Colusa County Grown-Specialty Crop Grant
Project Title: Colusa County Grown-Specialty Crop
Grant Recipient: Colusa County Resource Conservation District
Grant Timeframe: October 1st, 2014- June 30th, 2017
Grant Amount: $68,739.00
- Provide a background for the initial purpose of the project, which includes the specific issue, problem, or need that was addressed by this project.Response: Agriculture is of vital importance to California yet the general public was mostly unaware of the environmental and health benefits provided by Ag. As California faced one of the worst drought crisis in recorded history, immediate actions were needed to promote the importance of agriculture and the environmental stewardship provided by farmers. The Colusa County Grown-Specialty Crop (CCG-SC) project was utilized to increase the marketability and competiveness of specialty crops (SC) through greater product demand fostered by strengthening the farm to consumer connection. CCG-SC focused efforts on increasing producer ability & opportunities to market SC, increasing agritourism, and increasing awareness of the nutritional benefits and environmental stewardship provided by SC producers. CCG-SC provided public and producer outreach utilizing Colusa County Grown (CCG) and capitalize on existing high profile venues for statewide impact. The timing of the CCG-SC project was perfect to build on current local support and momentum generated through the conception of CCG and take full advantage of the public’s interest in where their food comes from.
- Describe the importance and timeliness of the project. Response: At the time the proposal was written Colusa County ranked #1 in the state for unemployment, 70.2% of the adult population is overweight/obese and 15.2% are living below the national poverty line. It was felt that a greater demand for SC would improve employment opportunities, increase profit to support higher wages, and serve as an indicator of healthier food choices. The timing of this project was perfect to build on the local support and momentum generated through the fledgling Colusa County Grown campaign and to capitalize on the current interest in the farm to fork movement.If the project built on a previously funded SCBGP project, describe how this project complemented and enhanced previously completed work.Response: This project did not build upon previously funded SCBG program but did build upon a previous CDFA Farmer’s Market Promotion project.
- Briefly summarize activities and tasks performed during the entire grant period. Whenever possible, describe the work accomplished in both quantitative and qualitative terms. Specifically, discuss the tasks provided in the Work Plan of the approved project proposal. Include the significant results, accomplishments, conclusions and recommendations. Include favorable or unusual developments. Response:
Social Media-Facebook: The Colusa County Grown Specialty Crop Facebook page was kept current and relevant throughout the entire project period with grant staff making 425 posts during the span of the project. A total of 55,204 reaches, and 6,267 actions were generated throughout the project, 13 special contests were held during the projects featuring SC prizes to increase activity on the page. The CCG Website was kept current with basic information about the program and to provide access to the CCG membership application. During final reporting period of the grant the website was re-created in WordPress to replace the outdated software used to originally create the website and currently used for maintenance. The new site was activated on June 28, 2017. Colusa County Grown Center: In the early months of the project the CCRCD work diligently with the Colusa County Board of Supervisors to help generate support for establishing an agricultural center on the Interstate 5 corridor. An exhibit was erected at the 2015 Colusa Farm Show promoting the concept for the center. The center would sell local products, teach the public about agriculture practices and serve as the hub for agritourism. A presentation was also given at the annual Joint County and City dinner meeting and during Colusa County Grown stakeholder meetings. A story about the center was included in the 2015/2016 CCG Food Guide. Local government applied for a couple grants to pay for the center but were not successful. The Supervisor that was the driving force for the center was not re-elected. Due to the fact the CCRCD was only serving in a support capacity for this endeavor the task of developing a conceptual plan for the center could not be realized. To replace this activity the CCRCD worked with new local businesses to connect them with sources to purchase local SC, promoted the businesses on the CCG Facebook Page and advertised them in the 17/18 Farm & Food Guides. The promotion of these businesses will continue long after this grant has ended. A data base of 290 Colusa County Specialty Crop producers was generated. Specialty Crop Editions of the CCG Food Guide: During this project the CCRCD created two CCG Farm & Food Guides-Specialty Crop Editions. A total of 7,535 Food Guides were printed featuring stories about local SC producers, seasonal produce charts, SC commodity group information, local farm directory, nutritional information and much more. The Food Guides included 24 full color glossy pages of information pertaining to highlighted specialty crops. A portion of the guide’s material was translated into Spanish. To date a total of 5,380 Food Guides have been distributed throughout the county and beyond. A portion of the second edition printed in June 2017 will be distributed at the California State Fair in July 2017 and 2018. Approximately 20% of the guides were translated