Evaluation Support and Technical Assistance for Beginning Farmer and Rancher Programs

Students in the Apprenticeship beginning farmer training program at the UCSC Farm. Photo by Jim Clark.

This project will support the development of strong, effective, and long-lasting farmer and rancher training programs to ensure that beginning farmers and ranchers (BFRs) can enter the field and establish successful farming businesses.

Funded in 2018 with a $600,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) and led by Jan Perez of CASFS, the 3-year educational enhancement team (EET) effort will equip BFR organizations nationally with tools and skills to effectively conduct evaluations that clearly document program impacts, improve programming, and enable program staff to identify and respond to farmer needs. Such documentation and program improvements will increase participants’ success and provide the accountability needed for the long-term viability of BFR programs.

The USDA is eager to grow a new crop of successful owner-operator farmers, and Perez's goal is to create an "evaluation learning community" of people running programs that support beginning farmers. Supported by this new grant, she will use webinars, teleconferencing, and digital tools to build the community.

"I want to make it relevant and useful to organizations, so they can see how evaluation can help them build their reputation, attract more participants—and be accountable to them," said Perez.

Perez will partner with Jennifer Hashley, a CASFS apprenticeship graduate who is the director of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project at Tufts University, and Kim Niewolny, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education at Virginia Tech, to implement the new grant. Daniel Press, executive director of CASFS and a professor of environmental studies, will provide project oversight as the principal investigator.

Read a press release about the project

See a poster about the project from the 2018 BFRDP Directors' Meeting

Project Objectives

  • Identify and collect existing tools and best practices for program evaluation
  • Identify gaps in evaluation outcome measures
  • Create tools for efficient evaluation development
  • Build capacity of BFR staff through training
  • Run an online evaluation learning community
  • Develop a web-based repository for, and broadly disseminate project products

Expected Project Outcomes

  • BFR organization staff should find conducting evaluations more accessible and efficient.
  • BFR organizations’ evaluation will become more effective, providing better information to stakeholders.
  • Better evaluation tools and practices will also improve educa- tion and outreach activities, thus increasing farmer satisfac- tion with programming, and helping them to learn more and ultimately become more successful.

See Also