Group Title: Common ground (USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program. Southern Region)
Title: Common ground.
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Title: Common ground.
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Volume 3, No. 3

News from the. ,ern Region SARE/ACE Program

Summer 1996

Enlisting end-users up front

Owners of small farms and
woodlots in Arkansas are
learning how to manage their
woodlands to increase profits and
protect their resources for the future
through a SARE project led by Nick
Brown of Winrock International.
Cooperators include Arkansas Land
and Farm Development Corporation,
the Ozark Foothills Resource Conser-
vation & Development Council and the
Nature Conservancy
Undermanagement is the most
common problem for southern
hardwood stands, which often occupy
marginal crop land in wet areas or on
steep slopes. They are typically treated
as a savings account with the only
management being a one-time harvest
when the owner needs cash for an
emergency, a practice which brings in
only a fraction of the potential income.
Project activities concentrate on
increasing the landowners' timber
management skills as well as training
them in non-timber enterprises such as
shiitake mushroom production,
harvesting and making of woodland
crafts, livestock production, botanicals
and other alternative crops.
While the training is valuable to the
landowners, it is just a vehicle for
comparing strategies designed to
encourage limited resource and
minority farmers to integrate sustain-
able woodland management into their
farm systems. Limited resource and
minority farmers historically have not
participated in traditional outreach
programs presented by the Forestry
Commission, Cooperative Extension,
the Conservation Reserve Program or
the Wetlands Reserve Program.
To find out why they have not
participated, project leaders went
directly to the end-users. Participating
landowners evaluated existing pro-
grams designed to encourage sustain-
able woodland management and made
recommendations that would help such

programs appeal to their peers. Their
recommendations were incorporated
into the project's training plans. As
the activities are initiated they are
constantly evaluated by the landown-
ers and the project leaders.
Even though consulting the end-
user upfront is time consuming, it's the
only way to find out what will work in
any given community, says Brown. In
evaluating the effectiveness of the
activities, it is easy to see contrasts in
just two regions of Arkansas. Consider
the proposed landowners' associations
to facilitate cooperative training.
"Actually the landowners associa-
tions are just a loose form of coopera-
tive," says Brown. "Although co-ops
have typically been formed for
marketing purposes, now we are
looking at how this structure can be
used to achieve resource
In the Ozark Foothills, the
Woodland Landowners
Association in Independence
County has more than 150
participating farmers. They
have hosted four field days
and initiated a quarterly
newsletter to provide members
with market information,
timber prices and management
tips. A second association is
being organized in Izard
County, with 11 more in the
planning stages. In the Delta,
however, not one association
has been formed .
"This is where we are
seeing some of the differences
in the two regions," says
Brown. "While the people in
the Foothills are quick to see
the advantages offered by
woodland owners associa- Nick
tions, Delta landowners are see
reluctant to join any new
organizations outside of their
church. Work schedules also proj#

make a difference. In the Foothills,
where most landowners work at jobs in
the community on weekdays, Saturday
is a good time to schedule meetings. In
the Delta where most of the landown-
ers farm fulltime, we can schedule a
meeting whenever we want to, know-
ing that if it rains everyone will be
there; if it doesn't, no one will be
Environmental differences also
affect the success of project activities
in the two regions, he noted. For
example, in the Delta some of the
lands with open water can be leased to
duck hunters for a thousand dollars per
duck blind, whereas in the Foothills
deer hunting leases may bring in only
$10 per acre.
Continued on page 2

Brown planting hardwood
Filings in the Delta. Reforestation
other goal of the multifaceted

'c~rii~l i.

i in





Page 2 Common Ground Summer 1996

Common Groundis published
quarterly by the Southern Region
Sustainable Agriculture Research
and Education Program (SARE)
and Agriculture In Concert with
the Environment (ACE). SARE/
ACE funds projects that develop
environmentally sound, eco-
nomically viable and socially
acceptable agricultural meth-
ods. SARE is funded by USDA and
ACE Is a joint effort of USDA / ERF.
The Southern Region SARE/
ACE Program Is administered by
the University of Georgia and Fort
Valley State College. The South-
ern Region Includes Alabama,
Arkansas, Florda, Georgia, Ken-
tucky, Louisiana, Mississippi,
North Carolina, Oklahoma, South
Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vir-
ginia, Puerto Rico and the U.S.V.I.

