Planning Funds for a Proposal on Extending the Issue of Sustainable Agriculture to Small Farms in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia

1988 Annual Report for LS88-005

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1988: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1990
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
M. Ray McKinnie
North Carolina A & T State University

Planning Funds for a Proposal on Extending the Issue of Sustainable Agriculture to Small Farms in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia


The present proposal requests funds to develop a multi-institutional Extension project to promote the use of sustainable agriculture methods on small farms in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Successful implementation of a sustainable agricultural program in the southern United States will need to include the small and part-time audience which are the traditional audiences of the 1890 Land-Grant universities. Small farmers may not be aware of present research efforts in this area, or of consumer interest in bio-organic low-input vegetables and other commodities. For that matter, Extension professionals and paraprofessionals working with this audience may not know of or be on the cutting edge of present research in sustainable agricultural practices.

Project Results

Initial expenditures were used to involve 1890 state-level Research and Extension staffs in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, and county Extension professionals and paraprofessionals in those states in formulating appropriate ways to achieve the project's goal of extending the issue of low-input sustainable agriculture (LISA) to the 1890 Land-Grant universities and their audiences. To that end, two major objectives were outlined for the project. They were:

Successful implementation of a sustainable agriculture program in the southern United States will need to include the small and part-time audience which is the traditional audience of the 1890 land-grant universities. Small farmers and local Extension staffs working with this audience need educational programs and discussion of the issues and terminology involved in order to "buy in". They need to be able to express their views and make suggestions on the appropriate ways of establishing relevant and meaningful programs in sustainable agriculture.

Project participants conducted and/or participated in a series of activities relative to the project's two main objectives. Towards Objective # 1, representatives of North Carolina A & T, Virginia State and Tennessee State attended the International Conference on Sustainable Agricultural Systems held in Columbus, Ohio to better acquaint themselves with the emerging issues of LISA and their implications for small/limited-resource farmers. A visit was also made to the Rodale Research Center in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, to view and discuss agronomic research involving the reduced use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides and the increased use of green/animal manures, and conservation tillage practices.

Having armed themselves with information and techniques relative to LISA practices, representatives of the three institutions met face-to-face and corresponded to develop a major multi-state-discipline applied research proposal entitled "The Issue of Low-Input Sustainable Agriculture: Its Relevance, Importance, and Applicability to 1890 Land-Grant University Research and Extension Programs with Small and Limited Resource Farm Operators." The proposal's primary focus was the introduction of low-input agronomic practices, such as soil amendments, green manures and no-till planting, and biological insect control into traditional cultural practices for the production of sweet corn and vegetables. Additionally, the proposal provided for an educational and informational exchange and dissemination effort among 1890 program personnel and their clientele. The proposal was submitted and received some favorable comments. However, due to the highly competitive nature of the review process, funds were granted only to a few select proposals.

Towards completion of Objective # 2, North Carolina A & T and Virginia State universities hosted state conferences that addressed the potential application of LISA technology to the establishment of viable low-input sustainable production systems for small-scale agriculture. North Carolina A & T's state conference, held in March 1989, focused on the issue of LISA, offering an overview of its purpose and intent, site visits to research projects, and production information on the LISA agenda in the areas of water quality, animal/forage production systems, organic vegetable production and biological insect control. The conference agenda was designed to appeal to both professional and paraprofessional Extension workers as well as to other persons interested in LISA.

Virginia State University hosted a state conference in July 1989 entitled "Income Opportunities for Small and Part-Time Farmers Through Ecological Management of Natural Resources." Conference participants were treated to informative talks on shiitake mushroom production, medicinal herbs and dried flowers, ginseng and garlic production and animal/forage production featuring controlled grazing. Additionally, conference participants were given a tour of various agronomic research practices and alternative crops, some involving LISA techniques, being conducted at the university's research farm. Approximately 100 people attended the conference and received up-to-date information on LISA and alternative agricultural enterprises.

Project personnel at Tennessee State University chose not to host a state conference. Instead, the Extension Program provided travel for its specialists, researchers and field staff to attend the state conferences in North Carolina, Virginia and other related conferences and meetings. As a result of their attendance of various conferences and meetings, numerous low-input sustainable agricultural concepts and techniques have been incorporated into ongoing Extension and Research programs which benefit hundreds of small and part-time farmers.

In summary, North Carolina A & T, Virginia State and Tennessee State universities achieved their main objectives and overall goal of extending the issue of low-input sustainable agriculture (LISA) to the 1890 Land-Grant universities and audiences. It is estimated that hundreds of small and part-time farmers, across the three states, have benefitted from their exposure to information and research technologies given out by these universities. This project has had a definite impact on 1890 institutional awareness of the issue of LISA and its application to day-to-day small scale agricultural practices in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.


1. Develop a multi-year, multi-discipline extension based program for small and part time farmers in sustainable agriculture endeavors by the 1890 institutions in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

2.Hold two planning meetings and a conference in each state to involve interested staff, farmers and other individuals.