Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Phone: 1-800-346-9140 --- FAX: (501) 442-9842
Farmers and nonprofit groups are being sought to help the Cooperative Extension Service train its agents in sustainable agriculture through "Regionwide Extension Training Network/Consortiums."
Consortiums consisting of classroom and on-farm trainers will be established in each of the four USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) regions, according to Jim Bushnell, USDA National Program Leader for Agronomy and chairman of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative - Extension. The Northeast SARE region has been selected as the first region to send out proposals for one of the new network/consortiums, he said.
Fred Magdoff, Northeast SARE program coordinator at the University of Vermont, said that his office sent proposals for consortium projects and coordinators to interested organizations and individuals on January 24. The proposals are due back on March 2, he noted.
Representatives of the Western, North Central and Southern SARE regions said proposals had not been formulated by their offices. Interested parties in those regions should contact SARE offices for further information.
The 1990 Farm Bill mandated that training occur to help the Extension Service and other USDA agency personnel to increase their understanding and proficiency in sustainable agriculture. Congress in 1993 approved $2.96 million to establish the consortiums.
Original proposals by the USDA called for establishing a series of "training centers" around the U.S., Bushnell said. However, at a planning meeting on January 14, organizers opted to establish "network/consortiums" so that training of Extension agents would not occur "under one roof in the classroom" but in classrooms, on-farm sites and other places in each SARE region.
Councils create consortiums
Magdoff said administrative councils in each SARE region will approve groups and individuals for the consortiums. The councils will thus play a key role in shaping individual consortiums for each region by selecting up to perhaps a dozen or so groups and individuals to conduct the Extension agent training, he noted. Consortiums in each SARE region will thus be very distinctive.
Two proposal calls
Two calls for proposals - for a regional coordinator and for training projects - were mailed Jan. 24 from Northeast SARE headquarters at Burlington, VT. "The (Consortium) faculty will consist of appropriate Extension personnel, farmers and members of private, nonprofit institutions from throughout the Northeast," the proposals state. "Training...will occur in various locations within the region, both in a classroom-type setting, on experimental farms and on commercial farms."
Approximately $10,000 will be allocated by the Northeast Region State Extension Directors in conjunction with the region's SARE Administrative Council to help initiate the strategic planning process for sustainable agriculture training, the proposals state. "The proposals being requested...are for activities in addition to those that will be made possible with the state's $10,000 allocation," they explain. The Northeast SARE region consists of 12 states and the District of Columbia.
Applicants are asked in the Northeast SARE proposals to identify a coordinator, describe the person's sustainable agriculture background, provide details about the institution and any matching funds which will be used to help accomplish the consortium's goals, and submit a budget.
According to the Northeast SARE proposals, consortium projects will include training that "will take place on commercial farms, workshops, conferences (including use of satellite or other interactive TV technologies), development of materials (such as fact sheets, handbooks and manuals, videos etc.), or combinations of these or other activities.
"Projects that have a scope beyond a single state are strongly encouraged," the proposals state. "Projects that involve farmers as meaningful participants (instructors or providers of information, reviewers of materials etc.) are also strongly encouraged, as are those that foster a partnership between public and private sector efforts and between 1862 and 1890 institutions. "Project subject matter can deal with any agricultural endeavor including animal agriculture, agronomic crops, and horticultural crops," the proposal continues. "Projects may also include training in the area of effects of practices and technologies on the quality of life for farmers and rural communities. Projects may also deal with training in the basics (approach and philosophy) of sustainable agriculture."
ATTRA in 1994 will move from auspices of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to the newly created National Biological Survey (NBS), which is also part of the U.S. Interior Department.
"The move will not affect how ATTRA functions as a national sustainable agriculture information provider or its participation in some key Fish & Wildlife Service programs," ATTRA Program Manager Jim Lukens said. "We will still be funded by the U.S. Interior Department and our contact there will still be Duncan MacDonald of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."
Interior Department planners concluded that ATTRA, because of the nature of services it provides, should become part of the NBS "Technology Development and Transfer" division, Lukens said. Other NBS segments are "Inventory and Monitoring" and "Research," which will entail species biology, population dynamics and ecosystems.
Proposed by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, the NBS will combine the biological research and survey activities of eight existing Department of the Interior bureaus into one group. Its objectives are to reduce duplication and overlap of biological research efforts in the Department, and to more effectively set priorities for research goals. Currently, biological research activities are scattered throughout the Fish & Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of land Management.
