Sustainability Training in Agricultural Resources Systems (STARS): A Train-the-Trainer Model for Agriculture and Natural Resources Professionals

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $78,269.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: Mississippi State University
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Leslie Burger
Mississippi State University


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, forest/woodlot management, irrigation, nutrient management, pollinator habitat, water management
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, drift/runoff buffers, grass waterways, habitat enhancement, riparian buffers, riverbank protection, soil stabilization, wildlife
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Increased demand for food and fiber will require agriculture industries to intensify production efforts, putting additional pressure on natural resources in agricultural regions around the world. This issue is of paramount concern in Mississippi, as agriculture is the leading industry.

    A long history of clearing, draining and channelization has depleted the state of bottomland hardwood forests, wetlands, natural stream flow, idle fields, and native grasslands. The plants and animals living in these environments once provided ecosystem services such as water filtration, flood control, bank stabilization and pollination. However, agricultural intensification has resulted in the loss of these benefits and the biodiversity once associated with these habitats. At this crossroads between economic livelihood and natural resources conservation, it becomes paramount that existing agricultural systems move toward sustainability.

    Significant recent investments in resource conservation practices and changing conservation programs in the new Farm Bill warrant the need for producers and natural resources outreach specialists to understand natural resource issues and the environmental and economic benefits of implementing sustainable agriculture practices. Through education and outreach efforts, STARS program developers aim to stimulate producer adoption of conservation practices to reduce impacts on Mississippi's natural resources while concurrently optimizing production and economic returns on producer investments.

    The rationale of this project is to provide sustainable agriculture training and continuing education to Extension and federal agricultural agents in Mississippi that will serve as a foundation for regional and statewide producer support. The approach taken in this project provides a curriculum driven by producer needs regarding regional natural resource concerns; how and which conservation practices can promote sustainable agriculture systems; where producers can find financial assistance through government programs to adopt such conservation practices; and economic, production, environmental, and ecosystem response to implementation. Developing understanding of sustainable agriculture is the first step in changing stakeholder behaviors regarding natural resources use.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Improve awareness and knowledge of ANR extension and education personnel of the economic, social and environmental value of integrating plant and animal production practices with conservation of natural resources systems.

    Objective 2: Increase awareness and knowledge by ANR extension personnel of best management practices, technologies for measuring and managing natural resources use, and the types and availabilities of support materials.

    Objective 3: Increase knowledge in ANR extension and education personnel of existing federal and state-level programs and research-based educational materials which can assist producers in adopting and implementing sustainable agricultural practices.

    Objective 4: Promote competency of ANR extension and education personnel in sustainable agriculture outreach.

    Objective 5: Promote adoption of best management practices and other strategies which optimize production and economic returns as well as natural resources conservation.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.