Clemson University created the Sustainable Agriculture Program as an Extension outreach program to help inform and educate students, farmers and other industry professionals about sustainable ag. Geoffrey Zehnder, professor of entomology and coordinator of the Sustainable Agriculture Program, said the program helps provide information to those who need it and want to learn more.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program website (http://www.sare.org/), sustainable agriculture has three components: “profit over the long term; stewardship of our nation’s land, air and water; and quality of life for farmers, ranchers and their communities.”
Clemson’s program provides training sessions on topics that are important to the Southeast’s agricultural industry. These topics are identified and prioritized by an advisory committee, which meets once a year. Zehnder said the committee is made up of farmers and other industry stakeholders.
Training sessions are held throughout the year and appeal to a wide range of people in the industry. One recent session discussed improving the quality of growers’ produce-handling methods to ensure they meet the high-quality standards for markets.
Another session focused on appropriate tools and equipment for smaller farms. “A lot of the small farms are … from 1 to 10 acres and operating on kind of a limited budget,” Zehnder said. “So the idea is to help farmers choose the appropriate equipment and tools for small operations that are cost effective and efficient in saving them time.”
There are other workshops scheduled for this year to help growers with various aspects of agricultural production. Some sessions provide guidance on how to add value to farm operations using plastic high tunnels to extend the crop-growing season. Others have a focus on cover crops for weed and soil health management and preventive pest management strategies to reduce the need for pesticide applications.
The trainings are funded through grants provided by the USDA’s SARE Program, Zehnder said.
Programs like this bring information to industry leaders and help improve production for growers in the Southeast.
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