Empowering Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers to In...

Empowering Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers to Investigate Nitrogen Management in High-Value Vegetable Crops

Empowering Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers to Investigate Nitrogen Management in High-Value Vegetable Crops

Harkleroad

The Challenge

The Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) provides educational and business opportunities for farm workers and aspiring farmers to grow and sell crops grown on two organic farms in Monterey County, California. According to Nathaniel Harkleroad, ALBA’s Ag Education program manager, in 2011 farmers in that county produced 23,800 tons of kale on 1,944 acres, with farmer sales reaching nearly $18,000,000; 5,310 tons of cilantro were produced on 1,309 acres, with farmer sales of over $4,200,000. In 2013 ALBA farmers were on track to plant an estimated 100 acres of organic kale and cilantro each year. However, there was little guidance available regarding nitrogen (N) fertilization management practices for these crops, especially using organic farming methods. Because of this lack of guidance and the uncertainties regarding organic N fertility in general, farmers rely on good observation, on-farm experimentation, and their years of experience to optimize N fertilization. Simultaneously, due to concerns about nitrate contamination of water, farmers are facing increased accountability of total N applied. Harkleroad developed the Western SARE Professional + Producer project, Empowering Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers to Investigate Nitrogen Management in High-Value Vegetable Crops (OW13-062), with the goal that ten socially-disadvantaged (SDA) farmers would improve their capacity to frame, ask, and answer questions related to their crop production challenges. Specifically, these farmers would investigate improving N fertilization management for organic kale and cilantro crops by conducting basic on-farm research.

Searching for a Solution

The projects objectives were: 

  • Educate 80 SDA farmers and agricultural professionals on conducting on-farm research and nutrient management through workshops and field demonstrations.
  • Provide direct technical assistance (200 hours) to ten ‘core’ SDA farmers on implementing an experimental design related to N fertilization for organic kale and cilantro production and directly engage these same farmers in the project development, implementation, and outcomes.
  • Provide informational materials to 500+ SDA farmers and agricultural professionals to raise awareness of ways to engage SDA farmer community in solving their own production.

Outcomes

According to Harkleroad, nine ‘core’ SDA farmers conducted field trials on N fertilization rates with kale and cilantro, with 100+ SDA, beginning, and aspiring farmers and agricultural professionals receiving workshop trainings on performing basic on-farm research and specific techniques for better N management. Informational materials were disseminated to a further 500+ SDA farmers and agricultural professionals. Workshops held included Innovation and Experimentation and Organic Nutrient Management. A field day on nitrogen management in cilantro was also held, with participants observing replicated treatments in ALBA’s demonstration field.

Two adaptive research reports, one on kale and one on cilantro, were published (please see final report to download these publications).

Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) OW13-062, Empowering Socially-Disadvantaged Farmers to Investigate Nitrogen Management in High-Value Vegetable Crops .

Product specs
Location: West
 

2016 Annual Report

For the first time, we are sharing a yearly snapshot of our work. The stories provided here typify the creative, participatory and integrated research Western SARE annually funds – led by land grant institution researchers and graduate students, Extension and other ag professionals, and nonprofit leaders in full partnership with producers.