September 2015
For What It's Worth

Learning Through Collaboration

  During the Jackson County Farm Tour, Phillip Wilborn, far right, shows forage varieties and opportunities for improvement in one of his pastures.

During the months of May and June, a series of nine workshops and farm tours took place in six North Alabama counties this year. The events were led by Alabama Cooperative Extension System, made possible by an education grant from Alabama Mountains, Rivers and Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council and supported by local USDA Service Centers, including Natural Resource Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency offices. Target audiences were small-scale and limited-resources farmers and potential farmers. The goal was to focus on farm sustainability and diversification as a strategy for risk management. Objectives utilized combinations of workshops and farm tours addressing corresponding areas of interest on a county-by-county basis. All this occurred through collaboration of the aforementioned agencies, support of local farms, the interest of local audiences, and has the potential to take place in other counties.

Activities were held in Jackson, Lawrence, Cullman, Morgan, Limestone and Madison counties. Topics for these events included meat and dairy goats, recordkeeping, year-round quality forages, wool and hair sheep, backyard poultry production, soil and water conservation, FSA farm programs, and NRCS conservation and technical assistance programs. The concept for this series of programs came about through several meetings between Mike Roden, executive director with AMRV RC&D Council, and me. Then Roden recruited participation through local USDA Service Centers and respective agencies. Local farmers and potential farmers benefited from this collaboration. Almost one-third of attendees did not farm, but plan to do so.

During the Limestone County Farm Tour, Pic Roberson, coveralls, shows a mineral feeder for his wool sheep.   During the Madison County Farm Tour, Mike Prevost, brown pants, talks about his portable chicken and chick facilities.

So what does this mean to farmers in other counties? This opportunity is available to you as well. Such events can be held at a location convenient to you, without driving a long distance for extensive amounts of time, and are very affordable. It only requires you to contact your local cooperative Extension office with such a request, your participation and support, and/or contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 256-372-4983. County Extension offices are generally found in county seats of each county; or by visiting, selecting the "Offices" tab and then the "County Offices" tab.

Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.