Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Phone: 1-800-346-9140 --- FAX: (501) 442-9842
ATTRA technical specialists are helping to develop an integrated pest management (IPM) plan to benefit wildlife and farmers on 84,000 acres of public lands in California and Oregon.
IPM Specialists Christine Rugen and Rex DuFour in April met with farmers who raise high-value crops such as potatoes on leased public lands at the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges near the California-Oregon border. During a series of meetings held at town cafes, community centers and the refuges, farmers and agency personel offered their input in the multi-phase project which will determine the best approach to managing agricultural pests while protecting wildlife and the environment on the refuges.
Established by a series of executive orders in 1908, 1928 and 1936, the two refuges are home to migrating flocks of waterfowl and many other species of wildlife and fish.
About 57,000 acres of the refuges are dedicated to wildlife, primarily waterfowl preservation, with the remaining 27,000 acres dedicated to farmland. Various lands at the refuges are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
ATTRA's parent organization, the National Center for Appropriate Technology of Butte, MT, was awarded a contract this spring to study wildlife habitat and species, water delivery systems, water quality, and farming and pest management practices at the refuges. NCAT Associate Director Kathy Hadley, who has a masters in wildlife biology and is serving as project manager, accompanied the ATTRA specialists on the weeklong field study.
Farmers and environmentalists at the refuges have debated possible risks posed by farm pesticides to fish, wildlife and the area's environment. Some refuge farmers fear that farm yields would suffer if they are relegated to using non-chemical pest controls.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has informed the refuge farmers that it is under mandate to establish IPM programs at about 140 national wildife refuges where farming is conducted. At many of these refuges, farmers under contract agreements leave portions of their crops in the field for wildlife consumption.
"Our project will look at using a practical, economical and scientifically based combination of biological, chemical, cultural and physical control methods, instead of only chemical pesticides," Hadley explains.
The project team will also present recommendations as to whether a full Environmental Impact Statement should be conducted, or if a less costly, briefer Environmental Assessment will suffice in developing and implementing pest management practices. The recommendation will also identify alternatives for controlling pests and expected outcomes of those alternatives.
Farmers and ranchers in the western U.S. who irrigate crops and forage can save up to 51.5% in water and energy use, according to a newly-released report from the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) of Butte, MT.
From 1990-94, NCAT technical specialists studied state-of-the-art irrigation water management practices on 31,000 acres of sprinkler irrigated land at the Broadwater Conservation District at Townsend, MT. NCAT operates the ATTRA program, in addition to several other national sustainable agriculture projects. Twenty-five irrigators participated in the project, which was funded by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
An NCAT report reveals that total project savings for irrigation seasons 1993 and 1994 were 190.6 million cubic feet of water (23,378 cubic feet of water per acre each season) and 1.98 million kilowatt-hours of electricity (243 kWh an acre per season). The study produced an average energy and water savings of 51.5%, or $9.23 an acre.
Other resulting benefits have included improved water quality and quantity, which enhance in-stream flows and the downstream environment. The NCAT specialists found that crop yields were comparable or better than yields achieved without irrigation water management on acreages of small grains, potatoes, and alfalfa hay and seed.
Please call ATTRA at 1-800-346-9140 to request a free copy of the "Irrigation Water Management Demonstration Project Report."
U.S. farmers will be urged in a national radio campaign this fall to call ATTRA for help in switching to sustainable agriculture systems and technologies.
Sponsored by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) of Washington, D.C., the campaign will be launched this fall on about 200 radio stations in 20 states.
"The radio spots will urge mainstream farmers to call ATTRA for information on sustainable practices, organic production, food safety, pesticides, and public policies which will promote organic and low-input farming," says CSPI Research Assistant Rebecca Kapstein.
Amidst stirring music, an announcer in the series of 30- and 60-second public service announcements will note: "Across this great land, American farmers are changing the way they farm. Listen to some of them..." Real farmers will then relate how with sustainable agriculture concepts they trimmed input costs, maintained good yields and improved the environment. The announcer will then urge listeners to call ATTRA for sustainable farming information.
Kapstein said that CSPI is conducting the campaign as part of its "Americans for Safe Food Project."
Several ATTRA staff members are participating in a Clinton Administration plan to provide lasting solutions to 194 rural areas of the U.S. which are plagued by chronic poverty, unemployment and lack of resources.
The Champion Communities Project is part of President Clinton's Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Communities (EZ/EC) Program, which over a 10-year period will provide $2.5 billion to 95 urban and rural communites and nine urban and rural empowerment zones. Champion Communities are those which created comprehesive strategic plans in making application for EZ/EC funds, but were not funded.
To insure that these deserving communities benefit from the EZ/EC effort, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) which administers the ATTRA program is working on a set of recommendations with the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at Iowa State University. The recommendations to be offered this fall to the USDA's Office of Small Communities and Rural Development will make suggestions on how the USDA can help the 194 communities put their comprehensive strategic plans into action.
