Since 1988, SARE has awarded numerous grants in every state and Island Protectorate. Aimed at advancing sustainable innovations, these grants add up to an impressive portfolio of sustainable agriculture efforts across the nation. The Southern region covers 13 states and two U.S. territories.
Professional Development Program
Within each state, agricultural educators work directly with farmers and ranchers to further sustainable agriculture production and marketing practices. Through a program called the Professional Development Program (PDP), SARE state ag coordinators provide support for sustainable agriculture education and outreach strategies. Refer to your respective state to determine who the state ag coordinators are for your state. Begun in 1994, PDP supports Cooperative Extension agents, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff, mentor farmers, and other agricultural educators.
The SARE PDP receives about $4.5 million each year from Congressional allocations and funds activities that educate agriculture professionals in up-to-date strategies and technologies to help farmers and ranchers increase profits and lessen environmental impacts. PDP operates via a competitive grants program, known as the Professional Development Program Grant, and through trainings and other educational/outreach activities developed and conducted by the SARE state ag coordinators.
SARE state ag coordinators are vital for expanding sustainable agriculture training for agricultural professionals who will then help producers transition to a more sustainable agriculture. The SARE PDP is a “train the trainer” program. As a result, farmers are not the focus of the training, but are the ultimate beneficiaries. Due to the diversity of the Southern Region, each state develops its own methods for disseminating SARE program opportunities, as well as the results of research and education grants. The SARE state ag coordinator is a 25 percent minimum position within the 1862 and/or 1890 land-grant universities in the state.
Role of State Coordinators
Refer to your respective state to determine who the state ag coordinators are for the 1862 and 1890 land-grant institutions. According to the 1990 Farm Bill legislation, the SARE state coordinator is responsible for developing and implementing a statewide training program for agricultural professionals and educators who provide information to producers about agricultural production and conservation. In working toward this broad goal, day-to-day activities would likely include these main areas:
- Training program development and delivery appropriate for both new and current personnel. SARE state ag coordinators should make use of SARE grantees, particularly producer cooperators, and partner with NGOs and farmer organizations for activities such as farm tours and field days. Training topics are open to anything that will help farmers transition to a more sustainable agriculture. They can include technical assistance in areas such as water quality, nutrient management, whole-farm systems, marketing or understanding farm policy.
- Promotion, networking and coordination of SARE grant opportunities, training activities, and educational materials. These could be provided by SARE Outreach, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) and other NGOs. SARE state ag coordinators will get input from field staff and other educators about their sustainable agriculture training needs and share program opportunities.
- Communication, reporting and evaluation. SARE PDP strives for a minimum of paperwork but annual reports are due to the regional PDP office to document training efforts in your state.
Model State Program (MSP)
The Southern SARE PDP allows each state to choose one of two levels of participation: State Plan of Work and a Model State Program. The Model State Program (MSP) differs from the traditional State Plan of Work in that more is expected, but more resources are provided. States qualifying for MSP status receive funds to hire a program assistant to actively manage the program. With such a support staff position, SARE outreach programming can expand beyond the requirements of the traditional State Plan of Work. States approved for MSP status are also eligible to apply for additional funding from a special pool of competitive funds only available to SARE state ag coordinators.
One of the responsibilities outlined by SARE is SARE state ag coordinators must submit an annual report and budget on the MSP.
For state ag coordinators whose states have Model State Programs in place, use the following budget checklists when submitting your annual budget for the Model State Training Program and Model State Program Assistant.