Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Model Plan of Work is a culmination of the involvement of the State Sustainable Agriculture Committee. This committee is composed of representatives from both 1862 & 1890 Extension Organizations, Federal and State Government Agencies, NGOs, and farmers. A program assistant has been employed to assist the state coordinators and the members of this committee in carrying out the training objectives set forth in this model plan. The main objective of this plan is to include all of the various SARE programs into a seamless program. This plan includes more public awareness of SARE through either individual contacts made during regional/district/county workshops or a state wide Sustainable Agriculture conference. Training goals will be reached by means of in-service education, conferences, workshops, demonstrations, field days, tours, and publications. The different media sources of the stakeholders will also be used to help reach the different focal groups set forth in this plan. Training materials developed by SARE will be incorporated into the training for extension staff. Attendance at National/Regional Conferences will be encouraged as a means of further professional development in sustainable Agriculture. Some training may be conducted jointly between both land grant universities in the state. Evaluation will be done using the logic model by the evaluation team. All institutions and agencies involved are committed to this plan and have committed resources of time, money, and personnel to carry it out.
The main objective of the Model State Program is to incorporate all aspects of SARE into our State outreach program to expand knowledge and promote the adoption of sustainable agriculture practices to all farms and farmers regardless of size and type of production throughout Mississippi. The Committee will evaluate the objectives of the Model State Program and prioritize the programs and training that meets the most crucial needs in our state. Efforts will be made by the committee to leverage other resources with our funds in order to most effectively meet these needs.
To accomplish our mission our specific objectives are:
- Strengthen links of communication among Mississippi Universities, State and Federal Agencies, NGO’s, Farmers, and Communities.
- Seek to establish SARE as a familiar positive concept with farmers, NGO’s and public.
- Increase efforts to get Extension Specialists, Field Agents and other Agency staff members to incorporate Sustainable Agriculture concepts in educational activities.
- Increase involvement in the various grant programs.
- Seek to make both commodity groups and legislative leaders aware of Sustainable Agriculture and its implications to all-Mississippians – both producers and consumers.
Previously committee members have networked with other agencies and stakeholders to provide support and education and/or research needs for the transfer of information to promote adoption of sustainable agriculture practices by end users. We intend to continue in these efforts and feel we have made progress with Sustainable Ag concepts over the years. In the coming year, we will utilize new stakeholder involvement to leverage our support and communication to all Mississippians. Also having our program efforts approved as part of the Extension program training for agents will magnify the reach of these programs and provide a template for new program efforts. Each year we involve different extension faculty and agents that may not be familiar with SARE and the programs and opportunities available for their use in their educational efforts. Although we have made efforts to increase participation in SARE grant opportunities, encouraging Extension and Research Faculty, NGO, Farm Groups, Graduate Students and Farmers to consult with State Coordinators prior to submitting a proposal is a high priority so that proposals are developed for the correct grant opportunity and address the grant protocol.
Mississippi has a diverse agriculture industry ranging from large to small producers in the areas of row crops, forage/hay, beef, equine, swine, horticulture crops and fishery/wildlife/timber. These different also possess many different constraints and challenges ranging from fertility/soils, erosion, pest management, economics, environment, water and public perception. Sustainability of agriculture is important for the survival of agriculture in Mississippi. It is important for the industry improve their efforts in reducing input cost to protect environment and build a positive public image while maintaining profitability. Therefore, a State Sustainable Agriculture Committee was formed and sponsored by the SARE organization.
The State Sustainable Agriculture Committee has determined specific training topics based upon the critical needs of the State. Many educational programs and research efforts already focus on critical issues of Mississippi and incorporate sustainable agriculture concepts in the programs. In Mississippi, there is a close working relationship between the Universities, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, MS Dept. Ag and Commerce, MS Farm Bureau, Board of Animal Health, Commodity Organizations, and Dept. of Environmental Quality.
One topic previously identified by the committee involves, parasite management for small ruminants. The Program Assistant provided leadership for the agents that received out of state training and coordinated the follow-up in-service training programs and assisted with educational programs by agents delivered to producers in the state. Additional FAMACHA training are planned across the state that focus on: Parasite Control, Pasture Management, with FAMACHA hands-on training. In addition, other small ruminant management topics will be covered either as part of the program or individual questions at the training. In 2018-2019, two small ruminant statewide workshops are scheduled as well as additional local FAMACHA trainings. The Program Assistant has incorporated this training in the Small Ruminants course offered at MSU and has been approved as an in-service training program in the MSU Extension programing plan of work.
