Source: TEXAS STATE UNIVERSITY submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
May 15, 2018
Project End Date
May 14, 2020
Grant Year
Project Director
Mix, K.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
Small farmers have been largely neglected as marginal producers, however, with the declining number of farmers and the need to reinvigorate the farming community with young, new and innovative producers (typically small producers) we see this project as an opportunity to meet many of the needs facing agriculture in Texas. The project will identify and serve the needs of small producers based on stakeholder focus groups, surveys and each year a conference will occur to present speakers that will address the needs that were identified through the surveys and focus groups. In 2012, the value of all agricultural products sold by producers with less than $50,000 annually in sales was nearly $1.5 billion and included over 500,000 (or half a million) farms. This project's main goal is to help small producers become economically successful and possibly increase their scale of production. Thus, the outcome will be more economically stable, better educated and supported, and ultimately a few larger, producers.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
Texas has the greatest number of Hispanic, African-American, and beginning farmers of any state. This is not surprising given the size of the state of Texas. Many of these farmers (Hispanic, African-American and beginning farmers) are small producers of various agricultural commodities, whether fruits and vegetables or animal-based products. Texas has the second largest veteran population of any state, at about 1.6 million. Hispanic producers have increased 21% in Texas from 2005 to 2012, while the growing consumer population of Central Texas is driving upward demand for locally sourced and organic products.These socially disadvantaged farmers (Hispanic, African-American, along with small numbers of Asian American and Native American farmers) have not fared well. For example, Pigford v Glickman as a court case has demonstrated the historical inadequacies of government supported agricultural information and loan systems in supporting African Americans. The case found that there was historic discrimination in applying for USDA loans and services.* There is a need to reach out, serve and understand the needs of small producers in the region, many of whom are in the historically socially disadvantaged group Eastern Portion of Texas.Several research efforts have supported these findings and reveal similar consistencies among the needs of Hispanic, Black and veteran farmers.* It was found that several areas of extension service need to be improved upon to be able to address small, alternative and sustainable agriculture; increase risk management education in the context of novel opportunity or early adoption; and provide better education and opportunity to federal and state services and funding so as to better serve this community.Given that veterans are more likely to become entrepreneurs or small business owners than civilians based on data from the Small Business Administration, and 10% of the veteran labor force in Texas is self-employed, there are agricultural business and entrepreneurship educational needs of veterans. More than 80% of military veteran farmers want more access to technical assistance in the form of one-on-one assistance; over 50% requested more financial, business, marketing and production help.* Texas State Supporting Small Producers (TSSSP) addresses the needs of veteran entrepreneurial farmers to gain the skills needed to create viable, sustainable enterprises to meet a rapidly-growing demand for fresh, organic, locally-produced vegetables and fish in Central Texas.Our own awareness of on-farm and small market sales (i.e. farmers markets and other similar venues) has led to our work in building educational, technical assistance, and networking opportunities in Central Texas. We have conducted two rounds of needs assessments on small scales with a number of stakeholders. We received a 2501 grant (just wrapping up), (Reaching Underserved Rural Agricultural Latinos and Veterans). We provided technical assistance through a series of webinars, a comprehensive communications hub, and a small producers conference earlier in 2017. We reached some 200 individuals through our efforts, which included providing paid scholarships to attend our conference for a number of attendees. With the TSSSP program, we aim to continue and expand our work with small producers, thus enhancing the capacity of Texas State University to provide information, technical support, and other opportunities needed by small producers.The needTexas has 464,180 farms with under $10,000 annual sales in the market value of agricultural products sold, which comprise some $398 million in sales annually (2012 USDA Census of Agriculture). Those farms with annual sales between $10,000 and $50,000 include another 47,286 farms and $1.039 billion in sales. In 2012, the value of all agricultural products sold by producers with less and $50,000 annually in sales was nearly $1.5 billion and included over 500,000 farms. By including all farms with under $50,000 in sales annually, we include 89% of all farms in Texas.While many of these farms engage in direct sales, they also are involved in wholesale sales of products for human consumption and products not for human consumption. We believe there are a number of individuals who are unaccounted for, who we consider to be emergent farmers. While they can be considered beginning farmers in many cases, they might include those who make occasional sales of surplus products from back yards and other small plots of land. There are also individuals who have recently acquired land "in the country", which they may use for rental, or engage in small scale production. Whether the production on these small plots is used for family or for sales, there is still production occurring.These small producers are typically engaged in multiple income-producing activities, whether also conducting other business activities or employed elsewhere and thus, do not always engage in typical farmer social settings and information events. We have had success in reaching out by videoconference and planning a short workshop, gathering this audience. Conferences help support both the information and networking needs of these small farmers. In a conference, farmers meet others like them, and learn from those with different experiences, as well as learning advanced techniques presented by experts.Illustrating a growing market for locally sourced and organic agricultural products, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that the population in the four metro areas of Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston increased by more than 400,000 people from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2015. Given that Central Texas is one of the fastest growing regions in the country, there are growing consumer-driven opportunities upon which small diversified farmers should capitalize. Given many farmers in our target