Finalists of the 2016 SARE/NACAA Search for Excellence in Sustainable Agriculture program are:
North Central Region
Jerry Clark, Agriculture Agent, University of Wisconsin Extension
The craft brewery industry continues to expand in Wisconsin as new breweries are built throughout the state. Brewers are looking for locally grown ingredients to reduce the amount of ingredients purchased from outside Wisconsin. This SARE-funded project investigated the production of high-quality raw materials in Wisconsin, specifically hops and malting barley. The project included replicated on-farm research with malting barley varieties, nitrogen application rates, fungicide efficacy and impact on quality. The hop component of the project resulted in funding to initiate disease indexing of hop varieties and to develop educational materials to assist growers with decision making.
To learn more, see the SARE project High Quality Beverage Raw Materials for the Craft Brewing Industry.
David T. Handley, Vegetable and Small Fruit Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Strawberries are an important retail crop in Maine due to high consumer demand for fresh, local berries and a high return on investment. However, an aggressive pest complex including tarnished plant bug (Lygus lineolaris), strawberry bud weevil (Anthonomus signatus), two spotted spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) and gray mold (Botrytis cineria), combined with very low consumer tolerance for pest damage, can make this crop challenging to grow profitably. Frequent applications of pesticides used in the past to achieve high crop quality are no longer considered economically, environmentally or socially tolerable. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension works with local farmers to develop and support Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices for strawberry production to improve the long-term sustainability of this crop. This program was the first to introduce pest monitoring techniques and the use of economic action thresholds to Maine strawberry growers. The program now reaches over 100 farms statewide. Eight to 12 volunteer farmers work with Extension each season to provide monitoring sites and pest information, which is shared with over 100 growers via weekly electronic newsletters, websites and a blog. Farmers have participated in applied research projects through the program to enhance alternative pest control measures. Program evaluations indicate that farmers have modified their pest management practices as a result of their participation, usually by significantly reducing their use of pesticides. Most have seen an improvement in crop quality, and found that IPM has improved crop profitability.
Carrie Stevenson, Extension Agent, University of Florida IFAS Extension
Naturally EscaRosa (NER) is a multi-disciplinary, multi-county project geared to professional development and promotion of agritourism and ecotourism businesses and destinations. Both professions are dependent upon the proper management of natural resources for continued success and financial sustainability. NER is a venue to provide training towards good stewardship of the land and water while diversifying farm and ecotour operations. The objectives of NER include increasing visitors to local ecotourism and agritourism businesses, improving relationships between the hospitality industry and tour operators, and increasing professional development opportunities for agritourism/ecotourism businesses. Extension agents were awarded a grant from a BP oil-spill related fund, which was used to expand and update the Naturally EscaRosa website and brochure. The agents coordinated two two-day conferences for agritourism/ecotourism business owners and hospitality industry networking sessions. Outcomes from the project include growing use of the new website and smartphone app, new working relationships with ag/ecotour operators, and successful execution of two “Gulf Coast Business Development Conferences” attended by 115 business owners and Extension agents from three states. Agriculture and tourism are the leading industries in Florida and the NER program is considered a model for statewide expansion.