Meeting the Need
||John Mullins, co-owner of
John Boy's Plants and Produce in Stickleyville, Va., specializes
in heirloom tomatoes and sweet peppers co-marketed by Appalachian
Harvest, a co-op formed with help from the nonprofit Appalachian
Sustainable Development (ASD).
Photo courtesy of ASD.
Many educators have found innovative ways to help limited-resource
producers. Their successes are a testament to the possibilities.
The examples that follow range, literally, all over the map, but
they share at least one commonality the project leaders developed
a set of local strategies to solve local problems. Such strategies
may be easier for nonprofit organizations to carry out than extension
educators, who may be limited by time and agency directives, but
a little bit of creativity can go a long way.
Some of their strategies
Identifying the real
barriers. The obstacles might range from finding child care to obtaining
transportation. Help producers get to your educational events.
Creating effective materials.
Provide materials that are designed with appropriate literacy levels in
mind. John OSullivan of NC A&T recalls that a brochure he created
had too fine a print. When he re-printed in a larger format, it was much
in developing programs. Talk to your end users about what they need
and how they like to learn.
You make commitments and you honor them, said Craig Mapel,
a marketing specialist with the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.
Say youre going to do something and do it.
Anthony Flaccavento and his colleagues at Appalachian Sustainable Development
work informally and collegially with their farmers. Were very
hands on, and they know I farm, said Flaccavento, whose staff helped
build a packing shed. To a lot of these farmers, this was a surprise.
We didnt give advice and leave we did it together.
Going one-on-one in training
settings. This strategy avoids teacher-centered approaches. The
most significant impact weve had is working with farmers one-on-one,
said Dean Purnell of Delaware State University. Thats been
the most effective because we can tailor our programming to each farmers
the producers out on the farm. In California, ALBAs Small Farmer
Education Program combines classroom instruction with field experiences
five months of classroom agronomy, organic farming practices and
business administration, followed by seven months of farming half an acre.
Tapping community leaders to run programs. Using paraprofessionals,
volunteers and specially trained people to teach members of their
own community might win over individuals suspicious of traditional
Delaware State University small farm program specialists literally
knock on doors. Be careful the first time you meet a farmer
how you treat him or her, said Dean Purnell of DSU. Build
a relationship where they trust you enough to know that if you
recommend they take a look at something, they value your opinion
enough to do so.
Use a group that already serves the clientele (i.e. neighborhood
organizations, churches, social groups/clubs).
Seek key individuals who know many people in the area. Mike
Jones, who coordinates a North
Carolina project establishing small-scale hog operations, is
called the pig whisperer because of his empathy
with animals. People trust him, too. Its something
Im passionate about, he said. We want to create
a program thats beneficial to small farmers.
||Go where they go.
In Ohios stretch of Appalachia, county fairs are a great
way to meet rural growers. Weve got lifetime residents
of that township at the fair, talking to people they know,
said Colin Donohue of Rural Action, which is based in Trimble,
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