Accompanying the recommendations will be an inventory of resources available to rural communities for sustainable development efforts.
ATTRA staff members on the project include administrative assistants Cynthia Arnold, Ellen Clough and Jane Le, information specialists Katherine Adam and David Zodrow, resource specialist Betty Blomberg and NCAT sustainable agriculture program manager Jim Lukens. Project leader is Jacqueline McGee, a Kansas City attorney who most recently served four terms in the Missouri State Legislature.
Comments by about 250 sustainable agriculture proponents who attended a national conference last winter will be offered as input on the 1995 Farm Bill.
Panelists at the "Sustainable Agriculture and the 1995 Farm Bill Conference" from Jan. 23-25 in Washington, D.C. debated federal research and education policy issues concerning legislation, conservation, the environment, rural development, research and education. About 200 people attended panel discussions by 60 scientists and policymakers. The conference was sponsored by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), which is composed of 30 scientific societies and many individual, student, company, nonprofit, and associate society members.
Guest speakers at the conference included Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture; and Rep. Wayne Allard (R-CO) and Rep. Charles W. Stenholm (D-TX), members of the House Committee on Agriculture.
"Although there are many conferences on sustainable agriculture, few conferences have included the diversity of stakeholders involved in the CAST conference," said report co-chair Paula B. Ford of the Southern Region SARE/ACE Program at the Georgia Experiment Station, Griffin.
A report based on a consensus of speakers and members of seven conference panels states:
* Support programs should not dissuade farmers from adopting practices that enhance the environment.
* Conservation programs merit government support and should be targeted at environmentally vulnerable areas--a determination that should be based on ecosystems and watersheds instead of on individual fields.
* In developing the 1995 Farm Bill, related programs should be reviewed and coordinated to foster the leveraging of state and local funds for environmental protection.
* The federal government should create a broad definition of sustainable agriculture and design agricultural policies to achieve related goals. The definition used to develop policy should take a systems approach, placing land-use practices in a whole-farm and ecosystem context.
* For farmers to be both competitors in the global economy and stewards of the natural resource base, the 1995 bill should encourage innovation and responsiveness to market forces as well as environmental integrity. Programs should provide flexibility and incentives for farmers to adopt agricultural practices and to develop systems protecting the environment and increasing profitability.
* The farm bill and related legislation should integrate and consolidate overlapping environmental regulations, and regulations should be replaced, where appropriate, with incentives.
* Research should focus on the identification of indicators of environmental sustainability and on the ongoing development of environmentally sound management.
* Vital rural communities, which depend on strong agricultural sectors, are important. A significant portion of the farm population relies on off-farm income, making the development of local enterprises key to the development of many rural communities.
A summary report on the conference is available for $50 from CAST, 4420 West Lincoln Way, Ames, IA 50014-3447, (515) 292-2125.
The report summarizes a series of talks and a panel discussion on the research and education agenda. Items on the agenda include conserving and enhancing resources and biodiversity, enhancing food safety, empowering people economically and socially, and enhancing agricultural markets, competitiveness, and rural development.
An ASCII text of an interpretive summary is available. To receive a copy by electronic mail, send a request to: firstname.lastname@example.org
"ATTRA is a cornucopia of information about sustainable agriculture," a farmer remarked in a recent phone call to an ATTRA specialist. Like many other veteran callers, he had relied on ATTRA over the years to implement several successful farm projects. Now he was calling for information about planting cover crops in alleys of a new orchard on his farm.
However, some newer ATTRA users may not realize that they can tap into hundreds of sustainable farming topics here. ATTRA's staff of technical and information specialists gather new sustainable farming information daily from a multitude of print, electronic and people sources. The new data is added to the extensive paper and electronic files which the spcialists have compiled since ATTRA's inception in 1987.
To give readers an insight to the diversity of ATTRA information, staff members were asked for shortlists of recent cases they had compiled for callers. Below is the list.
Interested in these topics, or others? Give ATTRA a call!
Organic and colored cotton
Organic small grains
Alternative pest-management for small grains
Sustainable alfalfa production
Bindweed and thistle control
Alternative nematode control
Grain amaranth production
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA's)
How to organize a farmers' market and other ideas for direct marketing
Sustainable ag curricula, grades K-12
Christmas tree production
Low-spray pecan production
Low-spray pear production
Organic garlic production
Least-toxic turf care for landscapers
Kenaf and lupine production
Luebke Controlled Microbial Composting (CMC)
Steam and flame weeding
Organic potting mix for transplant production
Living mulches in vegetable production
Paw paw production
Sorghum syrup production
Specialty vegetable production
Luffa gourd production
Dairy sheep production
Hair sheep production
Duck, geese, guinea fowl and gamebird production
Predator control using dogs, donkeys and llamas
Controlling deer damage to crops
On-farm cheese making
Commercial wildflower production
Meat goat production
Angora goat production
Cashmere goat production
Organic greenhouse vegetable production
Farmer Robert Caldwell of Viroqua, WI, was one of about 150 ATTRAnews readers who completed a feedback questionaire included in the last issue of the newsletter. He related how he had used ATTRA information last year to grow 20,000 copra onions and harvest hairy vetch, rye and buckwheat seed for sale. "The information gave me the confidence to go ahead with the project," he said. "ATTRA is like having money in the bank."
