The goal of the project is to encourage and assist limited-resource and socially-disadvantaged producers, veterans and ranchers to own, maintain and operate farms and ranches independently, to participate in agricultural programs and improve their overall farm management skills. The Small Farm Outreach Program provides a wide range of outreach and assistance activities in production management, financial management, marketing, available USDA farm programs, and other areas to increase farm profitability and promote sustainability. Currently, the program provides educational programming in approximately 53 Virginia counties. These selected counties have the highest concentrations of limited-resource veterans, and socially-disadvantaged farmers in the state.
Participation in the program is voluntary. Educational programs are offered free of charge, and are open to all farmers and families who are interested in receiving outreach and technical assistance. Farmers are recruited through referrals from FSA, community leaders, other farmers, phone calls, home/farm visits, direct mailing of brochures, and farm- related meetings.
Educational Programs Offered
Farm Business Management: Training and technical assistance are provided in all areas of business management which include: record keeping and analysis, farm planning, enterprise budgeting, financial management, marketing, and economics of alternative enterprises.
Agriculture Risk Management: Educational programming is used to teach farmers effective management strategies that will reduce or prevent some of the many risks they face. the farm operation. Risk Management Education and training covering the five major areas of risk (production, marketing, financial, legal and human resources) are provided via workshops, group meetings, one-on-one farm visits, newsletters, fact sheets and field days.
Loan and Grant Application Assistance:The program assists farmers in preparing applications for FSA direct and guaranteed loans. Assistance is also provided to beginning and minority farmers in preparing applications for obtaining farm ownership and operating loans, along with the required borrower training for these types of loans for FSA. Assistance is also provide for grant applications though Rural Development’s Renewable Energy for America (REAP)-grant and loan guarantee program, Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program and Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program.
Outreach: Another important aspect of the program is outreach. Through outreach efforts, farmers are provided information and technical assistance to ensure that they have access to all services available through USDA programs. Virginia State University collaborates with USDA agencies to achieve this goal. Predominantly minority community organizations, including religious organizations and key community leaders, are also utilized to reach socially disadvantaged farmers.
Since 2003, the College of Agriculture’s Mobile Computer Lab has been traveling statewide to remote, rural locations where Internet access is either limited or non-existent. Equipped with 12 laptop computers, a 42-inch plasma television and satellite capability, the lab takes university resources on the road directly to the people where they live and work. It’s used to teach computer classes to adults and provides experiential learning opportunities for youth. The lab has successfully taught business owners how to develop a business plan and farmers how to register to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program) from customers. The lab is also used at high schools throughout the state to teach students the importance of agriculture and help them prepare and register for college at Virginia State University.
Download the Mobile Computer Lab rules, regulations and application form and email to Troy Tucker at TTucker@vsu.edu. For more information on the Mobile Computer Lab, contact Troy Tucker at TTucker@vsu.edu or 804-720-6069.