Mississippi State University Extension Service faculty, in collaboration with Alcorn State University and partners from agriculture service providers, non-governmental stakeholders, and key producers proposed to develop and implement Sustainability Training in Agricultural Resources Systems (STARS), a multidisciplinary, professional development program for agricultural and natural resources (ANR) educators. Agriculture is the state’s leading industry, and an expanding wealth of programs, research, management practices, and technologies is available. However, those tasked with serving farmers are often unprepared to assist producers with incorporating these options. The program was developed to equip Extension professionals with relevant training and support resources on sustainable agriculture and natural resources conservation.
STARS objectives were:(1) Improve awareness and knowledge of ANR extension and education personnel of the economic, social, and environmental value of integrating plant and animal production practices with conservation of natural resources systems; (2) Increase awareness and knowledge by ANR extension personnel of best management practices, technologies for measuring and managing natural resources use; (3) Increase knowledge in ANR extension and education personnel of existing federal- and state-level programs and research-based educational materials which can assist producers in adopting and implementing sustainable agricultural practices; (4) Promote competency of ANR extension and education personnel in sustainable agriculture outreach, and; (5) Promote adoption of best management practices and other strategies which optimize production and economic returns as well as natural resources conservation.
Incorporation of field tours with lecture-style content allowed agents to connect practical application of practices with research-based science.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Promote competency of ANR extension and education personnel in sustainable agriculture outreach
On-site training by natural resources professionals presenting research-based information on agricultural sustainability issues (e.g., soil health, economics of conservation, water conservation, forage and grazing practices, timer management, the role of conservation programs, the role of private natural resources enterprises) combined with field tours with experts and private landowners/producers to see application of conservation practices.
Preliminary analysis of pre-post surveys of agents’ knowledge of key concepts indicates workshop participation increased agent knowledge of sustainable agriculture and natural resources conservation topics and issues and increased their understanding of best management practices. Plans for 3 agent-led STARS workshops for local landowners/producers are underway.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Preliminary analysis of pre-post surveys of agents’ knowledge of key concepts indicates workshop participation increased agent knowledge of sustainable agriculture and natural resources conservation topics and issues and increased their understanding of best management practices