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  • New Mexico Grower Saved by the Sun
    Mexico Grower Saved by the Sun Looking for something different Search the Learning Center Back to Search Results New Mexico Grower Saved by the Sun Perched at the edge of the Sonoran desert Don Bustos family farm has always been endowed with ample sunshine and daylight However the New Mexico grower had long been bedeviled by cool temperatures that limit the growing season to four or five months With the short season and rising fuel costs threatening his ability to support his family Bustos decided to tap nature s own unlimited and free energy source the sun Heating a greenhouse with solar power was a logical choice for Bustos who incorporates principles of sustainability throughout his three and a half acres of certified organic land in the small town of Santa Cruz I wanted to be more light on the earth and use energy more consciously said Bustos who grows more than 72 varieties of horticultural crops Bustos also had a powerful economic incentive One winter he received a 700 gas bill for one month s heat for the greenhouse Thanks to a SARE grant Bustos was able to test a root zone thermal heating system To minimize costs Bustos picked up recycled solar collectors from a building demolition site Heating fluid runs from the panels through a closed loop system of buried copper tubing to an underground tank just a few feet away from the panels The tank s warmed water is circulated through plastic tubes under the greenhouse s beds raising root zone soil temperatures to a comfortable 48 to 52 degrees The first season was extremely successful cutting annual heating costs from 2 000 to zero and increasing yields 30 40 percent over those from the standard cold frame The only ongoing costs related to the solar heating system are a 5 monthly electricity charge for two water circulating pumps Thanks to the solar heated system Bustos can produce a steady supply of vegetables and greens from October to March During frigid nights Bustos uses sheets of polyester to create heat retaining igloos over the beds The system even works in reverse When the soil is too hot during summer Bustos runs the pumps to circulate water now cooled by the geothermal properties of underground storage Bustos has a solid local market for his winter crop thanks to a strong collaborative effort among the New Mexico Department of Agriculture private citizens and farmers that permits the Santa Fe school district to buy directly from growers This helps him cut transportation related energy use and adhere to his philosophy of marketing his food within 28 miles of his farm Bustos is investigating how to get entirely off the grid by increasing energy efficiency expanding the solar panels to the house and filling his tractors with biodiesel For Bustos the solar greenhouse and its economic benefits fit perfectly with his philosophy of keeping the land in the family We wanted the ability to retain our land for future generations

    Original URL path: http://www.westernsare.org/Learning-Center/From-the-Field/New-Mexico-Grower-Saved-by-the-Sun (2016-05-01)
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  • Nurturing a Culture Shift in School Cafeterias
    to help build a farm to school program in Whatcom County Wash she figured the best approach was to focus on local farmers by equipping them with the special tools and knowledge needed to meet the requirements of an institutional buyer Turns out she was wrong What Plaut quickly discovered and caused her to re focus of her 2009 SARE funded project was that in her community the more immediate barriers to farm to school opportunities were not with farmers knowing how to work with schools but rather with school administrators being ready to work with farmers In order to start bringing more local produce into school cafeterias a culture shift was needed among districts food service administrators Plaut found I think they re so overwhelmed with the idea of feeding kids within federal dietary guidelines and given their budget constraints she says It s not that they don t care philosophically it s that they don t know how to take their caring and translate it into daily practices So Plaut executive director of Common Threads Farm an educational nonprofit in Bellingham used her SARE funding to help start a network of school gardens because she feels that getting kids excited about growing fresh food will make them more willing to eat it when it gets served in the cafeteria Today there are gardens at 14 schools including 11 in the Bellingham school district the largest in the county Between recess art projects and class activities the gardens are in constant use The program employs professional garden educators which Plaut says takes the burden off over stretched teachers and makes them more willing to incorporate the gardens into their curricula The gardens have also proved to be one of the most successful inroads with food service administrators to date By fall 2013 Bellingham district officials were planning to establish a protocol for using their gardens produce in their cafeterias which Plaut thinks will open the door to food staff working with farmers I m hoping the work we re doing now with school gardens will also make food