- Agronomic: corn, rye, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Vegetables: turnips
- Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - rotational, winter forage
- Crop Production: conservation tillage
- Education and Training: extension, focus group, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, whole farm planning
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
- Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis
SARE funded the development of a video to introduce important concepts of sustainable agriculture and provide real-life examples of farmers who have incorporated sustainable practices into their farming operations. This project was linked to several other initiatives at the University of Illinois which provided information, contacts and funding (including Jennifer’s graduate stipend). Our overall objective was to increase the use of sustainable practices among farmers; we hope to achieve that objective by increasing awareness and understanding among farmers who are then willing and more able to try sustainable practices on their farms. Our target audience included Extension audiences and high school students who are considering their future in agriculture. Several of the video examples provide sound evidence that smaller scale operations (less than 500 acres) can be profitable. For the prospective farmer in Illinois, this is new information and possibly the only feasible route to a beginning farmer. We hope that our video and educational materials serve the future farmers of Illinois who may be, as one of our farmer advisors said, “farming a whole different way from our grandfathers.”
Our purpose in this project has been to document examples of farmers using sustainable practices. The motivation to try sustainable practices can come from seeing and understanding examples which are similar to our own situations. By providing examples from “our own backyard,” we hope to increase the number of farmers using sustainable practices. SARE provided funding for the development of a video which portrays a few critical topics related to sustainable agriculture and links those topics to examples of farmers in Illinois.
In the short term, we developed a video portraying successful examples of sustainable agricultural practices, and created a manual to guide Educators as they use the educational video. In the long run, we hope to increase farmers’ understanding of sustainable agriculture and provide examples of sustainable practices that they might use. If high school teachers and Extension Educators increase their understanding of sustainable agriculture and have a good tool (the video) to introduce the issues, we hope that the number and success of farmers using sustainable practices will increase.