Producers/Ag Professionals Look to SSARE for New Ideas, Methods, Technologies
GRIFFIN, Georgia – Producers introduced to sustainable agriculture practices and technologies through a Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) grant are likely to change their farming behavior, according to the results of a Southern SARE survey. In addition, the grantees share their experiences with fellow farmers who, as a result, tend to test or adopt the idea, approach or technology.
Such information points to the positive impacts of the SARE program in encouraging research and education and increasing knowledge and extending information about sustainable agriculture production systems.
The survey, “Evaluating Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Producer and On-Farm Research Grant Programs,” was designed to allow grant recipients to reflect on their experiences. Southern SARE worked collaboratively with the Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC) to conduct the regional assessment of the two grant programs.
Southern SARE grantees of the Producer Grant Program and the On-Farm Research Grant Program, who received grants between 2004 and 2008, were asked to reflect on project implementation and outcomes to assess the impacts and reach of their project. Out of 97 eligible respondents, 74 percent completed the survey.
The following are some of the survey results:
- Conducting field day tours, presentations, or workshops was a big component of the outreach efforts of the grantees.
- Across both grant programs, over 10,000 individuals learned about the project through a farm tour or presentation at a workshop or conference. In addition, the grantees visited with over 800 farmers and ranchers individually regarding their project.
- The implementation of sustainable ag practices had a positive impact on the farm or ranch operation. Producer and on-farm research grantees indicated or observed:
- A decrease in fertilizer, fuel, pesticide, weed control and/or seed costs.
- A decrease in hired labor, management, machinery, equipment, and/or on-farm processing costs.
- An increase in yields, production per unit, marketing, and/or sales.
- Improved environmental conditions related to soil erosion, soil quality, air quality, water quality, and/or quality of wildlife habitat.
- An increase in net farm income as a result of the project.
- Grantees made changes in their farming approach as a result of participating in a grant program. These changes included seeking more information on the use of the technology tested, obtaining new markets for crops or livestock, expanding the use of an approach or technology, or adding a new enterprise.
- The implementation of sustainable agriculture practices and technologies produced a more favorable outlook in agriculture. Seventy-two percent of producer grantees indicated that their “satisfaction with farming” had increased. In addition, the positive influence increased the likelihood that farmers would try a new approach that might be financially or environmentally beneficial to their farming operation. Most importantly, the majority of both grantee groups indicated that the idea, approach or technology continues to be used.
- Securing a Southern SARE grant was the impetus for pursuing an idea, approach or sustainable ag technology, and 90 percent of the producer grantees and 100 percent of the on-farm research grantees indicated they would consider seeking another grant from Southern SARE. Additionally, grantees indicated they would recommend the Southern SARE program to others.
In addition to grants, having access to SARE publications is an important aspect of implementing sustainable ag practices and technologies.
Nearly half of producer and on-farm grantees sought more information from the resources listed in a SARE publication. Nearly half of Producer grantees have been inspired by a SARE publication to explore new production or marketing ideas, and over half of On-Farm Research grantees have passed a SARE publication on to others.
The full survey report and results can be downloaded here.
Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.