My phone rang the other day; it was a popular press writer with the question—has agriculture gotten more sustainable in the Northeast?
If you’re like me, such comprehensive questions accompanied by the request for a short, simplistic answer can cause some heartburn. So I just said yes.
The glass half empty says I lied, and the litany of ongoing challenges—issues that you are well aware of—offer evidence in support of that accusation. But the glass half full says I got it right, there is progress on many fronts. Further, there is a rising tide of innovation, optimism, and support for agriculture that is floating many boats.
The evidence for that viewpoint comes from a plethora of local food organizations, emerging public policy initiatives, growing consumer engagement, and, of course, the kind of research and education that has long been supported by SARE. By the last phrase I mean science and outreach that is delivering positive, measurable change for the greater public good.
As we wind up this year’s round of grant reviews, with the review teams sending their list of recommended proposals on to the Administrative Council, I have a sense of excitement and optimism. These proposals contain hundreds of ideas and studies I can’t wait to see put into action.
Each year Northeast SARE will fund, very roughly, one-third of all the proposals we receive. This year alone we got 28 Research and Education proposals, 8 Professional Development proposals, 57 Farmer proposals, 37 Partnership proposals, 24 Sustainable Community, and 44 Graduate Student grant proposals. That’s a lot of potential innovation. But once funded, it will take several years before the investments that reviewers, grantees, project partners, and of course the taxpayers make in these project ideas can bear fruit. But bear they will, even if they don’t all succeed.
To get a sense of how SARE grants are making a contribution to a more sustainable agriculture in the Northeast, you only need to read the final project reports that are posted on line in the project database at www.sare.org. This newsletter features a small sampling of the many publications and online resources that are byproducts of SARE investments, and they illustrate the real and meaningful impact that so many SARE projects have.
These books, bulletins, videos, and other learning tools also indirectly answer that reporter’s question—agriculture in the Northeast truly has become more sustainable, in part because of SARE’s persistent and patient investment over the past 24 years.To see how this year’s batch of SARE grants turn out, all I can say is hurry up and wait.