Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Training Consortium (LST96-8)
The Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Training Consortium facilitates and coordinates sustainable agriculture training for Cooperative Extension workers and other agricultural professionals. The consortium consists of a large group of stakeholders who are interested in sustainable agriculture and who participate in the annual workshop and other activities. There is a 12-member leadership committee and a three-member management team.
1) Develop and manage the regional professional development program through a participatory strategic planning process;
2) Develop a consensus for a regional training agenda;
3) Identify training needs and priorities for development of RFP’s for training projects;
4) Support regional training project leaders;
5) Support state sustainable agriculture professional development coordinators;
6) Develop and deliver “process skills” training opportunities;
7) Establish linkages with other regional and national professional development efforts.
The management team and the interim leadership committee have successfully transitioned the leadership committee to a permanent committee with three members rotating off and being replaced annually. The members represent 12 states or territories across the region and a diverse array of interests in sustainable agriculture, including farmers, land grant institutions and government agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations. In addition, the committee is selected to be diverse in terms of gender, ethnic background, geographic region and personal interests and occupations. This leadership committee develops policy and programmatic directions for the Professional Development Program, which are implemented with the assistance and support of the management team.
During 1996, the leadership committee began a strategic planning process and develop the following statements:
Vision: A partnership of people working in and concerned about agriculture, sustaining a responsive network of healthy farms, healthy products, healthy communities, and a healthy environment.
Mission: To provide leadership, foster partnerships and facilitate the personal and professional growth of agriculture professionals who will create and sustain an economically viable, socially responsive and environmentally regenerative agriculture for the southern region.
The leadership committee developed training priorities and released two RFP’s for training projects. From the first RFP, nine projects were funded in Oklahoma, North Caroline, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina and Arkansas. In addition, state allocations to support professional development activities were provided to 20 land grand institutions in the region that submitted satisfactory training plans of work. Proposals for the second RFP are due on February 11, 1997.
The management team has continued to build linkages to strengthen the professional development program within the region, with the national program and with the other three regions. First, we held a productive workshop with the state coordinators in Greensboro, North Carolina, in October 1996. From this meeting, we determined more effective means of communicating and interacting with the state coordinators, provided individual guidance for development of state training plans, and discussed means that they can use to enhance training efforts in the states.
Second, we have interacted with the national program director and his staff to implement a uniform training reporting form for use by the state coordinators and training project directors. From data collected with this system, we have documented the following professional development program accomplishments:
1) 12 states conducted and documented professional development program training events.
2) Twenty-six training events or activities were conducted.
3) A total of 1,581 participants took part in these professional development activities.
Third, we have taken part in discussions with the regional coordinator from the Western Region, exploring a potential Pacific-Caribbean collaboration, and we involved the Western Region coordinator in our state coordinators workshop as a resource person. In addition, with help from the regional communication specialist, the consortium presented a display at the National Association of County Agricultural Agents’ annual meeting in Nashville.
Finally, we have continued our efforts to communicate the successes, challenges and opportunities of the Professional Development Program with the Southern Region SARE Administrative Council, the Southern Sustainable Ag Working Group and its steering committee, the Southern Region Extension Directors and Administrators and the Southern Region Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Leaders, both at the 1862 and 1890 institutions.
The first Professional Development Program stakeholders workshop was held in Lexington, Kentucky in January 1996. The program focused on “teambuilding” as it relates to sustainable agriculture programming. About 150 people from the 15 states and territories participated. From this workshop, the leadership committee gained insight and ideas for subsequent training RFP’s and the participants valued the opportunities for interaction with peers.
The leadership committee’s first two years in the program have been productive and have laid a solid foundation for the future. Perhaps the best testament to the accomplishments of the program is a statement from Charles Miller, a beef rancher and tobacco farmer from Kentucky who rotated off the leadership committee in January. He stated, “Never in my service to agriculture have I had the privilege of working with a group of people so knowledgeable, so open and so dedicated as my fellow consortium members. Our meetings are always full and intense, but never have we failed to reach a consensus on what we felt was proper for sustainable agriculture in the Southern Region.”
“It seems that over the course of the past two years, we have had a great deal of urgency. We have had to play catch-up to some extent, but with our most recent meeting in October, I feel we have turned a corner as a committee. With criteria and scheduling in place, we are having time now to be more deliberate and farsighted. I believe this is reflected in our new mission and vision statements. Feedback of success stories certainly gives us an indication that all this effort is worthwhile.”
He continued, “…Thank you for the opportunity to serve. It has truly been a positive learning experience for me. I wish you the best of luck in the future as you work together to provide training for a more sustainable agriculture in our Southern Region.”