Progress report for SAR21-002
The UAPB SARE Training Program will emphasize educating extension associates, program aides, and mentor farmers on soil health with an emphasis on residue management, cover crops, minimum, reduced, no-till, and rotational grazing. The education and training will also involve the use of high tunnels for extending the growing season and the successful production of vegetables in high tunnels. The UAPB staff will also work with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to take advantage of their Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIC) and other conservation programs that provide funding to help install conservation practices that promote soil health. To promote the use of sustainable vegetable production practices, demonstrations will be conducted on-farm sites by the project staff.
The objectives of this project are:
To educate UAPB Agricultural Professional and mentor farmers on the NRCS 5 principles of soil health: Maximize Soil Cover, Minimize Soil Disturbance, Maximize Biodiversity, Keep a Living Root, and Integrate Livestock.
To educate UAPB Agricultural Professional and mentor farmers on the economic suitability of vegetable crops for small farms and the successful production of vegetables in high tunnels.
To educate UAPB Agricultural Professionals and mentor farmers about NRCS conservation practices that providing special funding to help SDPs install soil health practices.
To educate UAPB Agricultural Professionals and mentor farmers about rotational grazing and how it affects soil health.
To provide agricultural professionals at Socially Disadvantaged Community Based Organization with sustainable agriculture educational material and information.
The UAPB Agricultural Professionals and mentor farmers will target socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and other under-served producers in Arkansas. A special effort will be made to identify row crop, vegetable crop, and livestock producers to provide them with sustainable agriculture education.
The sustainable agriculture education was done through demonstrations. The use of high tunnels was demonstrated at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB), East Arkansas Enterprise Community (EAEC), and with two UAPB mentor farmers. These high tunnels were available for Socially Disadvantaged Producers (SDPs) to review and ask questions about crop grown in the high tunnel and production practices used in high tunnel. SDPs were also provided with information on the funding available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) for the installation of high tunnels, the installation of plastic mulch, drip tape, and irrigation wells. Emphasis was put on the EQIP financial assistance which could be up to approximately 90% of the average cost of the conservation practices. The fact that vegetables could be ready for sale much earlier and later in the high tunnel - which could get the producers higher prices - was explained as one of the benefits of high tunnels.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
To show Socially Disadvantaged Producers (SDPs) how high tunnels can be used to increased income on small farms.
A high tunnel was built on the UAPB Campus for the sole purpose of demonstrating the use of high tunnels. The high tunnel is located directly behind the offices of the Small Farm Staff. Consequently, when SDPs visit the Small Farm Staff, they have an opportunity to also visit the UAPB High Tunnel which is located right beside the offices. Therefore, many SDPs who visit the Small Farm Staff have an opportunity to not only learn about high tunnels and their possible economic benefits for small and urban farmers, but they also get the opportunity to see a high tunnel with crops growing in the high tunnel. They learn about the conservation practices being used in the high tunnel. These practices are drip irrigation, plastic mulch, fertigation, crop rotations, and integrated pest management.
SDPs that visit the high tunnel are informed about the NRCS’s EQIP Program that provides funding for the high tunnel and the other practices. The SDPs are then given an EQIP Application and a form that identified the high tunnel and other practices that a participant can apply for. The participant is also given assistance in completing the EQIP application if he or she decide to apply for NRCS assistance.
The outcomes of this initiative are as follows:
- SDPs learn what a high tunnel is and how it can be used
- SDPs learn that a high tunnel can be used to produce vegetables early for higher prices
- SDPs learn that a high tunnel can be used to produce vegetable late when field vegetables are not available
- SDPs learn about crop rotation in a high tunnel
- SDPs learn that EQIP funds are available to pay for high tunnel and other conservation practices for the high tunnel
- SDPs learn that urban agriculture producers are eligible for EQIP funds
- SDPs submitted EQIP Applications for funding
- 5 SDPs will be installing high tunnels with plastic mulch, drip irrigation, and fertigation
Educational & Outreach Activities
Face of SARE
The program is promoted through the Small Farm Staff and the UAPB Livestock Specialists. A news article promoting the producers grant is placed in local newspapers and in the UAPB's Web Page. The news articles are also placed on the School of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Human Science Facebook Page.