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About Us

Research | Outreach | Extension

Decorative logo for Small Producers Initiative

USDA defines a small farm as any farm business grossing $350,000 or less annually. In Texas, 89% of farmers gross less than $50,000 on their farm or ranch operation. While SPI's focus is small and mid-sized producers, we're interested in providing outreach, training, and extension for farms and ranches of any size, production method, organization, etc. We're focused in Texas, and we're especially interested in assisting historically underserved farmers and ranchers, as well as those who are pursuing regenerative production practices.

  • Small and mid-sized farms are defined as those with a gross cash farm income (GCFI) less than $499,999. This includes starter farms under 1 acre to ranches or farms of several hundred acres.
  • Historically underserved producers include beginning, minority, veteran, women, and young producers.

The Small Producers Initiative (SPI) was formed through a stakeholder meeting in 2015 hosted by Dr. Ken Mix and Robert Maggiani (NCAT), and attended by our Advisory Team members. The meeting generated ideas for training opportunities, topics and speakers, and a funding strategy. We conducted a Needs Assessment of approximately 184 Texas small producers who attended the conference from 2017-2019.

The top 5 challenges identified by small producers were:

  1. Access to capital (71%)

  2. Aversion to acquiring debt to finance operation (68%)

  3. Financing (66%)

  4. Organic certification requirements (64%)

  5. Costs of regulations and permits (64%)

What does SPI do?

Our small but mighty team works in a variety of ways to support small and mid-sized producers:

  • Organize the annual Southern Family Farmers & Food Systems Conference
    • Crop & Livestock production sessions
    • Business, Finance & Marketing sessions
    • Research & Technology sessions
    • Providing registration scholarships and travel stipends to historically underserved producers
  • Provide financial technical assistance
    • Virtual bookkeeping classes
    • Marketing workshops
    • Grant & loan mentorship
    • One-on-one financial consultations
  • Educate producers about conservation practices and soil health
    • On-farm demonstration events
    • Virtual soil health course (coming summer 2023)
  • Develop an integrated soil, plant, and animal health lab at TXST
  • Conduct research and develop publications
    • Needs and barriers of underserved producers
    • Perceptions and factors of success
    • Impact of conservation practices on soil health
    • Program impact and evaluation
    • Graduate student research
  • Collaborate with other agricultural organizations on projects, programs, and initiatives

You can learn more in the Our Work section.

Why small producers?

Field day

More often than not, historically underserved producers start small. Texas has the greatest number of Hispanic, African-American, and beginning farmers, the second largest veteran population, and three (almost four) of the fastest growing cities in the United States. 

Texas has 180,626 farms grossing $10,000 or less annually and 223,569 farms grossing $50,000 or less annually. These small farms make up 89% of the Texas farmer and rancher community.

Texas is a growing state, with Central Texas (between Austin and San Antonio) being one of the fastest growing regions in the nation. Texas State University is nestled in the midst of this growth, which offers small producers new markets and consumers with a rising interest in local, organic, and sustainable food options.

SPI wants to aid producers in accessing these growing markets. SPI exists to clarify the needs of small producers through academic research, and to provide sought after training in financial management, marketing, food safety, certification programs, soil health, crop production, pest management and much more. SPI will meet the extension and outreach needs of small producers through webinars, in-person workshops, and an annual conference.

Program Funding


The USDA is a major financial supporter of the Small Producers Initiative.

SPI-AMP (2020) is the most recent 2501 program grant funded in the amount of $400,000. In addition to marketing, technology, and bookkeeping workshops, this grant funds one-on-one financial mentoring and technical assistance on grant and loan writing for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The grant builds on existing partnerships to help with outreach and extension to farmers of color and veteran farmers in Texas.

See OPPE's FY2020 funded projects here.

InSPIRE (2018) was a 2501 program grant funded in the amount of $199,996 by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of Advocacy and Outreach. This grant built even further on SPI's research, outreach and extension activities through specific producer training in food safety, farmer's market incentive programs, and financial services.

For more information, please see USDA's 2018 Synopsis of Funded Projects, p. 20.

TSSSP (2017-2018) was funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the Capacity Building Non-Land Grant Colleges of Agriculture Program. This grant built on producer surveys conducted through RURAL-V, clarifying the need for further educational programming and research benefiting Texas small producers. This grant included funding for staff, equipment, two conferences, webinars, and evaluation. 

See USDA's REEIS summary

RURAL-V (2016) was the initial 2501 grant benefiting SPI. This grant funded faculty time, supplies, and equipment needed to offer free webinars, tours, and workshops to small producers, specifically historically disadvantaged groups and U.S. Military Veterans. It was awarded in the amount of $146,000 by the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach.