Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA)
P.O. Box 3657
Fayetteville, AR 72702
Phone: 1-800-346-9140 --- FAX: (501) 442-9842
In cooperation with Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development, ATTRA in August published the Mid-South Directory of Agroforestry Producers and Researchers.
The 150-page directory was funded by the Southern Regional SARE program and compiled by Douglas R. Henderson of Winrock and ATTRA staff members Teresa Maurer, Bob Wilson, Katherine Adam and David Zodrow. It includes contact information and data about the operations and projects of 278 agroforestry farmers, extensionists, consultants and researchers in 20 states. ATTRA will maintain updates of the printed directory in electronic form.
A limited number of directories are available free of charge from:
c/o Fee Busby and Brenda Swain
Route 3, Box 376
Morrilton, AR 72110-9537.
By invitation of the National Park Service, ATTRA is co-sponsoring a sustainable agriculture workshop on Nov. 3 at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area at Milford, PA.
Titled "Moving Toward Sustainability - Agriculture in the Middle Delaware River Valley," the workshop's goal is to encourage farmers who grow crops there on leased land and park service personnel to adopt sustainable agriculture practices. About 3,000 acres of the 70,000-acre park is devoted to cropland. Established 27 years ago, the park is 37 miles long by four miles wide.
Recreation area official Wayne Millington said the Park Service is not under mandate to establish sustainable agriculture programs but is encouraging sustainable systems for the sake of the environment, park workers and visitors, farm land and wildlife at the park.
Other sponsors include the National Park Service, Pike County Conservation District, Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, U.S. Soil Conservation Service - RC&D of Northeast Pennsylvania and the Pike County Cooperative Extension Service.
For a flyer listing workshop speakers or further information about the workshop, call Millington at (717) 296-6952 or ATTRA Program Manager Jim Lukens at 1-800-346-9140.
Alternative agriculture with its new technologies must have far greater support from the federal government if it is to become a real catalyst for rural economic development, ATTRA Program Manager Jim Lukens testified at a senate subcommittee hearing on July 14 in Washington, D.C.
Several other people prominent in the sustainable agriculture movement also told the Senate Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Economy and Family Farming about the need for federal policy changes and greater funding levels for alternative agriculture research and information dissemination.
"A healthy agriculture and a healthy rural economy are mutually dependent," Lukens said. "A rural community cannot be economically healthy and vibrant with a bankrupt agricultural sector. The good health of farms, farm families and the farm economy similarly requires a rural community that is economically, environmentally and socially sound."
Subcommittee Chairman Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN) said the hearing was the first in a series which will examine the state of rural America and promising strategies for rural economic development.
"Therefore, our principal question today is a simple one," he said. "Is alternative agriculture a promising strategy for rural economic development?...Then what impediments exist to its further progress, and what is the proper federal role in promoting it?"
Wellstone cited a report released in June by the National Academy of Sciences which criticized the way the federal government assesses the health effects of pesticides in food on children and infants. He intends to present "concrete suggestions" from the hearing to Congress "regarding how to improve or extend our current programs that promote alternative agriculture."
Wellstone said EPA Administrator Carol Browner in June also called for "a dramatic shift in policy to reduce the use of pesticides and promote sustainable agriculture."
"I strongly support such a policy shift," he said. "For both health and environmental reasons, we must move quickly and decisively toward more ecologically-sound farming practices."
Other Congressmen attending the hearing were Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT), and Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD).
Lukens said an increasing number of American farmers are turning to alternative agriculture to help both their families and ailing communities. "American farmers, long known for their ability to innovate, are today strongly motivated to try new and different enterprises and methods," he said.
Between 10,000 and 12,000 farmers, Extensionists, researchers and agribusiness people call ATTRA each year for the latest information on alternative agriculture practices, Lukens said.
Other sustainable agriculture organizations - such as the University of Minnesota Center for Alternative Plant and Animal Products and the Farming Alternatives Center at Cornell University - are providing a growing number of farm callers with business, marketing and technological assistance, he explained.
"The farmers who are calling ATTRA are improving their economic plight by substituting on-farm resources for purchased inputs, adding or switching to alternative higher-profit crops and livestock, and adding innovative marketing or on-farm processing to their farming activities," Lukens told senators.
Alternative agriculture has two "distinct relationships" with rural economic development, Lukens said.
First, agriculture is still the base for the rural economy, and alternative agricultural enterprises and practices are among the most promising economic development tools available.
Secondly, alternative agriculture serves as a model for rural economic development because of its practical and theoretical exploration of economic viability, protection of natural resources and social values.
