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Shifting gears

For the next year, beginning October 1, 2014, I will be stepping back from day-to-day program delivery and management to focus more deeply on the areas of direct marketing and labor management as they impact small and medium-sized farms. Specifically I will be working on some new decision-making tools farmers can use to determine their optimal market mix and labor needs to attain their business goals.

One of the activities I’m looking forward to is the opportunity to talk with consumers about how their purchasing decisions have changed over time, the role of social media in their decision making, and what attributes of locally produced farm products are important to them.

This year of study starts with the opportunity to attend the 2014 Slow Food Terra Madre and Salone del Gusto in Torino, Italy. This biennial event draws individuals from all over the world who are passionate about good, clean and fair food for the world’s largest food and wine fair, Salone del Gusto, and the concurrent world meeting of food communities, Terra Madre. Those that know my passion for farmers’ markets can probably guess how excited I am about this opportunity!

Learn more about the Ark of Taste and the movement to preserve unique foods in this video.

 

Having the gift of a year to focus on these areas of interest is a wonderful benefit of my work and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity. But sabbaticals do leave holes that need to be filled. My leave would not happen without all of my fabulous UVM Extension co-workers, starting with Beth Holtzman and Heidi Krantz, who will be picking up many of my responsibilities during my absence. Keep an eye here for some updates on my adventures!

Ag Biz Management Tools

Some worksheets that I use in my workshops for new farmers. If they are useful I invite you to use them:

SMART Goals Planning Worksheet

 

All universities engage in research and teaching, but the nation’s more than 100 land-grant colleges and universities, have a third critical mission—extension. “Extension” means “reaching out,” and—along with teaching and research—land-grant institutions “extend” their resources, solving public needs with college or university resources through non-formal, non-credit programs.

These programs are largely administered through thousands of county and regional extension offices, which bring land-grant expertise to the most local of levels. And both the universities and their local offices are supported by NIFA, the federal partner in the Cooperative Extension System (CES). NIFA plays a key role in the land-grant extension mission by distributing annual Congressionally appropriated formula grants to supplement state and county funds. NIFA affects how these formula grants are used through national program leadership to help identify timely national priorities and ways to address them.

Congress created the extension system nearly a century ago to address exclusively rural, agricultural issues. At that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming. Extension’s engagement with rural America helped make possible the American agricultural revolution, which dramatically increased farm productivity:

In 1945, it took up to 14 labor-hours to produce 100 bushels of corn on 2 acres of land.

By 1987, it took just under 3 labor-hours to produce that same 100 bushels of corn on just over 1 acre.

In 2002, that same 100 bushels of corn were produced on less than 1 acre.

That increase in productivity has allowed fewer farmers to produce more food.

Fewer than 2 percent of Americans farm for a living today, and only 17 percent of Americans now live in rural areas. Yet, the extension service still plays an important role in American life—rural, urban, and suburban. With its unprecedented reach—with an office in or near most of the nation’s approximately 3,000 counties—extension agents help farmers grow crops, homeowners plan and maintain their homes, and children learn skills to become tomorrow’s leaders.

Despite the decline in the population and and economic importance of rural America , the national Cooperative Extension System remains an important player in American life. It increasingly addresses urban, suburban, in addition to rural issues, and it has responded to information technology changes in America by developing a national Web presence.