In the United States, there is a storied tradition of connectivity between the agriculture industry and land grant university science. While that connection has been both praised and criticized, there is no question that it has been massively influential in the development of both commercial agriculture and agricultural science. Over the past couple of decades the land grant universities, including Washington State University, have responded to long-standing demands to conduct more science relevant to farmers’ agricultural sustainability questions and challenges. This research has addressed such things as integrated pest management, organic production, no-till, composting, alternative crops, and environmental protection, to name a few. In fact, the Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources (CSANR) was established 20 years ago to facilitate this kind of science at WSU.
CSANR has come a long way since its inception, engaging more than 150 different WSU faculty members from multiple scientific disciplines (and numerous collaborators from other institutions) in producing a lot of science relevant to improving the sustainability of Washington’s farms and ranches. Over the past 4 years that I have served as Director of CSANR, one thing has become increasingly clear to me … there are a lot of people who are NOT actively farming who want to know more about what our science has to say about agriculture and food system sustainability in the state, region, nation and globally. I know this based on the number of inquiries and requests that I personally receive to come present our science to non-farming audiences.
In fact, most of the agricultural science funding programs and opportunities are changing to ensure that agricultural science is not only providing research results relevant to production agriculture, but also relevant to major societal issues such as climate change, energy, environmental services, and human health and nutrition. CSANR and WSU have been extremely successful in securing funding as these programs have shifted – I think because of our strong connection to a broad stakeholder base in the state and region that is thinking “beyond the farm” when it comes to issues of sustainability. CSANR is now actually conducting as much agricultural science relevant to the big societal challenges as we are to production ag (though I’m also happy to report that we are doing more production ag science than ever before).
What this means to me is that we need some new approaches for sharing our research findings and scientific insights on these questions with a much broader audience that doesn’t participate in the “traditional” ag-science education venues (i.e. field days, producer meetings, technical bulletins, etc.).
So, with this message, I am formally announcing the new CSANR blog entitled “Perspectives on Sustainability”. What you’ll find here is an assortment of perspective articles from me, other CSANR faculty and staff, and occasionally guests on issues related to the science of sustainable agriculture and food systems. Like all science, this is a grand experiment that we are not certain of the ultimate outcome. So, if you’re interested in the science of agriculture and food system sustainability, bookmark this page and check back often. You can like our Facebook page to subscribe to our announcement feed when new articles are posted. We’d love to have your comments and input – and if you have specific suggestions of topics or issues you’d like us to address, please leave us a comment here.