"The survey has a simple, yet awesome mission - catalogue everything that walks, crawls, swims or flies around this country," says Rep. Gerry E. Studds (D-MA), committee chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee. "The purpose of this counting is to know what we've got and where it is, so our resource managers can make the right decisions - based on good science - and, as Secretary Babbitt often puts it, avoid environmental train wrecks. The Survey represents a unique opportunity to keep our environmental trains on track."
Soil Scientist Dr. V. Philip Rasmussen of Utah State University has been named coordinator of the Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program.
Administrative offices for Western SARE region will be relocated from the University of California to Utah by March 1. However, the office for Western SARE Communications Specialist Kristen Kelleher will remain at UC-Davis (916-752-5987).
"Phil Rasmussen is an excellent choice for coordinating the program," says David Schlegel of UC-Oakland, who has been Western SARE program coordinator since its beginnings in the late 1980s. "Phil is a scientist of merit, a sustainable agriculture specialist and an innovator in developing communications tools and technology that can bridge the gap between academic gains and application in the real world."
Schlegel, who is professor emeritus and longtime administrator of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has been praised by UC officials for "putting the SARE program on a sound, sustainable basis in the Western region."
Rasmussen currently heads USU's Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Department. In addition to coordinating Western SARE, he will oversee the companion grants program ACE (Agriculture in Concert with the Environment), which focuses on mitigating agricultural pollution.
"Sustainability means much more than reducing chemical and off-farm inputs," Rasmussen says. "It means developing a total system that can feed the world, while protectng our communities and the environment. I am convinced that our Land-grant system can do this - if we focus our efforts and increase our commitment."
SARE, authorized by Congress in the 1990 Farm Bill and managed by the USDA, is a competitive grants program aimed at expanding knowledge and adoption of farming practices which are environmentally, economically and socially sound. The national initiative is directed regionally by four councils which consist of farmers, scientists, land-use experts and administrators. Since 1988, Congress has allocated $44 million to the national SARE/ACE program. About $9 million of those funds were earmarked for Western SARE, which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming and the Island Protectorates.
Rasmussen can be contacted at: Utah State University, Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Department, UMC-2300, Logan, UT 84322-2300, (phone) 801-750-2257, (fax) 801-750-4002, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two groups of national agricultural commodity lobbyists and environmentalists learned about ATTRA's work in sustainable agriculture at workshops on Dec. 15-16 in Washington, D.C.
"Our goal was to inform these influential people who help to shape America's agricultural and environmental policy about the information services we provide to farmers and other agriculturists," ATTRA Senior Technical Specialist Alice Beetz said.
Groups attending the workshops are affiliated with people who manage millions of acres of crop, range and conservation lands. Environmentalists Such organizations as The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund attended the first day's workshop.
"The Nature Conservancy was very interested in how ATTRA is helping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to establish integrated pest management programs with their cooperating farmers at 140 national wildlife refuges," Beetz said. "The Nature Consevancy has launched a pilot program in Ohio to help farmers grow crops on Conservancy-owned lands using sustainable agriculture practices."
The World Wildlife fund has a project in the Great LAkes area focused on nonpoint pollution from farmlands and so is also working on agricultural production issues, Beetz said. She said representatives of the two organizations were pleased that they could refer to ATTRA for agricultural production-oriented information.
Also in attendance at the workshops were staff members of Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AR) and Senator Rusell Feingold (D-WI), the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Center for Policy Alternatives, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, McMahon and Associates, Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
At the second workshop, representatives from 10 mainstream agricultural organizations learned how ATTRA, via its 800-lines and 21 staff members, provided the latest sustainable agriculture information to 12,000 callers in 1993.
Attending this workshop were lobbyists for the National Cattlemen's Association, United fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Farmers Union, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Cooperative Business Association, National Turkey Federation, National Food Processors Association, American Horticultural Society, National Agricultural Chemicals Association and National Milk Producers Federation.
"Many of the people at this workshop had heard little about ATTRA," Beetz said. "We had a constructive discussion about how ATTRA can interact with their organizations, as we do with so many others, so that they and the farmers they serve can access sustainable agriculture information from us."
While in Washington, Beetz visited Mike Fernandez, an aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. She also talked to Julie Anton and Michael Hankin of the USDA for an update of their work on the development of baseline minimum organic certification standards and a system of federal accreditation for organic certification programs.
Sustainable agriculture advocates can help fashion the 1995 Farm Bill by offering their input in the "National Dialogue for Sustainable Agriculture."
Created by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coordinating Council (NSACC), the "National Dialogue" seeks to stimulate a national discussion on sustainable agriculture and to encourage broad popular participation in defining federal policy options. NSACC also seeks to win passage of sustainable agriculture policies through public participation and activities during policy deliberations.
