Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Phone: 1-800-346-9140 --- FAX: (501) 442-9842
ATTRA staff members celebrated with a cake adorned with 10 candles after hearing on July 31 that Congress had approved its FY97 funding request of $1.3 million. First funded in 1987, ATTRA next year will observe its 10th anniversary of providing the latest sustainable ag information to the nation's farmers, agricultural researchers and information providers.
The $1.3 million returns ATTRA to approximately the same funding level held for five years prior to 1996, when ATTRA along with other agriculture programs experienced sharp federal cuts. ATTRA's 1996 funding level was $970,000 for a 10-month period.
"We credit strong support from people who use our service, the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and others who spoke up for the value of ATTRA services to Congress," ATTRA Program Manager Teresa Maurer said. "In the final stages of the federal budget process, their voices were heard and acted upon by members of both parties in both the House and Senate during conference committee work."
This year's budget process produced another cliffhanger situation for ATTRA staffers. Although budgets prepared by the USDA and President Clinton in early 1996 had recommended that ATTRA be restored to its FY95 funding level, the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee in May zeroed out its FY97 funding.
However, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee in mid-July endorsed ATTRA's FY97 funding request. The measure was later approved by the full Senate and in the joint Senate/House budget conferencing process.
Located at Memphis when it was founded in 1987 by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), ATTRA in 1989 moved to the landgrant University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. NCAT is a national nonprofit organization which operates a host of sustainable agriculture, low-income housing, energy conservation and sustainable community development programs.
Over the years ATTRA's staff has increased from five people who handled several information requests each week to a staff of 22 technical, information and support specialists who now field an average 350 requests weekly from the public. ATTRA staffers since 1987 have prepared nearly 80,000 reports for callers on a wide variety of sustainable farming topics.
Its clientele consists mainly of farmers, Cooperative Extension Service agents and personnel with the Natural Resource Conservation Service, but includes frequent calls from ag researchers at the nation's colleges, other sustainable agriculture organizations, farming information providers and agribusinesses.
"ATTRA is looking forward to helping farmers meet the challenges of the next decade," Maurer said. "Farmers want to be ready for major developments such as the new federal Freedom to Farm Program, and more than ever they will need better and more responsive links to the latest sustainable agricultural information."
Did you ever wonder if federal help is available to get good information on sustainable agriculture practices, to get cost-share funding to make major conservation improvements on your land, to start a locally owned value-added small business, or for other sustainable farming initiatives?
Margaret Krome, who works for the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, WI and coordinates the national effort to fund sustainable agriculture programs for the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, is asking ATTRAnews readers for input on a project which will identify federal programs of use to sustainable farming practitioners. Reader response from an article in the June issue of ATTRAnews prompted her to suggest the project.
The article, which reported on the status of Congressional funding for various sustainable agriculture projects, advised readers they could contact Krome for further details.
"I learned a lot from the calls I got," she says. "Several people wanted to support our campaign, but just as many wanted information on how to use the programs we're trying to fund. It stengthened my understanding that the sustainable agriculture community underuses many federal programs due to lack of information about them."
Krome is embarking on a project to formally alert members of the sustainable agriculture community about federal programs that might offer funding, information, technical assistance or other help they need.
"Programs I profile will range from obvious ones like SARE and ATTRA to lesser knowns like the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program or various farm lending programs," Krome says. "Right now, I'm casting out the net to be sure I don't overlook programs that might help someone."
Krome is asking ATTRAnews readers to tell her how they've used or attempted to use a federal program to support their sustainable agriculture work, for what purpose they used the program, and what the outcome was.
"Their experiences can, in turn, help others to learn about available resources. And of course, I will gladly respect preferences for confidentiality."
Krome can be reached at:
2524 Chamberlain Ave.
Madison, WI 53705
Craig Cramer and Christopher Shirley -- two former editors of The New Farm magazine -- will launch a new publication in Spring 1997.
"We'll help sustainably minded farmers and other ag professionals to stay informed about innovative yet practical cropping and livestock systems and marketing strategies," says Cramer.
Dozens of sustainable farming groups across the country have offered to promote their new publication.
"We're also asking agribusinesses and food companies with a special stake in sustainable farming methods to help sponsor charter issues," Shirley said.
To get on the charter mailing list or be a corporate sponsor, contact Christopher Shirley, Committee for Sustainable Farm Publishing, 609 S. Front St., Allentown, PA 18103 or via email to CDShirley@aol.com.
Sustainable farming practitioners pondering alternative ways to market their produce may want to consider cooperatives -- and to give the USDA/RBS Cooperative Services a call for information on the topic.
"By working together to market their products, small farmers can overcome the imbalances they face in a marketplace dominated by large buyers," Randall Torgerson, deputy administrator of Cooperative Services, Rural Business-Cooperative Service, which funds the ATTRA project, said. "Cooperatives enable farmers to work together to bargain for a fair price, and to deliver products in uniform lots and in the quantities needed to fill large orders."
"A cooperative is a user-owned, democratically controlled business in which members receive benefits in proportion to their use of the organization's services," Torgerson said. As both an association of people and a business, a cooperative follows democratic principles in electing delegates and a board of directors to govern its affairs, but is managed according to sound business principles. He said cooperatives are typically incorporated under state cooperative laws but may also be incorporated under general corporation laws, with bylaws written to conduct business on a cooperative basis.
"One of the hallmarks of cooperatives is their emphasis on quality," Torgerson said. "A cooperative's grading operations group produce or livestock into lots that purchasers can identify as sources of dependable quality products. Attention to this grading and packaging in identified markets creates repeat customers."
For more information, please contact USDA/RBS Cooperative Services, Ag Box 3255, Washington, DC 20250-3255; telephone (202)720-6483; fax (202)720-4641.
