Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communication Department


Date of this Version

June 2005


Published in Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, Vol. 27(2) 2005, pp. 117-137. Available online at Copyright 2005 by The Haworth Press, Inc. Used by permission.


Evaluation of government-funded programs is essential to identify ways in which initial funding makes an impact and programs can improve. The purpose of this study was to understand the value of the North Central Region's Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (SARE) grants operated through the US Department of Agriculture, from their inception through 2002. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, impacts were explored from the perspective of former grant recipients. Survey data were collected from 171 former SARE and 33 interviews conducted with grant recipients who represented three different grant "families"--researchers, producers and educators. Descriptive, comparative, and exploratory analyses were conducted to: (1) evaluate the cascade social, economic and environmental impacts of SARE funding, from inception through 2002; (2) explore ways in which the SARE experience influenced the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of past grant recipients; (3) understand participants' perception of a "successful" SARE project; (4) provide recommendations for strengthening the SARE program and processes; and (5) compare responses between groups. Quantitative results indicated moderate impacts; however, interviews revealed considerable support for the program and offered specific examples of long-term impacts directly attributable to earlier SARE-funded projects. Producers were significantly more in favor of supporting niche production research, more satisfied with two-year project length, and rated the value of the final SARE reports significantly higher than the other two groups. Partial results from the study are presented in this article. Study limitations, implications of results, and suggestions for expanding program participation are discussed.