| Farmers like Larry Thompson of Damascus,Ore., help lead the way for SARE by servingon SARE’s regional Administrative Councils,advising the program in other ways, andacting as spokespeople for sustainable ag. |
Photo by Ron Daines
With the West’s varied terrain and climate—wet and dry,mountain anddesert, tropical and sub-Arctic—Western SARE embarked on a mission twoyears ago to hone in on emerging needs and issues within subregions.These listening sessions are engaging stakeholders of many disciplinesand perspectives—from Guam to Cheyenne, from Spokane to Albuquerque.The goal: showcase SARE successes and learn firsthand how to best usegrant making and outreach to advance sustainable agriculture acrossthis vast and varied landscape.
Feedback from the facilitated, recorded conferencesshows many commonissues across all subregions:
- Revitalize or strengthen the weak links (processing,distribution) ingetting fresh, locally grown foods to schools, businesses andindividual consumers.
- Extend agricultural opportunities to youth andminorities.
- Increase sustainable biofuel production and energyself-sufficiency.
To address local needs, competitive grants up to $50,000are beingfunded from each conference for research and education that targets asubregional priority:
- In Oregon, producer Maud Powell is using her grant toeducate growerson red wheat varieties that fit the needs of local bakers.
- In Colorado, educator Tisha Casida is teaching gradeschool youth thevalues of sustaining agriculture and producing and consuming nutritiouslocal food.
- On the island of Molokai, Hawaii, extension agentGlenn Teves istraining farmers to grow cover crops and harness local resources ascrop nutrients.
- In Montana, meat scientist Jan Boles is providingfood safety supportand training for small, local meat processors.
- On Guam, extension veterinarian Manuel Duguies isresearching replacingcostly imported feed with local feed sources.
These conferences have elicited valuable feedback andpropelledparticipants toward greater sustainability. Nearly all said they gainednew knowledge. Most plan to share that knowledge with hundreds more.And 95 percent proclaimed “aspirations to do more in sustainingagriculture.”
Findings from these grassroots listening sessions arefeeding into thecritical decisions Western SARE Administrative Council members willmake on funding projects that nourish American agriculture.