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A Common Field: A Whole Farm Management Education Program for Beginning Farmers Project Summary
A. L. Meyer , J.L. Hunter
Department of Agricultural Economics
A Common Field: A Whole Farm Management Education Program for Beginning Farmers is designed to provide a basic foundation of production, marketing, management, and networking skills that will give beginning farmers an opportunity to succeed in today challenging agricultural economy. This project is a Standard BFRDP with a focus on whole farm planning using production and management strategies, and business management and decision support strategies to enhance the long-term viability of beginning farmers.
The program will be designed as a tool that can be used for all beginning farmers. The project will focus on farmers who are completely new to the industry, as well as individuals who have some knowledge of agriculture but are first time farmers. Participants will engage in a two year program. The first sessions of the program will focus on management and planning, intertwined with production information to keep the farmers engaged. The middle sessions will focus on production skills, selected according to each individual farm plan, which will include hands-on training. The final sessions will focus on mentoring and actual implementation of the plans created in earlier sessions.
After completing the program, beginning farmers will have a basic foundation in production skills, marketing skills, and management skills on which to build their farming operation. Along with that knowledge base, the beginning farmers will also have a mentor and a network of resources to access grants, educational programs, and other resources for improvements in their operation. Each participant who completes the training program will have a proposed farm plan, along with implementation needs. This will include plans for financing, land acquisition/access and further technical training.
Finally, to encourage the producer network, a quarterly newsletter will be developed and focused specifically on beginning farmers. A sampling of topics could include: FSA and NRCS program reminders, marketing updates, recordkeeping tips, and so forth. A sub-goal of the project is institutional change after the funding is finished, we expect our comprehensive Kentucky extension system to have an enhanced ability to move beginning farmers into the category of those operating sustainably.
2010 Project Description
Outputs: Outputs in the project's logic model are listed as -
- face to face educational sessions,
- on-farm demonstrations,
- on-line curriculum,
- KSU small farms conferences
Demographics: Socially disadvantaged: 37 (29%) Limited Resource: 21 (16%) Farm Workers 83 (64%) Females: 36 (28%) Currently Farming: 100 (78%) Less than one year in farming: 30 (23%) Total: 129 participants in four groups in 15 of Kentucky's 120 counties.
Face to Face: Four multi-county programs were implemented during the first year.
* Anderson, Fayette, Franklin, Jessamine, Mercer and Woodford counties (Ky River Area)- 47 participants
* Pulaski, Wayne and Russell Counties (Cumberland River, 25 participants)
* Davies and Henderson Counties - Green River Area (30 participants)
* Scott, Harrison, Bourbon and Nicholas counties - N. Bluegrass area (27 participants)
Topics included: Resource and Nutrient Management, Water Quality Plans, Farm Estate Planning Forage/Livestock Field Day Farmstead and Natural Resource Inventory - Financing Your Operation Farm and Legal Risk Sustainable Farm Living Small poultry Flocks Bee Keeping Enterprise evaluation, Budgeting Small Ruminant Production Forage Production Vineyard and Winery Animal composting Business Plans Land Use Planning Beef Production Technology
Field Days - Each included at least three field day to provide experiential learning opportunities. Topics included: Commercial Vegetable and Fruit Production and Agritourism Small Ruminant Production and Forage Production Farm Safety (PTO, Sun, Chainsaw, ATV, Water, Mower) Cattle backgrounding and Grazing; Young Orchard; Vineyard and Winery
On-Line Curriculum: Web Site: www.ca.uky.edu/KyFarmStart A web site has been designed and launched. It includes self-paced lessons which are designed to be a supplement as well as a replacement to the face to face classroom setting that is provided throughout the state at county extension offices. We understand that sometimes the best time to study and research is closer to midnight and this is one alternative to the county extension office setting.
Why do I want to farm Mission, Goals and Tactics - Coming Soon! Establishing the reason that you want to farm will be key in determining your enterprise selection, marketing strategies, and business plan. Identifying your personal farm mission, goals, and tactics to achieve your goals allows you the opportunity to clearly identify why you want to farm.
What do I want to farm PRIMER (currently available) Identifying a viable farm enterprise will build upon the management skills and strategies from the previous chapter. Your current access to land, labor, and financial resources will greatly influence your enterprise. Clearly thinking through your enterprise selection on paper prior to implantation can help you evaluate the potential for success. Modules in the early stages of development include: soils, woodlot management, environmental considerations and farm business planning
Kentucky State University Small Farm Conference: All participants have been invited to attend. The program will include sessions targeted to beginning farmers.
The target audience over the three years is 250 participants. There were 129 of the target in the first year of the program. Agent interest in the program has increased, and we expect to support seven to ten groups in year two and significantly exceed the goal of 250 participants.
The planned outcome, (from the logic model in the proposal), "Participants will increase knowledge and skills in the areas of external resources, enterprise management, production strategies, production requirements, marketing, inventory of resources, and management." All of the groups covered the topics for the planned outcomes in specific sessions. We have developed an evaluation instrument which will focus on behavior change immediately following the each group's last session (only one is finished as of 15 October 2010) and after one year.
One specific, short term outcome is that one group has organized a trip to the Chicago Board of Trade to continue and expand their learning about marketing strategies.