Editorial Board 1996
John Bentley
Head, Ext. Communications
Ft. Valley State College, GA.
Ted Feltshans
Ext. Spec./Ag. and Env. Law
Jim Lukens
Prog. Manager, ATTRA/farmer
Faith Peppers
North Georgia News Editor,
Cooperative Extension
Don Voth
Rural Sociology
University of Arkansas

Mall letters and comments to
Gwen Roland, editor
1109 Experiment St.
Georgia Station
Griffin, GA 30223-1797

This document was prepared with the sup-
port of USDA Agreement No. 93-COOP-1-
8885. Opinions, findings, conclusions or rec-
ommendations expressed herein do not nec-
essarily reflect the views of the USDA, The
USDA prohibits discrimination in ts programs
on the basis of race, color, national origin,
sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs
and marital or familial status.

t0 Printed on recycled paper

What's hot? Systems research

T is year represents a significant departure in Southern Region SARE/
ACE research programming. In previous years, the majority of SARE/
ACE Program research focused on the development and testing of sus-
tainable agriculture technologies appropriate for inclusion in sustainable agricul-
ture systems. This research paid off great dividends as researchers from through-
out the south investigated, in partnership with farmers and non-governmental orga-
nizations, thorny problems such as waste management in swine production, pest
management in organic vegetable systems, reduced tillage and cover crops in row
cropping systems and mulching techniques in vegetable production.
These successes in developing and transferring the results of vital component
research have led us to review and evaluate the overall mission of the SARE/ACE
Program within the broader context of agricultural research. Recent surveys of
agricultural research conducted at land grant universities indicate that a significant
majority of the research portfolio can be classified as sustainable agriculture com-
ponent research, and that there is a dearth of systems-oriented sustainable agricul-
ture research. The need for more systems research also surfaced during a recent
meeting of the regional sustainable agriculture working groups (which include farm-
ers and other community-based sustainable agriculture organizations) in Washing-
ton, DC.
In an effort to be responsive to our diverse stakeholders, as well as target our
relatively small program funding to achieve maximum results, the Southern Re-
gion SARE/ACE Program has decided that in 1997 we will no longer fund compo-
nent research, but instead focus solely on systems research.
The stories in this issue of Common Ground highlight three of our current sys-
tems projects. The projects were chosen because they illustrate important charac-
teristics that help identify systems research from component research. See the Call
for Proprosal Tip Sheet or a spec ic detiition of systems research. If you have
further questions about designing systems research, call the Southern Region SARE/
ACE office at (770) 412-4787. The Administrative Council and staff wish you luck
in preparing a winning preproposal.

End-users up front

As the evaluation continues, ownershiI
activities will accommodate even more Brown su
specific interests of the stakeholders, "I wist
especially once the project progresses but there
to non-timber enterprises. Some communil
communities may lean toward tradi- woodland
tional products such as decorative craft and devel
items or botanicals. Others may pursue we depen
shiitake mushroom production or some build a rel
other alternative crop. But once again, to other la
that future focus will be determined by to anyone
the landowners themselves, who participate
should be prepared by that time to with enou
make more informed management group wil
decisions about their woodlands. For mc
To others interested in establishing multi-face
community networks based on annual rej

continued from Page 1

3 of common resources,
ggests planning well ahead.
There was a magic bullet,
is only a lot of nitty gritty
ty work. We identified the
Owners at the courthouses
oped a mailing list. After that
ded on one-on-one contact to
ationship. Landowners listen
ndowners before they listen
else. In order to attract
ion you have to provide them
gh incentive as to what the
I be offering."
ire information about this
lted project request the
portfor LS94-61.

I _

Page 2

Common Ground

Summer 1996

Summer 1996 Common Ground page 3

Forging links beyond the farm

Sre than a million tons of
yard wastes are collected
annually in Virginia, using
landfill space valued at more then $20
million. Also in Virginia, farmers
spend millions per year on fertilizer
and other soil additives. While Greg
Evanylo of Virginia Tech's Crop and
Soil Environmental Sciences Depart-
ment wasn't the first person to see a
potential link between reducing
landfill burdens and improving
crop land, he may be the first to
establish a documented educa-
tional process for doing so. The SC
Evanylo team looked beyond the W<
farm and made partners of urban sn
and suburban communities in a
project that has the potential to
facilitate the recycling of urban
organic waste to farm land
throughout the South.
"Recycling of natural resources for
agricultural sustainability must extend
beyond farm boundaries because farm
and forest products leave the site of
production, meaning that the farm is
not a closed system," he says. "Main-
tenance of soil quality for environmen-
tal protection and future productivity
can benefit from recycling of quality
wastes, originally destined for urban
landfills, to agricultural land."
Several years prior to Evanylo's
SARE project, a successful program
was established around the Richmond
area in which thousands of tons of
leaves are distributed annually by the

Central Virginia Waste Management
Authority (CVWMA) to farmers for
on-farm composting or direct land
application. Farmers are even paid $7
per ton to accept the leaves, a bargain
for both sides. Steve Chidsey, opera-
tions director of CVWMA, called on
Jim May, one of Evanylo's co-
workers, to help design the program.
Later, when Chidsey moved to

"The idea of planet and
'cietal sustainability is what
we're starting to get at in a
iall way."
Archer Christian

Charlottesville as director of the
Rivanna Solid Waste Authority,
Evanylo and May approached him
about a cooperative project linking
rural and urban needs. The partners
were joined by Research Associate
Archer Christian, Jim Pease of the
Agricultural and Applied Economics
Department and Extension agent
Charley Goodman. They designed a
process to educate farmers about
composting, to set up a distribution-to-
farms program for Charlottesville
leaves and to document the process in
order to create a handbook for others
wishing to start similar programs.