in Spanish to reach the large portion of our Non-English speaking community. Specialty Crop Exhibits: The CCRCD erected an exhibit on the nutritional value of specialty crops at the 2015 Colusa County Fair. It is estimated that 29,750 fair visitors viewed the exhibit. The popular exhibit received first place and a check for $250 which was used to buy supplies for the CCG Stakeholder meeting and purchase prizes to promote SC on the CCG Facebook page. The exhibit also included a drawing for a commodity basket full of specialty crops. To enter the contest participants had to pledge to include more specialty crops in their diets, 30 fairgoers completed an entry. The 2016 Colusa Farm Show exhibit on the nutritional value of SC was viewed by an estimated 34,000 spectators during the three day run. The exhibit included soliciting 100 random visitors to complete a pre and post exhibit survey to demonstrate the effectiveness of the exhibit. Specialty Crop Marketing Workshop: A SC Ag Marketing Workshop was held in conjunction with the 2016 Colusa Farm Show. The workshop featured local producers active in agritourism as speakers along with the California Agritourism Coordinator and a couple of speakers from a social media firm specializing in promoting agriculture. CCG Model Farm Tour: The CCRCD hosted a model Farm Tour designed to build support and generate ideas for a future Farm Tour open to the public. The target audience was local elected officials, specialty crop producers and the local media. The tour featured visits to (5) five SC operations, a lunch featuring SC and a presentation on liability associated with opening your farm to the public. The county transit bus was utilized to capture the audience to garner input for the future event. Although the target of 50 attendees was not reached the input obtained from the fifteen participants will be extremely valuable in designing future farm tours. The goals for the model tour was for the attending media to commit to writing at least three (3) stories about agritourism (one story was written and published immediately following the tour and upon contacting the writer in June 2017 it was stated two additional articles will be published in the near future), elected official to commit to supporting agritourism (Colusa County’s newly elected county supervisor in attendance pledged to support agritourism) and of the SC producers attending 85% pledged to include agritourism in their marketing approach (target 50%). A proclamation was written and presented to the Colusa County Board of Supervisors to adopt pledging their support for specialty crop agritourism. The Colusa County Board of Supervisors signed a proclamation pledging their support for specialty crop agritourism in Colusa County. CCRCD staff attended an all day workshop in April 2015 to learn more about agritourism and hosting such an event. Unique Specialty Crop Nutritional Awareness Presentation: A presentation on the nutritional value of SC, environmental benefits of raptor boxes in almond orchards and value of soil used to grow SC was wrapped into one presentation at the 2017 Colusa Farm Day. A total of 205 students and 27 adults (target 200-500) attended. A total of nine session were given throughout the day. A SC coloring book was created by CCRCD staff with nutritional headings and Spanish translation furnished by the Center for Healthy Communities. A total of 2,000 copies of the coloring book were printed and a total of 1,400 were distributed at the Farm Day, local 2nd grade classes throughout the county, Chico Summer Camp, Family Action Centers in Arbuckle and Williams, preschool programs, local fruit stands and local restaurants. Approximately 600 coloring books remain in the office and will be supplied to the schools for the 2017/2018 school year and to restock local restaurants. Connections Between producers and opportunities to increase sales: Efforts were taken to connect a new business in Colusa with producers to fill the shelves with SC. The CCRCD received contact from a number of other businesses asking where to find certain SC. The Food Guide and Facebook continued to promote local venues selling specialty crops and connect consumers. To name a few including; ColUSA Made, Real Pie Company, Colusa Farmer’s Market, Arbuckle Farmer’s Market, Wise Acre Farms, BareNaked Farms (store not open yet but efforts will continue to connect this business with local specialty crop producers), Charters Family Fruit Stand, Barb’s Fruit Stand, and Jeffreys Pecan’s farm store.
- If the overall scope of the project benefitted commodities other than specialty crops, indicate how project staff ensured that funds were used to solely enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops. Response: CCRCD Staff worked diligently to keep the focus of this project on specialty crops throughout the project. The nature of Colusa County Grown naturally lends itself to the promotion of specialty crops as they are the crops that farmers tend to play a larger role in the marketing process and have more direct contact with consumers. Because the CCG campaign has the potential to benefit non-specialty crops the CCRCD billed a portion of the hours promoting the program to other sources. The creation and launching (6/28/17) of the updated CCG Website will benefit commodities other than specialty crops. Care was taken a portion of the hours to another source and the new website fees were furnished by CCG and not by grant funding. Additional funding was also generated through local government contributions and solicited from others sources to offset any potential benefits to non-specialty crops.
- Present the significant contributions and role of project partners in the project.
