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July-August 2021

Reminder: Preproposals Due August 3

Preproposals--which capture preliminary project concepts--for three Northeast SARE grant programs: Research and Education, Professional Development and Research for Novel Approaches are due online by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, August 3. Applicants selected to submit full proposals will be contacted in mid-August with full proposals due on October 26.

From the Director

Social Sustainability and SARE

You’ve probably seen the image of the “sustainability stool” with three legs: economic, environmental, and social. The SARE program has been digging deeper into the meaning of social sustainability and how we can do more to support the development of new knowledge in that area. Recently, a national SARE working group came together to write a brief to help develop a shared understanding of social sustainability, and how SARE supports it. Dr. Amy Guptill, professor of Sociology at SUNY Brockport and a member of the Northeast SARE Administrative Council, is part of that group. What follows is some of their guidance on how to think about and operationalize social sustainability in the SARE context.
Social sustainability is the extent to which social relationships promote equity, justice, and a high quality of life. Just as sustainable agriculture promotes long-term ecological health and economic vitality, it also contributes to vibrant communities and regions, and to satisfying livelihoods for farmers and others in the food system. Success in one area of sustainability can reinforce success in others. For example, healthy soils are not only more productive, they can also lead higher income and increased satisfaction for farmers. Similarly, farmers can draw on mutually supportive relationships to boost economic and environmental resilience. 

Social sustainability is about relationships, at the personal level, the community and network level, and also at the more distant societal “policy” level.  Because SARE centers farmers in our work, social sustainability is often visible in our projects through farmers’ experiences and reflections about quality of life.
To enhance our work on social sustainability, we want grant-seekers and reviewers to think broadly about the social impacts of research and education projects, beyond the adoption of new methods or an increase in income. For example, innovations that prevent injury, afford farmers more autonomy in decision-making, or forge stronger and more equitable connections within and beyond the food system all have a positive impact on social sustainability--even without direct impacts on income or environmental quality.

SARE projects benefit from including social scientists who have the expertise to determine the types of social relationships likely to be impacted, how those relationships might grow or improve, the best approach to studying those changes, and the plan for recording and analyzing data. Small projects may not be able to include a social scientist or collect much data on social sustainability, but they can still draw on producer, manager or farm worker knowledge to identify how the project or innovation can enhance the social ties that support equity, justice, and a high quality of life in the food system.
Northeast SARE has already funded work in this area, as exemplified by projects described below. We hope to do even more to keep the social leg of sustainability strong.

Equity & Social Justice in Sustainable Agriculture

Training Northeast Farmers to Confront and Dismantle Racism and Inequity in Food and Farming Systems

racial equity toolkit cover artCaitlin Arnold and the team at the National Young Farmers Coalition recognize that all farmers face challenges but not all farmers experience these challenges equally as "centuries of marginalization and systemic racism prevent many young farmers of color from building successful farm businesses." Therefore, the team sought a Partnership grant to work to "create a different kind of rural farming community--one in which all young farmers have an equal chance to feel accepted and to succeed, regardless of race."

The project has developed the Racial Equity Toolkit as a guide for farmers to begin the work of addressing racism and inequity in farm and food systems. They are also offering anti-racism trainings for young farmers while connecting with Black and Brown-led organizations to center this work with farmers most affected.
Recently Funded!

Growing Tribal Farming Capacity and Outreach

Lea Zeise with United South and Eastern Tribes, Inc., a nonprofit, inter-Tribal organization representing 30 Tribal Nations, was recently awarded a Professional Development grant to develop and deliver train-the-trainer curricula on culturally-relevant farmer education. The project is working with staff at 7 Tribal Nations to expand their capacity as agriculture service providers and support them as they offer education and technical assistance to farmers and growers in their communities on soil health, raised beds, planting schedules, composting and food preservation. 