Interest in pasture pig production has increased in MS and farmers new to raising pigs especially on pasture are in need of training on issues such as general management, nutrition, health, housing, marketing, genetics, environmental regulations and conservation practices, forages, fencing etc. Working with a NGO group and extension agents, development of workshops are being made to conduct a series of workshops in local areas to address these concerns. The Swine Specialist submitted this training for the MSU Extension programing plan of work and was approved. These workshops are planned to begin in the 2018-2019 year.
Another issue that has been brought forth is the need to educate livestock and poultry farmers of proper mortality disposal for small scale production enterprises. The Board of Animal Health has encouraged the establishment of a demonstration for small scale economical methods to dispose of animal mortality that can be used for agent training to transfer the preferred methods of mortality disposal for small scale operations. Demonstration of this process across species is being developed and educational delivery to agents, and state agencies is anticipated in the 2018-2019 budget year.
The benefits of the use of cover crops is not new to our state but there is a limited amount of state research available to develop state cover crop recommendations and the benefits to producers. Currently, this topic is of interest to researchers and extension specialist in MS. Our goal is to support development of cover crop research proposals and the delivery of educational programs that assist farmers with the knowledge to proper use and manage cover crops on their farm.
Other topics to be considered by the committee for programs include: 1) Farm Business (Record keeping / Budgeting /Planning); 2) Organic Marketing and policy; 3) Food Safety and Bio-security (Local Food Supply), some of these topics are being addressed by others at MSU and ASU.
Educational process involved demonstrations on off-site locations to show-case new varieties, pest control processes, nutrient management and etc. In addition, grower meetings and field days were conducted to better educate growers of new and up-coming technologies. Further trainings were provided to agents in-order for them to be better equipped to teach and assist producers.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
To educate growers via live demonstrations of vegetables growing in field and professionals present to answer questions.
In September 2018, Alcorn State University conducted a Fall Vegetable Field Day at Mount Bayou, MS. This field day was attended by approximately 250 growers from the Mississippi Delta where they were trained about high tunnels, tillage practices, nutrient management, new vegetable varieties and precision ag techniques. In addition, they were presented information regarding cover crops. Evaluations were very positive.
Learning and action outcomes were conducted by on-site demonstrations planted late summer to provide field observation and presentations by trained scientist’s. Economic impact was approximately $2,500,000.00.
To train growers about benefits of cover crops, observe different cover crop combination species and how to manage cover crops.
Growers were shown the benefits of cover crops and how to manage cover crops in live on-farm scenario’s at Preston, MS. Growers were also show how cover crops could reduce soil erosion and improve soil characteristics. Different species of cover crops were planted in the previous fall, managed through the winter and then show cased during the spring for grower education.
The learning and action outcomes was use of a demonstration/trial based approach and presentations by scientist/specialist via field day approach. Approximately, 75 growers attended to program accounting for an economic impact of $750,000.00.
To teach growers about nutrient management, pest management (disease, weeds and insect control). They were also educated relative to organic insect control measures using Neem Oil and organic soil microbes to improve soil conditions and reduce nutrient levels.
Six scientific presentations was made in a grower meeting setting to educate growers about nutrient management, diseases and control in peas, weed control in peas, insect control in peas and organic measures in pea production. Presenters were technical in their presentation styles. In addition, this allowed Alcorn to begin building corporate alliances.
Learning and action outcomes involved using a grower meeting setting where 45 growers were trained in appropriate pea production measures for increased yield and profit. The evaluations were very positive and economic impacts was about $675,000.
Educational & Outreach Activities
From this we built new relations with Mississippi Department of Ag., MS. Farm Bureau and Mississippi Cattlemen Ass. that did not exist in Alcorn. We are also getting more professional invites as top rated presenters for other groups outside of Alcorn. We are also seeing a 75% change in production practices especially in the area of forage.
We need to make sure the level of education is maintained high in-order to move the small producer forward and into the 21st century. We need to continue collaborating with other universities, chemical and seed companies, government organization and non-profits.
Face of SARE
Each time grower meetings and or field days occurred we stated that SARE was a sponsor and what SARE was about. In addition, we added to flyers and news letters