Response: The Natural Resources Conservation Service was a major contributor to the project through the donation of office space, use of office equipment, Ag stewardship materials and the use of a vehicle for much of the travel needs of the project. Another significant contributor was the Center for Healthy Community who made sure all SC nutritional material in publications and exhibits was correctly presented, they provided much of the Spanish translations for the publications and partnered with the CCRCD for a SC nutritional presentation at the 2017 Colusa Farm Day. The Colusa County Board of Supervisors provided financial assistance to help promote the CCG Center in year one of the project. Premier Mushroom provided refreshments for the CCG stakeholder meeting and Ag-Tourism Workshop and a small grant to buy materials to help promote CCG memberships. Significant contributions were made by SC producers who served as presenters at the workshop, hosted a model farm tour site, donated produce for contests, helped erect the County Fair Exhibit, and serve on the CCG Board of Directors. Some of these contributors include: Organic Roots Olive Oil, Grindstone Wines, Jeffrey Pecans, Barb’s Produce Stand, Premier Mushrooms, Black Shire Almonds, Blue Diamond Walnuts, and Chico Nut. The 44th District Agriculture Association donated exhibit and workshop space at the annual Colusa County Farm Show in 2015 and 2016. Penny Leff the Ca Agritourism Coordinator for the UC Small farms program for assistance with the workshop and providing agritourism training to staff. Also making a significant contribution to the project was the CCRCD Board of Directors who volunteered many hours to staff exhibits, help with events, and attend meetings where important actions were taken to support the sustainability of CCG after the grant is completed.
Goals and Outcomes Achieved
- Describe the activities that were completed in order to achieve the performance goals and measurable outcomes identified in the approved project proposal or subsequent amendments. Response: The following activities were completed in order to enhance marketability and competiveness of specialty crops through greater demand supported by a stronger farm to consumer connection: a relevant and active social media campaign was created that included a CCG SC Facebook page where 425 posts were made by staff during the project and the CCG website was improved and updated resulting. A 290 SC producer database was compiled which included nearly 100% of the local specialty crop producers in Colusa County and was utilized for event/educational outreach. The nutritional value of SC was promoted by creating and erecting exhibits at the Colusa County Fair and Colusa County Farm Show. Two Specialty Crop Editions of the CCG Food Guide (7,535 copies) were created and published. The guides included local farmer stories, local food directory, coupons, contests, and promoted CA Grown. Producer’s tools to increase their ability to market their specialty crops were enhanced through the Innovative Ag Marketing Workshop and model Farm Tour. The tour was designed to collect information for future tours to be open to the public, give SC producer a glimpse in to hosting an on the farm event and to engaging the media and local elected officials to support agritourism. The CCRCD requested the Colusa County Board of Supervisors to sign a proclamation pledging support to increased agritourism in Colusa County. A unique SC nutritional awareness and environmental stewardship presentation was given at the Colusa Farm Day for children and featured a specialty crop coloring book created and illustrated by project staff.
- If outcome measures were long term, summarize the progress that has been made towards achievement. Response:
- The long term outcome measure for this project is the sustainability of the Colusa County Grown campaign. Much progress was made during the project to secure the continuation of the program. The CCRCD Board appointed a Steering Committee to oversee CCG. The president of the committee is a very active SC producer in the community. The committee meets monthly and will continue to oversee the program and take more of a leadership role after the grant ends and CCRCD staff is no longer available to assist at the current level. It is anticipated that CCG will hire the CCRCD to continue to help with the program. The Membership drive is in full swing with a total of 23 members to date and increasing weekly. Members have joined at various levels including Member, Producer and Supporter. Membership fees, advertisements in publications, fees to attend events and financial support from the Colusa County general fund will sustain the program. The 2017/2018 CCG Farm & Food Guide-Specialty Crop Edition includes five coupons for discounts when purchasing specialty crops. Some of these coupons will expire in December 2017but some will last indefinitely. Both the guide and SC coloring book will continue to be distributed for the next couple of years. The CCG website and Facebook pages will continue to be maintained with the majority of the materials related to specialty crops. The website has been re-created in WordPress so CCG stakeholders will be able to upload information and the outdated software owned by the CCRCD will no longer be needed to maintain the site. Discussions have been held concerning CCG becoming a 501 (c) (3) in the future. The Colusa County Board of Supervisors strongly support CCG and has provided some financial support to the CCRCD to continue to provide limited staff services to the program. The continued participation of CCRCD in CCG to insure the promotion of the environmental stewardship provided by Ag was included among other activated provided by a $46,209 grant received from the CA Department of Conservation.
