Gabriel A. Hegyes
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Blvd.
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351 USA
v: (301) 504-6425
f: (301) 504-6409
Innovative or improved ways of doing things; More equitable access to technology or electronic information; Creation of new ideas, products, or services; Technology transfer Local commitment to network-based activities; Partnerships between public and private sector
Supporting Documentation (contact author for more information):
Please accept this account of the Sustainable Agriculture Network and its work on Internet for your publication.
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) was formed in 1990 to extend a community that encourages and supports its members searching for alternative agricultural solutions.
That same year, Chuck Francis and Garth Youngberg wrote,
“Sustainable Agriculture is a philosophy based on human goals and on understanding the long-term impact of our activities on the environment and on other species. Use of this philosophy guides our application of prior experience and the latest scientific farm systems. These systems reduce environomental degradation, maintain agricultural productivity, promote economic viability in both the short and long term and maintain stable rural quality of life.
SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE IN TEMPERATE ZONES
AN is a cooperative effort of organizations as diverse as the National Agricultural Library, CENEX Land O’ Lakes, Utah State University’s Agricultural Systems Technology and ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas). It was developed by a “SAN-Link” Committee with support from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.
J. Patrick Madden, SAEE Associate Director believes that,
“SAN was the first, and is so far the most successful, national initiative started in the early days of the Low Input Sustainable Agriculture (LISA) program later renamed SARE. Motivated by a desire to make the results of LISA projects available to all kinds of users, SAN was established on the principle that the process of disseminating information must decentralized, participatory and multi- media . So we focus on a combination of hard copy publications plus various electronic forms, including Internet and Almanac”.
SAN has an electronic mail group “sanet-mg” with over 200 individuals interested in, and knowledgeable about, sustainable agriculture. Members of the group share sources of information and help answer each others’ questions. ECONET, a non-profit electronic service runs a mirror of the conference expanding participation.
One week a graduate student asked for model state programs for pesticide regulation in lumbering. During that same period, the conference followed the progress of a questionnaire designed to measure farmer commitment to environmentally benign pest management practices. On any given day, sanet-mg participants may receive the names of House Agriculture Appropriations Committee members to contact, the newsletter of the Pesticide Action Network or a list of sustainable agriculture publications in Spanish.
SAN has three databases available for searching through Almanac Mail Servers:
SARE/ACE projects (summaries of the projects funded by the USDA SARE program and the EPA/USDA Agriculture in Concert with the Environment (ACE) program).
“The Showcase” (annotated bibliography of educational and informational materials, emphasizing information readily useful to farmers).
*,,The Yellow Pages” (The Directory of Sustainable Agriculture Experts and Expertise).
With simple email commands these publications are available to be searched like a database, and ordered by filename or as whole publications. File Transfer Protocol (FTP) access is also available.
A calendar of sustainable agriculture meetings and events is updated monthly by Gabriel Hegyes, SAN-Link Coordinator. The calendar is broadcast over SANET- mg, and can be retrieved through the Almanac at Oregon State University or through FTP.
“SAN is organizing several types of information: the who (“Yellow Pages” Directory), the what (SARE-project and Showcase databases), and the where and when (Calendar) of sustainable agriculture”, says Jill Auburn, from the California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) and chair of the SAN-Link Committee. “You can `join’ SAN simply by participating in its activities: contribute information to one of the publications, follow the electronic discussion group, volunteer yourself or another expert for the Directory, use the calendar and LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK”!
These two bulletins are examples of what SAN distributes to describe its activities
GETTING STARTED ELECTRONICALLY WITH THE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE NETWORK
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) is a cooperative effort of university, government, business and non-profit organizations dedicated to the exchange of scientific and practical information on sustainable agricultural systems. It is a network in the broadest sense of the word, supporting the interaction of existing and new sources and users of information. The networking of information is in many forms, such as printed information and meetings, as well as computer networks. This document explains how to use the electronic network portion of SAN.
SAN is encouraging the distribution of information via the existing system of inter-connected computer networks commonly called “the Internet”. Originally developed in the United States for research purposes the Internet is connected to hundreds of large and small computer networks throughout the world through “gateways” that exchange messages. Because it is a decentralized network of existing networks, instructions for using the Internet vary from site to site. The information in this overview is for you to use to discuss your options with the computer networks that may be available to you, and to begin accessing agricultural information once you are connected and familiar with your system.
GATEWAYS VS. FULL INTERNET SERVICE
If you are at a university or government facility, your computer may be fully connected to the Internet. Alternatively, you may have an account on a system with a “gateway” to the Internet, such as Econet, CompuServe, MCIMail, or many others. A full Internet connection includes three functions: electronic mail (email) using “SMTP” protocol; FTP (File Transfer Protocol, for exchanging files immediately rather than sending them via email); and Telnet (a protocol for running programs such as menu-driven database searches, on a remote computer). Many systems that have gateways to the Internet can exchange email, but cannot run FTP or Telnet on other Internet machines.
Since SAN is committed to linking a wide variety of individuals and institutions, it is making all of its information searchable and retrievable via email messages: a search message is sent to a “server” computer that interprets the request and electronically mails back the results. Thus users with only email access through a gateway to the Internet can access all SAN information. Much of the same information is available more interactively and/or more quickly via Telnet or FTP, however, so a full Internet connection with FTP and Telnet services may be more desirable. The interface of a commercial or nonprofit system, on the other hand, may in some cases be easier to use than the available university or government system.