NSACC will meet to discuss and plan future action on policy options from Feb. 26-27 at Alexandria, VA. For further information, contact Amy Little, NSACC, 32 N. Church Street, Goshen, NY 10924, (914) 294-0633.
Alternative Energy Resources Organization (AERO) of Helena, MT, was named the "Sustainable Agriculture Data Winner" at the Distinguished Appropriate Technology Awards on Nov. 4 at Washington, D.C. AERO received the award for its "Farm Improvement Club Organizing Project." Held this year at the National Press Club, the annual DATA awards are sponsored by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) of Butte, MT, which administers ATTRA.
In 1990, AERO started a program designed to help agricultural producers in Montana learn how to farm more sustainably in this semi-arid region of mostly small grains and beef production. Through competitive small grants of up to $800 each, a minimum of four producers and community leaders form a "farm improvement club" that cooperatively designs and conducts projects to meet their locally identified needs. The clubs serve as an entry point into sustainable agriculture for producers who may have previously felt isolated or unsure of where to start. The group aspect multiplies the learning opportunities and reduces the risk, and lends credibility to sustainable agriculture in the larger community.
AERO serves the needs of low-income farmers as well as others by reducing the financial risk of experimenting with and/or adopting sustainable farming methods.
American farmers and other nominees with special know-how in sustainable agriculture are wanted for inclusion in the 1994 edition of the Sustainable Agriculture Network's Directory of Expertise.
Compiled by ATTRA, the first edition of the directory was published in
June of 1993 and contains biographical sketches of 717 people and groups
nationwide with expertise in such topics as building soil health, finding
new pest-control tools, and diversifying cash flow. The directory is a project
of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, a coalition of sustainable agriculture
working groups and is funded by the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research
and Education (SARE) program.
Interested persons may contact ATTRA by calling 1-800-346-9140.
ATTRA will welcome a new technical specialist in February. Rex Dufour from Woodland, CA, recently returned to the U.S. after 3 years with agricultural and rural development projects in Laos with the U.S. Embassy and 5 years in Thailand with the Peace Corps and the United Nations. Rex earned his MS degree in integrated pest management (IPM) from University of California at Riverside. He brings experience based on over 10 years of working with U.S. and international farmers and agricultural professionals on IPM and diverse sustainable agriculture and development projects.
ATTRA Senior Technical Specialist Chris Rugen attended the fourth workshop for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "IPM Coordinators," Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 at the Sacramento Valley National Wildlife Refuge at Willows, CA. ATTRA is helping FWS to implement integrated pest management programs at national refuges where crops are raised.
FWS has mandated that IPM practices be implemented on refuges where local farmers under cooperative agreements leave a portion of the feedgrain crop on the refuge for wildlife to consume. To assist IPM coordinators, ATTRA this month mailed a special news supplement to 550 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and National Park Service personnel. The supplement featured news about work-in-progress on several wildlife refuges and resources the coordinators could contact for IPM assistance.
ATTRA Information Specialist Katherine Adam spoke about ATTRA services and "Opportunities in Dried Florals" on Jan. 6 at the "Marketplace '94" conference at Bismarck, ND. The conference was co-chaired by U.S. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and North Dakota Agriculture Secretary Sarah Vogel.
Review by Dori Green
While The Real Dirt, a new publication from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE), won't turn wannabe's into successful farmers all by itself, it's definitely one of those "I wish I'd had it when I started" tools. I guarantee it'll be dog-eared and mud-stained within a week of arrival because it's honest-to-goodness useful right out there in the fields.
Some books about growing things are best savored slowly with a glass of wine and a glowing woodstove. The Real Dirt is enjoyable this way too. It's like a visit with old and new and not-yet-met friends, the 60 farmers in eight northeast states who were interviewed to provide the material for the book. But this is not another organic gardening book: this one is about farming organically. Yes, many of the techniques discussed under "Cover Crops" and "Compost" and "Crop Management" will work in a garden. But The Real Dirt is confronting agricultural issues on a larger scale, from one acre to 600. It also discusses livestock, markets, certification, and making a living.
Maybe the biggest difference about The Real Dirt is its honesty. Agriculture of any kind in the short growing season of the Northeast is not easy, and the organic or low-input variety faces some very special challenges. These are not minimized, but are dealt with openly and courageously. From fighting weed pressure when chemical herbicides are reduced, to finding and keeping markets, this book will help you stay in business to plant again next year.
Technical information is here for farmers who want to lower their synthetic inputs and for those who are coming to agriculture from previous lives and careers. The Real Dirt also includes a too often neglected item in the sustainability equation: the farmers and consumers who are breaking new ground and designing an entirely new food system. Within these pages people converse, and share, and bring culture back to the business of agriculture.
