From the Director
From the director
|With 1,500 cars a day driving by the Bosserd Family Farm in Marshall, Mich., the Bosserds converted a traditional grain and livestock farm to a diversified direct-market outlet that relies on farmstand sales. Profits have soared thanks to high visibility and enthusiastic word of mouth. Photo by Pam Bosserd|
Spurred by interest from her suburban neighbors, Pam Bosserd converted a significant part of her Michigan grain and livestock farm into vegetables. Now, farmstand sales of sweet corn, tomatoes and cucumbers exceed income from field corn, beans and wheat, thanks to an enthusiastic word-of-mouth network and farm tours for schoolchildren.
Two SARE producer grants have helped Bosserd achieve her goals of hiking farm profits and educating consumers (see Farm as Classroom). But, like any good entrepreneur, Bosserd continues to look for ways to please her customers. From a customer survey, she learned they wanted to buy meat at the farm. Bosserd and her husband, David, have the steers, but lacked the know-how to process and sell meat directly to consumers.
That changed when they attended a North Central region marketing conference, sponsored by USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, where Bosserd saw real-life examples of successful direct-market meat sellers.
'People were saying: You've got the sweet corn, beans and potatoes, but where's my meat?' ' she recalled. 'The SARE conference helped me get the confidence' to get a license, create a label and plan to sell meat at the farm.
Since 1988, SARE has helped raise farm profits, improve stewardship of natural resources and enhance communities through an innovative research and education grants program. Lately, the information SARE has gleaned from more than 1,600 projects is more relevant than ever; project findings suggest ways to counter low agricultural prices and address increasing concerns about rural communities and the environment.
By awarding more than 250 new grants each year, SARE continues to explore options that meet today's farming challenges with an eye toward long-term solutions. Using a collaborative approach within a regional structure - along with integrated research and education, plus lots of producer involvement - SARE funds projects that meet local, regional and national needs.
The program's design offers a flexible, innovative and entrepreneurial approach in the new model of government programs. Four regional SARE councils - composed of producers, farm consultants, university researchers and educators, state and federal government agency staff and representatives from nonprofit organizations - identify information needs and select projects in a competitive process.
SARE's strong educational focus continues to offer practical, timely information to farmers and ranchers across the country. At a Portland, Ore., SARE conference in March, more than 500 participants learned innovative ways to farm sustainably in the diverse Western Region - including water-conserving cropping practices, organic production, conservation tillage, raising orchard and vine crops, innovative marketing strategies and community food systems.
Two new books published by SARE's national outreach arm, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), serve up information to producers interested in improving their soil quality and adding value to dairy products. The new titles expand SAN's series of books and informational bulletins. SARE ensures that project findings get put to use through its Professional Development Program (PDP). PDP offers educational opportunities in the latest sustainable practices and systems to extension educators and other agricultural advisers.