"Applying the same yardstick of sustainabiliy to American rural economic development activities has only recently begun," Lukens said. "Rural communities, like farms, will benefit from greater reliance on internal resources, and more attention to protecting and conserving natural and human resources."
Lukens said rural communities and businesses could learn from farmers about the advantages of "enterprise diversification, and movement toward management- and information-intensive management techniques."
Three things are needed to reverse the downward trend and spur economic development in rural communities, Lukens said. They are:
Other witnesses and their testimonies at the Senate Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Economy and Family Farming included:
Dr. George Bird, who was then director of the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program and has now returned to Michigan State University where he is a professor of nematology, who explained how the USDA's Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program (known then as LISA) was created in 1988 by Congress to emphasize environmentally-sound farming and research quality of life issues for farmers and rural communities.
Paul O'Connell, director of USDA's Alternative Agricultural Research and Commercialization (AARC) Center, who said the center is exploring ways to expand commercial uses for farm products into industrial products that will create jobs in rural communities. The AARC with $10 million in funds is helping to finance 26 research projects (which were selected from 407 proposals) with individuals in the U.S. If successful in their business venture, recipients must reimburse AARC for start-up costs.
Don Taylor, South Dakota State University, who described research there showing that sustainable farming systems are less costly, provide comparable or greater yields and profits, and are more socially efficient than conventional ag systems.
Ron Kroese, who was then executive director of the Land Stewardship Project of Minnesota and now is president of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, who said there is a vital need to translate the good stewardship values which guide sustainable farmers into public policies. Reinforcing these values and rewarding farmers who put them into practice should be the basis for federal policy.
Kathy Ozer of Washington, D.C., executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition which is comprised of 38 family farm and rural advocacy organizations in 30 states, who said federal farm polices the past 12 years have forced over half a million farmers out of business, with thousands more on the brink of economic collapse. The increased "efficiency" of corporate farming the past 30 years has taken an enormous toll on the environment, human health, family farm income and the quality of rural life, she said. America needs a vast overhaul of farm and food policy from the farm fields to the checkout counter.
Margaret Krome, agricultural policy coordinator of the Wisconsin Rural Development Center, who said that many rural banks do not offer adequate credit to farmers and rural small businesses in their home towns. Farmers also need good sources of expert information to help guide them to farm sustainably, she added.
Ron Kroese, co-founder and former executive director of the Land Stewardship Project at Marine, Minn., has been named president of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) which administers ATTRA. Kroese replaces former NCAT President George Turman, who served in the position for four years and is now retiring to his native town, Missoula, Mont.
George Boody, who has served the past two years as managing director of Land Stewardship Project, has been named LSP interim executive director.
"We are extremely pleased with the selection of Ron Kroese as NCAT's new president," NCAT Chairman Jack Young, senior vice president of the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, D.C., said. "We're confident that Kroese will continue to strengthen NCAT's national leadership roles in the sustainable agriculture, energy conservation and affordable, resource-efficient housing areas."
Based at Butte, Mont., NCAT is a national nonprofit organization working to find technical solutions that use local resources and labor to address problems facing all Americans, but especially society's most disadvantaged citizens. To accomplish this mission, NCAT has three main program areas: sustainable energy, resource efficient housing and sustainable agriculture. Among these programs are the National Appropriate Technology Assistance Service (NATAS), an energy information service based at Butte, Mont., ATTRA, a sustainable agriculture information service at Fayetteville, Ark., and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Clearinghouse project, also at Butte, MT.
Beginning in 1982, Kroese served as executive director of the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) at Marine, MN, which he co-founded with former National Farmers Union Vice President Victor Ray. LSP is a non-profit, grassroots organization which promotes and develops environmentally sustainable approaches to agriculture and fosters an ethic of stewardship towards farmland in the Midwest.
Kroese has an extensive background in the sustainable agriculture and rural development fields. From 1981 to 1982, he served as director of the American Farm Project, a rural humanities education program sponsored by the National Farmers Union and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. He currently serves on numerous councils and boards dedicated to American rural life, which include the Minnesota Governor's Sustainable Development Initiative, the National Rural Life Conference, the Midwest Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and the Minnesota Extension Service Citizen's Advisory Committee.
An experienced journalist, Kroese has written a number of articles for publications such as the American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, Seed Savers Exchange and the LSP quarterly newsletter, Land Stewardship Letter. After graduation from South Dakota State University with a BS in journalism/English, he worked for four years as a reporter and columnist for newspapers in South Dakota and Hawaii. Kroese also served as press secretary to U.S. Senator James Abourezk (D-SD) and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee from 1975-78. He currently serves on the editorial advisory committee of three publications, E Magazine, Organic Farmer and Earth Ethics.