Senior Information Specialist Chris Rugen on Aug. 19 began a month-long stay in the Republic of Albania, working with cut flower growers there in behalf of Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (VOCA). VOCA, an international volunteer organization, had requested that Rugen help impoverished Albanian farmers to develop a cut flower industry as part of the country's wide-ranging economic development plan.
ATTRA staff members are helping to develop a Sustainable Agriculture Road Show to introduce sustainable farming to American farmers on their home turf — state farm conventions, trade and commodity shows, and regional or national commodity gatherings. Supported by a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation, a private foundation based in St. Paul, MN, the road show is expected to go on tour by late 1996.
With ATTRA's assistance, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will present 10-12 displays per year over the next two years in the Midwest, Northern Great Plains, and Intermountain Northwest.
Growers and ag professionals who will travel with the display will answer questions, explain elements of research results and share their own experiences associated with sustainable agriculture.
ATTRA staffers on Aug. 29 co-hosted a brownbag seminar in conjunction with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville on "Ecology of Pasture Management for Northwest Arkansas." Organized by ATTRA Technical Specialist Dr. Ron Morrow, the seminar featured university agronomist Chuck West who related how better management practices such as rotational grazing and seeding can improve pastures.
Several ATTRA technical specialists and staff members of the University of Missouri Forage Systems Research Center (FSRC) will present a Sustainable Beef Management Workshop from Oct. 22-24 at the FSRC at Linneus, MO.
Held at the MU Cornett Farm, the advanced workshop will consider the whole farm in beef enterprise management, according to ATTRA Technical Specialist Dr. Ron Morrow. Goal setting, resource evaluation
"Participants will start a plan for their own farm," Morrow said. "The beef workshop will allow more one-on-one planning by the individual producers. The emphasis is on goal setting and resource evaluation."
Fred Martz, University of Missouri animal scientist and FSRC director, said, "In the grazing schools we've added economics, but we'll take that one step further in the beef workshop. We'll be looking at ways to increase the return by $50 to $100 per calf." That can include finishing cattle on pasture and direct marketing to local consumers, Martz said.
Instructors, from FSRC, in addition to Martz, will include Jim Gerrish, research agronomist; Valerie Tate, research associate; and Jim Fitzgerald, herdsman at FSRC.
In addition to Morrow, participating ATTRA staff members are Alice Beetz and Preston Sullivan, technical specialists; and Ann Wells, veterinarian and technical specialist. Stevie Forbes, a purebred beef cattle producer from Excelsior Springs, Mo., will also be on the workshop faculty.
The MU FSRC is a laboratory for development of grazing systems for livestock production. Regular grazing schools have attracted 1573 participants from 33 states and six countries in the last seven years.
Registration fee for the three-day workshop will be $150 or $250 per couple. The fee includes a workshop manual and five meals. Deadline for registration is Oct. 7. Registrations will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis, with a limit of 60. For information, call ATTRA at (800) 346-9140 or FSRC at (816) 895-5121.
ATTRA staffers have recommended two publications from their recent reading lists:
* Farming More Sustainably in the South, Vol II: More Farmers' Stories highlights twelve pioneers of sustainable agriculture. Innovative Southern producers of cotton, soybeans, sugarcane, citrus, vegetables, fruit, dairy, livestock, and cut flowers share their experiences in creating more profitable and enjoyable farming operations.
This booklet compiles the best stories previously published in Southern Sustainable Farming—all updated—with several new pieces. Production practices and marketing strategies are discussed. Though their methods vary widely, each story is full of inspiration and ideas. 44pp. $12.00. Southern SAWG, PO Box 324, Elkins, AR 72727; phone (501) 292-3714: e-mail HN3551@handsnet.org.
For a special price of $17.50 post paid you can receive Farming More Sustainably in the South, Vol I: Nine Farmers' Stories along with Volume II. along with Volume II.
* Farmers' Markets '96: The What's Hot/What's Not Guide For Growers & Managers is now available from New World Publishing. The 12-page report was written by Eric Gibson, author of the widely acclaimed book Sell What You Sow! The Grower's Guide To Successful Produce Marketing.
Based on interviews and questionnaires from farmers market vendors and managers around the country, Farmers' Markets '96 reveals the latest tips and trends, including hot products (fresh and value-added), best new display ideas, merchandising and selling tips, and farmers market promotion ideas.
To order Farmers' Markets '96, send $4 plus $1 S/H ($5 total) to New World Publishing, 3085 Sheridan St., Placerville, CA 95667. California residents add 29 cents state sales tax ($5.29 total). Canadian residents add 50 cents extra shipping ($5.50 total). Credit card orders call (916) 622-2248.
A new Calendar of Sustainable Agriculture Events is available from the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center. The calendar lists upcoming conferences and events worldwide related to sustainable agriculture. Included are events through March 1998, including conferences on biotechnology, organic farming, permaculture, eco-forestry, horticulture and community food systems.
To order the free calendar, contact: Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, ATTN: SAN Calendar, Room 304, National Agricultural Library, 10301, Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705.
"We thought we could produce ourselves out of any trouble that would arise; instead, we produced ourselves to the level where we are at the mercy of corporate America and large corporate cooperatives...There's a huge ship to turn, and we're coming to realize that there are not enough tug boats in the water to turn it, so now we're building a new ship -- and that ship is sustainable agriculture."
- Dairy farmer Tom Trantham of Greenville, SC, in the August, 1996, issue of Farm Aid News & Views, speaking about why he thinks corporate co-ops have failed the American farmer and how family farmer "New Generation Cooperatives" (NGCs) allow many small farmers to compete with industrial ag operations.