The First Requirement of Agriculture Sustainability: Efficient Management of Available Resources
Previous training by the South Carolina Cooperative Extension Service focused its efforts on the training of agents in the precepts of sustainable agricultural production and integrated pest management practices that would eventually result in the reduction of off-farm inputs by practicing farmers. This proposal will meet the needs of limited resource farmers by training the trainer(s) to become more effective agent(s) in the transfer of knowledge of management strategies and effective utilization of agriculture policy to create a more sustainable agriculture.
Sixty (60) agricultural agents participating in a South Carolina Train-the-Trainer mini-course/workshop will acquire knowledge and develop skills to:
· Help farmers define specific objectives and develop short and long term strategies for a profitable and sustainable agriculture.
· Identify practical and accessible information resources and recommendation for sustainable agriculture practices.
· Design and test appropriate integrated management strategies that will efficiently utilize available resources, reduce off farm inputs and generate a profit.
· Increase capacity to analyze and critique integrated systems research, improve.their decision making and teaching skills involving complex relationships within/among biological, financial and/or social systems.
· To identify management problems and recommend integrated management strategies of whole farm systems that will generate a profit and perpetuate ownership of family farms.
· Build greater institutional support for sustainable agriculture training both within and outside the land grant institution.
Limited resource small scale farms, the type most frequently operated by African and Native Americans are susceptible to the overall changes that have taken place in agriculture. There has been and continues to be a significant and disproportionate decrease of Black and Native American farmers; and a disproportionate amount of land lost by these groups. They do not have sufficient knowledge about management strategies that are influenced by tax laws, terms of credit, agricultural farm policy, types of farm business ownership, inheritance transfer mechanisms, and the legal instruments for maintaining or acquiring land. The emphasis of the first requirement of sustainability for limited resource farmers is to help them become more effective managers of limited resources, both renewable and non-renewable.
The majority of agricultural agents have limited or no experience in the management of diverse alternative farming systems. Because of this and other societal reasons, there are serious doubts and frequently a bias against alternative systems that require enhanced management skills. However, these strategies possess a level of understanding that greatly exceeds that of those strategies used in the current conventional system.
The plight of the limited resource farmer is so unique and severe that any attempt to improve management skills requires specific research initiatives and educational programs targeting management problems and agricultural policy. The attention given to agricultural management is extremely focused toward a large corporate commercial conventional agriculture system, accessible to those with resources above those of the limited resource farm family. Emphasis has been placed on limited resource farmers to make them highly productive, efficient and environmental managers as a result of more relevant training of agricultural agents to efficiently and effectively address managerial problems of farm systems.
We are finalizing courses for a training session to cover the following areas:
-applying economic principles
-diagnosing farm business problems
-inventory of farm resources
-using enterprise budgets
-whole farm and ranch planning
-business organization and resource management
-capital use and credit planning
-land acquisition and use strategies
-agriculture farm policy
-organizing and managing cooperatives