- Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study, agricultural finance
- Sustainable Communities: social networks, sustainability measures
California agriculture consumes 14% of the state's diesel fuel and 7% of its electricity. Alternatives to both of these fossil fuels are being developed and refined, and incentive programs can help farmers and ranchers adopt them. The Ecological Farming Association based in Watsonville will harness a Western SARE Research and Education grant to help producers learn about alternatives to fossil fuels and the available incentive programs. Ecological Farming has coined the name Renewable Energy in Sustainable Agriculture, or RESA, for this two-year educational program aimed at increasing energy sustainability. The nonprofit educational association will use its statewide network of producer allies to provide more than 400 California producers in the four most productive agricultural regions with a comprehensive set of resources to decrease fossil fuel use through applications of renewable energy and conservation. In addition to training programs, project cooperators will present information through handbooks, a website, and the annual Ecological Farming Conference.
Project objectives from proposal:
RESA, is an innovative two-year producer education program aimed at increasing energy sustainability on California farms and ranches through technical training and education.
Objective 1: Over the 36-month funding period, 125 California farmers will incorporate renewable energy technologies and energy conservation in their operations. Based on evaluations from past EFA programs, 50% of the farmers participating in the project are expected to implement renewable energy and energy conservation techniques within one year of the course, as measured by pre/post training surveys about energy use (EFA, 2003). Indicators of success include decreased energy bill, a decrease in fossil fuel consumption, and a decrease in kW on energy bill.
Objective 2: In the three months of project year 1 and 2, the project coordinator will work with producer advisors and other project supporters to create four regional planning committees. Planning committees will develop training curriculum, through the identification of regionally specific topics, expert presenters, and farm tour candidates.
Objective 3: In the first 24 months of the project, the regional planning committee will hold one-day trainings (two per year) in California's four most productive agricultural regions. Committees will also supervise additional outreach and Ecological Farming Conference workshop development. The trainings and outreach will provide 400 producers with information and skills to develop more sustainable energy use patterns by adopting renewable energy and energy efficiency in their agricultural systems.
Objective 4: In the first 12 months, the project coordinator will work closely with producer advisors to compile a renewable energy handbook for distribution to 400 producers. The handbook will be distributed through the regional trainings and publicized statewide through established EFA publicity venues.
Objective 5: Within 12 months of each training, the project coordinator will survey participants and produce four regional reports on strategies, successes, and challenges resulting from the trainings. Reports will focus on economic data on renewable energy adoption to help quantify the cost of adoption. Pre/post survey results and analysis will be distributed to the training participants, and through EFA's website and newsletter.