The goal of sustainable agriculture is to develop new ideas and methods to improve farm and ranch profitability and to protect land and water and other natural resources. It serves not as an alternative to agriculture science, but as a companion that uses the natural laws of nature and environment to enhance agricultural efforts in a post-modern world.

What started more as a movement than an idea, sustainable agriculture is one part environmental stewardship, one part economic stabilizer and one part profit engine. It is the method of producing food, fiber and other plant and animal products using farming and ranching techniques that protect the environment, human health and animal welfare.

But an underlying benefit to sustainable agriculture research is that it is paving the way to better cash crop profits and, in many instances, providing measures that can save the farm from such troubling stumbling blocks as extreme drought, lack of irrigation, deadly plant and animal diseases, uncontrolled pests and undesirable weeds.

Early sustainable research projects were so successful in providing substantial benefits to agriculture that in 1988 USDA established the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program to provide financial assistance through a grant program to farmers, ranchers, researchers and educators to develop innovations that would improve farm profitability, protect natural resources and the environment, and to revitalize rural communities. Over the last 25 years, SARE has awarded nearly $200 million for more than 5,000 initiatives that have greatly improved agriculture across the nation and around the world.

Because of great geographical and environmental diversity between agricultural regions, SARE programs are developed to meet the specific requirements of each region and as such grant projects have been funded in every state and island protectorate of the United States. SARE projects are also diverse, including food programs, water programs, and energy programs that affect the way we grow crops, use natural resources like land and water, and the development of crops that can be used as an energy source.