service increasingly friendly to local farmers Plaut says Along with establishing the gardens Plaut found herself attending meetings with parents and administrators and lots of them She joined local farm to school advisory committees and helped create educational resources on local food procurement for food service staff One of the larger objectives of these meetings Plaut says was to show administrators that this is a community that s dying to see this happen Through her experiences Plaut learned that when school food service administrators are not ready to embrace change parental involvement is critical I think parents are really important players in any kind of school reform and it s as true with lunch as with anything else says Plaut a mother herself I think parents are more important than farmers on this one because from the school district s perspective parents are the customer Specifically those parents who might otherwise

    Original URL path: http://www.westernsare.org/Learning-Center/From-the-Field/Nurturing-a-Culture-Shift-in-School-Cafeterias (2016-05-01)
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  • Perennial Forage Revitalizes Rangeland
    the Learning Center Back to Search Results Perennial Forage Revitalizes Rangeland Pervasive cheatgrass has long posed a threat to ranchers and their communities in the Intermountain West Edging out native perennials and taking over entire rangelands the annual weed compromises forage value for livestock destabilizes soil increases risk of wildfire and diminishes wildlife habitat We ve reached a point where a lot of times we can t directly reseed natives into the environment The soils have been changed by years of dominance by cheatgrass says Blair Waldron a plant geneticist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Utah But there is new hope in forage kochia a perennial shrub that Waldron and his colleagues have demonstrated is a stiff competitor against cheatgrass in semi arid environments and provides excellent protein rich forage for cattle Another promising strategy lies in grass legume mixes also a subject of Waldron s research In four years of SARE funded research Waldron Utah State University Beef Extension Specialist Dale ZoBell and others demonstrated forage kochia s adaptability to semi arid western rangelands They found pastures combining kochia and crested wheatgrass yielded six times more forage than comparison plots of crested wheatgrass alone largely due to kochia s tolerance of drought In previous research they demonstrated the profitability of this nutritious blend Grazing cattle on kochia and crested wheatgrass from November through January cost participating ranchers 25 percent less than feeding alfalfa hay and resulted in similar body condition scores We concluded these cows that were on forage kochia were near optimal for calving and rebreeding Waldron says By establishing forage kochia on rangeland damaged by invasive weeds less land would be needed to manage more beef cattle This allows other land to rest Waldron says Additionally because kochia is perennial it can act as a barrier against wildfires that feed off dead annual weeds Waldron has begun a more recently funded SARE project to further expand a rancher s toolbox by exploring the potential of grass legume pastures to meet nitrogen needs while promoting environmental stewardship Says Waldron In the mid 1950s pastures had legumes but legumes in pastures have become a thing of the past Through on farm research in southern Idaho and Utah starting in 2011 Waldron and his team plan to compare grass monocultures with low and high tannin grass legume mixtures anticipating that high tannin legumes may reduce potential problems with excess nitrogen in a grazing system They hope to develop recommendations for which species and grass legume ratios optimize a ranch s economic and environmental sustainability Waldron s focus now is on different varieties of the shrub a widespread forage in its native Central Eurasia One promising variety leads to yields almost double the variety he has been promoting and grows nearly a foot taller making it more accessible in deep snow View a video presentation by Waldron discussing his forage kochia research Want more information See the related SARE grant s SW04 060 Perennial Forage Kochia for Improved Sustainability

    Original URL path: http://www.westernsare.org/Learning-Center/From-the-Field/Perennial-Forage-Revitalizes-Rangeland (2016-05-01)
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  • Pollinator Conservation