- Provide a comparison of actual accomplishments with the goals established for the reporting period Response: The project’s goal was to increase producer ability and opportunities to market specialty crops, increase agritourism and improve nutritional and environmental awareness of specialty crops. The following actual accomplishments were completed in support of these project goals. A model farm tour was held to increase producer’s knowledge of agritourism and garner media and local government support for agritourism. The Innovative AG Marketing workshop was also held to support the goal of increasing agritourism knowledge. Social media and the CCG website was used to increase SC nutritional knowledge and provide increased marketability of SCs. Facebook generated 55,204 Reaches resulting in 6,267 actions. The CCG Website had a total of 4054 visits during the grant period. The project target was to print 5,000 Farm and Food Guides, the accomplishment of printing 7,535 was realized. The two Food Guide Editions successfully supported all project goals. During the project at least 13 articles promoting SC and project events were written and published in 6 different media sources with a total circulation of approximately 90,956. Exhibits were erected at the Colusa County Fair and Colusa Farm Show promoting the nutritional value of SC and the environmental stewardship provided by specialty crop agriculture. We have no reason not to believe that at least 85% of the spectators attending the events walked past the exhibits. Presentations were made at the Colusa Farm Day to increase SC nutritional knowledge in children. A SC coloring book supporting the same goal was created, 2,000 copies were printed and distributed throughout the county and beyond. A specialty crop producer data base was compiled containing close to 100% of the contact information for SC growers in Colusa County. Assisting local government to develop an Action Plan for the CCG Center was the only project accomplishment not reached during the grant period. However, notification to the community concerning the desire to build such a facility was realized through exhibits, presentations, publications and newspaper articles.
- Clearly convey completion of achieving outcomes by illustrating baseline data that has been gathered to date and showing the progress toward achieving set targets.
Response: Because this is an educational project most baseline data was determined by pre-event polling and questionnaires. The target was to increase knowledge base by at least 50% as a result of each educational activity. The 2016 Colusa Farm Show Exhibit included 100 random visitors completing a pre and post exhibit viewing survey. The pre viewing survey results revealed only 26% could name a specialty crop and in the post survey 97% of participants stated they had a better understanding of specialty crops (an increase of 71%), 99% stated they would add more specialty crops to their diets and 97% stated they would eat more specialty crops in general. The Innovative Ag Marketing Workshop included pre and post event surveys. The surveys revealed the following; of the specialty crop producers attending the workshop 71% (80% Target) reported increased knowledge about Ag marketing and 57% expressed a higher desire to implement new Ag marketing practices. The Model Farm Tour also included pre and post event surveys with the following results: The SC producers completing the survey revealed 100% showed an increase in knowledge about agritourism after the event and 90% pledged to include agritourism in their marketing approach (target 50%): Of the media completing the survey 100% pledged to write at least 3 stories about agritourism. Of the elected officials attending the survey showed 100% had a high level of pre and post event knowledge about the value of agritourism and pledged support to increase agritourism efforts in Colusa County. The CCG website baseline data was 800 visits with an end-target of 1600 visits, at the end of the project there were 4054 visits which was over 200% of the original goal. The target of the CCG Facebook Page-was to download 286 posts during the project period, 425 post were actually made, the target for Reaches was 16,500 with the total at project end of 55,204, the target for Actions was 1,650 and at project end the total was 6,267. CCG Center, target making public aware (2015 Farm Show Exhibit exposing 45,000 visitors, presentation to 40 business leaders, 2 newspaper articles with total circulation of 35,056 circulation. When 205 students were polled at the beginning of the Farm Day SC session 13% of the students reported that they eat specialty crops. Post session poll showed 96% (90% target) of those attending stated they would eat more specialty crops every day an increase of 83%..
- Highlight the major successful outcomes of the project in quantifiable terms.
