Craig Chase, Farm and Ag Management Field Specialist, Northeast Iowa
Many farmers continue to struggle to remain members of their chosen profession. Others are becoming more entrepreneurial in their operations to try to take advantage of new markets that are developing among consumers for certain foods, such as certified organic produce or humanely-raised meats. Those of us in Extension are often asked to provide assistance that is frequently beyond the knowledge and skills that currently exist among agricultural professionals. Indeed, because the needs of these farmers are outpacing abilities of the staff of the agencies and organizations who are suppose to be helping them, often these farmers do not even approach these staff because they believe they will not find help.
In an attempt to address this lack of knowledge and skills, a project titled "New Food and Farming Ventures" was developed. The specific components included a vast amount of resource information on production systems, marketing, and business planning. In all, 56 Extension and other agricultural professionals from three states received training. The project also developed a network to enable these participants to help each other and establish a core of committed and trained agricultural professionals who are working in concert to help farmers.
Evaluations were conducted following the training sessions indicating a majority of participants indicated they were "likely" to "very likely" to work on gathering information and helping clients with new ideas. These same participants indicated they would share the information they received with over 100 individuals in the first 3 months following training. Conferences on value added agriculture and alternative agriculture were offered in December 2004 and January 2005 by two workshop attendees. In addition, new businesses are being created. For example, one attendee worked with a new food venture culminating in the creation of a vegetable farm. Other businesses are starting and expanding as well.
ISU Extension and other agricultural professionals through training increased their knowledge and skills resulting in a higher comfort level working with new food and farming ventures. As a result, new food and farming businesses are starting and/or growing.
March 18, 2005
121 - Adding Value and Enhancing Agricultural Products, 4th (July - Sept)
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