The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Program (PDP) has worked in cooperation with Nebraska Extension and partnered with other organizations in Nebraska to provide professional development and education in sustainable agriculture. Organizations we partner with include: Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) Nebraska Natural Resource Districts (NRDs), Nebraska Department of Agriculture, high school vocational agriculture and college agriculture instructors,and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) i.e. Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition, Nebraska Buy Fresh, Buy Local Program and Nebraska Food Coop.
The Nebraska SARE PDP target audience includes: Nebraska Extension Educators and Specialists, NRCS field staff, Farmer Educators,NRD Staff,and NGO educators. Gary Lesoing, the Nebraska State Coordinator provides opportunities for professional development training at local, state, regional and national conferences and trainings. There were travel scholarships awarded to Extension Ag Educators, NGO Educators and Farmer Educators to attend conferences focusing on sustainable agriculture, particularly in areas of cover crops and soil health, and small scale food production. At local and statewide sustainable agricultural events, SARE resources and information is shared.
Soil Health and Water, Scaling Up Local Food and providing general information about sustainable agriculture through web-based education and statewide face-to face conferences has been the focus in 2017. Over 500 people attended SARE supported soil health/cover crop conferences across Nebraska in cooperation with Nebraska Extension, NRCS and Nebraska NRDs. These partnerships have provided opportunities for more education and research in soil health, potentially increasing adoption of soil health practices which will improve the sustainability of our farms. A major focus in 2017 was the development of the Midwest Cover Crop Conference Nebraska Selector Tool. This SARE supported project is scheduled for a test launch in early 2018. This tool will provide producers with the information needed for cover crop selection in Nebraska.
Interest in the development of local food systems in Nebraska continues. Seventy individuals participated in two SARE supported tours that visited local food producers in Nebraska. Extension Educators, members of NGOs and consumers are interested in programs that improve the sustainability of local food systems. These tours increase the awareness of local food issues.
Approximately 225 people participated in two SARE supported sustainable agriculture conferences in Nebraska in 2017. At each conference information was presented about SARE resources and potential grant opportunities. A variety of topics provided education on sustainable agriculture at these conferences.
Nebraska SARE continued to have a web presence in 2017. Our SARE webpage is used to advertise and promote SARE programs in sustainable agriculture and provide resources about sustainable agriculture. Four webinars about sustainable agriculture subjects were presented in 2017 receiving 359 views with 869 people viewing previously recorded webinars. A blog initiated in 2016, https://saremansagnews.wordpress.com; has 649 followers, an increase of 30% in 2017. The blog provides information about sustainable agriculture programs and highlights local food producers.
2017-18 initiatives are:
- Soil health and water
- Regional conferences focusing on sustainable agriculture issues
- Scaling up local food systems
- Web-based education of sustainable agriculture
- Emerging issues
For the Nebraska SARE Program, we provide a number of opportunities for agricultural educators to receive professional development in sustainable agriculture. Through cooperative efforts with Nebraska Extension, NRCS and other organizations, we conduct and provide resources for conferences, field days, workshops and tours in areas relating to our initiatives; soil health and water, scaling up local foods and sustainable agriculture in general. We provide travel scholarships to educators to participate in sustainable agriculture programs, locally, statewide, regionally and nationally. We then generally require the scholarship recipient to provide an educational outreach program in return, usually relating to what they learned from their educational experience. They may give a webinar, present at a conference or workshop we are conducting or we may visit their farm on a tour. This provides an excellent opportunity for the scholarship recipient to share and provide education in sustainable agriculture with others. We also provide mini-grants to educators who are interested in either learning about something new in sustainable agriculture, researching a new method of teaching a concept or demonstrating a sustainable agriculture principle on a farm. A committee of my SARE Advisors evaluates each proposal and determines if funding is warranted. The recipient generally shares the results of their mini-grant project through an Extension Outreach Program. We also are present at programs with a display, providing SARE resources and discussing SARE programs and grant opportunities to visitors to our display.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Through educational programs and travel scholarships, provide continuing education and resources to agricultural professionals and farmer educators about the issue of soil health/cover crops and water quality and how it impacts agriculture sustainability.
Farmers have become interested in the topic of soil health. Many are integrating the sustainable agricultural practice of using cover crops to improve soil health and the long-term productivity of their soil. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and SARE provided opportunities for Extension Ag Educators, NRCS staff, and farmer educators to learn about the use of cover crops by providing support to attend conferences, field days, and tours. Nebraska SARE has cooperated with Nebraska Extension’s On-Farm Research Program, NRCS and the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalitions to establish cover crop/soil health research/demonstration sites across the state to help further evaluate the use of cover crops and the importance for soil conservation and soil health. This program will help address a number of questions and concerns in regarding cover crops related to drought and water, which is always an important issue in Nebraska.
