The Small Farmer Outreach, Training and Technical Assistance Project
Ntam Baharanyi, Bobby England, Bob Mants, Jeffrey Moore,
Miles D. Robinson, Nii Tackie, and Robert Zabawa
On March 1, 1993, Tuskegee University entered into a cooperative agreement with USDA/RECD (formerly Farmers Home Administration) creating the Small Farmer Outreach, Training and Technical Assistance Project to provide intensive training and management assistance to small-scale and limited resource farmers in selected Black Belt counties in Alabama.
The overall goal of the project is to directly improve the farm income and economic well-being of borrowers, socially disadvantaged and limited resource farmers, through increasing their production and financial management skills. The project staff includes a director, associate director, farm marketing specialist and a secretary on campus, and farm management specialists in Macon County (serving east Alabama), Lowndes County (serving Central Alabama) and Dallas County (serving west Alabama). Additional goals of the project are to: (1) develop and implement outreach programs so that eligible farmers may acquire farm ownership loans and operating loans; (2) develop and enhance business and marketing skills of selected borrowers; (3) develop the financial documentation of the farm business to the point where graduation to a commercial lender is feasible; and (4) develop a long-range base for self-sustaining farm business analysis services through existing associations and institutions.
Outreach activities include: presentations before local farmer groups, workshops, newsletters, articles in local newspapers, radio public service announcements and brochures, and, most importantly, one-on-one technical assistance. The outreach activities target record keeping, farm and financial management, marketing, and alternative and value-added enterprises.
Results over the first year of the project have been significant for a group of farmers who have traditionally been ignored in terms of financial and technical assistance. For the major objectives of the project, outreach and access to financial assistance, over 1,305 contacts were made to farmers, 259 eligible farmers were identified and 179 were enrolled in the project. Five farm ownership loans were approved, totaling $173,500 and 78 farm operating loans were approved, totaling $563,000.
A significant outgrowth of this project was in the areas of youth loans and housing assistance. Through the efforts of the small farm project, rural youths were able to access loans for small enterprise development including small herd projects, lawn mower repair, and other small business development. In this area, over 64 loans were approved, totaling $320,000. Finally, small farm project staff assisted rural residents in the area of housing repair loans, 11 loans totaling $24,000.
The Small Farmer Outreach Training and Technical Assistance Project expanded its service to the limited resource and small-scale farmers in the Alabama Black Belt. Along with on-going farm manage-ment and technical assistance with project participants identified and enrolled the previous year, 252 new contacts were made to farmers, 201 eligible farmers were identified, and 49 farmers were enrolled in the program in 1995-1996. Ten new farm ownership loans were approved, totaling $791,000 and 16 new farm operating loans were approved, totaling $212,000. In the related areas of youth and housing, 31 new youth loans were approved, totaling $154,000 and 18 housing loans were approved, totaling $372,000.
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