Claire Gainey of Lamar, AR, in her questionaire said that she and her husband, David, constructed a novel waste-management wetland on their 100-sow feeder hog farm with information which they received from ATTRA and the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Holding-pond effluent from the hog operation is drained into the wetland, and wetland water is dispersed to irrigate row crops and an orchard. "This is the first agricultural waste system of its kind in Arkansas," she said.
And beef rancher Burdette Ehrhardt of Camden, OH, told of how he used ATTRA information about cover crops, rotational grazing and banding fertilizers to trim use of agricultural chemicals by 88 percent and nitrogen by 90 percent. Ehrhardt, who has 60 beef cows and raises oats, corn and hay to feed stocker calves, commented that, "I believe ATTRA has the most up-to-date information on farming for the future and today."
ATTRA staff members are taking comments in the questionaires to heart to gauge effectiveness of our information. The questionaires reveal how information which ATTRA gathers from experts in the field is used by our clients to diversify farm operations, explore new marketing methods, incorporate value-added and farm-processed products, curb use of costly commercial inputs and farm more environmentally.
Some readers related that they had attempted to obtain information about sustainable agriculture from other sources before learning about ATTRA.
For instance, beginning farmer Kim McBride of Bertram, TX, said "I tried several organizations, trade publications, shows, libraries and the county Extension office. What I was looking for was personal testimony from an experienced farmer who had similar interests. I found the next best thing in ATTRA." So far, McBride has planted 680 apple and nut trees, put in an acre of blackberries, and purchased 10 cows.
Poultry farmer Louis Costa of Huntington, PA, said he found the information he needed after being referred by researchers at Penn State University and Virginia University to ATTRA. "I was interested in information regarding organic poultry production, and ATTRA told me how it was done," he said.
Like Costa, many readers said they used ATTRA information to launch a new farm venture or marketing plan.
Bob Bowen of Brooksville, ME, said ATTRA materials helped him to turn a profitless farm into one which had gross sales of over $86,000 in 1994. "We operate a family farm that grows almost all classes of poultry which we raise on custom-blended feeds," he said. "All the birds are farm-processed and we sell direct at four farmers markets, as well as wholesale to fourteen stores. When we were starting up, we relied on ATTRA for information on raising ducks, geese, capons and turkeys. As a farmer, we don't even know the names of many of the publications, let alone having the money and time to read them. ATTRA does this research for us and makes available some really helpful info."
Anne Capra of Mt. Kisco, NY, said that she put ATTRA information on soil biology, aquaculture, hydroponics, crop nutrients and integrated pest management to use in building a unique greenhouse fish farm. They raise musclun, a specialty salad green mix, in 32 soil beds, which are irrigated with nutrient-rich water from six 2,000-gallon tanks in which they produce tilapia. "ATTRA information has given us a better understanding of the scientific processes that are occurring at all intervals of our systems. The IPM information successfully enabled me to bring the thrips population down to very low populations where damage is no longer occurring. ATTRA information also provided excellent bibliography data from which we furthered our networking."
And Molly Bartlett of Hiram, OH, said that four years ago she launched a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business which now includes 140 shareholders. The CSA was launched by growing five acres of carrots four years ago with the help of ATTRA information. "ATTRA info was thorough, plus we had a contact person to call," Molly recalls. "Those carrots were sold and traded to other growers in Ohio and western Pennsylvania for their CSA's."
Several Extension agents commented about the usefulness of ATTRA info for themselves and clients they serve.
Steve Bogash, of the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service at Keedysville, MD, assists new and diversifying farmers and ranchers with non-traditional natural resources and horticultural and agronomic enterprise opportunities. "ATTRA information is invaluable as one of the many sources of technical information that I utilize in assisting my clients. I regularly share it with growers and other Extension personnel."
Also among those filling out questionaires were nonprofit organizations which depend upon ATTRA for sustainable agriculture information.
Dawit Zeleke, of The Nature Conservancy, Cosumnes River Preserve at Galt, CA, said the Conservancy asked ATTRA how to eliminate the use of herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers on farm lands there. The 5,500 acre preserve has 1,000 acres of wetlands, 500 acres in row crops (tomatoes, sugar beets, peppers, winter wheat), 700 acres of pastureland, 1000 acres of grasslands and the rest in riparian forest. "ATTRA information showed us it was possible to go organic and that lots of people are doing it out there," he said.
