Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Measuring the Impacts of an Experiment in Sustainability.

V. Philip Rasmussen, Rachel Smith, Robert Newhall, Al Kurki, Jim Freeburn, and Ron Daines. Western Regional SARE Program, Utah State Univ, 4865 Old Main Hill, Ag.Science #305, Logan, UT 84322-4865

 As Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, or SARE, edges toward its 20th anniversary, it becomes instructive to reflect both informally and formally on how much ground the program has covered. SARE was initiated in 1988 as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service to fund competitive grants supporting agricultural systems that are economically, environmentally and socially sound. Western SARE, one of four SARE regions, is administered at Utah State University under regional coordinator Dr. Phil Rasmussen, while its Professional Development is administered as a subcontract under the University of Wyoming and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, a nonprofit organization based in Montana. Western SARE has disbursed nearly $35 million to fund grants in three primary areas: Research and Education, Farmer/Rancher and Professional Development. As this experiment in sustaining sustainability has matured, Western SARE has conducted surveys gauging the reach and impacts of its Professional Development Program (2004) and its Farmer/Rancher grants (2005).  Both surveys indicate that the concepts of sustainability and their on-the-ground application are gaining considerable traction. To round out the picture, Western SARE is embarking on a survey of its Research and Education grant recipients to determine whether the current course of research is meeting the needs of the Western agricultural producers and their support teams. These critical milepost surveys will help chart the course of Western SARE -- whether it's “on course” or in need of corrections.  Results of these surveys are presented.