Kroese's educational credits include graduate study in American Literature at Kansas State University at Manhattan; completion of the Reflective Leadership Program at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs from 1984-85; and serving from 1991-92 as a visiting faculty member and researcher at the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs at the Humphrey Center, University of Minnesota.
ATTRA technical specialist Dr. Preston Sullivan spoke on adopting alternative agriculture, alternative weed control and alternative economic options at the "National Park Service Natchez Trace Parkway Sustainable Agriculture Workshop" at Tupelo, MS, from August 25-26.
The goal of the workshop, which ATTRA helped to organize with Park Service IPM Coordinator Terry Cacek, was to help implement sustainable agriculture practices for Park Service personnel and farmers who grow crops along the 500-mile Parkway.
Declared an official post road in 1801 by President Thomas Jefferson, the historical highway corridor extends through 300 farms and three southern states (Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee). About 5,500 acres, or 12 percent, of the Parkway are farmed on annual leases, mostly in corn, soybeans and cotton.
Current cropland management methods rely heavily on pesticides. Workshop organizers plan to gradually incorporate sustainable agriculture practices on Parkway lands and to offer participating farmers multi-year, longterm leases as an incentive for improved stewardship.
Other workshop speakers were from the U.S. Park Service, USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, Tennessee Valley Authority, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Mississippi Department of Agriculture, Mississippi Cooperative Extension Service and U.S. Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.
Creation of the "Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education" has been scheduled for October 26 at Bellevue, WA.
According to the 14-member initiating committee, the consortium will work to shape "national research and extension policy to support a more sustainable agricultural system...to evaluate the outcomes and achievements of research and extension programs in light of sustainable agriculture goals...and articulate the rationale for increased federal funding for sustainable agriculture research and education based on past accomplishments, critical gaps and relevant unfunded or underfunded projects."
The consortium organizational meeting will be held beginning at noon Oct. 26 at the Red Lion Hotel in Bellevue, WA, directly following the Conference on Science and Sustainablility: Reshaping Agricultural Research and Education.
For more information about the conference or the consortium, please contact:
ATTRA Program Manager Jim Lukens will be named chairman of the Sustainable Agriculture Network for a three-year term when the SAN Coordinating Committee convenes for its annual planning meeting at Bellevue, WA, from October 23-24. He will succeed current SAN Chairwoman Jill Auburn of the University of the California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
Members of the committee will attend the "Conference on Science and Sustainability: Rehaping Agricultural Research and Education" and will seek suggestions from other conference participants on ways to make SAN more responsive to their sustainable agriculture information needs.
Established in 1990, SAN is a cooperative effort of people from private nonprofit groups, Extension, land grant universities and agribusinesses involved in offering and promoting effective decentralized communication about sustainable agriculture. The group offers such publications as the Sustainable Agriculture Directory of Expertise and coordinates the Sanet computer discussion group.
ATTRA welcomed two new staff members this fall - Dr. Douglas Wilde, from Dallas, TX, as development specialist, and Tracey Smith of Forrest City, AR, as an intern working in ATTRA's Resource Center.
Wilde, trained as a wildlife biologist, worked for five years as assistant director and as a grants/contract specialist in the Office of Research Administration at Southern Methodist University at Dallas, TX. Until moving to Dallas in 1986, he lived in Hawaii where he owned a rowing shells business and a gardening services firm and managed a macadamia nut farm. At ATTRA, he will help to develop new services and programs.
Smith is a freshman who is majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. Raised on a family farm, he gained additional agricultural experience through high school by working in the Farmer's Home Administration office at Forrest City, serving as president of his school's Future Farmers of America chapter and joining the "Youth Enterprise in Agriculture (YEA)" program. The YEA is a career and leadership development program for Arkansas Youth which is sponsored by the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation (ALFDC).
Dr. Joe Schiller, a technical specialist with ATTRA since March of 1991, has taken a teaching position at Austin Peay State University at Clarksville, TN. Previous to working at ATTRA, Schiller taught college courses at San Diego, CA, and Salt Lake City, UT. In Tennessee, he will teach biological sciences.
While at ATTRA, Schiller researched cases involving aquaculture, wetlands and riparian zone management, water quality and real or potential impacts of agriculture on aquatic eco systems. He also authored numerous information packages, which included production of catfish, trout, tilapia, prawn, crawfish and the integration of aquaculture with hydroponics.
