Engaging Communities Through Issues Forums

 During the 2019 Delaware Ag Week programming and Mid-Atlantic Women in Agriculture Conference, on-site health screenings were provided free of charge by two area hospitals. Over 100 individuals took advantage of this opportunity.  A coalition of Delaware stakeholders piloted a succession-planning curriculum for youth to assist them in learning what succession/transition planning is, who needs to be involved, and the tools necessary to implement a plan. They subsequently received a small innovation grant ($1,000) to develop a leader’s guide and kit for each high school to begin to introduce the idea of succession and transition planning to high school youth. The kit will include large stacking blocks that youth will use to “build a resilient farm.”  Both Maryland and Delaware Cooperative Extension have partnered with key farm organizations to offer professional development for agriculture service providers and farm audiences on topics related to stress management, building resilience, and signs and symptoms of suicide. Maryland received a Northeast Region SARE grant to conduct some of this work.

“Tales from Past” 2021 forum is still in process, but at the time of this publication the following have occurred:

• By reviewing state 211 information, and by conducting interviews, locations of food pantries, food banks, and other sources of food available to limited resources audiences have been catalogued. Using mapping software these locations will be available for searching by consumers and Snap-Ed populations. No such map previously existed. • Mental health and well-being resources for Delaware and Maryland were identified and published/updated on respective websites. Both general and information specific to farm audiences were identified. QR codes have been established for each site and business cards have been developed for distribution at agriculture meetings and other venues. A resource listing of available speakers that can increase understanding of local food systems, support community gardens success in growing produce and supporting community food needs was created. A website will house the listing, and speaker’s bureau members will respond to requests for guest speakers. • Seed money to support further development and completion of these projects is being sought. We intend to reconvene forum participants, Extension colleagues, and community stakeholders to share progress on these projects. We will seek their input and resources to keep on keeping on. • Literature reviews and briefing papers are being developed that focus on two topics: 1. Reduce food waste and increase farm profitability. This briefing paper will explore the possibility of building a regional system that enables harvesting of unused agricultural products, the use of these foods through value-added product development and distribution, grower education, grower certification for selling value-added, and processed food directly to consumers. This paper will be shared with key stakeholders, agriculture service providers, and Extension teams. 2. Improving Rapid Dissemination of Information. This paper will identify improvements in the way information is shared with farmers about available federal and state programs, and ways to increase participation and adoption are under production. The need became apparent during COVID-19, as programs were developed to support farm viability and information was shared at a rapid pace. Information came from many directions in a piecemeal fashion. This paper will be shared with key stakeholders, agriculture service providers, and Extension teams.

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