Search for Excellence in Young, Beginning, or Small Farmers/Ranchers

Tatiana Sanchez
Commercial Horticulture Agent
UF/IFAS Extension

Athearn, K.*1, , Sanchez, M.T.*2,
1 Regional Specialized Agent, Rural Agribusiness Development, UF/IFAS Extension, Live Oak, FL,
2 Commercial Horticulture Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL, 32609

Most clients who approach extension with the intention to start a new farm have little or no experience in running an agricultural enterprise. Besides needing the skills to produce agricultural products, they need to know the business and regulatory side of farming. Business-related education, tailored to farming, is needed to serve these aspiring and beginning farmers. Objective: To increase beginning farmer business-related knowledge and skills, encourage adoption of recommended business practices, and assist them in starting or expanding successful farm businesses. Methods: We developed educational materials and designed three extension short courses: Starting a Farm, Farm Business Planning, and Marketing for Your Small Farm. Initially offered as face-to-face workshops (2019), all three courses were delivered twice virtually (2020-2021). Each virtual short course included a two-week asynchronous online component and a two-hour live Zoom meeting. Learning activities included video presentations, farmer case-study videos, group discussion, worksheets, invited expert speakers, and Q&A sessions. We collaborated with several other institutions, including Farm Credit of Florida, Small Business Development Center, Florida A&M University, Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement, Feeding Florida, and Alachua County Farm-to-School. Evaluation: Qualtrics was used to collect evaluation data, MS Excel was used for analysis and email and phone calls were used to follow up. Results: Total series participation was 175. Exit survey evaluation results indicated average knowledge gain per course ranging from 54% to 57%. Ninety-eight to 100% of participants gained knowledge based on before-and-after knowledge ratings. Between 89% and 96% of respondents were very or extremely confident in being able to perform skills after the course, and between 88% and 100% of respondents intended to adopt one or more recommended practices. One hundred percent of respondents from all courses were very or extremely satisfied. ImpactAfter following up with participants from the first two face-to-face workshops, we learned that at least five participants adopted a recommended practice and at least four started or expanded an agricultural business since attending the course. This ag entrepreneurship series is helping beginning farmers improve their business-related knowledge and skills, adopt recommended practices, and successfully start or expand agricultural enterprises.