Finalists of the 2015 SARE/NACAA Search for Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture program are:
North Central Region
Todd Weinmann, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University Extension
Demand for locally produced food is increasing and producers that are able to grow fruits and vegetables in the off-season have the ability to demand higher prices, and at times, offer more variety. To meet this off-season demand, farmers can use high tunnels and other season extension techniques. Todd Weinmann hosted a high tunnel workshop–partially funded by SARE–in Casselton, ND, targeted at growers in high tunnel produce production. Invited speakers educated the growers in basic high tunnel production, profit growth, crop selection for high tunnels, hidden costs and environmental setups, irrigation and fertigation, pick-your-own, raised beds and children, horticulture trials, the implications of climate change and the NRCS EQIP program.
Over one hundred growers attended from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, 73 percent of which, indicated a new insight and inspiration to action. Additionally, 50 percent indicated that they would increase their business profitability by at least $500 from attending this workshop. One hundred percent of the attendees indicated learning something new about high tunnels and 69 percent said that they would apply for the NRCS EQIP Program if they qualified.
A follow-up survey at six months was administered and 86 growers responded. Sixty three percent of respondents had incorporated something that they learned during the workshop into their business or operation that they would not have done had they not attended. And 94 percent indicated that they would recommend this workshop to others.
The Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agritourism Working Group came together four years ago with the goal of conducting research, developing curriculum and providing outreach for producers involved in on-farm direct marketing and agritourism. The leadership team received three USDA grants (two SARE grants and one Specialty Crop Block grant), totaling $195,221 to develop educational materials, conduct farmer and service provider training, and to implement on-farm analysis for visitor safety and risk management. Materials developed with funding from one of the SARE grants are hosted on the project website and include training modules, videos, webinars, fact sheets and an online budget calculator. The site received over 3,400 visitors in 2014 and project materials have been used at educational events in three other states (Maine, Vermont and Delaware). The programming reached 874 participants via webinars, in-class lectures and workshops with these materials.
A sustainable farming website was developed through the SARE State Professional Development Program funding and is regularly updated. The website had almost 23,000 visits in 2014. Additionally, a New Jersey tourism website for agriculture was created and had 41,505 pageviews from September to December 2014. Lastly, a comprehensive report was sent to 4,100 stakeholders, administrators and legislators to highlight sustainable agriculture programming.
Mark H. Hall, Extension Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension
With crop production costs at record highs, producers must get the most out of every bag of seed, every jug of crop protection product and every tank of fuel. To get the highest return on investment, farmers can adopt precision agriculture technology. Mark Hall and Precision Agriculture Specialist John Fulton assembled a curriculum to teach farmers how to incorporate precision agriculture into their farming operations. The classes were conducted online and included video presentations and tests on yield monitoring and mapping, site specific management, soil fertility, GPS/GNSS, Variable Rate Technology, and Automatic Section Control Technology. The course can be accessed through the Alabama Precision Agriculture homepage.
Over six thousand students from around the globe have already participated. After completing the course, students estimate they will save an average of 3.4 gallons per acre and reduce fertilizer and crop protection chemical usage by 13.57 percent.