance (1:1 BTA) that supports participants in applying for RMA’s new Micro Whole Farm Revenue Protection crop insurance (mWFRP). The project includes: 1) Education about mWFRP; 2) Assessment of the applicability of benefits of mWFRP to ones’ operation; 3) The mWFRP application requirements; 4) Refinement of Records, and 5) Applying for the mWFRP.

The project’s components include interactive in-person and online sessions, videos, self-assessments, and 1:1 business technical assistance (1:1 BTA). The different parts of the program are designed to meet producers where they are in their understanding and interest in mWFRP. The components are sequential, increasing in length and depth of information. A participant can participate in all 5 sections; however, if a participant is comfortable moving forward with their application at any point, they will have the support to do so.

The target audience is underserved populations in MA, RI, and CT including specialty crop and diversified operations, small farms, socially disadvantaged producers, women, and beginning producers. Jeff and team will hold 4 informational sessions, three recorded sessions, and 12 trainings. Thirty-eight participants will receive 1:1 BTA, and we expect that 45 of 275 participants will apply for mWFRP.

11. Reducing Risk of Crop Losses Due to Poor Pollination on Fruit and Vegetable Farms in the Northeast

Project Director: Vernon Grubinger (vernon.grubinger@uvm.edu)
Co-Project Director: Laura Johnson (laura.o.johnson@uvm.edu)
University of Vermont Extension
Award Amount: $93,906

This project helps Northeast fruit and vegetable farmers adopt practices that support pollinators in specialty crops, reducing risk of lower yield and quality in apples, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, cucumbers, grapes, peaches, pears, plums, peppers, pumpkins, squash, strawberries, and tomatoes. Of 102 farmers that responded to an October 2021 survey, 64% said lack of sufficient pollination posed a risk to their crop yield or quality, 20% weren’t sure, 94% were interested in learning practices to enhance pollinator habitat on their farms, and 59% were interested in information about financial assistance for pollinator support practices. A comprehensive educational program will address these issues with guidance on pollinator habitat plantings, cover crop management, tilling, mulching, and mowing to maintain pollinator habitat, avoiding pesticide harm to pollinators, and applying for financial assistance to adopt practices. Over 1,000 farmers will be engaged through on-line information, three conference presentations, four on-farm workshops, and three webinars; 150 farmers will receive individual consultations; 125 farmers will use a new on-line tool to develop pollinator support plans, and 100 farmers will document the implementation of at least one new pollinator support practice on a total of 2,000 acres of crops with annual sales of $14 million.

12. Connecting Massachusetts’ Underserved and Beginning Producers to Safety Net and Farm Support Programs

Project Director: Jennifer Hashley (jennifer.hashley@tufts.edu)
Tufts University
Amount: $100,000

Beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers struggle to access land and capital to build infrastructure and assets critical to operating economically viable farms. Educational programs will train producers on record-keeping and financial management strategies to improve access to grant, cost-share, and loan programs. Technical assistance will support producers to mitigate financial risks and alleviate production risks through asset acquisition and farm safety net programs.

Educational activities will include six two-hour workshops and farmer networking events; two resource round tables and drop-in registration sessions; 10 farmer case studies to support development of a Risk Management and Capitalization Decision Tool; and individual technical assistance, business advising, and grant application support services. Risk management curriculum will be incorporated into existing business planning and crop production courses. The target audience is Northeast Massachusetts beginning and socially disadvantaged specialty crop farmers underexposed to risk management and crop insurance options.

It is anticipated that the participants will gain knowledge/understanding of state/federal grant and loan programs; improve financial management and record-keeping skills; make strategic risk management and capital investment decisions; and submit applications to grant and loan programs. It is projected that 190 producers will attend workshops (120), drop-in registration sessions (50), and regular individual advising sessions (20). The project team is also anticipating 100‑500 additional individuals will access online resources.