    the West Today these native pollinators are more important than ever as honey bees become more expensive and difficult to acquire because of disease pests and Colony Collapse Disorder Protecting enhancing or providing natural habitat on farms is the best way to conserve native pollinators and at the same time support local honey bees In addition to the large number of crops impacted by native pollinators in the West the Conservation Reserve Program CRP sign ups are also driving demand according to Eric Mader Assistant Pollinator Program Director for the Xerces Society For the first time the CRP rules have made native pollinator habitat conservation a priority Currently there are almost 60 000 acres enrolled to enhance native pollinator habitat The project s targeted audience of NRCS Extension Farm Service Agency and other technical service providers is assisting growers to get their conservation practices established on this acreage After completing Short Courses in other areas of the country the project is in the beginning stages here in the West however according to Mader without exception the Short Courses in the West have been fantastic for us and for the participants Originally budgeted for thirty participants the Short Courses are often at or above capacity frequently with 100 registrations Western SARE provides funding for the first 30 participants and the Xerces Society has leveraged funds in order to charge additional participants for training materials only Due to the demand they hope to increase the number of Short Courses per state by raising funds from the private sector The Xerces Society is using both pre and post Short Course evaluations with attendees to gauge their knowledge about course topics and expectations for the course They then conduct a one year follow up with participants This follow up measures what they took from the course and what they have implemented Early data from the North Central and Northeast Regions along with some from the West show that if on average a Short Course has 30 participants five of those will enroll land in a farm bill program such as CRP EQIP or WHIP Additionally each course participant on average goes out and influences 100 acres in a way that supports pollinator conservation such as crop consulting extension work or work with landowners in reducing pesticide use or tillage practices Aggregating these numbers across 50 states demonstrates an average of 3 000 acres influenced per state In addition to Xerces Society staff the Short Courses bring in local speakers such as an NRCS state biologist or local university researcher to give presentations The training is very much nuts and bolts with information on how to use federal programs and on the ground methods for implementing habitat conservation practices on working farms Each participant receives a training toolkit with NRCS documents relevant to the region outlining conservation programs and practices information on selecting wildflowers for pollinator conservation and farm management guidelines for conserving native pollinators They also receive a 400 page full color Xerces Society

    Original URL path: http://www.westernsare.org/Learning-Center/From-the-Field/Pollinator-Conservation (2016-05-01)
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  • Pollinator Forage Development
    lands due to their collapsing populations According to Harrell and Crowder the beekeeping world is experiencing massive losses of pollinators due to Colony Collapse Disorder CCD Research existed on the potential causes of the collapse however more information was needed on remediation Organic producers such Harrell and Crowder had turned to the idea of building healthy habitats for pollinators in areas that are protected from environmental degradation In 2011 Harrell and Crowder had NRCS funding to establish pollination hedges but they did not have a viable list of plant species to use Searching for a Solution The goal of their Western SARE farmer rancher project Pollinator Forage Development was to begin the process of identifying forage species which provide food and habitat for pollinators while serving as windbreaks livestock forage and nitrogen fixing cover crops They believed that this will enable beekeepers and interested agricultural landowners with the knowledge to develop their lands in support of these diminishing populations The objectives of this project were To develop the farm as a pollinator forage species demonstration site with a wide diversity of plantings that provide a continuous source of nectar and pollen through the active season To provide education and outreach to students and the general public concerning honeybee and pollinator health and welfare To publish a book on using organic methods in top bar beekeeping which would include a list of plants that are useful in supporting honeybee health and longevity A list of forage species would serve as a broad resource for farmers and ranchers who would like to provide habitat for pollinators as well as organizations like NRCS and the Xerces Society who do their outreach on the development of pollinator friendly zones What was Learned With additional funding from the Santa Fe Community Foundation and the McCune Foundation Harrell and Crowder published a well received book Top Bar Beekeeping This book has reached thousands of people who find invaluable information on using organic methods and using the right plants to support honeybees and other pollinators A DVD was also developed with the same information They also created a website that lists trees shrubs and blooming cover crops that support pollinator health Harrell and Crowder state one important impact from the project is that staff from local agencies who have visited our farm have seen the success of our plantings and been encouraged to spread the word in other agricultural venues This was part of our original goal and our land serves as a beautiful inspiration to others from all walks of life Farm tours classes and lecturing also encouraged land owners to support pollinators through proper plantings Post Project Impacts Since the completion of their Western SARE funded project Harrell and Crowder have continued to reach out to the ag community about the importance of providing habitat for pollinators They speak every year at the New Mexico Farming conference 100 200 people per year and have taught a certification program every summer through a series of six

