North Central SARE
| Barbara Norman, a blueberry farmer in Covert, Mich., embodiesSARE's efforts to reach underserved audiences: Along withbeing a vocal SARE spokesperson, Norman received NorthCentral Region SARE's first Diversity Grant to mentor blackand Hispanic farmers in three states.|
Photo by Kelly Weber
NORTH CENTRAL SARE
North Central Region SARE (NCR-SARE) is opening up new frontiers in its grant programs by reaching out to youth, graduate students and groups previously underserved by NCR-SARE such as minorities and corn and soybean farmers—all of whom are vital to the region’s agriculture now and in the future.
Before NCR-SARE developed new grant programs and communications initiatives, it conducted meetings with farmers from these groups to ensure new programs would effectively meet their needs. In summer 2008, staff held sessions on North and South Dakota reservations; and in summer 2009, with corn and soybean farmers in Minnesota. The result: NCR-SARE has added a new Youth Grant Program and released special calls for a Diversity Grant Program and a Native American Sustainable Agriculture Grant Program. The region’s first Diversity Grant recipient, Michigan farmer Barbara Norman, is mentoring black and Hispanic farmers in Illinois, Kansas and Michigan to help them better advocate for themselves and their communities.
Another top priority for the region is supporting tomorrow’s sustainable agriculture leaders. Graduate students with NCR-SARE grants have conducted cutting-edge research and gone on to faculty positions at land grant universities. Shoshanah Inwood, profiled in this report, gained enough experience with her SARE grant to land a research associate position at The Ohio State University’s Social Responsibility Initiative. Another NCR-SARE-funded grad student has obtained a faculty position at Ohio State and asks students to write SARE proposals for an assignment.
NCR-SARE is also breaking new ground with the projects it funds, supporting research to advance clean energy farming—especially in renewable energy production such as wind power; urban agriculture to help revitalize neighborhoods in America’s heartland cities; direct marketing to boost farm income; and cover cropping and no-tillage on large-acre farms.
Listening and adapting programs accordingly will be NCR-SARE’s mantra for the future. That way it can continue to reach further and farther, and ensure that today’s innovation becomes tomorrow’s commonplace practice. Read on to learn how NCRSARE’s cream-of-the-crop grantees are doing an exceptional job of advancing sustainable agriculture across America’s heartland.