13. Risk Management Education for Beginning & Women Farmers in New Hampshire

Project Director: Kelly McAdam (kelly.mcadam@unh.edu)
Co-Project Director: Kenesha Reynolds (kenesha.reynolds@unh.edu
University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
Amount: $98,169

University of New Hampshire (UNH) Cooperative Extension, will partner with the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) to reach at least 990 New Hampshire producers through educational outreach, which will address risk management strategies for production, marketing, finance and labor. Programs will include 2 field days, demonstrating sprayer calibration and farm equipment usage for women farmers; 2 webinars on women farmer wellness; a Managing for Today & Tomorrow Annie’s Project weekend retreat; 2 beginner farmer demonstrations and networking field days; 4 webinars on growing and marketing specialty crops; and an on-farm greenhouse construction demonstration, from which a video will be produced and shared on UNH Extension website. Programs will also include education on Federal crop insurance products, including the use of crop insurance to manage risks, making decisions on appropriate crop insurance before sales closings and the effect crop insurance may have on other risk management decisions. Programs will target small farms and ranchers, beginning producers, and women producers, operating diverse enterprises. Kelly anticipates that producers will increase their knowledge and skills in the short-run, and strategically analyze and implement changes over time to improve their overall farm viability. Promotional efforts are carefully planned to reach the intended audience, including, websites, newsletters, news releases, social media, and emails.

14. Expanding Equity and Access with Individualized Coaching for Beginning, Socially Disadvantaged, and Specialty Crop Producers Underserved by Crop Insurance

Project Director: Niamh Shortt (niamh@futureharvest.org)
Co-Project Director: Samaria King (samaria@futureharvest.org)
Future Harvest, Inc.
Amount: $83,292

Few beginning, socially disadvantaged, and specialty crop producers in the mid-Atlantic region are served by crop insurance. By expanding the highly reviewed Pick-Your-Own Consultant Program with new categories of producers and consultants, and by fine-tuning program implementation, Future Harvest will help producers in our network understand if they qualify for insurance programs and, in the meantime, mitigate all five areas of risk. Thirty new producers will participate in 20 or more hours of one-on-one consulting for a total of 600 hours of free expert services. And more than 500 Future Harvest members will receive a one-pager on crop insurance options available to them.

Participating producers – with a focus on socially disadvantaged, beginning, and specialty crop producers – will work with agricultural business experts, marketing professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, and other experts of their choosing for one-on-one consulting sessions. Participating producers will receive coaching on at least one of their business’s main vulnerabilities and gain an improved analysis of and plan to address said risks.

This new program iteration allows the project team to expand the list of BIPOC consultants, increase farmer awareness of this resource, improve and streamline program implementation, and educate more farmers on crop insurance options.

15. Fostering Regionalized Crop Insurance and Risk Management Education for New York Farmers through Cornell Cooperative Extension

Project Director: Katelyn Walley-Stoll (kaw249@cornell.edu)
Co-Project Director: Nicole Tommell (nt375@cornell.edu)
Cornell University
Amount: $98,091

Farming is a risky business, and meeting the risk management educational needs of New York State’s agricultural community requires customized, regionalized, and connective programs to meet the unique needs of those traditionally underserved by crop insurance. The project, while multi-faceted, is advantageously positioned to deliver low-cost, high-quality, research-based programming to underserved NYS farmers through our outstanding Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) system in a variety of ways. The project focuses on the risk management topics of crop insurance, record keeping, and farm diversification. CCE will connect with a diverse target audience, which includes dairy and livestock producers who have traditionally low rates of crop insurance utilization; underserved commercial grape producers; beginning farmers; members of the Latinx community; and farmers diversifying their business. In addition, this project will increase awareness of crop insurance options, improve record keeping, help businesses plan for diversification, and improve overall farm risk management. These overarching themes and results tie together the immense, state-wide project – unifying 8 different regional CCE programs. The project team will use experience, proven best management practices, a keen eye on program development for successful transfer of learning, and responsive programming to reach the goals. Katelyn and team estimates reaching a minimum of 8,000 farmers through the variety of projects.

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

Project Director: Suzy Hodgson (suzy.hodgson@uvm.edu)
Co-Project Director: Heather Darby (heather.darby@uvm.edu)
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.