    Original URL path: http://www.westernsare.org/Learning-Center/From-the-Field/Pollinator-Forage-Development (2016-05-01)
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  • Reducing Pacific Island Growers’ Reliance on Off-island Fertilizer Sources
    C N ratio 2 rendered meat product quality also varies depending on feedstock source and we have yet to fully understand its effects on plant growth under different Hawaiian soils and microclimates 3 invasive algae is available in large quantity and can be an important source of K and other plant nutrients but nutrient content depends on species and potential salinity concerns need to be addressed Due to these issues Radovich found that growers were unaware of resources available to them and unsure of their ability to profitably utilize the local resources they are aware of To address these problems Radovich developed the Western SARE funded project Reducing Pacific Island Growers Reliance on Off island Fertilizer Sources SW11 055 to conduct a series of greenhouse and on farm trials in cooperation with university faculty commercial growers and industry partners Searching for a Solution Radovich and project team evaluated quality maturity nitrogen release pattern and crop growth for 10 composts through lab incubation and greenhouse trials They collected samples of major algae invasive species and of tankage This research was conducted to meet the following objectives Enhance the capacity of at least 300 growers compost producers and other agricultural professionals in Hawaii American Samoa and elsewhere to evaluate compost quality Identify the most important variables influencing the effect of rendered meat products tankage on plant growth and mineral nutrition in Hawaii and American Samoa Quantify the independent and interactive effect of species collection location and simple processing on nutrient content and availability of three algae species collected from multiple sites on Oahu Molokai and Hawaii islands Ensure dissemination of information from this project to producers and agricultural professionals throughout the Pacific region beyond the project duration Cost analysis of inputs and practices were conducted throughout all activities What was Learned In the greenhouse trials Radovich confirmed 1 common quality parameters C N ratio and maturity are not sufficient to evaluate the quality of a compost 2 the rate of N mineralization from different organic amendments has a narrow range of 0 02 0 03 day and 3 there is a potential for long term improvement in soil fertility and quality due to compost applications especially for composts contain 2 N and more Using the algae samples he was able to 1 establish bio security protocol drying the samples at 190 O F for 72 hours to ensure reduce viability of the invasive algae species into new locations in Hawaii 2 confirm the K content in the three algae species were about 15 20 from samples collected over two years period 3 establish an application rate of 200 250 lbs K acre for sweet potato and pak choi crops form dried algae and 4 draw a K release pattern from different algae species under peat moss and different soils results are still in the analysis stage He found through the tankage sampling 1 average N content in the samples was 10 2 tankage can be a good source of other nutrient such

    Original URL path: http://www.westernsare.org/Learning-Center/From-the-Field/Reducing-Pacific-Island-Growers-Reliance-on-Off-island-Fertilizer-Sources (2016-05-01)
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  • Rehabilitating Degraded Grasslands with Managed Grazing
    may be just what it needs to recuperate as long as the land is properly managed Washington State University Extension Educator Steve Van Vleet Photo courtesy of Steve Van Vleet Along with providing an environmental service ranchers who properly manage and graze cattle on marginal lands have access to more acres of healthy forage and thus the potential to earn more Three ranchers who worked with Van Vleet to re vegetate and graze 295 acres of degraded land each earned an additional 1 500 to 2 000 by adding eight to 10 animals to their herds This research funded by a 2010 SARE grant is timely Over the next three years 524 200 acres in Washington will expire from the CRP and ranchers will need sustainable strategies for managing this land in a profitable and environmentally sound way In a two year study Van Vleet and a team of researchers ranchers and environmental groups evaluated the effects that mob grazing and reseeding with native species have on the health of grasses and species diversity The research took place on the state owned Dalles Mountain Ranch Jim Sizemore one of the ranchers who manages the grazing there said vegetation on the ranch was changing for the worse They were losing wild flowers diversity and plant communities