Every year since 2007, USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension program (SARE) and the National Association of County Agriculture Agents (NACAA) has offered a national Fellows program. The program is designed for Extension faculty who are interested in learning more about sustainable agriculture in different parts of the country. Eight Fellows, two from each of the four SARE regions, meet twice a year for a week at a time, for tours and workshops. In early June, the Fellows visited Oregon, visiting various farms and research sites with Small Farms Extension faculty Maud Powell and Heidi Noordijk. Additionally, Small Farms Extension Faculty Amy Garrett, who is one of the current Fellows, participated in the tour.
The goal of the program is to enhance understanding of sustainable agriculture through broad-based training and hands- on exposure to successful and unique sustainable agriculture programs. Participating Fellows are better able to create new programs that meet the needs of their local clientele upon returning to their home states.
SARE Fellows this year hail from New Hampshire, South Dakota, Maryland, Texas, Kentucky, Oregon, and Indiana. Additionally, SARE coordinators from Delaware and North Dakota attended.
The tour included visits to various sites in Oregon including Mt. Hood Organics outside of Mt. Hood, LaMancha Farm in Sweet Home and the Double J Jerseys Ranch in Monmouth. Fellows also toured many of the demonstration sites of the researchers at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, as well as one of Amy Garrett’s dry farm plots in Corvallis.
In the middle of the week, the Fellows spent half a day visiting Persephone Farm in Lebanon and taking a deeper dive into the farm’s sustainable agriculture practices. With the guidance of Oregon Tilth staff member Tanya Murry, they brainstormed ideas for increasing the profitability of certain crops. Finally, the Fellows visited Newport, where they took a “dock walk”, learned about OSU Extension’s Sea Grant program and got to try Dungeness crab. Over dinner on their final night, the Fellows remarked on Oregon’s beauty and the inspiring farmers and Extension faculty they had met over the course of the week.