I'm giving several copies of The Real Dirt to non-farming friends. They'll enjoy the read with or without a woodstove, and when they're done, they'll have a much better appreciation of what's on their dinner plates and how it came to be there.
The Real Dirt, a Northeast SARE publication, is available for $13.95 plus $3.50 postage and handling. Order by mail from NOFA-NY, PO Box 21, South Butler, NY 13154-0021. Make check payable to NOFA-NY.
Dori Green is a Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener and president of the Central Southern Tier chapter of NOFA-NY. She farms part-time with Percheron horses.
Browsing the shelves in ATTRA's Resource Center, you will find 2,800 books ranging from orthodox agricultural manuals to lexicons odd and unique.
Staples like Bill Murphy's popular "Greener Pastures on Your Side of the Fence" describing Voisin grazing management are here, and so are rare tomes like the National Research Council's "Lost Crops of the Incas" about little-known plants of the Andes with promise for worldwide cultivation.
The Resource Center's periodical section houses 530 newsletters, trade tabloids and magazines, listed alphabetically from the "American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners Newsletter" to "Wyoming Stockman Farmer" magazine.
"Our Resource Center houses one of the largest special collections of sustainable agriculture information in the U.S.," Senior Library Specialist Carol Warriner says.
ATTRA's 15 technical and information specialists electronically access a host of conventional libraries around the U.S. in their daily search for the latest information about sustainable agriculture. But they rely most heavily on ATTRA's own depository of highly-specialized information.
"Part of our focus is to collect what is called in library circles gray or fugitive literature and make it accessible to our staff," Warriner explains. "That kind of literature is often difficult to obtain and hard to catalogue. A good deal of it is not published according to conventional standards. Some of it is experiential information, such as reports of on-farm research conducted by farmers and ranchers."
Other kinds of "gray" literature include proceedings from conferences or workshops, how-to manuals and newsletters. Warriner says that academic libraries tend not to collect gray literature, largely because it is not available through conventional publishing or purchasing channels. They also focus on scientifically-verified information to support teaching and research efforts.
Direct access to the Resource Center and to the University of Arkansas libraries allows specialists to provide a customized response to the question at hand. "Our specialists are especially interested in finding out what someone tried out on their farm - whether it worked or not," Warriner says.
Warriner in 1993 earned a Master of Library Science from Texas Woman's University of Denton, TX. Other Resource Center staff members include Research Specialist Betty Blomberg and Tracey Smith, a student intern from the University of Arkansas.
ATTRA staff members read a tremendous amount of information in order to stay abreast of sustainable agriculture happenings. Magazines, advertisements, catalogues and conference announcements are routed to the specialists.
"The specialists in their readings look for mention of newly published books and subscriptions, farming techniques, alternative methods, equipment, plant varieties and animal production," Warriner says. "They also learn about new sustainable agriculture data by talking to farmers, researchers and other information providers at conferences and workshops and by phone. And they browse the electronic networks and list servers every day. We track down print versions of all this information for the Resource Center."
The Resource Center regularly circulates a "new acquisitions" list to ATTRA staffers to keep them abreast of the arrival of new books and periodicals.
"Right now we are a paper-generated library but we are working to computerize our holdings in the not too distant future," Warriner says.
The ATTRA Resource Center is not a lending library, Warriner says.
"However, people can make an appointment to use our library on site for research," she says. "But the best way for most people to access its storehouse of knowledge is to pose a question about sustainable agriculture by calling 1-800-346-9140."
By: Jim Lukens
ATTRA Program Manager
I grew up believing that January is planning time on the farm, but have come to realize that in many cases little long-range planning really gets done. There is always something more pressing that needs to be done! It is easy to be so busy doing what we are doing -- and trying to do it better -- that we don't take time to reconsider what we should be doing.
Perhaps it is time to break that pattern! Consider your priorities. Discuss the long-term goals for your farm with your family. Consider some significant innovations in your cropping or livestock system. Learn about possible changes to the Farm Bill, form your own opinions, and join efforts with others who want to see sustainable agriculture encouraged.
And if, in your planning, you need some practical, reliable information about sustainable farming practices, give us a call at ATTRA. We have considered our priorities, and providing that critical information to you is what we should be doing to advance sustainable agriculture.
To request the materials, call 1-800-346-9140.
"The outstanding scientific discovery of the 20th Century is not television or radio, but rather the complexity of the land organism. Only those who know the most about it can appreciate how little is known about it. The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: What good is it?...To keep every cog amd wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering." - Aldo Leopold, Conservationist