Monday, June 23, 2008

SARE 20/20: Sustainable Innovations Are Revitalizing American Agriculture

A New Mexico farmer cut annual greenhouse heating costs from $2,000 to zero using the power of the sun. Perched at the edge of the Sonoran desert in New Mexico, Don Bustos’ family farm is endowed with ample sunshine - but cool temperatures limit the growing season to only four or five months. When rising fuel costs threatened his farm and family, Bustos tapped nature’s own energy source: the sun.

With the help of a grant from SARE, Bustos tested a new system that uses solar heated fluid to warm greenhouse beds, lengthen his growing season and increase profits.

Bustos’ innovative approach is just one of dozens profiled in SARE’s newest free publication, SARE 20/20: Celebrating our First 20 years, Envisioning the Next. Featuring farmers and ranchers who are turning to sustainable agriculture to boost profits, protect the environment and build their communities, SARE 20/20 chronicles two decades of agricultural innovation supported by SARE.

“We are proud of how SARE grantees – from every corner of the nation – have used sound research to advance the frontier of sustainable agriculture,” said Jill Auburn, SARE director.

SARE 20/20 highlights cream-of-the-crop projects from more than 3,700 SARE funded grants, illustrating how producers, researchers and educators are collaborating to advance sustainable innovations to the whole of American agriculture. A few examples:

• A nonprofit uses innovative marketing strategies to open new markets for more than 40 produce farmers, resulting in a tenfold increase in sales spanning six years.
• Researchers in the South develop a toolbox of low-cost strategies to detect and target parasites in goats and sheep, reducing the use of chemical dewormers.
• Minnesota researchers find success using reduced tillage and rotations to control corn rootworm.

Download SARE 20/20 for free at

To order print copies, visit, call (301) 374-9696 or write to Sustainable Agriculture Publications, PO Box 753, Waldorf, Md. 20604-0753. (Please specify SARE 20/20 when ordering by mail.) Allow 3-4 weeks for delivery.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stahl and Brummond Win NACAA Awards

The Minnesota Association of Extension Agricultural Professionals and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) have selected NCR-SARE Administrative Council Member and Extension educator, Liz Stahl, as the Achievement Award winner from Minnesota for 2008. The NACAA has also named Brad Brummond, NCR-SARE Administrative Council former chairperson and Walsh County extension agent, the Distinguished Service Award in North Dakota.

Stahl is an educator based in Worthington and conducts programming in the areas of tillage, commodity crop production, pesticide safety and organic crop production. The achievement award goes to a member that has demonstrated excellence in programming within their first five years of employment in Extension.

Brummond is the State Extension Organic and Sustainable Agriculture contact
and specializes in Private and Commercial Pesticide Certification for North Dakota.

Congratulations to Liz and Brad on their accomplishments!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New High School Curriculum Developed: "Toward a Sustainable Agriculture"

A new curriculum has been developed for educators to teach high school students about sustainable agriculture.

It was developed by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Wisconsin Madison with funding in part from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE).

Diane Mayerfeld, the Sustainable Agriculture Curriculum Coordinator for CIAS, and the Wisconsin state coordinator for NCR-SARE's Professional Development Program, participated in creating the curriculum, and is approaching with project with hopefulness and enthusiasm.

"I developed this curriculum for two reasons. First, high school agriculture teachers did not have access to sustainable agriculture materials. Quite a lot of the teaching materials they use are provided by larger agribusinesses, and most of the rest also has a large-scale, intensive agriculture focus, where questions of environmental sustainability are at best an afterthought and often are dismissed or ignored," explained Mayerfeld.

"Second, the kinds of information and programs we generally deliver to Extension agents and other agricultural educators are of limited use to teachers who engage with a very different audience in a very different way. They need specifically prepared curriculum materials that they can use directly in the classroom."

What makes this curriculum unique is the comprehensiveness of the project. It consists of 5 modules:
1) Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture
2) Corn, Beans, and Burgers: field crops in sustainable agriculture
3) Flesh, Fish, and Fowl: animals in sustainable agriculture
4) Apples, Beets, and Zinnias: sustainable horticulture
5) A Growing Market: organic agriculture

"There are several excellent stand-alone lessons in sustainable agriculture or food systems that have been developed," said Mayerfeld, "but I think there is a need for a curriculum that puts those activities into a comprehensive framework."

From the beginning of the project, Mayerfeld was committed to creating a curriculum specifically for high school students, although she iterates that education about food systems and sustainable agriculture is important for everyone.

"I believe that high school is an important time to open students' minds to critical thinking about food and agriculture. For some students, high school is the final step in their formal schooling," said Mayerfeld. "For those who go on to further education exposure to ideas about sustainability may lead them to look for and demand more education in that area."

Educators are welcome to adapt and reproduce sections of the curriculum for non-commercial use. It is available online for free at

To order a CD of the curriculum, please send a check for $5.00, payable to “UW-Madison CIAS” to:

Curriculum Project
1535 Observatory Dr.
Madison , WI 53706

Questions, comments or suggestions can be directed to:
Diane Mayerfeld
1535 Observatory Dr.
Madison , WI 53706
(608) 262-8188 or

Diane Mayerfeld

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Field Notes - Winter/Spring 2008 Issue

The Winter/Spring 2008 issue of Field Notes is now available online.

Field Notes is a newsletter that shares announcements and news topics from the North Central Region SARE program.

Read about NCR-SARE's 2008 Madden Award Winner, Henry Brockman, urban agriculture in Kansas City, and more!

If you'd like to receive a hard copy of NCR-SARE's Field Notes, please call (612) 626-3113 or send an email including your mailing address to

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Jim Koan Featured on MSNBC and NPR

"Jim Koan has gone hog-wild in his battle against a beetle that threatens his 120-acre organic apple orchard." - MSNBC

Former NCR-SARE Administrative Council member and Michigan farmer, Jim Koan , was recently featured on MSNBC for his work with pigs in his apple orchard. Read the MSNBC feature here.

His work has also been featured on NPR's "All Things Considered." Listen to the program here.