4 Travel Scholarships
- Four Extension Educators/Specialists received travel scholarships to attend the National Cover Crop Conference
4 SARE Sponsored Conferences
- A mini-grant provided funding for a Soil Health workshop in North Central Nebraska (120 participants)
- A mini-grant provided funding for a Soil Health/Cover Crop tour in Southeast Nebraska (30 participants)
- SARE co-sponsored the Nebraska Cover Crop Conference in East Central Nebraska (276 participants)
- SARE co-sponsored the Opportunities for Growing and Grazing Cover Crops Conference in Lincoln, NE (150 participants
- The SARE Soil Health Initiative has been a very successful program in encouraging and leading Nebraska Extension and NRCS in Nebraska to cooperate and provide research, demonstration and educational opportunities for agricultural professionals and farmers in Nebraska. Through NCR SARE Grants, Nebraska SARE Mini-Grants, NRCS Programs and farmer cooperation, we are moving forward on research and education on soil health issues and the use of cover crops in Nebraska. Currently we have two issue teams in Nebraska Extension that are putting a great deal of effort into the topic of soil health and water quality. A number of grants are providing funding that will allow research to be conducted on the use of cover crops in Nebraska and other recommended soil health practices.
- The Development of the Midwest Cover Crop Selector Tool for Nebraska will provide a tool for farmers to utilize as they plan the use of cover crops in their crop and or crop/livestock systems. It is scheduled to be tested in early 2018 and be available this year following a year of work by Nebraska Extension, NRCS and agricultural providers.
Through educational programs and travel scholarships, provide continuing education and resources to agricultural professionals, NGOs and farmer educators about current sustainable agriculture issues.
Within Nebraska there are conferences that focus on sustainable agriculture and provide opportunities for agriculture professionals to improve their knowledge in this area. Nebraska SARE has provided financial support for these conferences and also provides travel scholarships to educators to attend these conferences. In 2017 we supported the Healthy Farms Conference, held in Columbus, NE in northeast Nebraska. We also supported the Western Nebraska Sustainable Crop and Livestock Conference held in Sidney, NE in the Panhandle Region of Nebraska. Approximately 200 and 25 people attended the Healthy Farms Conference and the Western Nebraska Sustainable Crop and Livestock Conference respectively. Other conferences where Nebraska SARE supported travel included: No-till on the Plains in Salina, Midwest Cover Crop Conference in Grand Rapids, MI and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, UT.
8 Travel Scholarships
- Four farmer educators to No-till on the Plains in Salina, KS
- One Extension Educator to Midwest Cover Crop Conference in Grand Rapids, MI
- One Extension Educator to Manure Management Workshop in Raleigh, NC
- One Extension Educator to NACAA AM/PIC Salt Lake City, UT
- One Graduate Student to Kansas Entomological Society Meeting in Kansas
While the Western Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Crop and Livestock Conference does not draw a large crowd, beneficial learning results from the conference. Results from a survey from the conference indicated:
- With (n=20) 87% have a moderate to significant increase in knowledge of the role of beneficial insects in improving yield and reducing input costs.
- With (n=20) 78% have a moderate to significant increase in knowledge of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) and farmer/rancher opportunities.
Through programs, travel scholarships, tours and other resources, provide continuing education to strengthen the awareness and knowledge of our local food systems and to increase the capacity of educators to serve their clientele.
There continues to be a focus on scaling up local food systems as the demand for local food and the support for local farmers remains strong. Two SARE sponsored tours visited several local farms in Nebraska that are producing food and either selling direct to the consumer or wholesale at various outlets. One farm grows its own food for their restaurant which is at the farm. Another farmer sells vegetables wholesale and is part-owner of a food distribution company. Educators learned first hand what is involved in growing and marketing food locally and the challenges of scaling up local food. Fifty-one and nineteen people participated in these tours respectively. A blog started in 2016 continued in 2017 to increase awareness to local food. It can be accessed at:https://saremansagnews.wordpress.com.
2 SARE Sponsored Tours
- Sustainable Ag Tour (Local Foods & Organic Farming) 51 participants
- Local Food Systems Tour – Nebraska Extension Issue Team – Mini-Grant 19 participants
8 Travel Scholarships
- One staff from NGO attended High Tunnel Workshop in Iowa
- Two farmer/entrepreneurial educators attended the Slow Food Nations in Denver, CO
- Three staff from NGO attended WFAN Conference in Madison, WI
- Two staff from NGO attended National Incubator Farm Training Initiative in Salinas, CA
Surveys were conducted following each of the tours that were conducted indicated significant impact.