Exploring Farmland Access and Tenure Issues

Agricultural Conservation Leasing Guide Education Series

Implementing conservation practices on leased farmland can be challenging, especially with short tenure arrangements, as farmers or landowners need to invest funds upfront but may not see the benefits of these practices in the short-term. Further, effectively communicating about the importance of conservation practices may be strained when either the farmer or landowner is not "on board".

Sarah Everhart of the University of Maryland Francis K. Carey School of Law received a Professional Development grant to conduct a comprehensive education program about agricultural conservation leasing for Maryland agricultural service providers to help them better advise farmers and landowners on how to communicate about and support conservation goals.

The project team developed an Agricultural Conservation Leasing Guide as well as other resources and provided training to 78 service providers; 22 individuals said they used what they learned to educate 167 farmers and 184 farm landowners. As a result, 50 farmers and 71 landowners said they made efforts to better communicate about leasing, and 58 farmers made efforts to use conservation practices on leased farmland.
Recently Funded!

Creating a Black Farmer Commons in Transferring Land Ownership

To address the stark decline in Black farmers and the loss of Black-owned farmland, Dr. Dennis Derryck, founder and president of the Corbin Hill Food Project in New York, NY, received a Research for Novel Approaches grant to explore several critical issues needed to reverse farmland loss and regain land ownership within the Black community. Through a participatory process using a sovereignty decision-making framework, Derryck and the project team are working with 12 Black farmers to develop the first Black Farmer Commons in the Northeast as a model of "Black ownership, land transfer processes adaptable to farmers without succession plans, and progress toward a racially just, regenerative and equitable food system."

Fostering Community Connections

Reframing the Sustainable Farming Narrative to Help Northeast Farmers Effectively Activate Consumers

In today's agricultural marketing, it is common to see organic products framed as "good" and conventional products as "bad". Since many growers use ecological and other environmentally friendly growing practices but may not be certified organic, Michael Rozyne of Red Tomato, a Northeast food distribution nonprofit, is conducting a Research for Novel Approaches grant project to explore how to reframe the sustainable farming narrative to better include these farming operations. The project team is diving into cognitive science that studies how people make sense of information to research, create, test and apply new frames with customers of Northeast fruit growers.

The goal is to provide these fruit growers who use advanced integrated pest management (IPM) and other ecological growing methods with new communication tools and training to support their work in explaining IPM practices to customers more effectively.
Recently Funded!

Teaching Black Farmers in Baltimore City to Grow Ethnic Crops for Black Communities

To increase food sovereignty in Baltimore, Maryland, Denzel Mitchell, Jr. of the Farm Alliance of Baltimore received a Research and Education grant to train beginning Black farmers to grow ethnic crops. The project is combining classroom and field-based training with farmer-to-farmer mentoring with the goal of increasing the availability of culturally relevant crops to food-insecure Black communities and local value-added producers. 

Building Relationships

Focusing on Interpersonal Relationships for Greater Farm Viability

To support interpersonal skills on the farm—including effective communication, decision-making, goal setting and time management—Child and Family Development Specialist Leslie Forstadt of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension received a Professional Development grant to increase the competence and confidence of agricultural service providers to understand and respond to farmer concerns about interpersonal relationships.

Forstadt and the project team developed a toolkit and trained 53 individuals to act as guides and active listeners to farmers. As a result, 23 Extension educators and others increased their abilities to work with farmers and reached 291 farmers with their new skill sets. One participant said that as a result of the project, "I’ve definitely changed the way I demonstrate listening and asking questions. I feel more comfortable and authentic being able to facilitate instead of being a subject matter expert."

Want to learn more about social sustainability?

Check out Episode 4: Social Sustainability of our What is Sustainable Agriculture? video series, thanks to the national SARE Outreach office. 
Northeast SARE offers competitive grants and sustainable agriculture education in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Our programs are offered to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or familial status. SARE is funded by USDA NIFA. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Northeast SARE

140 Kennedy Drive, Suite 202
South Burlington, Vermont 05403
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