Taking Charge: Strategies for Sustainable Agriculture in the Northeast (Video Presentations)

1988 Annual Report for LNE88-011

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1988: $70,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1990
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $153,468.00
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:

Taking Charge: Strategies for Sustainable Agriculture in the Northeast (Video Presentations)

Summary

Experience has shown that farmers are reluctant to attempt a transition to a lower-input method of farming unless they have the opportunity to study other farmers’ methods in a firsthand manner. Travel to a wide variety of sites where sustainable agriculture systems have been implemented is impractical for most farmers. We propose to make use of video technology to bring many farmers into contact with a wide range of methods. The material presented will be the firsthand experiences of farmers, findings from farm-based or farm-simulated research projects throughout the northeast, and the perceptions of various low-input specialists within the agricultural community. An accompanying 12-page study guide will be prepared to provide farmers with a distillation of the options presented in the video and with a list of additional sources of information. The videos will be available for distribution by March 1, 1990.

Objectives

(1) Use video technology to offer northeastern farmers encouragement, ideas and reliable information about making a transition to a lower input system.

(2) Address separately the needs of northeastern farmers of two distinct kinds: a) the large-scale field crops and/or livestock farmer, and b) the high-value fruit, vegetable and ornamental growers.

(3) Address in separate, sequential programs two distinct needs for each of the two kinds of farmers: a) encouragement and b) reliable information.

(4) Complement the motivational and informational role of the videos by providing a simple study guide that will assist in the farmers’ decision-making process.

(5) Create an avenue for personal assistance by providing the viewer with an address and telephone number for additional advice and information.

(6) Distribute the video presentations and the study guides through multiple outlets for maximum effective coverage of the farming community.

Results

This project produced six videos that profile the progress farmers have made toward sustainable agriculture. The series, released in 1992, documents the methods farmers have developed to reduce or eliminate the use of purchased inputs. Photographed during the course of an entire growing season, the series was produced with the help of nearly 200 farmers and other experts. It was shot in a 12-state area in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S.

There are six videos in all: “Field Crops,” “Rotational Grazing,” “Vegetables,” “IPM for Vegetables & Small Fruits,” “IPM For Apples,” and “High-Value Marketing.” Each runs for approximately 30 minutes, and features audio and video footage almost exclusively of farmers and farm-field operations.

Accompanying the series is a “Resource and Viewing Guide” that provides basic background on the subject matter of each individual video. Together, the videos and printed guide are aimed at providing an introduction to sustainable agriculture for farmers, researchers, policy makers, Extension staff and other interested people.

A goal of the videos was to offer northeastern farmers encouragement, ideas and reliable information about making a transition to a lower-input system. The comments and advice focus almost exclusively on switching from chemical-intensive production methods to those relying on minimal or zero purchased chemicals.

They address separately the needs of northeastern farmers of two distinct kinds. “Field Crops” and “Rotational Grazing” are geared to large-scale agronomic crop and/or livestock farmers, while “Vegetables,” “IPM for Vegetables & Small Fruits,” “IPM For Apples” and “High-Value Marketing.” serve growers of horticultural crops.

The farmer comments provide practical, how-to information as well as the kind of encouragement and inspiration borne of first-person experience. Comments from researchers, Extension staff and other technical experts strengthen the scientific reliability of the message.

Rodale and Rooy Media, which produced the videos, are working to distribute the video presentations and the study guides through multiple outlets for maximum effective coverage of the farming community. In addition to meeting the grant requirements for complimentary distribution of the videos, Rodale Institute and Rooy Media have teamed up to promote them to many audiences. Rodale Institute advertises the videos periodically to the 50,000-plus readers of its national farm magazine, The New Farm. The Institute also promotes the videos in direct-mail marketing efforts to its 23,000 book customers. Rooy Media prepared an attractive brochure about the videos and mailed it to 11,000 professors, librarians, high school teachers and Cooperative Extension personnel.