Alabama Vegetable IPM program receives funding to help underserved farmers

From the Alabama IPM Communicator

By Ayanava Majumdar, Extension Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension

Without a consistent commercial vegetable production education program for many years, Alabama was ranked at the bottom when it came to production levels in sustainable agriculture and organic small farms. Alabama small producers needed up-to-date pest management information and constant training for preventing significant yield losses. Early grants (since 2009) from the Organic Agriculture Research and Education Initiative, Extension IPM, and the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program helped specialists create an IPM educational campaign that they delivered to the entire state. Regional Extension Agents and County Extension Coordinators worked hard to organize training events, distribute training materials, and spread the word. With this solid start, Alabama is now on the path to increasing fruit and vegetable production on small farms. Impacts of the first five years of the IPM project have been tremendous.

In 2015, the Alabama Extension Vegetable IPM program received a large grant from the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program to create and sustain a statewide educational infrastructure, develop electronic and print publications, and producer networks in cooperation with nonprofit and producer organizations. This funding puts special emphasis on the training of low resource farmers in underserved communities and military veterans interested in specialty crop production. The Alabama Indian Affairs Commission and the Department of Veteran Affairs have been participating in this project as collaborators and have been very helpful.

With tremendous team work and collaboration, the Extension team has just released the Alabama Beginning Farms website . Information on the website includes quick access to publications for beginning farmers, training videos, and online resources offered by Extension and their collaborators. The team is developing an electronic curriculum for producers that will provide basic and advanced self-paced learning opportunities on crop production, pest management, business development, food safety and marketing topics. Producers will be required to create a one-time login so that individuals can monitor their progress and fully benefit with online training – it will be almost like watching Netflix for Farmers!

The team has also recently upgraded the vegetable IPM website with an easy web address – bookmark www.aces.edu/vegetableipm today. Since online videos seem to be a very popular source of information for producers, we have added many new IPM videos to the website. New training modules online include trap crops for yellowmargined leaf beetle management, trap cropping for squash insect pests and high tunnel pest exclusion system as a new IPM strategy. Many IPM videos include producer testimonials. These videos are suitable for basic and advanced level producers and gardeners.

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