New England Extension Sustainable Agriculture Training Program

1995 Annual Report for ENE95-008

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1995: $119,613.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1997
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $18,113.00
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Kate Duesterberg
Center for Sustainable Agriculture, University of Vermont

New England Extension Sustainable Agriculture Training Program


The long-term goal of the New England training project is to increase the ability of the extension system and other federal and state agencies (Natural Resources Conservation Service/NRCS, Farm Services Agency/FSA, state departments of agriculture) and farmers in the six New England states to develop and maintain sustainable agriculture, protect the natural environment, and strengthen rural communities. Specific objectives to meet this goal are to:

1. Establish more effective networks among farmers, extension and other agency personnel for teaching, and planning and conducting research;
2. Increase knowledge about sustainable agriculture and about specific sustainable farming techniques and whole farm systems analysis;
3. Identify information needs of farmers in New England and develop educational materials and further training and educational programs; and
4. Develop skills to address complex community issues relating to agriculture and to increase awareness among community members about the importance of maintaining New England’s agricultural base.

Results to Date
This project was funded as a continuation of a New England-wide effort which began in spring 1994. A regional planning committee had been organized to conceptualize the project, which included representatives from the six New England Extension Systems and from sustainable farming organizations. The committee spent over a year planning a regional conference, including a pre-conference training for study circle facilitators. The conference took place in March of 1995 and more than 250 attended, among them Extension, NRCS, and other agency personnel and farmers.

Follow-up activities included two sub-regional training workshops on whole farm planning and decision-making.

From the beginning, the project’s focus has been twofold: a) increasing the level of understanding among agency personnel about sustainable production techniques; and b) acquiring participatory learning and research skills so that agencies and farmers can work more cooperatively together. The committee believes that for extension and other agencies to meaningfully promote sustainable agriculture, there must be increased understanding of the concept of agriculture as a complex biological, economic and social system. Staff members of these publicly funded agencies need to be working with farmers as co-learners and as agents of change. Establishing participatory, co-learning partnerships with farmers who have adopted sustainable systems is one way of addressing this challenge.

Over the past year and a half, the project has organized three regional farm tours and one New England-wide training on Participatory Research & Education and has developed several fact sheets intended for regional audiences.
Reported December 1997.


Karen Duesterburg

Univ. of VT
S. Herbert

Univ. of MA
R. Libby

ME Organic Farmers and Growers Assoc.