Connecting Kentucky Veterans to Agricultural Opportunities

Grants and Contracts Details


The University of Kentucky’s Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky will serve as the third-party evaluator for this project. Dr. Alison Davis, a Professor of Agricultural Economics will lead the evaluation. Dr. Davis has led several state, regional and national evaluation projects including the evaluation of the Kentucky Agriculture Development Fund, the Appalachian Regional Commission’s health investment portfolio and the Stronger Economies Together program implemented in 100 regions across the country. Each of these projects uses a combination of summative and participatory approaches. Other smaller evaluation projects that Dr. Davis has led, mainly through University of Kentucky’s Cooperative Extension programming, also incorporate a formative approach. Approximately $35,000 of the budget has been allocated towards the formal evaluation process. Proposed Evaluation Methods CEDIK will follow a three-pronged approach to evaluating the Kentucky Ag Vets program: formative, participatory, and summative methods. Because the Kentucky Ag Vets proposal is in essence a pilot program, the ability to generate real-time feedback from project participants and partners can allow for rapid program adjustments to help the program achieve its intended goals. In addition, a participatory approach will enable the project team to capture the outcomes, obstacles and most importantly, the stories of veterans who participated in the program. These interactions with participants are not limited to a particular time frame. In fact, participatory evaluation methods can be used early on to determine the specific needs of veterans that will increase the likelihood of a successful program rollout as well as allowing for “on the fly” changes throughout the life of the project. Finally, the summative evaluation will measure the overall performance of the project and determine if project goals were met, the overall outcomes from the project as well as any opportunities to improve the project moving forward. Each of these three processes will be discussed in further detail below. Formative Evaluation – The most useful evaluations are those that can be created before the inception of the project and conducted throughout the life of the project. While data collected in the early stages of the implementation of the project cannot measure long-term outcomes, the reported changes in knowledge and behavior can predict the likelihood of positive longterm success. In addition, by conducting early evaluation processes the project team can alter program delivery. CEDIK will create short survey instruments designed to measure changes in knowledge for project participants. This survey will be administered at the end of each delivered educational program. CEDIK will then follow up 3 to 6 months later to ask project participants if or how they changed practice because of the program. CEDIK will quickly compile results and possible strategies to improve the effectiveness of the program by presenting results at quarterly meetings with the project team. CEDIK will also rely on NIFA’s Farm and Ranch Business Health Assessment as one tool to document a farm owner’s success in running an agricultural enterprise. This assessment explores the different aspects of farm business health for those veterans that choose to start their own on-farm enterprise. Because the project is only three years long we expect that this tool will not be used until the 2nd or 3rd years of the program to give the veteran ample time to get their operation up and running. In addition, KCARD provides similar one-on-one support for new and existing business owners and we will rely on their insights for how the Kentucky AgVets program prepared participating veterans for starting their own enterprise. Participatory Evaluation – CEDIK will intercept a sample of project participants prior to the launch of the project, throughout the implementation phase, and at the end of the three-year project period. To minimize the burden to the veterans, CEDIK will be present at some of the on-base trainings to better understand the motivations from participating in the programming, the veterans’ desired outcomes, as well as perceived barriers for success. The findings can inform how future educational programs are delivered as well as how the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, KCARD, KSBDC, KCMA, and other resource providers can respond. In the event a veteran participates in experiential educational opportunities, CEDIK will distribute a survey instrument to both parties to complete. The veteran will be asked to assess changes in knowledge and understanding as well as his or her interest in pursuing a career in the agricultural field. Veterans will also be asked to specify the occupation, sector, and location where they would like to work. Producers will be asked to evaluate the veteran’s success in the program as well as their perceived value of participating in the program as a mentor. During the project implementation, CEDIK will conduct short interviews with a sample of participating veterans and their families (if appropriate). These will be ten minute interviews to better understand if programming is effective and provide more narrative that describe changes in behavior and expected long-term outcomes because of those changes in behavior. Towards the end of the project, CEDIK will conduct five to ten case studies that will require longer interviews and possibly site visits with those veterans who selected a career in agriculture. To capture the diversity of opportunities, CEDIK will select at least one participant from each of the following career pathways: 1) Worked for someone else on-farm; 2) started his/her own enterprise (either off-farm or on-farm); 3) worked in the value-added agriculture sector; and 4) worked as an apprentice for an existing farmer. The purpose of these case studies is to determine why the veteran participated, the specific components of the program that were most useful, and the lessons learned along the way. It is expected that these case studies can be used nationally to provide examples for other similar programs. Summative Evaluation – This component of the evaluation will focus specifically on measuring if and how the project team met its intended objectives and targets. Several objectives are quite straightforward and require monitoring participation and completion rates in workshops and trainings. Other objectives require post-surveys (1-year post conclusion of workshop/educational offering) to determine if and how a veteran has engaged in an agricultural enterprise. The survey will ask veterans to respond to questions that summarize their current occupation, the type of business they work for, their long-term goals, and to describe the role of the Kentucky AgVets program in influencing their decisions. Finally, the development of the network of service providers is another key outcome from the AgVets program. The summative evaluation will focus on the number of referrals throughout the network, new formal partners (the VA hospital, other community colleges, Kentucky Farm Bureau, etc), the number of new or revised programs (and the number served by these programs), and funding that resulted from this network.
Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/24


  • Kentucky Center for Agriculture and Rural Development: $44,629.00


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