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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Booneville, Arkansas » Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center » Research » Research Project #421558


Location: Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Provide fundamental tools for beginning farmers in sustainable agriculture. We will focus on the Southern Region, but our goal is to have a nation-wide impact. We will develop comprehensive training materials and outreach. Our objectives are: 1. Develop modular training material on integrated natural livestock and agroforestry systems, including specialized material for Hispanic immigrants and returning veterans. 2. Develop demonstration farm with integrated natural livestock and agroforestry systems for experiential learning. 3. Develop training components including workshops and internships, including specialized training for Hispanics and veterans. 4. Develop networks and custom mentoring on natural livestock/agroforestry production and marketing.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
We will develop on-line modular outreach/training materials on integrated natural livestock and agroforestry systems, including specialized material for Hispanic immigrants and returning veterans. The materials will be designed to be used in many ways: electronic self-study, formal educational curricula including: Whole farm planning: We will include material on feasibility and business planning, marketing, budgeting that beginning farmers can customize to their own individual agricultural enterprise. Legal issues such as licenses, contracts, ownership, liability, and contract issues will also be included. Natural livestock farming practices and agroforestry: We plan to include different modules that will cover basic grass farming practices such as: soil fertility and management, forage production, parasites, nutrition, pasture establishment, grazing management (rotational vs. continuous), watering systems. We will develop specific modules that cover sustainable livestock production, sheep and goat production (meat, milk, fiber), alternative pasture-based poultry production, as well as small-scale woodlot and agroforestry practices. Methods specific to certified organic production will be developed, including natural health management and organic feeds. As an integral part of our project we plan to develop a demonstration farm as a mean to provide beginning farmers and ranchers with a physical site to observe and perform concrete activities related to the planning, development, management, and maintenance of a whole farm agricultural enterprise. The farm will be located at the USDA, ARS Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Booneville, AR, with a smaller hands-on project for poultry in Fayetteville.

3. Progress Report:
In the last few decades, there has been a marked reduction in the number of family and small agricultural enterprises in this country. Unfortunately, high startup costs, high costs of inputs, and the lack of training tend to reduce the appeal of farming as a career. To help address this situation, we have developed a modular eLearning training program for beginning farmers and ranchers interested in poultry, sheep, and goats; agroforestry; and integrated farming operations. These topics were selected because they offer multiple low startup costs, high profit margins, and multiple marketing opportunities. Modules included in the program focus on topics such as: Whole farm planning, Small meat and/or egg poultry operations, Meat and fiber sheep production, Goat production (dairy, meat and fiber), Agroforestry, Pasture and grazing management, Farm ecological management practices, Farm safety, Sustainable and organic livestock production, Integrated farm operations, and Marketing. These modules have been developed as part of an asynchronous online training program. This program has been designed so that each beginning farmer can selected the specific learning modules that apply to his/her needs, and thus provide a customized learning experience for them. All these modules will be available free of charge through the website of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT-ATTRA), as well as incorporated into training sessions and workshops coordinated by all the participating institutions. This program is funded in part by the USDA-NIFA-BFRDP 2010-03143.

4. Accomplishments