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ASAN Newsletter Article 11-15

A group of Alabama Small Farm Stakeholder Organizations have committed to working together to enhance their collective impacts benefitting Alabama’s beginning farmers, thanks to a grant awarded by the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. Beginning farmers include any farmer with up to 10 years experience with the particular crop(s) they are producing. Along with ASAN, partner organizations include Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), the Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (AFVGA), Crotovina, and Farmscape Solutions. A variety of resources, technology, and technical assistance will be provided to beginning farmers throughout the state to strengthen the local food systems. Two key approaches will be:

Technology Transfer and Learning in the Digital Age

Building on generations of experience and information, ACES is developing an on-line curriculum, complete with voluntary certification, complemented by a responsive new website and customizable IPM phone app for farmers. Bookmark the website www.aces.edu/beginningfarms for future reference! The e-curriculum will be a handy tool for all educators including those on incubator or teaching farms across Alabama. In addition to crop production, pest management, and food safety training topics, SSAWG is integrating their online tool, “Growing Farm Profits” into the curriculum’s Finance and Marketing Module. On-line learning opportunities will be accompanied by a variety of hands-on workshops, conferences and on-farm demonstrations.

Support Services

Farmscape Solutions and Crotovina will each have a dedicated staff person working with a core group of beginning farmers to provide individualized support. The staff person will network with partners around the state to build a long-term support team for each farm while helping new farmers overcome initial hurdles.  Project Partners will supply on-site training, based on participant farmer needs and individual comprehensive consultation to participating farmers. The first round of farmers has been selected, and a waiting list for farmers interested in getting started in the next group is being generated. New farmers will enter the program every six months.

Project partners will also focus on the wide variety of organizations, businesses, state agencies, and advocates that are working with new and beginning farmers in an effort to improve communication and collaboration. The first brainstorming meeting will be held in January 2016 in Montgomery.

Online tools and technical assistance will be provided free of charge to program participants. Over the next three years 70 beginning farmers will receive direct assistance, and hundreds will benefit indirectly from online curriculum, workshops and demonstrations.

If you are interested in participating in this program, North Alabama farmers contact Crotovina (Karen Wynne) at 256-520-2400, or karen@crotovina.com. South Alabama farmers contact Farmscape Solutions (Jayme Oates) at 334-740-8515, or jayme@farmscapesolutions.com. Project Leader and entomologist Ayanava Majumdar (251-331-8416 or azm0024@aces.edu) can be contacted for online content management and to know more about the commercial horticulture Extension programs.

 

Jayme Oates, Farmscape Solutions & Ayanava Majumdar, Ext. Entomologist

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