Farming for the Future: Adopting Sustainable Agriculture Practices

2015 Annual Report for ES13-120

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $55,904.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2017
Grant Recipient: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Megan Clayton
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

Farming for the Future: Adopting Sustainable Agriculture Practices

Summary

Training on sustainable agriculture practices was 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). Hands-on farm training 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.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The training committee developed the following four behavior-based objectives evaluated through post-retrospective evaluations:

 

 

    1. 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.

 

    1. 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

 

    1. 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%.

 

    1. 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.

 

Accomplishments/Milestones

Participants were asked to report on group activities they conducted during the 5 months post-training that were a result of the information learned during the SARE Training.  Additionally, reports included 106 individuals that were educated by our training participants on starting a sustainable agriculture business outside of a group activity. Group educational programs included:

 

                                                                                                            # Participants

 

 

    • Texas Range Webinar on Alternative Ranching Methods                               34
        • Beekeeping, pastured poultry, grass fed beef

 

    • Local & Sustainable Food Production Program                                             50
        • Organic and non-GMO Vegetables

 

    • Regional Vegetable Conference                                                                  250
        • Sustainable growing practices

 

    • South Texas Farm Tour                                                                             32
        • Beekeeping and pastured poultry

 

    • Backyard Poultry & Urban Agriculture Workshop                                          250
        • Pastured poultry and sustainable small scale agriculture

 

    • Cover Crops Workshop                                                                              10
        • Soil health

 

    • Medina County Roots, Hooves & Antlers Workshop                                       30
        • Soil health management principles   

 

    • San Benito NRCS Resource Team Meeting                                                    9
        • Farmer’s market sales, benefits and challenges of sustainable agriculture

 

    • Hidalgo County Water Conservation District                                                10
        • Farmer’s market sales, benefits and challenges of sustainable agriculture

 

    • Local NRCS Producer Workshop                                                                   6
        • Sustainable agriculture opportunities

 

    • Grass Fed Beef Workshop                                                                         65
        • Grass fed beef and direct marketing options

 

    • Rancher’s Roundup                                                                                  45
        • Financial/Loan options, Sustainable Agriculture programs

 

    • Farm Bill Training                                                                                     65
        • Financial/Loan options, Sustainable Agriculture programs

 

    • Karnes County Soil and Water Conservation District Board                           10
        • Overview of the SARE Sustainable Agriculture Training

 

    • Country Living Workshop: Horticulture and Vegetable                                  10
        • Small scale plants and vegetable growing and direct marketing

 

    • Country Living Workshop: Small Flock Production                                         8
        • Pastured poultry

 

    • Country Living Workshop: Livestock                                                           15
        • Grass fed beef, soil health, pastured pork

 

    • Generation Next: Our Turn to Ranch School                                                16
        • Beekeeping, pastured poultry, grass fed beef, direct marketing

 

 

5 Months Post-Training TOTAL: 18 events; 918 people educated from 37 different counties

 

 

    • New Landowner Gardening and Chicken Workshop                           TBD

 

    • News Article Featuring SARE Training in Karnes Co Paper                 3500 readership

 

 

A 6-month no cost extension has been granted to provide additional training opportunities with the remainder of the SARE Professional Development Grant funds. A full report will be submitted following this 6-month extension.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

A sustainable agriculture training (Farming for the Future), based out of San Antonio, Texas, was held during four consecutive days in October 2014. In addition to the 11 farmers and ranchers who served as trainers, 20 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension employees, 19 USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel, and 6 Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension employees participated in this training. The participants represented 35 different counties, primarily in South and Central Texas regions.

 

This project contributed to sustainable agricultural publications by using Extension funds to develop an Extension/SARE publication titled ‘Starting a Sustainable Agriculture Business’ and video ‘The Faces of Sustainable Agriculture’ highlighting components of this farmer-taught training (will be sent on storage drive via mail). The publication will be available on our Texas Extension Bookstore Website and the South Texas Rangelands website, while the video will be uploaded to YouTube and posted on an Extension Website for viewing.

