Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Opportunity of a Life Time – the SARE Fellows Program

Are you interested in visiting farming operations in different parts of the country? Do you want to gain knowledge and skills in sustainable agriculture? Would you be interested in meeting innovative farmers and agri-business leaders across the country? Would you like to interact with other agriculture Extension colleagues and discuss sustainability issues? If any of these questions grabbed your attention, you might consider applying to become a SARE Fellow.

Each year, four NACAA members are selected, one from each region, to participate in the SARE Fellows program. Over a two-year period, the SARE Fellows travel to a different region of the country in the spring and the fall for a 3-4 day concentrated learning experience. These trainings are arranged by the SARE professional development program coordinator of the host state. The SARE Fellows Program is sponsored by USDA-SARE and NACAA

The SARE Fellows class of 2009 recently completed their two-year experience that included trainings in Georgia/South Carolina, Wisconsin,/Iowa, Washington,/Idaho and Maine. A presentation of their experience is planned for the NACAA AM/PIC in Kansas in 2011.

SARE Fellows on a wheat operation owned by John Aeischelman in Washington state.  It was taken April 2010.  Names of individuals from L to R include:  Mark Kopecky WI; Norman Suverly WA, Stephen Komar NJ, Steve Van Vleet WA, John Aeischelman - grower; Mark Blevins NC, Al Kurki, WY, Joran Viers NM, Vance Hogan WI and Mike Gastier OH.

SARE Fellow, Mike Gastier of Ohio writes, “In my part of the world, corn and soybeans dominate the landscape so it’s easy to forget the vast diversity of agriculture across our country. Even more diverse perhaps are the agricultural producers that make their living here. The SARE Fellows program offered me three very unique opportunities. First was the chance to see and to begin to understand the production systems of ag products that are unfamiliar to me. Second was the opportunity to meet agricultural producers that are striving to be sustainable. Third and the part that I will miss the most at the conclusion of my Fellowship is the chance to share this experience with other Extension professionals and to discuss our experience down to the philosophical core.”

Gastier continues, “The SARE Fellows program was the single best experience in my Extension career. The program opened my eyes and my mind to many facets of sustainable agriculture that I had never considered previously. Much of that enlightenment came from the other Fellows, many of whom I hope will be life long friends. Thanks to SARE and to all of the Fellows that made the trips so outstanding.

SARE Fellow, Steve Van Vleet of Washington State University writes, “I have worked for many different organizations throughout my career (USFS, USDA-ARS, NPS, Albany County Weed & Pest Control District, Washington State University, and private industry—Cyanamid & BASF), but have truly had the best experience and acquired the greatest knowledge as a SARE Fellow. Although I have worked on sustainable programs for the past 8 years, my passion for agriculture sustainability was never as ignited and as focused as since I became a SARE Fellow. Improved are: my understanding of sustainability, the challenges agriculture faces in working to become more sustainable while working to feed the world, and the true diversity of agriculture. I have had the opportunity to meet and discuss sustainability with whom I consider to be some of the finest agriculture producers in different but confined regions of the U.S. In addition to acquiring a wealth of information and ideas to bolster my Extension programs from the SARE Fellows Program, I have made valuable connections with other Extension colleagues, including my dear friends Mike Gastier and Richard Brzozowski.”

SARE Fellow, Richard Brzozowski of Maine writes, “We are grateful to NACAA and SARE for sponsoring the SARE Fellows program. It has been a career building experience that will definitely strengthen my efforts in assisting farmers and supporting Extension colleagues around sustainability.”

When applying to become a SARE Fellow, the deadline to submit your application to the Professional Improvement Council Chair is March 15, 2011. FMI see