Schiller's wife, Sally, is also an instructor of biological sciences at the college. They have one child, Eric.
Alice Jones, former program manager for the USDA water quality grants program, has been named interim director of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program. She succeeds former director Dr. George Bird, who served in the position for two years and has returned to Michigan State University where he is a professor of nematology.
Patrick Madden, executive vice president of the World Sustainable Agriculture Association (WSAA), will continue to serve as SARE associate director.
The 1994 appropriation for SARE has been increased from $6.7 million to $7.4 million.
Jones can be reached at:
SARE Program, CSRS-USDA
342 Aerospace Bldg.
14th and Independence Avenue SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-2200
telephone: (202) 401-4640
Two ATTRA staff members - Guy Ames and Teresa Maurer - are helping to select top applicants for 1994 Southern Regional SARE/ACE project proposals.
Ames, an ATTRA technical specialist who also operates a northwest Arkansas orchard and nursery, is a member of the preproposal review panel. He will critique from 15 to 20 applications for grants from the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and the EPA Agriculture in Concert with the Environment program. The preproposal evaluation panel consists of reviewers from academia, non-governmental organizations and producers with expertise in sustainable agriculture. Selected preproposals will be developed as full proposals and forwarded to the Technical Review Committee.
Maurer, assistant ATTRA program manager, is chairwoman of the SARE Southern Regional Technical Review Committee which will meet in January at the University of Georgia at Griffin to review proposals from 13 southern states. Maurer also chaired the 27-member committee of farmers, agency representatives and university researchers in 1993.
Several sustainable agriculture publications are now available on "FolioViews" diskettes for a nominal price, according to Phil Rasmussen, director of Agricultural Systems Technology at Utah State University at Logan, UT. Rasmussen as a member of the Sustainable Agriculture Network Committee, transferred electronic versions of the publications to diskettes.
Available publications include: Sustainable Agriculture Directory of Expertise, Showcase of Sustainable Agriculture Information and Education Materials, SARE/ACE Research Reports and Agronomy Handbook (contains both conventional and sustainable information).
People may send either two high-density, 3.5-inch diskettes or $10 for each publication to:
Rasmussen at Agricultural Systems Technology
Utah State University
Logan, UT 84322-2300
telephone: (801) 750-2230 or 3394.
September 30 always finds me looking backward. That is the end of ATTRA's accounting year, and I am looking back to see how ATTRA has done. How many questions have we answered for U.S. farmers? How many magazines and newsletters have we scanned, looking for information that our callers need? How many conferences have we attended to gather people contacts and information not yet in print? And I find looking back at these numbers to be encouraging.
We've been busy this year! We responded to 20% more inquiries than we did last year -- 12,000 total for the year. We regularly perused over 450 different periodicals, and attended more than 50 conferences and meetings across the country. And although I haven't found a completely satisfactory way to count our quality, feedback I have received leads me to believe that the information we are sending out is getting better, too.
One quality factor that is easy to put numbers on -- timeliness of response -- continues to improve. In the past year we have completed 25% of all inquiries within one week, and 92% within four weeks. This is a good response rate for the kind of individualized research many of our questions require.
Although looking back is useful, October 1, the beginning of our accounting year, finds me looking forward. I know that there are additional farmers with information needs we should be serving, additional state and local agencies and organizations with whom we should be partnering, new ways of presenting information we should be exploring. I would like to see 40% of all inquiries answered within one week and 95% within four weeks. As I look forward I see opportunities to do more and better.
To be able to provide more useful information to more farmers more quickly, we are making some changes that probably seem mundane when viewed from outside. We are gradually and thoughtfully changing the ways we work with each other within our office, both in the flow of work and in the ways we help each other and treat each other as people.
In a sense we are looking at our office and our program in the same way farms should be viewed -- as a whole system with many interdependent parts. The soil, crops, livestock, people, etc. must all contribute and interact in complementary and synergistic ways.
At ATTRA, I am blessed to be working with colleagues who are both competent and dedicated to helping farms, farm families, and rural communities. And I am confident that, in the coming year, we will continue to improve the complementary and synergistic ways we each contribute to the system which is ATTRA, helping ATTRA contribute to the system which is U.S. agriculture. If you have suggestions of ways we can be of greater help to you, please drop me a line. We want to keep getting better!
"Rivers must succeed, mountains must succeed, wilderness and prairies must succeed, oceans must succeed; possums and black snakes must succeed; whole ecologies must succeed; the human endeavor must succeed. Everything must succeed so that the whole of the life system succeeds so that Earth succeeds." - James F. Berry, Center for Reflection on the Second Law