A number of farmers said in the questionaires that they have come to depend upon ATTRA when problems arise.
Ed Harris, a fruit and vegetable farmer at Marietta, GA, said that last year grape vine borers threatened heavy damage muscadines at their farm in the North Metro Atlanta area. "I received information on using beneficial nematodes in the spring which I now use with good results," Ed notes. Concerning other ATTRA information he put to use, he noted. "ATTRA's organic apple information package helped me to select apple varieties suited to my area and the disease pressures here. I also now use a flame weeder with excellent results, as well as being cost efficient, due to reading about it in an ATTRA publication.
ATTRA wishes to thank readers who have returned feedback questionaires and to encourage other readers to complete the questionaire included in this issue of ATTRAnews. We'll use the info in the questionaires to help improve our job performance and to share with others in the sustainable ag community as inspiration and a teaching tool.
Also, readers who would be interested in participating in a review process for the ATTRA project and its materials should make a notation on the questionaire, or send a postcard to: ATTRA Project Manager Teresa MAurer, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville, AR 72702, or Internet email: email@example.com.
Please set aside a few moments today to give ATTRA some feedback!
Ron Kroese, executive director of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NACT), which operates the ATTRA program, participated with other sustainable agriculture proponents in a roundtable discussion on April 22 in New York at the annual session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.
Sponsored by the United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA), the roundtable assessed ways to strengthen local-to-global connections between the UN and U.S.-based sustainable farming advocates. Co-sponsors of the event were the World Sustainable Agriculture Association, the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture, and the Organic Trade Association.
Members of the roundtable discussed existing mechanisms connecting U.S. sustainable farming practitioners with happenings at the UN. Also discussed was the role of the UN, U.S. or farmers in boosting farmers' influence on behalf of sustainable agriculture at the UN.
People with expertise in sustainable agriculture may still be included in the Third Edition, Sustainable Agriculture Directory of Expertise. ATTRA is now compiling the edition which is scheduled for publication in late 1995.
Funded by the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, the directory links people in need of information with leading proponents of U.S. sustainable agriculture. The directory is a project of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a nationwide consortium of university, government, business and nonprofit organizations.
If you, your colleagues or organization would like to be included in the directory, contact either David Zodrow or Betty Blomberg at: ATTRA, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville, AR 72702, Telephone 1-800-346-9140, FAX (501) 442-9842, Internet firstname.lastname@example.org.
Farmers and other agriculture professionals often share with each other valuable information that comes not from scientific experimentation but practical experience. Is it possible to develop some way to gather, manage, store and distribute this kind of info?
That's the question which 16 sustainable agriculture proponents discussed from March 11-14 at Sinsinawa Mound, WI, at the "Experiential Information (EI) Exchange Workshop."
Sponsored by the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Project, the workshop was a project of the Sustainable Agriculture Network. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), which manages ATTRA, was contracted to organize and report on the workshop.
"It was the intention of the workshop not so much to answer questions as to explore the whole topic area, and begin to shape the development of more extensive efforts designed to make EI more reliable and readily available over the next few years," ATTRA Technical Specialist Bart Hall-Beyer says in a workshop report. The report will be available soon through SAN and ATTRA.
Workshop discussions centered on four main groupings of experiential information: "Hands-on," "Conversation," "Print" and "Electronic." Participants reviewed pro's and con's of different formats for presenting EI, such as field days, conferences, trade shows, farmer conversations, farmer-to-farmer networks, Extension workers, newsletters, the popular press, radio, television and Internet lists. And the attendees also identified three components of reliability to EI: "source, context and familiarity."
Workshop participants listed important considerations concerning the current state of EI management and areas where concerted action would have positive impact on EI communication.
"One important outflow of the workshop may be the recognition of a collective will to do more, be it as individuals, within our present institutions, or through the structuring of a working group on experiential information exchange," Hall-Beyer said.
Workshop participants included Jill Auburn, of California SAREP; Sam Bass, SCCES, Bennettsville, SC; Seth Dabney, USDA/ARS, Oxford, MS; Jeff Dlott, director of Environmental Biology, Berkeley, CA; Marta Engel, veterinarian, Soldiers' Grove, WI; Michele Gale-Sinex, ATFFI/CIAS - University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; Jane Gates, USDA/ARS/NAL, Beltsville, MD; Aaron Harp; Gabriel Hegyes; Robert R. Holland; Rhonda Janke; Margit Kaltenekker; John O'Sullivan; Stephanie Rittmann; and Chris Rugen.
People interested in ordering the "Experiential Information Exchange Workshop" report may call ATTRA at 1-800-346-9140 or