 

The agricultural education professionals, who were our training participants, represented 35 counties in South and Central Texas. Results from the post-retrospective survey and feedback from participants indicated a large increase in understanding of sustainable agriculture operations and marketing avenues, as well as an increase in perceived applicability for producers in their work counties. Follow-up reports from participants show an immediate increase in the number of sustainable agriculture practices promoted during landowner workshops, largely attributed to the topic ideas and newfound knowledge of the County Extension Agents and USDA-NRCS who participated in our training.

 

This new understanding of sustainable and specialty product operations will increase the ability of landowners to get started in the business. The training inspired a new Texas Extension Publication on ‘Starting a Sustainable Agriculture Business’ which will serve as a resource for landowners or professionals assisting with their new ventures.

 

New sustainable businesses will increase the amount of fresh, local agricultural products available within communities and at regional farmers’ markets. Texas is known as a traditional, private landowner state and diversifying operations and providing new products will benefit both the producer and consumer. As properties are passed down from one generation to the next, they are often times divided either between family members or a portion sold to help with the cost of ownership. These new owners may not be in a position to maintain the land’s current practices, especially while maintaining healthy soils and land cover. The ‘Farming for the Future’ trainees will be poised to serve as leaders to a rapidly changing land ownership and demographic, serving a rapidly increasing urban population of consumers. Because of this grant program, at least 35 of the counties in South and Central Texas will have individuals to consult for assistance in sustainable agriculture, and these training participants have demonstrated that they are and will serve as resources to their professional peers who are not as knowledgeable about ‘sustainability’ and all the opportunities to create an operation that considers the economic, environmental, and social aspects of producing agricultural products.

Collaborators:

Scott Willey

sawilley@ag.tamu.edu
Fayette County Extension Agent
255 Svoboda Ln, Rm 134
La Grange, TX 78945
Office Phone: 9799685831
Sandy Steubing

Farmer
2034 CR 532
Hondo, TX 78861
Office Phone: 8309882155
Janelle Shudde

beef@shudderanch.com
Rancher
P.O. Box 415
Sabinal, TX 78881
Office Phone: 8309882155
Mark Gretchen

info@gretchenbeeranch.com
Farmer
2745 W. Kingsbury
Seguin, TX 78155
Office Phone: 8303057925
Dale Rankin

dw-rankin@tamu.edu
Atascosa County Extension Agent
1003 Oak St
Jourdanton, TX 78026
Office Phone: 8307693066
Kara Matheney

kjmatheney@ag.tamu.edu
Washington County Extension Agent
1305 E Blue Bell Rd Ste 104
Brenham, TX 77833
Office Phone: 9792776212
Travis Krause

mail@parkercreekranch.com
Farmer
2956 S FM 2200
D’Hanis, TX 78850
Office Phone: 8304269232
Mandy Krause

mcorso11@aol.com
Consultant/Farmer
2956 S FM 2200
D’Hanis, TX 78850
Office Phone: 8304269232
Gerry Shudde

beef@shudderanch.com
Farmer
10894 Ranch Road 187 S
Sabinal, TX 78881
Office Phone: 8309882155
Ginger Easton Smith

vasmith@ag.tamu.edu
Aransas County Extension Agent
892 Airport Rd
Rockport, TX 78382
Office Phone: 3617900103
Omar Montemayor

o-montemayor@tamu.edu
Starr County Extension Agent
500 N Britton Ave
Rio Grande City, TX 78582
Office Phone: 9564872306
Dr. Nelson Daniels

ntdaniels@pvamu.edu
Associate Administrator
P.O. Box 519
Prairie View, TX 77446
Office Phone: 9362615112
Dr. Megan Clayton

megan.clayton@ag.tamu.edu
Assistant Professor & Extension Range Specialist
10345 Highway 44
Corpus Christi, TX 78406
Office Phone: 3612659203
Loncito Cartwright

Farmer
Twin Oaks Ranch
Dinero, TX 78350
Office Phone: 3614381289
Thien Gretchen

info@gretchenbeeranch.com
Farmer
2745 W. Kingsbury
Seguin, TX 78155
Office Phone: 8303057925
Vidal Saenz

v-saenz@tamu.edu
Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension Agent
410 N 13th Ave
Edinburg, TX 78541
Office Phone: 9563831026
Dr. Monty Dozier

mdozier@ag.tamu.edu
Extension Program Director
P.O. Box 2150
Bryan, TX 77806
Office Phone: 9798456800