group are beginning and small producers, accessing land and sustaining business in commodity markets remain a challenge.Goal:The Goal of TSSSP is to leverage the trends in Central Texas to enable small producers to access the growing market for local, organic, and sustainably-produced agricultural products.Objectives:1. Develop an advisory team of small producer stakeholders, which can serve to advise the university's agricultural programs as well as advise and inform our small producers conference and educational opportunities (already begun; will include members from governmental, non-profit/NGO, and producers).2. Develop a series of webinars on topics identified through a small producer needs assessment already underway. Such topics of importance to include soil health/management and financial matters. These webinars will be 1-1.5 hours in length and will be advertised on social media and our webpage.3. Develop a comprehensive communications hub, to include a webpage, Twitter account, and Facebook account, building on previous efforts around Small Producers. The webpage will host relevant information, links, and videos from webinars.4. Network with small producers and encourage small producers to network with one another and buyers via relevant online means, local events such as farmers markets, and regional groups to include TOFGA, NCAT, and FARFA. Networking will allow us to build an e-mail contact list for events, opportunities, and information.5. Hold two annual small producers conferences in 2018 and 2019 to be hosted at Texas State University. We will plan speakers for 2-3 days of conference relevant to the needs identified form small producers in previous surveys and our advisory group.6. Survey small producers to continue building a comprehensive needs assessment and build contacts. These surveys will help to identify necessary barriers to production and educational/information/outreach needs. These will be used to drive future programming.*Note: references are removed from text; may be found in Project Narrative and Bibliography of Proposal #2017-09207.
Project Methods
We began with a small producer stakeholder meeting in August 2015. From this, we gathered a set of expert stakeholders from organizations around the state interested in small producers, such as Texas Organic Farmer and Gardener Association (TOFGA), Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA), the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and the Texas Department of Agriculture. This group assisted us in understanding the need for further conferences and outreach events and gave us a list of topics of need to work from.We conducted a needs assessment survey at our small producers' conference in August 2017. We are continuing to analyze the results of over 70 producer surveys.We asked small producers about their most pressing challenges as small producers and the topics on which they need more development. This important input from small producers assists us in directing the programming we propose. This needs assessment has been deployed to a wider audience of small producers and we await those results.We will be carrying out a number of activities that we have done before on a small scale, including social media communications, utilization of an advisory group, networking with relevant local and regional groups and farmers, planning and evaluating a conference, and holding webinars. We know these techniques have worked in the past to reach out to small producers. We will continue to refine our methods to reach out to these farmers and continue to attend local and regional events networking to gain participants, both small producers and organizations interested in small producers.We will develop and initiate a comprehensive communications hub, to include a webpage, Twitter account, and Facebook account, building on previous efforts around Small Producers. The webpage will host relevant information, links, and videos from webinars.We will network with organizations to reaffirm shared goals and project and network with small producers via relevant online means, local events such as farmers markets, and regional groups to include TOFGA, NCAT, and FARFA. The networking will allow us to build an e-mail contact list for events, opportunities, and information. We have already begun to develop an advisory team of stakeholders in small production in Texas, which can serve to advise the university's agricultural programs as well as inform our small producers' conference and educational opportunities. We will continue to refine this team by holding online and face-to-face meetings. Additional members from governmental, non-profit/NGO, and producers will be added.We will hold two annual small producers conferences and develop a series of four webinars which will reach out to small farmers. These events will be on topics of importance, including soil health/management and financial matters, identified by small producers in previous surveys and by the advisory group. Stakeholders, such as farmers who have successful experiences with particular production techniques, and expert speakers selected from agencies will be used in implementing the conferences and webinars by being speakers and participating in the execution of the events.Stakeholders have already been involved in determining initial programming needs. These needs will be confirmed with our advisory group prior to building a topics list and deciding on speakers for the first conference.Pre-post evaluation instruments will be developed for use prior to and after each of the conferences and webinars to be completed by small producers. Surveys of small producers who attend the conference and webinars and those who are in our contact group will be conducted after each event to identify necessary barriers to production and educational/information/outreach needs. Additionally, surveys will be matched by an ID so that change in knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes around being a small producer at that time may be identify. We will be asking questions around knowledge, perceptions of programs, and attitudes around being a small producer.At the initial meeting with the evaluator, we will develop an open evaluation process plan, set expectations, clarify/build instruments. After each conference and webinar held, we will work with the evaluator for continued comprehensive program evaluation, an analysis of the data and feedback, and to tabulate evaluation and needs assessment. Our own evaluation instruments for the conference and webinars will also address the way in which we are reaching out and engaging small producers (not just the actual quality of the webinar or conference).After each stage of the evaluation, we will meet and communicate with our advisory board regarding the data analysis and interpretation, any findings and suggestions for improvement of the events, overall project and plans based on the analysis and interpretation.The needs assessment will be used to drive future programming topics, while the evaluation process will be used to inform us about the effectiveness of the program format, outreach, and topic choices.