7,535 copies of the Colusa County Grown Specialty Crop Editions of the Farm & Food Guide were printed
5380 Food Guides distributed (remainder targeted for distribution in 2018)
6,257 actions were generated by the CCG Facebook Page posts and reaches
4056 Visitors to the CCG Website
23 paid CCG memberships received and growing weekly
2,000 SC coloring books printed and 1500 distributed (remainder targeted for 17/18 school year)
2 Specialty Crop Exhibits erected exposing 33,150 visitors’ increased SC knowledge
Beneficiaries (Please respond to all bulleted items)
- Provide a description of the groups and other operations that benefited from the completion of this project’s accomplishments. Response:
- Local SC producers benefited from our project, they were promoted in our social media and in our food guides and by the knowledge they gained through attending our events. The Center for Healthy Communities benefited through our efforts that helped spread the message concerning the nutritional value of eating more farm fresh specialty crops. California Grown who received advertisement space for their program on the back cover of the 2015/2016 and 2017/2018 CCG Food Guides. The following local businesses selling Colusa County Specialty crops received advertisements in our food guides and social media; Colusa County Chamber of Commerce, ColUSA Made, The Charter Family Fruit Stand, Wise Acre Farms, Barbs Fruit Stand, Grindstone Wine, and Premier Mushroom. Spanish speaking community benefits from the publications that included Spanish translations. The specialty crop growers that sell their produce at the Colusa Certified Farmer’s Market and the Arbuckle Farmer’s Market. The following specialty crop entities, organizations, and boards that were promoted in the two editions of the Food Guides; Ca Almonds, Tomato Wellness, Ca Walnuts, National Pecan Shellers Association, Ca Olive Oil Council, and Mushroom Council. The health of the children that received the 2,000 coloring books that encouraged them to eat more specialty crops for many years to come. NRCS and local agriculture benefited by receiving assistance to help spread the message about the good environmental stewardship associated with the production of California specialty crops.
- Clearly state the number of beneficiaries affected by the project’s accomplishments and/or the potential economic impact of the project.Response: It is hard to accurately measure the beneficiaries affected by the project because benefits will be enjoyed for many years to come as consumers continue to increase their consumption of specialty crops as a result of the knowledge gained through this project’s educational outreach endeavor. The 7,535 Food Guides printed are a keepsake publication that will remain in homes throughout the county and beyond to reference often to find out when, where and why to purchase local specialty crops. The number of beneficiaries affected by the project’s educational outreach endeavors included visitors and participants in SC educational events/exhibits totaled 102,321. The total visits to our social media campaigns where knowledge was gained about SC during the project was 59,234. Total circulation for all SC articles published in newspapers, special event handouts and Ag related newsletters were approximately 100,000.
- Offer insights into the lessons learned by the project staff as a result of completing this project. This section is meant to illustrate the positive and negative results and conclusions for the project. Lessons learned should draw on positive experiences (i.e., good ideas that improve project efficiency or save money) and negative experiences (i.e., lessons learned about what did not go well and what needs to be changed). Hiring and maintaining qualified staff was a challenge throughout the project. The project was originally written to capitalize on the talents of the current CCRCD Watershed Coordinator. This individual left the employment of the CCRCD at the time the grant award was announced. The CCRCD Executive Director was able to step up and serve as the Project Manager throughout the grant. During the grant period hiring efforts occurred three separate times. .The hiring process and bringing new employees up to speed on the project was very time consuming. The latest employee hired in September 2017 remained through the completion of the project. A lesson learned is not to be too conservative with time estimates for staff to complete grant tasks. The Colusa County Grown Center plan did not materialize which was out of the control of the CCRCD. The district did not and could not anticipate these conditions when the proposal was created. The SCBG Administrator gave enough leeway to make replacements with comparable tasks. The report templates continued to be confusing throughout the project. Many of the questions were so similar they seemed redundant. Extra time was spent trying to decipher exactly what should be reported under each category. The Project Manager would prefer quarterly reports because bi-annual reports make it more difficult to accurately remember all activities that occurred during the long time frame. Describe unexpected outcomes or results that were an effect of implementing this project. Response:
- It was unexpected that the CCRCD would become the go-to place for businesses to contact to find where to purchase specialty crops. The strong connections made with SC producers will last well into the future. This project had an even greater impact than what was originally anticipated on elevating CCG’s ability to become self-supporting.
- If goals or outcome measures were not achieved, identify and share the lessons learned to help others expedite problem-solving.Response: Remaining Grant Balance (Please respond to all bulleted items)
- The outcomes measures that were not achieved (CCG Center Action Plan), through no fault of the CCRCD. This outcome measure was effectively replaced with a similar outcome measure to assist new businesses make contact with SC producers. The project’s Grant Administrator’s flexibility and willingness to work with the CCRCD was greatly appreciate. During the long period of time, from creating the original concept proposal and full grant proposal through the implementation of the final task, project staff must remain highly creative and flexible.
- If there is a remaining balance, explain why the project did not utilize all awarded grant funds Response: N/A Additional Information (Please respond to all bulleted items)
- Provide additional information available (i.e. publications, websites, photographs) that is not applicable to any of the prior sections. Response:Two SCBG concept proposals were written during the project to promote specialty crops by installing crop identification signs along major roadways promoting an interactive website to educate the public about specialty crops. The name of the project was “Whatcrop.com”. The domain name was purchased by the CCRCD and much support was received for the project from surrounding RCDs, the local Farm Bureau and the public. Neither proposal received an invitation to write a full proposal.