An AgXcel Certificate of Professional Development indicates a participant has successfully completed the requirements of the program and would have learned or been introduced to the farm management, practical and business skills listed below:
Farm Management Skills
- Agroforestry – Understands how and why to incorporate trees into crop planning, aware and knowledgeable about multipurpose trees, nitrogen fixing trees, and most common tropical fruit species, is familiar with resources from Agroforestry.net and knows how to plant, manage and harvest bananas..
- Farming Models – Understands the various farming models including conventional, organic, and sustainable farming methods and the pros and cons of each model. Visited an organic, conventional, and sustainable farm and understands the pros and cons of a market garden scale (1/8 to 2 acres) vs mechanized scale 2 acre plus.
- Farm Safety – Understands safety protocols on a farm including use of tools and equipment and how to create a safety plan for a farming business. Understands where to find and how to read MSDS sheets.
- Crop Types – Understands classes of crops including root, leaf, fruit, and seed and the difference between crops with differing life cycles and management strategies for each type and the difference between seed and clonal crops. .
- Plant Taxonomy – Categorized a crop plant as a root, leaf, fruit or seed. Understands the importance of plant taxonomy for crop rotation and design crop rotations around crops with differing life cycles.
- Plant Anatomy – Understands the basic parts of a plant and the symbiotic relationship between plant structures and microorganisms.
- Crop Nutrients – Understands the importance of nutrient balance to a successful farming system, how to identify and analyze soil and plant nutrients, calculate input rates and make and apply vermicompost and compost tea.
- Plant/Crop Selection – Planted and managed diverse vegetable varieties, understands the benefits and limitations of annual and perennial crops and understands how to select appropriate crop varieties (i.e. disease resistance/tolerance, day length, adaptability to area, etc.).
- Pest Management – Developed a basic integrated pest management (IPM) plan. Understands various pesticide options, how to properly read pesticide labels and be able to use and apply pesticides properly. Understands the importance of providing beneficial insect habitat and techniques to do so, able to describe pesticide protocols including REI and harvest window, used hand lens and dissecting microscope to diagnose plant pests and disease and identify nematode infestation and damage.
- Composting – Understands basic composting and managing on-farm waste and built a compost pile. Able to access and utilize the resources available locally to produce compost on medium scale.
- Crop Plan – Understands what elements are needed to design a crop plan, developed a crop plan incorporating succession planting and harvest targets and understands how to design plot and cover crop management to reflect crop plan.
- Recordkeeping and Planning – Maintained field prep and production records and understand why they are useful and developed a field map.
- Food Safety – Understands basic food safety requirements (hygiene, cleaning, harvest & packing protocols), handled and processed their harvest safely and is able to list and explain Best Management Practices and write a detailed food safety plan for a farm.
- Tools – Understands safe and effective uses for, repaired and maintained tools including: hand sickle/cane knives, pruners and hoes (colinear, hula/stirrup) and has knowledge of and experience using weed flamers, seeds, and fertilizer/soil spreaders.
- Equipment – Safely operated under supervision the following: Weed eater, BCS and tractor (if available on site). When considered ready by Farm Coach, the participant will have independently operated a BCS and tractor (if available on site) and learned how to identify when something is wrong and may need repair, how to perform required regular maintenance on small engine power equipment, understand how to replace pull cord on BCS and knowledge of how to operate a chainsaw.
- Infrastructure – Prepped a farm plot including: mowing/flailing, tilling, making a raised bed, and adding compost and other inputs during plot preparation. Erected a net trellis system for vining crops and weave system for tomatoes.
- Irrigation – Installed irrigation systems in plot from riser, irrigated crops and understand different approaches to irrigating crops, when to use each type, and costs involved. Diagnosed irrigation system problems and repair/retrofit existing irrigation systems, evaluate the efficiency of existing irrigation systems and understand how to measure PSI and flow rate.
- Soil Health – Understands the components of healthy, high quality soil, able to read and understand a soil test and how to prep a field from standing cover crop to a farmable area.
- Cover Crops – Understands what a cover crop is and what the potential benefits are for incorporating cover crops into a management rotation, understands how to integrate cover crops in a sustainable agriculture system and how to select cover crops for various farming situations.
- Seeding and Planting – Prepared an appropriate potting mix from raw materials. Understands the purpose of each material used and how a starting mix is different than a stepping up mix. Has planted seeds in nursery with soil mix and stepped up nursery starts into larger pots with soil mix then transplanted nursery crops into plot as well as direct sow crops in plot understanding the spacing and depth requirements for each variety. Able to set up a small nursery area, start seedlings, and select appropriate crops and varieties, set up and utilize trellises and other crop supports and understand more efficient direct seeding and transplanting techniques for larger areas.
- Pest Control – Sprayed or applied pesticides and foliar nutrients under supervision and independently.
- Weeding – Able to identify common weeds in the field, determine how and where they thrive, and management considerations and managed weeds with flame weeder, weed mat and hoe. If interested in potential use of herbicides the participant will have worked with their Farm Coach to recognize sensitive areas and organisms affected by herbicide applications, drift, and run-off; and differentiate among pre-plant, pre-emergence, and post-emergence herbicide applications.
- Harvest – Understands safe harvesting protocols, health concerns with harvesting, quality control when harvesting for markets and how to pick, process, and pack produce for a CSA. Understand how to identify when various vegetable crops are ready for harvest, manage harvests for repeat harvests of crops that allow this and harvested crops and packed for CSA, retail and wholesale distribution.
- Business Operations – Understands the steps to take to be a commercial producer at various scales. Understands how to develop a business plan, document a production plan, the different business structures and how to register a business and developed an awareness of various Federal, State, and private business resources available to them
- Financial Operations – Understands how to use a production plan to develop a financial projection, the concepts behind a cost of production analysis and identified start up costs for their proposed farm.
- Marketing – Helped setup and run a farmers’ market booth, marketed a CSA product, interacted with customers, packaged a product for sale, evaluated various market channels and delivered product to customers.
- Value-Added Products – Understands how to develop a value-added product (i.e. steps involved, laws, where to find answers).