From the Director
|Agee Smith, Wells, Nevada. |
Photo by Mona Whalen
Our cover photo of Agee Smith on his Elko, Nevada, ranch illustrates some of the best of SARE-producer-led professional development featuring state-of- the-art land stewardship and a profitable new venture.
SARE is committed to helping agricultural educators stay in step with the latest, most innovative farming and ranching strategies through our professional development program. Regional SARE competitive “PDP” grants provide learning opportunities for ag professionals. Competitive grants are complemented by state programs in which SARE coordinators keep people in the know about SARE activities; promote dialog among land-grant universities, NRCS, nonprofit organizations, and others; and refer people to the best information sources in their state.
This dual strategy works. In recent surveys of extension educators in the North Central and Western regions, a great majority of respondents said they are interested in sustainable ag. Three-fourths of them have led at least one educational program to share new innovations.
Range Management & Tourism
Some of those innovations take place in settings like Cottonwood Ranch, our cover photo location. With 88 percent of Nevada owned by federal agencies, most ranchers are trying to raise livestock amid a bevy of rules. When public land managers asked the Smith family to cut their herd from 1,200 steers, forward- thinking Agee Smith immersed himself in Holistic Management™ training and emerged with a new plan to run 400 head on 35,000 acres. To learn from Smith’s new system—grazing cattle in higher densities but shorter duration through some 50 pasture areas—SARE ’s Nevada professional development program helped bring interested parties, from the Bureau of Land Management to NRCS to Extension, to the ranch.
In Nevada, Smith’s ranching practices became a professional development tool. In fact, we pride ourselves on our producer-driven approach. SARE involves farmers and ranchers in all aspects of the program, from grant reviews to setting priorities. The Smiths take advantage of their picturesque mountain location by running a successful guest ranch. They combine agriculture and tourism as part of a new wave of entrepreneurs seeking to add value to more traditional farms. Learn more about the Smiths in our upcoming book, The New American Farmer: Profiles of Agricultural Innovation. The book is one of many resources from the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), SARE’s national outreach arm. SAN interprets and delivers cutting-edge SARE research results with books and bulletins designed for producers, educators, and researchers.
Adding Value & Other Hot Topics
Both environmentally sound range management and agri-tourism are among the of-the-moment topics in which SARE has invested through its grants. Agri-tourism, along with local processing, direct marketing, organic farming, and community agriculture, represent some of the new approaches that are revving up profits for producers. All ways to “add value” to farming, these technologies make up the primary focus of a large number of SARE grants and are a component of scores of others. SARE ’s great advantage comes in its ability—thanks to regional grant-making councils who know the local issues—to fund forward-thinking research and education subjects that keep producers on the cutting edge. See the 12 project summaries that follow to learn more about what we’re funding now. What’s on the horizon? From bio-energy to food security to new market value chains, stay tuned.