Ellen Polishuk,
manager of
County site
of municipal

The process -
began with the
tried and true
farmer-to-farmer communication
method. The entire team, including six
participating farmers, traveled to
Northern Virginia to view an on-farm
composting system operated by an
experienced composer who uses both
municipal and agricultural wastes on
.her organic farm.
After the demonstration, a 30-page
handbook was produced for the
participating farmers. Archer Christian
visited each farmer and reviewed the
procedures. Composting activities
began when a total volume of 2600
cubic yards of leaves were delivered to
the six farmers in mid-March (some-
_what later than planned due to
nTclement weather). Christian visits the
farms regularly to provide technical
support, discuss the process and
examine the composting material. Jim
Pease is helping farmers assess the
economics of compost production.
A field day was held in June and
project coordinators are planning an
educational forum in August. An
Extension publication based on the
farmer notebook is in production.
Following compost completion,
several of the farmers will conduct
crop growth trials that compare
finished compost with commercial
fertilizer. Crop yields and evaluation
of soil properties will be determined
before and after compost application.
Economic analysis will also be
conducted then.
This project emphasizes that
sustainable ag research doesn't exist in
a vacuum. Archer Christian sums it up
this way:
"Because this project and others
like it create practical, functional
relationships between rural and urban
communities that are positive for both,
it also fundamentally changes the
spheres of both. Building mutually
beneficial relationships through
linkages is a way of applying the
concept of sustainability at a different
level. The idea of planet and societal
sustainability is what we're starting to
get at in a small way."

Summer 1996

Common Ground

page 3

Switching cows in midstream takes practice

H ow can you design a
plan B before you know
all the things that can go wrong
with plan A? That's one of the chal-
lenges facing researchers who design
projects that compare systems.
When Steve Washburn of NCSU and
cooperators from three states designed a
SARE project comparing a seasonal,
pasture-based dairy system to a conven-
tional, confinement dairy there were no
surprises in store for the 72 Holsteins
and Jerseys assigned to the conventional
herd. Their lives followed the unevent-
ful pattern of prior generations: eating,
milking and breeding in close quarters.
A herd act to follow
For the herd in the experimental
system, however, there was more
excitement than the average cow might
choose. There was the parading from
paddock to paddock (38 paddocks total)
with an ever-changing array of forages.
On the advice of project forage special-
ist Jim Green, they were often moved
while there was still plenty of good
grazing. However, sometimes they were
left in a paddock with insufficient forage
or forage past its prime. Their grain
rations were varied in an attempt to
determine the optimal amount to
supplement grazing. Some cows
developed sore feet from walking long
distances on new gravel paths. They
were often out of sight so that their heat
cycles went unnoticed. Once they even
missed a milking because an ice storm
stranded them in an outlying paddock.
Their non-traditional lifestyle even
affected the attitudes of their caretakers
who were accustomed to cows being
near the barn.
Smooth out the learning curve
This herd was experiencing the
learning year, that unavoidable time in
any new venture when problems are
expected to surface and researchers (or
farmers) are expected to find a solution.
The learning year can't be avoided, but
its negative effects can be minimized,
according to Washburn, if it's included
in the project's timeline.
"Three full years worth of data
provides enough information for many
systems projects," he says. "In a
university setting you should plan for an

establishment year for building fences,
planting pastures and such, followed by
a learning year and then the three full
years of activities. That means you
apply bor a five-year grant whenever
possible. In a private situation the
learning year and establishment year
would meld together."
While five-year grants are ideal,
researchers often have to work with less,
as in Washburn's three-year SARE
grant. Don't ignore results from the first
year just because problems surface
during that time, he cautions.
"Results from a learning year are
valuable because they document what
happens in a transition. Other research-
ers and producers can benefit from that
information when planning similar
systems. Even with the problems we
encountered that first year, our econo-
mist Geoff Benson noted that the lower
production of the pastured herd was
offset by lower feed costs, making the
two herds about equal in income over
feed costs. That's important information
for a producer considering a transition.
"Producers and researchers are also
interested in the effects of the pasture
system on nutrient management and
water quality during the first year, an
area monitored by project specialist
Greg Jennings."

Sharon White
and grazing
samples of
bluestem to
be evaluated
for yield and
Photo by Steve

Taking stock of attitudes
Washburn has found that transition
years are also important for changing
attitudes. "When you have multiple
people involved, they will have
varying attitudes toward an alternative
idea." he says. "Whether they are
family members in a private system or
employees at a research institution,
you can bet all the players are not on
the same page.
"For example, in our first year we
had employees who had never worked
in a pasture-based system. They were
expected to learn new management
skills such as pasture rotation while
continuing to manage part of the herd
conventionally, which added to their
work load. And when the utility
vehicle got stuck in the mud as they
were trying to bring the herd in from a
paddock, it was easy to see their
frustration at cows who should have
been in the barn where cows belong.
However, their attitude improved as
they saw the potential for the pasture-
based system.'"
Steve Washburn wrote an article for
the Carolina Cattle Connection
outlining the first year : 10 greatest
challenges. Contact Common Ground
for a copy of Washburn manuscript.

Page 4

Common Ground

Summer 1996

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