From the Director
|Greens thrive in a high tunnel built on a Maryland farm to extend the growing season. |
Photo by Valerie Berton
From the Director
In 1988, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program kicked off its innovative new grants program aimed at researchers who work closely with farmers and ranchers. As SARE—part of the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA—has grown, we are teaming with farmers, ranchers, and agricultural educators across the nation to better meet their needs. To research grants we added professional development for educators and on-farm producer projects. Today, our portfolio has become even more diverse, including community projects, creative partnerships between Extension and producers, projects led by graduate students, and more.
SARE's four regions fund grants, keeping a local eye on local needs. That structure helps us improve producer profits, enrich natural resources, and promote stable, healthy communities.
The best sustainable agricultural innovations encompass those three priorities. Likewise, in some of our most effective projects, our grant programs work together like well-oiled tractor gears. We see farmer/ rancher grants spur ideas in the research community. Agricultural educators test their ideas on local farms. And community projects take the innovative work of SARE producer grant recipients one step further.
Consider just a few projects that illustrate that “team” approach:
- In Kentucky, SARE farmer grantee Sara McNulty tested growing fresh beans for specialty food markets, then worked with University of Kentucky Extension educators armed with a sustainable community innovation grant to promote edamame.
- Penn State University researchers have adopted a two-step approach to helping vegetable farmers extend the season using “high tunnels”— plastic-covered structures that shelter crops. One received a SARE research and education grant to study biological control practices in high tunnels, while his colleague is training extension educators with a professional development grant.
- In Utah, an egg producer received a farmer/rancher grant to improve manure management by composting in his layer house. To perfect the system, he encouraged Utah State University faculty to apply for a SARE research and education grant.
- On a South Dakota Indian reservation, an educator has received three SARE grants, all targeted at improving quality of life in the community through community gardening.
|Lucien Samuel, holding a cashew nut from one of his trees in Estate Bordeaux, St. Thomas, participates in the “We Grow Food, Inc.” cooperative— which grows and direct-markets tomatoes, kale, bok choy, papaya, mangoes, and more—and regularly attends workshops run by SARE’s state sustainable agriculture coordinator, Louis Peterson. |
Photo by John Mayne
SARE's national outreach arm also works to advance sustainability throughout U.S. agriculture. In 2003, SARE staff worked with USDA and NIFA colleagues to create a program about SARE for “Partners,” the NIFA video magazine. The program features four successful grants projects. See www.sare.org/about/sarevideo.
In 2004, SARE will unveil a new Web site redesigned for easy navigation among the program’s national database of projects, grant opportunities, full texts of Sustainable Agriculture Network publications, and more. See www.sare.org. We also invite you to check out the newly designed Web site of SARE’s parent agency, NIFA, at www.csrees.usda.gov.
New SAN publications in 2003 include bulletins about diversifying cropping systems, transitioning to organic production, and a Spanish-language version of alternative hog production systems. As always, our communications colleagues in the regions perform outreach using newsletters, Web sites, conference attendance, and more.
We’re proud of the spread of our program, from the Caribbean to the Pacific Islands—and the continent in between. We’re similarly proud of our diverse portfolio of projects.
To learn more, read on!
Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service