Each year, four Extension agents are selected to participate in the SARE Sustainable Agriculture Fellows program. The following are reflections from a few Fellows on their experiences in the program.
Walt Bumgarner, Penn State Extension (2007 Fellow)
As part of the first class of SARE Fellows, I want to tell my fellow NACAA members that their participation in the SARE Fellows Program could possibly be the highlight of their career in Extension....To be offered the chance to travel the country and experience different aspects of sustainability is invaluable.
Ronnie Barentine, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension (2007 Fellow)
To gain further knowledge of sustainable agriculture systems, I had the highest honor to be chosen as a member of the 2008-2010 SARE and NACAA Fellows Program....The trainings were held in the states of Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Iowa. While visiting these states, I studied organic fruit and vegetable production, livestock production in arid lands, endangered species of desert lands, illegal entry of non U.S. citizens on ranch operations, grass fed all natural beef and organic beef production, dairy modernization, conservation tillage, farmers markets, and conservation of soil and riparian water resources.
Richard Brzozowski, University of Maine Cooperative Extension (2008 Fellow)
My Extension programming with farmers and growers has benefited greatly on account of my participation [in the SARE/NACAA Fellows Program]....I learned a great deal about sustainable agriculture and its components as I met farmers and Extension workers from different regions of the country. I have cultivated working relationships and friendships with many of these individuals. As a result of my experience, I have integrated many of these ideas and methods into my programming.
Stephen Komar, Rutgers New Jersey Cooperative Extension (2009 Fellow)
The SARE Fellowship provides a unique opportunity for agricultural educators, producers and others to interact with individuals that they may not normally deal with in their respective specialties....Since participating in this program, I have personally worked with some of the other fellowship awardees on grant projects, articles and other educational programs....I highly recommend that NACAA members, regardless of experience, participate in this program.
Mark Blevins, North Carolina Cooperative Extension (2009 Fellow)
My agricultural awareness and understanding has exploded during the SARE Fellows program! I come from a horticultural background and was searching for ways to gain a broader sense of agriculture with a focus on sustainability, but received so much more....This has been a remarkable experience for me as an agent in my first 5 years, but this program could benefit any agricultural educator at any point in their career.
Joran Viers, New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension (2009 Fellow)
When I applied in 2009 for the SARE Fellows program, I thought it would be fun and mildly educational. After all, I had a strong background in organic production, having spent six years running our state’s organic certification program....It has been fun, extremely fun, but much more than “mildly” educational. Through trips to various regions of the country, looking at all kinds of agriculture at all sizes, I have learned far more than I imagined I would....This program has been one of the best professional development opportunities I’ve had, by far.
My first year as a SARE Fellow has greatly changed the way I analyze a client’s operations. Working in a two-thirds urban / one-third rural county, often more emphasis in the rural areas is placed on economic viability while the urban areas focus on social responsibility. Now instead of zeroing in on what the client perceives as the problem, I look at the operation as three equal components, socially responsible, environmentally sustainable, and economically viable; all of which must be in equilibrium to be totally sustainable.
The SARE Fellows program has increased my knowledge on sustainable agricultural practices used across the US. The knowledge gained thus far has been incorporated and used in grower presentations as well as current research projects....The SARE Fellows program has also given me more national recognition as an Educator specialized in sustainable and organic farming. I also value the networking opportunities it has provided with other Extension Educators from across the US.