Learning Module/Notebook

Ayanava Majumdar
Extension Professor

Majumdar, A.*1, , Chambliss, A.*2,
1 Extension Professor, ALABAMA COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SYSTEM, Auburn, AL, 36849
2 Program Assistant and Outreach Administrator, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn, AL, 36849

The Alabama Beginning Farmer Program (www.alabamabeginningfarmer.com) is one of the largest grant funded projects in the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES).  The program has developed print and digital educational curricula; these resources are freely available worldwide (current participants belong to five countries). All educational media carry the unique program logo and follow a standard color template. One of the major resources is the Farming Basics Online Course – a free four-hour basic curriculum for all producers entering the training program. Through a statewide network of 11 Regional Extension Agents and eight technical assistance providers subcontracted with ACES, this online course has gained popularity among the limited resource and veteran farmers who often struggle with business and regulatory details related with a commercial farming operation. The online course also offers four continuing education credits (CEUs) from the American Agronomy Society (AAS) and the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS); it received a Gold Award from the Association for Communication Excellence. The course has 27 learning modules on five major tracks, namely, farm management, crop production, pesticide safety, food safety, and integrated pest management (IPM). The course has interactive quizzes for each module that brings focus to major learning points. After the participants complete all modules and take an evaluation survey (for documenting immediate learning outcomes), the course provides a ‘Certificate of Completion’ with their name that can be filed with AAS and ASHS for CEUs. Since 2019, the course has enrolled 896 participants with a 25 percent completion rate and 97 percent satisfaction rating. About 82 percent participants indicated immediate usefulness of information with 31 percent adoption rate for IPM recommendations. Participant breakdown is as follows: 30 percent new or beginning farmers with 8 percent military veterans (2 deployed overseas), 80 percent white, 8 percent black, 6 percent American Indians, and 6 percent Hispanic and other communities. This online course is promoted via the Farming Basics Mobile App, promotional cards (uploaded to NACAA website), the Alabama IPM Communicator E-newsletter (3000+ subscribers) – this intense promotion has resulted in 14 percent annual growth rate in enrolment.