Rutgers Professor helping women shadehouse farmers

For all her considerable academic accolades, Rutgers University Professor Robin Brumfield still regards herself as a farmer with a mission to do what she can to help maximize the production of healthy food.

Just over a week ago she arrived in Guyana on her second visit as a guest of the Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer programme and during her all too brief visit here she will he helping women who are involved in the Farmer to Farmer Shadehouse Project to improve their capacity to run their farming operations as businesses. “Businesses that are guided by business plans are usually about seven times more likely to succeed than businesses that are not,” Dr. Brumfield told Stabroek Business.

It is the ideal mission for the Farm Financial Management and Greenhouse Production specialist who, during her July 28- August 11 visit will conduct training to boost the operations of the local hydroponic shadehouse growers. More than that, her visit here will be used to execute a follow-up Farmer to Farmer assignment in Cost of Production training for field staff and shadehouse vegetable producers.

Much of her preoccupation, she says, is with providing the female farmers with whom she works with a sense of self-esteem which she says is not always associated with women farmers. She points out that much of what women do is considered backyard farming. “Many of them are often not even aware that they are actually running a business”, Dr Brumfield said.

Professor Robin Brumfield
Professor Robin Brumfield

The curriculum for her training programme embraces a broad spectrum of business-related issues including calculating costs, returns and profitability; and business planning for niche marketing.

Her visit to Guyana last year saw her conducting training under the Hydroponic Shadehouse Vegetable Production and Marketing Project. Regarded generally as a successful intervention Professor Brumfield’s visit helped to popularize shadehouse farming here and to expose more local farmers, primarily women, to the technology.

This time around her training programme will include the introduction of Suzanne’s Project, a Business Skills project which she undertook in Turkey in 2011 to train women farmers there in the basic skills needed to sustain profitable agricultural businesses.

Named after Dr. Brumfield’s daughter Suzanne, the project focuses on the use of business plans to empower women who manage horticultural businesses by providing them with several sessions of business management instructions.Part of the focus of the local training programme being conducted by Professor Brumfield is to provide information for small-scale vegetable producers to monitor costs of their operations while providing them with the relevant tools to enable them to take advantage of niche markets.

Dr. Brumfield has particular expertise in shadehouse and greenhouse production and management.
To help shadehouse  owners in the U.S. make effective managerial decisions she has developed “Greenhouse Cost Accounting,” a computer programme that allows greenhouse managers to allocate costs to specific crops. Her programme has become the standard for the greenhouse industry in the United States.

Professor Brumfield is the author of the Marketing and Business Management chapters for the 7th edition of the best-selling textbook, Greenhouse Operations and Management by Dr. Paul V. Nelson.

Supported by the United States Congress and USAID, the Partners of the Americas’ Farmer to Farmer programme seeks to improve opportunities in rural areas of Latin America and the Caribbean by increasing food production and distribution, promoting better farm and marketing operations and conserving natural resources.

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