From the Director
As interest in profitable alternatives in agriculture continues to build, so does the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. 2003 marks SARE's 15th anniversary, and in that time, we have seen tremendous response from producers wanting to know more about agricultural systems that promote profits, good stewardship of the land and prosperous rural communities. SARE has grown, too. The program, part of USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, today funds projects and conducts outreach to the tune of $18.5 million a year. SARE's projects, designed to improve agricultural systems from farm to beyond the gate, range from university research on integrated systems, to professional development opportunities for educators, to crop, livestock and marketing innovations tested by producers on and off their farms and ranches.
Results from SARE's research are directly applicable to farms, ranches and rural communities across the nation. Many farmers and ranchers cooperating on SARE grants have realized new ways to make money - while protecting the environment and improving quality of life in their communities. Consider just a few of those benefits, excerpted from the 12 SARE projects highlighted in the pages that follow:
- With fewer start-up costs and financial risks, goat and sheep producers in Virginia can maximize profits by creating pasture-based systems - and improve parasite management.
- Adding a small fruit that packs a strong niche appeal diversifies marketing options in New England, while better connecting producers with food buyers.
- Introducing sheep to grain systems in Montana improves pest management, boosts grain yields and creates an extra income stream.
- Learning how to raise a certified organic crop or animal in Ohio can broaden marketing opportunities and net profits
- Reducing tillage in Colorado crops means fewer tractor passes, translating to less expense and erosion.
- With a sound rotation strategy, growers in Maryland outfox nematodes while adding profitable vegetable crops.
SARE's national outreach arm, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), combines the results of SARE-funded research with other valuable information to produce award-winning publications. Last year, SAN produced a guide for educators who work with limited-resource farmers. See sare.org/publications/limited-resource/. Soon, SAN will release a new book that will help agricultural entrepreneurs develop business plans to map out strategies that take advantage of new opportunities such as on-farm processing, direct marketing, organics and rural tourism. Similarly, SARE's regional communications staff produces newsletters, web resources and other material for their constituencies.
Our program's growth might be best reflected in the number of funded projects - some 2,500 since 1988 - but also by the newly minted grants programs adopted by SARE's unique four regions: North Central, Northeast, South and West. (See map on back cover for regional borders.) From a new community innovation grants program in the South, to sustainable farmer-educators in the Northeast, to graduate student awards in the South and North Central regions, to "partnership" grants that foster the collaborative efforts of extension educators and producers in the West and other regions, the SARE program continues to flex to meet agriculture's quest for new, better ways to farm.
To learn more, read on.
Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service