- Animals: bees, bovine, poultry, swine, sheep
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: free-range, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, range improvement, stocking rate
- Crop Production: nutrient cycling
- Education and Training: extension
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, whole farm planning
- Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement, soil stabilization
- Pest Management: biological control, chemical control
- Production Systems: transitioning to organic
- Soil Management: soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, sustainability measures
Trainings on sustainable agriculture practices were held in southern Texas for employees of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension Service, and USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The main training for the project, ‘Farming for the Future’, was a hands-on farm training conducted at six locations, classroom presentations and discussions over four days, totaled 40.5 participation hours. Eleven farmers and ranchers served as trainers during the on-site visits for 45 professional trainees.
A second training was held on ‘Restoration Agriculture’ at the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, Texas in November 2015 for the same target audience as the sustainable agriculture training, but we opened up the opportunity for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, private consultants, and university employees to attend. There were 42 participants at the one-day training, totaling 336 participation hours. Mark Shepard, farmer and author of the book ‘Restoration Agriculture’ led the training.
A third training named ‘Farm and Ranch to Table’ was held at the Parker Creek Ranch in D’Hanis, Texas in June 2016. Thirty-five Extension and USDA-NCRS educators attended the event where 10 farmers served as speakers. Participants rotated between four stations educating on land management, marketing, understanding terminology, and sustainable agriculture practices, for a total of 262.5 participation hours.
Our final training opportunity on Business Basics: Business and Financial Plan Development was offered 26 April 2017, in San Antonio, Texas. Eighteen Extension educators and seven farmers attended the event. Speakers included established farmers, and Extension economic development specialist, and an educator from the UTSA Small Business Development Center. The planning and management presentations lasted seven hours for a total of 175 participation hours.
The training committee developed the following four behavior-based objectives evaluated through post-retrospective evaluations:
- Increase the knowledge of South and Central Texas CEAs and NRCS about multiple successful sustainable and organic farming operations. Goal: Given that the CEAs reported having no training or less training than necessary, the goal is to increase knowledge by 70%, by post-retropective self-assessments on the economic, environmental, and social issues related to sustainable systems.
- Increase the knowledge of South and Central Texas CEAs and NRCS personnel about Texas and Federal sustainable agricultural programs available to limited-resource farmers and ranchers. Goal: To increase knowledge by 50%, based on post-retrospective evaluations
- Improve the attitudes of South and Central Texas CEAs and NRCS about the importance and applicability of sustainable and/or organic agricultural operations for small to medium-sized landowners. Goal: To increase the rankings (post-retrospective evaluation) by at least one rank (i.e., from Somewhat important to Important) of the practice of sustainable agriculture and its potential to improve profitability in multi-generational farms, and to increase the percentage of their clientele that they estimate sustainable and/or organic practices will be applicable for by 30%.
- Provide the skills necessary for South and Central Texas CEAs and NRCS personnel to confidently educate and advise landowners interested in beginning or improving sustainable and/or organic agricultural practices. Goal: To have every participant rank either Confident or Very confident their ability to design and host sustainable and/or organic agriculture workshops.