- Animal Production: grazing management
- Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation
- Education and Training: extension
- Production Systems: transitioning to organic
- Soil Management: Cover Cropping for Soil Health
- Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture
While the terms “conventional” and “traditional” agriculture still well describe the vast majority of commodity grain (corn and soybeans) and livestock production there is increasing interest from farmers and the larger Indiana community in more crop and livestock diversification and their production and marketing in more “sustainable” ways.
Through the work of the Conservation Partnership members and the farmers they serve, Indiana is now a leader in the adoption of cover crops as a part of a crop rotation and soil health management plan.
Additionally, a growing Master Cattleman program is evidence of an increasing interest in rotational grazing management systems. There also seems to be an increase in interest in pasture poultry and hog production and a variety of integrated pest management strategies and pollinator protection practices among others not just among farmers but also the ag professionals who serve them.
A hugely successful Beekeepers of Indiana program with well over a thousand in attendance at their annual meetings and dozens of regional organizations focuses attention among their members about sustainable beekeeping practices even in light of bee declines and among the general population about pollinator habitat installation and management. A series of nine Purdue Publications addressing the issue of Protecting Pollinators has been completed and enjoyed wide distribution with still additional documents under development.
Indiana is making strides in its move toward awareness of and even implementation of practices that could be considered as more sustainable in nature.
The hiring of a Purdue Local Foods Coordinator, two GAPs Educator positions, as well as Assistant ANR program leader positions in Soil Health/Cover Crops and Diversified Farming and Food Systems (DFFS) and the more recent addition of a full time Statewide Organic educator position are clear evidence of the growing commitment to Sustainable practices.
The growth of the Indiana Small Farm Conference (now in its 6th year) as a means of outreach to a previously largely underserved audience is an additional strong sign of the evolution that is underway and evidence of Indiana’s awakening to the concept of sustainable agriculture and local food system development. The Small Farm Conference is a substantial undertaking that is the work of a core team of extension educators who see this as a priority in their work.
The Indiana SARE PDP program continues to extend its reach to new audience and to engage new groups of educators in its programmatic efforts. The IN SARE Advisory Committee is increasing in its diversity of representation and continues to seek suitable talented and passionate representatives from multiple disciplines, agencies and institutions. Their direct engagement in the identification of Plan of Work initiatives and the development and delivery of the programs to address them is a source of strength of the Indiana SARE program.
Additionally, there continues to be a tangible increase in the willingness of various agencies to collaborate and work toward identifying and addressing issues at the State and local levels. Cover crops and soil health are topics seen a “common ground” between various groups within Indiana agriculture and is a subject area on which we continue to build true collaboration.
State initiatives for 2017-18 are:
• “Scaling Up Local Food Systems”- Farm to School Initiative
• Crop and Livestock Diversification Practices to Enhance Agricultural Sustainability (to include Small Farm Conference)
• Cover Crops and Soil Health
• Agricultural Interface with Urban Food Needs
Additionally, IN SARE is committed to participating in the NCR-SARE 2017-18 Regional Initiative.
Indiana will participate in the NCR-SARE 2017-18 regional initiative on soil health and water by supporting the involvement of selected agriculture educators in one or more soil health-related professional development events during the two-year time frame. We will support this regional initiative through our continued Indiana commitment to Cover Crops and Soil Health as a major State initiative, and through the development of a Vegetable Cover Crop Decision Maker appropriate for Indiana growers. In addition we expect to send interested educators to the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health (November 2017 in Indianapolis) and to the upcoming Midwest Cover Crops Council meeting in Grand Rapids, MI (March 2017). We also will plan to have educators from our state participate in the Soil Health Nexus extension program being developed by the NCR Water Network and the NCR-SARE program. Based on these professional development experiences, we expect the educators we have sponsored to come back and offer training events and programs for other farm advisors and producers in our state during the 2017-2018 time frame and beyond. We anticipate that at least 40 farm advisor and farmer-educators will participate in these state programs during the time of the regional initiative, and additional individuals will be reached through webinars or other web-based distribution of information. For outcomes we expect that at least 75% of the individuals trained will distribute information on soil health management practices, including those pertaining to water quality/quantity issues, and that at least 50% of the producers impacted will adopt one or more practices to improve their soil health management.
Our objectives are to increase to the knowledge of Agricultural Professional from across Indiana about these key initiatives through a variety of means that are both readily accessible and financially responsible. To accomplish this we will collaborate with a variety of agricultural and food related agencies, institutions and organizations across Indiana and engage them in problem identification, selection of educational outreach type, program delivery and evaluation.
Additional information regarding outreach efforts and information specific to each about audience, justification, outputs, outcomes and evaluation can be found in the “Education” section of this report.