Motivating Farmers to Attend Worthwhile Extension Programs

The itinerant teacher will be expected to give as much thought to the economic side of agriculture as he gives to the matter of larger acreage yields.

Congressman A.F. Lever of South Carolina,
US House of Representatives Report No. 110
creating Cooperative Extension Work, 1914

There’s a lot to chew on in Congressman Lever’s statement. With the creation of Cooperative Extension, Congress intended for educators to be mobile, traveling to farmers for the purpose of teaching the most economical methods of distribution as well as the best methods of production. There was an expectation that thought be given to what amounts to a curriculum for farmers. Following from that is the expectation that thought be given to how to motivate farmers to engage in programs that provide value to their lives and livelihood.

You might think that there is an easy, single answer to what motivates farmers to engage in worthwhile Extension programs: Profit. However, there’s more to it than that. In fact, we may be inadvertently presenting programming in ways that actually lead to disengagement.
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Farm Calls: Vegetable "Seed Saving" for Small Farms

This week a training coordinator from the Beginning Farmer Incubator asks,

“Does Rutgers Cooperative Extension have “seed saving” information or recommendations that you can share?”

Seed production involves choosing the right varieties for seed saving as well as possessing detailed information in harvesting, processing, and storage. These are not skills you can learn from a “fact sheet.” There’s a lot that can go wrong, resulting in wasted time and money. I recommend a comprehensive resource guide geared for farmers, gardeners, and agricultural professionals:
The Organic Seed Grower: A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production
(J. Navazio, 2012)
.
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Organic Farm Calls: Squash Vine Borer and IPM Thresholds

Squash Vine Borrer Injury

Squash Vine Borrer Injury

Recently, an organic grower with a variety of squash crops under low tunnels called Ag Agent Meredith Melendez about wilting plant symptoms. The various vine and bush varieties were decimated by squash vine borer (SVB) larvae root damage. Ornamental gourds were especially hard hit.
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Farm Calls: Which fruit crops are best suited for Pick-Your-Own?

Last week Meredith Melendez, Mercer County Ag Agent, fielded this question from a grower who currently runs an organic CSA and is considering adding PYO (pick-your-own) fruit to the farm’s portfolio.

Raspberries are a good option for PYO

Raspberries are a good option for PYO

Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agents, including the Agritourism Team, weigh in with specific answers and solid advice.
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