Professional Development Program
History of the Professional Development Program (PDP)
Begun in 1994, the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Program provides sustainable agriculture education and outreach strategies for Cooperative Extension System and Natural Resources Conservation Service staff and other agricultural educators who work directly with farmers and ranchers. Administered and funded by SARE, the Professional Development Program receives annual congressional allocations of about $4.5 million.
SARE’s Professional Development Program funds activities that educate ag professionals in up-to-date strategies and technologies to help farmers and ranchers increase profits and lessen environmental impacts. Funded through a competitive process in SARE’s four regions, PDP grants sponsor such activities as producing workshops, creating educational manuals and videos, and conducting on-farm tours and demonstrations. In addition to the competitive grants, each state has responsibilities to conduct sustainable ag training through the SARE state coordinator.
SARE State Coordinators are vital for expanding sustainable agriculture training for Extension, NRCS, and other agricultural professionals, who will then help producers transition to a more sustainable agriculture. The SARE PDP program is a “train the trainer” program. As a result, farmers are not the focus of the training, but are the ultimate beneficiaries. Due to the diversity of the Southern region, each state develops its own methods for disseminating SARE program opportunities, as well as the results of research and education grants. The SARE State Coordinator is a 25% minimum position within the 1862 or 1890 colleges in the state.
Role of State Coordinators
According to the 1990 Farm Bill legislation the SARE state coordinator is responsible for developing and implementing a statewide training program for field office personnel including employees of the Extension Service, NRCS and other educators who provide information to producers about agricultural production and conservation. In working toward this broad goal, day-to-day activities would likely include these main areas:
1) Training program development and delivery appropriate for both new and current personnel making use of SARE grantees, particularly producer cooperators, and partnering with NGOs and farmer organizations for activities such as farm tours and field days. Training topics are open to anything that will help farmers transition to a more sustainable agriculture and can include technical assistance in areas such as water quality, nutrient management, whole-farm systems, marketing or understanding farm policy.
2) Promotion, networking and coordination of SARE grant opportunities and training activities, as well as materials and opportunities provided by SARE Outreach, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) and other NGOs. SARE coordinators will solicit input from field staff and other educators about their sustainable ag training needs and shared program opportunities.
3) Communication, reporting and evaluation. SARE PDP strives for a minimum of paperwork but annual reports are due to the regional PDP office to document training efforts in your state.
Model State Program (MSP)
The Southern SARE Professional Development Program allows each state to choose one of two levels of participation: State Plan of Work and a Model State Program. The Model State Program (MSP) differs from the traditional State Plan of Work in that more is expected, but more resources are provided. States qualifying for MSP status receive funds to hire a program assistant to actively manage the program. With such a support staff position, SARE outreach programming can expand beyond the requirements of the traditional State Plan of Work. States approved for MSP status are also eligible to apply for additional funding from a special pool of competitive funds only available to SARE State Coordinators.
Submitting an annual report and budget on the Model State Program is one requirement state ag coordinators must follow among a defined set of responsibilities set forth by the SARE program. You can download the budget checklists for the Model State Program -- Training Program and Model State Program -- Program Assistant below.