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Small Farms

NIFA Contributions to Small Farmers Noted

The USDA report “Meeting the Challenge of A Time To Act, Assisting America's Small Farmers and Ranchers in the 21st Century” noted NIFA's contributions for small farmers as follows:

Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (NIFA)

NIFA has a full-time national program leader (NPL) for small farms who provides leadership to improve small farm operations throughout the United States and its territories via partnerships and collaborations with the Land-Grant University System and other public and private sectors, including farmers, community-based organizations, foundations, and others. NIFA works closely with a national network of small farm program leaders through the Land-Grant University System and with USDA agency small farm program specialists to ensure that the USDA/NIFA small farm program and policies respond to current small farm issues and the recommendations of the National Small Farms Commission cited in the A Time to Act report. NIFA continues to increase outreach activities aimed at helping small farmers and ranchers improve the economic viability of their small farms and ranches. Activities in 2000 and 2001 include:

  • Planning the 3rd National Small Farm Conference. During 2000-2001, NIFA took the lead in planning the 3rd National Small Farm Conference held September 17-21, 2002, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The focus of the conference was strengthening partnerships and linkages among federal, state, and local entities that serve small farmers and ranchers. New Mexico State University was the land-grant university helping NIFA coordinate conference logistics and programming. USDA agencies with small farm programs or with information beneficial to small farmers were conference sponsors.

  • AgrAbility Program Offers Farm Safety Information. Nationwide since 1991, the AgrAbility Program, given national leadership by NIFA, has provided assistance to more than 12,000 farmers/workers with disabilities, trained 10,000 farm professionals, and provided disability educational awareness at more than 1,000 events. Efforts to increase 1890 institution involvement in the program during 2000 included travel funds for faculty to attend on November 10, 2001, the largest national AgrAbility conference ever held. The conference built partnerships between NIFA and other USDA agencies to better provide services to disabled farmers and farm workers. NIFA also provided funding to four institutions to implement AgrAbility programs.

  • The NIFA Small Farm Program Hotline. The NIFA Small Farm Program's toll-free hotline (1-800-583-3071) handles an average of 15 calls per day. Half of the requests are for farm loan program information and are referred to the appropriate USDA office, such as the Farm Service Agency or Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program. Other calls for technical assistance are referred to an appropriate State Cooperative Extension Service specialist within the statewide network with whom NIFA works closely in disseminating information to help farmers nationwide. The NIFA Small Farms Program is housed within the Economic and Community Systems Unit.

  • National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Certification Program. Pennsylvania State University and The Ohio State University received a NIFA grant in 2001 to develop a National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Certification Program for Youth. A lack of current teaching aids, uniform testing standards, and knowledge of the Hazardous Occupations Order for Agriculture training requirements justified the need for this grant. The 4-year project will develop and evaluate instructional materials as well as testing, evaluation, and certification procedures, and it will offer instructor training to establish and maintain the National Program.

  • Kentucky State University Programs Help Small Farmers with Marketing. Kentucky State University extension staff targeted the state's 59,000 limited-resource small farmers with a personalized production, marketing, and sustainable management information program in 1999-2001. Many cooperating farmers doubled their annual net farm income by an average of $10,000 by implementing recordkeeping and sustainable practices. Through the University's Small Farmer Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Project, Mennonite and Amish farmers were helped to establish the Fairview Produce Auction, Inc. The auction generated higher produce prices in local markets, realizing $100,000 in sales during 1997 and $250,000 in 1998 for 33 grower members. NIFA works in close partnership with State Small Farm Program Coordinators in the land-grant system to help small farmers remain economically viable.

  • University of California Small Farm Program Helps Small Producers with New Crops. Members of the Small Farm Workshop at the University of California Small Farm Program focused on new crops for California during 2000-2001. Over the last several years, NIFA has provided training to approximately 10,000 farm professionals, and conducted disability educational awareness sessions at more than 100 events. Successful research trials on adapting blueberries to the various ecosystems in California have been under way from Sonoma to San Diego, spawning an explosive growth of several hundred acres in new blueberry plantings. Substantial portions of these acres are on small farms. It is expected that more acreage in California will be planted with blueberries as research results are adopted.

  • NIFA Helps Sponsor Marketing Conference for Limited Resource Farmers in California. NIFA helped sponsor and participated in “The Markets, Tools, and Opportunities for Limited-Resource Farmers” Conference in Modesto, CA, October 31- November 2, 2000. Staff at the NIFA Small Farm Program exhibit booth exchanged information with many of the 200 growers and other participants, including Hmong and Hispanic growers from California.

  • National Black Farmers Association Conference 2000. The NIFA NPL for small farms moderated a session on “Farming for Our Next Generation” at the National Black Farmers' Association Conference 2000: “Exploring the Future of Today's Farmer—What Works” held August 24-25, 2000, in Richmond, VA. Information was shared with many limited-resource farmers, staff, and officials who work with small farmers; landowners; farm workers; state conservation district representatives; Cooperative Extension specialists; vocational agricultural Instructors; farm cooperative managers; rural church leaders; community-based organization leaders; and other farm advocates who visited the NIFA Small Farm Program exhibit.

  • Agricultural Marketing Outreach Workshop. The NIFA Small Farm Program staff participated at the Agricultural Marketing Outreach Workshop—“Marketing: The Last Link In The Chain,” held April 11-13, 2000, in Memphis, TN. NIFA information was shared with a diverse group of limited-resource farmers and other attendees. A NIFA Small Farm Program exhibit booth offered an opportunity for program staff to talk one-on-one with farmers and extension small farm specialists.

  • 14th Annual Small Farms Week at North Carolina A&T University. During the 14th Annual Small Farms Week at North Carolina A&T State held March 20-24, 2000, NIFA Small Farm Program staff participated in a “Successful Small Farming” teleconference session and gave concluding remarks at a “Women In Agriculture” seminar. The critical role women play in agriculture and society, and the expanding opportunities for women in agriculture, were a special focus of the event. Staff shared NIFA Small Farm Program information with farm families and extension staff who work closely with small farmers in North Carolina.

  • 108th Annual Farmers Conference. The NIFA NPL for small farms moderated a session, manned a NIFA Small Farm Program exhibit, and shared ideas with many limited-resource farmers from the Southern region, extension specialists, and others at the 108th Annual Farmers Conference at Tuskegee University, February 10-11, 2000. The Conference theme was “The Small Farmer: Survival Strategies for the New Century.”

  • NIFA Supports Small Farmers with Limited Resources. In March 2000, the NIFA staff participated in a “Successful Small Farming” teleconference session in North Carolina at a “Women in Agriculture” seminar.


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