- (n=32) 100% of tour participants gained knowledge on the tour and 66% will make changes based on what they learned on the tour.
- For the second tour of 19 educators, specifically planned for Extension Educators that work with consumers, a follow up survey indicated (n=11) 64% are using the information they learned on the tour professionally.
- My blog, SAREMANSAGNEWS had a 30% increase in followers from 499 to 649 in 2017.
- Presented at the NACAA AM/PIC in Salt Lake City in July 2017. “Increasing Awareness and Education of the Local Foods System and Sustainable Enterprises.” p.188 https://www.nacaa.com/ampic/2017/2017%20Proceedings%20LR.pdf
Increase the educational opportunities for professional development in sustainable agriculture through web-based programs.
We continued to provide a web presence with the Nebraska SARE Program in 2017. Our website is used to promote SARE sponsored programs and other sustainable agriculture events. We continue to offer webinars that provide information and education about issues in sustainable agriculture. In 2017 four webinars were presented that received 359 views. We also have 32 webinars archived from 2010 – 2016 available for viewing. These webinars received 869 views in 2017.
- Nebraska Permaculture Design (65 views)
- Bio-based Weed Management Tools for Specialty Crops (219 views)
- Cattle Management and Performance in an Integrated Crop-Livestock System (44 views)
- Myths & Merits of Grazing Corn Residue (31 views)
- We had 1496 visitors to our website from 35 different countries.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Surveys following these conferences confirmed the significance of the impact these conferences had on the education of the participants.
- For the Nebraska Cover Crop Conference – 89% (n=127) of the participants noted moderate to significant improvement on how cover crops managed on their farms.
- For the Nebraska Cover Crop Conference -60% (n=127) of the participants will expand/modify or start in the future how cover crops are managed on their farms.
- For the Opportunities for Growing and Grazing Cover Crops Conference, 73% responded they plan to expand, modify or start at least one practice discussed at the conference.
The two SARE sponsored cover crop conferences showed significant impact for these programs. Quotes from the Nebraska Cover Crop Conference” Very good program. Hearing from farmers own experiences is valuable.” “Always good – learn something new and very useful environmentally & economically.” A survey from the Nebraska Cover Crop Conference indicated the estimate value of the knowledge gained and or anticipated practice changes on a per acre basis was $19.27 per acre (n=89) over 456,228 acres bringing the estimated total value of the program to $8.8 million. Producers in attendance at the Opportunities for Growing and Grazing Conference, representing 80,000 acres and 9,600 beef cows (n=73), estimated the value gained from the conference at $18 per acre.
The Local Food Systems Tour was a result of a mini-grant and attended primarily by Nebraska Extension Educators from the Extension Issue Team “Consumer Confidence in Food”. Many of the participants in this tour were either nutritionists or worked in food safety. Comments from Extension Educators about this tour included, “Will tell the story to others as I teach/talk about our food system.” I am now more informed about our food system.”
Face of SARE
In 2017 we have continued to use our webpage for promotion of SARE Grants, resources and programs. This has made access easier for stakeholders for travel scholarships, grant applications, and other SARE sponsored programs and activities in Nebraska. I also continue to promote SARE programs through list-servs, local newspapers, through webinars and newsletters. This has resulted in participation from Nebraska in the various grant programs in 2017.
In 2017, the SARE display was at a number of conferences and workshops throughout Nebraska. The exhibit includes SARE publications, resources of SARE grant opportunities and the Nebraska and NCR SARE displays. In 2017 Nebraska SARE participated in the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society (NSAS) Healthy Farms Conference in Columbus, NE, a SARE Sponsored Pollinator Workshop Conducted by the Xerces Society at the Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center (ENREC) near Mead, NE, the Triumph in Ag Show in Omaha, NE, Small Farm Workshop in Nebraska City, NE, the Veterans Beginning Farmer Workshop in Seward, NE, the Opportunities for Growing and Grazing Cover Crops Conference in Lincoln, NE and the Western Nebraska Sustainable Crop and Livestock Conference in Sidney.
We promoted the Farmer/Rancher Grant, the SARE Youth Educator Grant Programs and the Partnership Grants at these above listed conferences and at other activities throughout 2017. SARE grants and publications were used as resources and promoted at programs conducted in Nebraska in 2017 and also on our website, on my blog, Facebook and Twitter.