Interest in sustainable agriculture, in particular small acreage farming, ranching and market gardening, has increased steadily over the past decade. While there has been a slight increase in opportunities to study sustainable small acreage systems in Washington and Idaho, for-credit agricultural programs which offer on-farm experiential education are rare.
In 1997, Rural Roots began partnering and pooling resources with the University of Idaho and Washington State University to offer a wide range of small acreage educational programs. Since that time we have been collaboratively offering workshops, farm tours and conferences, and conducting direct marketing research.
Throughout each of these activities, participants were surveyed, formally and informally, to determine their educational needs and priorities. These audiences continually say they want and/or need: 1) more in-depth programs on all aspects of small acreage production and business planning; 2) to learn from successful farmers and others that are “doing it;” 3) more on-farm experience; and 4) programs that allow people with full-time jobs and families to participate.
In Spring of 2000, Rural Roots and the University of Idaho began focusing efforts in the area of sustainable food systems through a grant from Kellogg’s Partnership 2020 which allocated funds for the creation of a pilot year-long on-farm education program (OFEP). At the same time, funds were also awarded to WSU for the development of two distance education sustainable food systems (SFS) courses.
One year later, a USDA Higher Education Challenge Grant was awarded jointly to Rural Roots, UI and WSU to combine the two sustainable food systems and the three OFEP courses to offer a certificate in Sustainable Small Acreage Farming and Ranching. This program is now called Cultivating Success™.