Sustainable Farming Quarterly

1992 Annual Report for LW92-004

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1992: $17,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1994
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Nancy Matheson
Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO)

Sustainable Farming Quarterly


To accelerate the transfer of regionally appropriate sustainable farming technical information to producers, agriculture researchers and technical assistance providers in the six-state area of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah.

Abstract of Results
The Alternative Energy Resources Organization published the Sustainable Farming Quarterly (SFQ) from December 1989 through July 1995. The SFQ began as part of a USDA Western SARE, six-state cereal-legume project coordinated by WSU. AERO acquired funding directly from SARE the last three-and-a-half years, which this report covers. The SFQ continued to focus primarily on the latest in cereal-legume cropping systems, but highlighted other systems on occasion.

At the time we ceased publishing the SFQ in mid-1995, it was reaching over 1,900 farmers, ranchers, Extension personnel, Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, university researchers and news editors, primarily in the inland Northwest and Northern Rocky Mountain regions. Our readership continued to expand, both regionally and nationally, throughout the life of the project. The eight-to-twelve page quarterly presented research findings, results of on-farm research and demonstration, farm profiles, innovative farmers’ experience and knowledge, and timely information on sustainable agriculture activities and programs in this region pertaining particularly to cereal-legume cropping systems. The SFQ solicited articles from scientists, farmers and government agencies. Sally Hilander and David Granatstein served as editors.

Under this contract, AERO published eight quarterly issues. Even though interest in the SFQ remained high and the mailing list was growing, we chose to cease publishing the SFQ when our SARE funding ended. The development time and resources involved in achieving self-supporting status for a publication with a relatively small circulation was daunting, and not our highest priority.

In a story about the passing of the SFQ in the final issue, writer David Granatstein of WSU reflects on the evolution of sustainable agriculture and the region’s various perspectives on it over the course of the SFQ’s life. He closes by writing, "Agricultural problems are more people than technology. Sustainable agriculture as a concept, a long term goal we may never fully achieve, recognizes this. I hope that the SFQ has provided both practical ideas for growers and optimism about the future of farming in our region."

Specific Findings
According to reader surveys and interviews conducted by AERO, the SFQ was a useful source of information for professional agriculture advisors, scientists, and farmers. The SFQ kept its readers informed about the new directions in agriculture and exposed them to new ways to solve problems. Articles on research activities and outcomes rated the highest in popularity. SFQ recipients overwhelmingly saw the SFQ as a unique source of information – delivering information they did not get elsewhere.

The Extension Service offices in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and Oregon, and the Montana Natural Resources Conservation Service circulated the SFQ to all their field staff and offices. Individual subscribers, farmers and scientists mostly, made up the rest of the readership.

Cover stories featured in the SFQ during the reporting period included wild oat control in small grains, on-farm testing methods, economic analysis of alternative cropping in dryland grain systems, the economic competitiveness of sustainable farming, non-chemical weed control, erosion control in sugarbeets, chaff collection at grain harvest, biological weed control, and a comparison of alfalfa to annual legumes for soil-building. Each issue also included an events calendar and references to resources about sustainable farming pertinent to the region.

Dissemination of Findings
The SFQ was an excellent vehicle for disseminating the findings from SARE-sponsored and other sustainable agriculture research from throughout the region. It helped keep scientists connected to one another’s work, and provided easy-to-access resources for Extension and NRCS field staff working directly with farmers. Farmers also received timely updates on sustainable agriculture research applicable to the region directly through the SFQ. The events calendar kept farmers and agency/university professional staff aware of educational events and networking opportunities as well.

Site Information
The farm and landscape ecology that were typically featured in the SFQ are dryland and irrigated small grain operations in the Columbia and Missouri River drainages that flank the Northern Rockies. While the Palouse region tends to have more precipitation, the region as a whole is semi-arid, with an average annual precipitation in the 10 to 20 inches range. Summer fallow is widely practiced in much of the region. The physical geography varied widely, creating many micro-climates. This variability influences the type of agricultural practices used. Farms tend to be large in terms of acreage. For example, the average dryland farm in north central Montana is over 2,200 acres.

Farmer Evaluations
In general people complimented the SFQ for covering on-farm test results and the specific sustainable practices being used in this region. Examples from AERO’s 1993 reader survey include a Montana farmer saying, "all (articles) are interesting and useful for keeping me informed of new approaches to solving problems." One agricultural researcher suggested the SFQ join with Western Farmer-Stockman publications and designate a section for sustainable agriculture. A Washington State farmer commented, "It is important that sustainable agriculture has a medium to inform and educate farmers, scientists and political decision-makers about sustainable farming practices. This needs to be accomplished by using scientific research, and on-farm testing by farmers working with scientists. The SFQ is the best medium to inform all people who use the land, and the politicians to accomplish this media goal. I suggest you broaden your mailing list to include all Washington, D.C., senators and congressmen. Their aides need this information."

Reported in 1996.