Each year, Rutgers Cooperative Extension, a unit of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), honors faculty and staff for their outstanding work and outreach through their programs and support. The winners for 2014 received their awards at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Annual Conference at the Cook Campus Center in New Brunswick on October 20.
The Rutgers Cooperative Extension “Best of the Best” Team Award is dedicated to recognizing outstanding collaborative efforts and accomplishments in planning, implementing, evaluating, and marketing a Rutgers Cooperative Extension program at the county and/or state level. The 2014 recipient of the Team Award is Rutgers Annie’s Project New Jersey. The Annie’s Project team members are:
- Jenny Carleo (CC’99, GSNB ’03), agricultural & resource management agent, Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) of Cape May County
Robin Brumfield, farm management specialist, Rutgers NJAES
Jeffrey Heckman, videographer, Office of Continuing Professional Education
April Lippet-Faczak, administrator for Annie’s Project
Jennifer Matthews, project coordinator, RCE of Cape May County
Meredith Melendez, senior program coordinator, RCE of Mercer County
Barbara O’Neill, financial resource management specialist
Nicholas Polanin (CC’82, GSNB’89), agricultural and resource management agent, RCE Extension of Somerset County
The Rutgers NJAES Cooperative Extension team brought Annie’s Project to New Jersey by securing necessary funding through six external competitive grants totaling over $360,000 since 2011. With New Jersey farmers working in such a competitive environment, the project team decided that it would require every program participant to complete a business plan. This has become a defining characteristic of Annie’s Project New Jersey. The women leave the program with a business plan, production plan and/or marketing plan in hand.
In 2012, using an extraordinary combination of in-person education and distance learning, the program brought farm business management education to 75 more women across the Garden State. In 2013, three all-day conferences offered in North, Central and Southern New Jersey educated another 63 women on topics including business planning, financial planning and estate planning. In 2014, Annie’s Project: Greenhouse Growers reached another 34 farmers with programming specific to the greenhouse industry and two full-day conferences. Because over 40% of farmers in New Jersey are engaged in agritourism, the program had a strong focus on marketing, and included topics on social media as a marketing tool. In addition, Annie’s Project New Jersey participants can network with each other through the Annie’s Project New Jersey Facebook page and a Twitter account #apnj.
Annie’s Project New Jersey has resulted in scholarly deliverables as well as positive changes in the lives of program participants. Strong external funding, creative delivery, participant feedback, program evolution and impact has contributed to the success of Annie’s Project New Jersey, but a powerful, collaborative team with great group dynamics has made it a continuing success that can be replicated in other states.