They were getting undesirable invasives He continued The land needed an impact of some kind and we wanted the hoof action of the livestock to do the impact Just a week into the project it was obvious the landscape was improving After evaluating the rangeland management practices researchers found perennial grass populations either stayed the same or increased and annual grasses which are less favorable decreased or stayed the same Further forage cover and forbs increased and litter dead plant matter that accumulates and can prevent beneficial plants from growing decreased The land on Dalles Mountain Ranch changed significantly from 2008 left to 2012 right Photo courtesy of Steve Van Vleet Van Vleet found that the grazed forage on the ranch was more productive and had a higher protein content than non foraged land which meant the land could hold more cattle and that those animals could gain more weight on forage instead of hay Groups that originally did not see cattle as a method for conservation quickly saw the benefits they bring to the land and helped move the project forward Van Vleet formed lasting partnerships with environmentalists such as the Native Plant Society and Friends of the Columbia Gorge in addition to state officials We all had certain objectives but we came together to do what s best for the ecosystem Van Vleet said During the project the team held workshops that trained 230 ranchers educators and agriculture professionals on rangeland revitalization and management strategies And five ranchers are currently working with Van Vleet to convert their already expired CRP land to rangeland so that this project will have guided 7695 acres into managed grazing For his efforts Van Vleet was one of

    Original URL path: http://www.westernsare.org/Learning-Center/From-the-Field/Rehabilitating-Degraded-Grasslands-with-Managed-Grazing (2016-05-01)
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  • Rural Revitalization through Farm-Based Enterprise
    Home Learning Center From the Field Rural Revitalization through Farm Based Enterprise Rural Revitalization through Farm Based Enterprise Looking for something different Search the Learning Center Back to Search Results Rural Revitalization through Farm Based Enterprise The 10 U S counties with the greatest population losses between 2000 and 2003 are located in the western United States and small towns are scrambling to save what is left of their communities Like many other parts of the nation western farmers are discovering that sustainably raised livestock and crops can help revitalize economies And these farmers have an ally John Allen whose life s work is helping farmers develop the skills needed to build businesses that benefit the farm and also the surrounding community Allen who works with the Western Rural Development Center at Utah State University says the trick is to focus on farm based businesses that produce and hire locally It s the multiplier effect When I started in this business 20 years ago if you spent one dollar in your community it would get used two or three times around in the same town But now where everything is owned externally the money goes straight to the shareholders who live outside the community Allen founded the NebraskaEDGE program in 1993 at the University of Nebraska Lincoln The program has helped thousands of people explore business opportunities In 2000 Allen and NebraskaEDGE Associate Director Marilyn Schlake both SARE grant recipients led a team effort to develop what is now considered one of the important national training programs for agricultural producers Tilling the Soil of Opportunity NxLeveL Guide for Agricultural Entrepreneurs The course has been offered across 20 states at universities small business development centers and other educational facilities More than 50 percent of the participants complete the course with a business plan Tim Nissen born and raised in Cedar County Neb was one farmer who took the course Industrial agriculture was squeezing his business and he needed to make changes Tim enrolled in the 12 week intensive Tilling the Soil program which opened his eyes to the potential of small scale farming In 2003 he turned his life around by opening a vineyard with his brother Dave in the grassy hills of Bow Valley Today Westphalia Vineyards offers five varietals one made with native wild plum Nearly 60 percent of the customer base comes from outside the area Allen continues to find innovative ways to help rural communities but now he is using SARE funds to develop workshops for western farmers and ranchers By providing technical training in processing packaging and labeling their products along with Internet marketing strategies Allen continues to help grow rural businesses and maintain rural communities Our project draws upon SARE s historical values of matching farmers with educators But this time we are moving into new territory by helping farmers break into the Internet and retail markets That s the innovation Want more information See the related SARE grant s EW06 005 Entrepreneurial Sustainable Agriculture

    Original URL path: http://www.westernsare.org/Learning-Center/From-the-Field/Rural-Revitalization-through-Farm-Based-Enterprise (2016-05-01)
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