a) Topic(s)- In 2017-2018, the Montana PDP aims at facilitating and increasing farmers, ranchers, agricultural professionals and educators, and citizens in Montana (audience, hereafter) gain knowledge and share experiences related to sustainable agriculture principles and tactics.
The knowledge gained and experiences shares should, in turn, strengthen the audience’s ability to make informed decisions related to sustainable agriculture and natural resource management.
To achieve this vision, four specific objectives are established: 1) provide support for in-depth training on sustainable agriculture through workshops, field days, professional meetings, and other activities as appropriated, 2) facilitate training opportunities for educators interested in agricultural sustainability, 3) promote and coordinate SARE-related activities, and 4) communicate, report, and evaluate the Montana PDP activities. Specific topics that will be covered could include climate change impacts and mitigation, cover crops and cropping system dive rsification, ecologically-based pest management, livestock and pasture management, local food production, and crop-livestock integration.
b) Context, justification and assumptions. Sustainable agriculture is at the crossroads. Critics view sustainable agriculture production as an ideologically driven and ineffective approach to farming and ranching that does not allow
humankind to respond to global challenges such as population growth and climate change.
Concerns associated with sustainable agriculture include yield reductions, lack of effective pest and nutrient management tactics, soil erosion due to excessive tillage, and the use of land to grow green manures and cover crops instead of crops or animals for direct human consumption.
Advocates of sustainable agriculture point to an environmentally benign approach to farming with reported increased soil health and ecosystem services, as well as socio-economic benefits.
Thus, it is required to facilitate knowledge distribution on sustainable agriculture to enhance producers skills to meet growing demands for yields while sustaining the environment’s ability to provide for social, and ecological services. To achieve this goal, the Montana PDP has two
main educational priorities: 1) Collaborate in generation and distribution of knowledge related to sustainable agricultural production, and 2) Offer training and educational opportunities to enhance the adoption of sustainable practices.
c) Stakeholder and partner involvement. The Montana WSARE PDP works in association with a stakeholder advisory committee to plan sustainable agriculture activities and to reviewers of mini-grant or travel scholarship applications. The advisory committee is composed by Brad Bauer. Gallatin County Extension Agent, Jane Mangold -MSU Rangeland Invasive Plant
Specialist, Fabian Menalled-MSU Cropland Weed Specialist, Montana WSARE PDP coordinator. We also meet twice a year and discuss research and education priorities with the Montana Organic Advisory and Education Council (OEAC, http://www.oaecmt.org/ourmission.
html). The advisory board establishes the project priorities and reviews proposals and travel scholarship applications.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objective 1. Provide teaching and learning opportunities to enhance Montana agricultural professionals’ knowledge on sustainable agriculture through mini-grants. The Montana WSARE-PDP will allocate $15,000 to support demonstrations projects, workshops, and farm tours in sustainable agriculture through competitive-mini grants program.
Objective 2. Offer travel scholarships to regional and national conferences/workshops related to sustainable agriculture. The Montana WSARE-PDP will allocate $1,062 for scholarships to Extension personnel to participate at regional or national meetings on sustainable agriculture.
Objective 3. Promote awareness of sustainable agriculture. To enhance the involvement of agricultural professional we will distribute materials and promote activities on sustainable agriculture.