Farming for the Future: Adopting Sustainable Agriculture Practices

2016 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.

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.

Two additional training opportunities will be offered in May and August 2016.

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.
  2. 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
  3. 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%.
  4. 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

 

The one-day restoration agriculture workshop, held at Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, was in November 2015. Mark Shepard, farmer and author of the book ‘Restoration Agriculture’ led the training. In addition to the 7 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension employees, 10 USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel, and 1 Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension employee, we had space in the meeting room to open up the workshop to 24 other professionals from universities, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and farmers/ranchers. The participants were specifically representing 18 counties, although 5 listed statewide responsibilities.  The number of years participants claimed to work in the agricultural field ranged from 1-40, with an average of 10.6.

As a result of the training, participant average knowledge about:

  • State and federal programs increased 13%
  • Restoration agriculture increased 18%
  • Applicable ranching alternatives increased 5%
  • 90.5% of participants either agreed or strongly agreed they would recommend these restoration agriculture methods to others
  • 88% of participants would encourage landowners to implement restoration agriculture methods in their business
  • 95% of participants were satisfied with the training and would recommend the training to other professionals

 

A 1-year 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 1-year 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. 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 one-day restoration agriculture workshop, held at Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne, was in November 2015. Mark Shepard, farmer and author of the book ‘Restoration Agriculture’ led the training. In addition to the 7 Texas A&M AgriLife Extension employees, 10 USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel, and 1 Prairie View A&M Cooperative Extension employee, we had space in the meeting room to open up the workshop to 24 other professionals from universities, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and farmers/ranchers. The participants were specifically representing 18 counties, although 5 listed statewide responsibilities.  The number of years participants claimed to work in the agricultural field ranged from 1-40, with an average of 10.6.

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