Professional Development Program






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Unit 3: Partnerships and Resources for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education

Rancher Agee Smith worked with a resource management group to develop a management plan that has improved the range and raised ranch profits. (Mona Whalen)

In sustainable agriculture research and education, the importance of collaboration and partnerships—whether that is between individuals or between organizations—is particularly important. Recall some of the core principles of sustainable agriculture from Unit 1:
Some core principles of sustainable agriculture
  • Sustainable agriculture considers the whole farm system, and therefore integrates a wide array of disciplines, viewpoints, and areas of expertise.
  • Sustainable agriculture particularly values the experiential knowledge of farmers and ranchers.
  • Sustainable agriculture is built on a strong tradition of public engagement.
  • Farms and ranches are complex systems; improving the sustainability of that system requires information and data from many sources.
Within this context, a participatory approach is essential for reaching your project goals and achieving meaningful outcomes. In addition, collaboration is seen as having an intrinsic value beyond the end results of the project itself: The understanding, relationships and respect that are built in these types of projects all contribute to long-term sustainability. 
A great example of this type of research and education project is the Texas Alliance for Water Conservation (TAWC).  Initial funding for this project helped to form the Texas Coalition for Sustainable Integrated Systems Research (TeCSIS) at Texas Tech University. That initial grant has since been leveraged into a $6.2 million grant from the state of Texas. Together, TAWC and TeCSIS are evaluating a number of alternative crop and livestock systems, looking at such factors as total water use, water-use efficiency, productivity of crops and livestock, and economic profitability.  Watch this video to learn more about this project: The Ogallala Aquifer of the Texas High Plains: A Race Against Time
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