WHAT TO DO ONCE YOU’RE CONNECTED
Since so many different computer systems are connected to the Internet, the best source of help in getting started using email, FTP or Telnet is the computer consultant for your local system. Once you are familiar with your system, join the SAN discussion group and explore the SAN databases or calendar. You do all of these via email messages to “Almanac,” an automated mail handler. Since Almanac is a computer program, not a human being, it is important that you address messages to it without error, and that the body of each message contains just the appropriate information (see below), no more and no less.
SAN has two databases available for searching on the Internet: SARE- projects (summaries of the projects funded by the USDA/CSRS Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and the EPA/USDA Agriculture in Concert with the Environment program); and Showcase (annotated bibliography of educational and informational materials, emphasizing information readily useful to farmers). To get information about searching these databases, send the following line(s) in the body of an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org
send ext sare-projects catalog
send ext showcase catalog
There is a calendar of sustainable agriculture meetings and events updated monthly by Gabriel Hegyes, SAN Coordinator. You can retrieve it by sending email to almanac es.orst.edu, with the following in the body of your message:
SAN has an email group “sanet-mg” with over 200 individuals interested in, and knowledgeable about, sustainable agriculture. Members of the group share sources of information and help answer each others’ questions. To join “sanet-mg” send the following line in the body of an email address to email@example.com
After you have subscribed, anything that anyone sends to “firstname.lastname@example.org” will automatically be sent to you and everyone else on the list. Notice that the address that handles subscribe/unsubscribe requests is different from the address that handles mail to the group.
When you send mail to “email@example.com” you will probably get a few “bounce-back” messages, indicating that your message could not be delivered to one or more of the addresses on the list. Don’t be concerned about these messages; your message was delivered to all valid and active addresses on the list.
MORE INTERNET RESOURCES
In addition to these specialized information sources, the Internet has quite a few other databases and mail lists on agriculture and other topics relevant to sustainable agriculture. One example is the USDA’s “Research Results Database” or RRDB. It can be queried via email by sending the following command to almanac@esusda. gov
send rrdb catalog
Mark Campidonica’s publication “A Guide to Agriculture on Internet” contains many more sources and examples. It is available via anonymous FTP to silo.ucdavis.edu, under the subdirectory pub/extension/document, as ag-guide.ps (PostScript version) or ag-guide.exe (WordPerfect 5.1 version). It contains step-by-step lessons in email, FTP, and Telnet, using agricultural examples. If you cannot retrieve this document via anonymous FTP, you can request a printed copy by mail from Jill Auburn at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no charge for the 101- page booklet, but donations are appreciated to cover printing and handling.
Another useful listing of agricultural and biological information sources on the Internet is Bill Drew’s “Not Just Cows” available via FTP from ftp.unt.edu or hydra.uwo.ca. An excellent general guide to the Internet (more than agriculture) is Brendan Kehoe’s “Zen and the Art of the Internet” available via FTP from many sites, including ftp.cs.widener.edu. If you are not familiar with how to use FTP, ask your computer support personnel.
SAN is supported by a grant from the USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program
OVERVIEW OF THE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE NETWORK
Information on sustainable agricultural issues and practices is available from a wide variety of sources, including research and educational institutions, private nonprofits, farmer organizations, publishers, consultants, lenders, and suppliers. Finding the available information, as well as identifying the gaps in the knowledge base, is an increasing challenge.
The Sustainable Agriculture Network was formed to help meet this challenge. The SA Network is a consortium of universities, government, business and non-profit organizations dedicated to information exchange. It is being developed by a committee of fourteen individuals from diverse organizations, with support from the USDA’s national Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE, formerly LISA) and the EPA’s Agriculture in Concert with the Environment (ACE) programs. The committee’s vision is that of a decentralized system that encourages and supports interaction among a diversity of information providers and users, rather than a centralized system with a one- way flow of information. To support this vision, the committee eagerly solicits comments, criticisms, and active participation from colleagues as the system takes shape. Current activities include:
SHOWCASE OF EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS
The committee is sponsoring a “Showcase of Educational Materials” to be displayed at several national conferences. The showcase was the idea of committee member John Ikerd, extension economist at the University of Missouri, as a way to identify exemplary educational materials in a forum that would also get the information to end users (conference participants) immediately. Materials that synthesize information in forms readily usable to farmers are a particular focus of the Showcase. Those interested in displaying materials at the next Showcase should contact John Ikerd (314/882-4635) or Jill Auburn (916/757-3278). It is not necessary to attend the meeting in order to display.
A common language is important for finding information in a variety of sources. Jayne MacLean of the National Agricultural Library is working with her colleagues at the NAL and Steve Mitchell at UC Riverside to refine a thesaurus of terms relevant to existing and new sustainable agriculture databases. It will be useful to those looking for information as well as to authors preparing information.
DIRECTORY OF INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS WITH EXPERTISE
A directory listing detailed characteristics of individuals and organizations that are willing to share their expertise in sustainable agriculture information is being compiled by the staff of ATTRA (Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas) under the direction of Jim Lukens, ATTRA program manager. Rather than an exhaustive compilation, it will contain entries representative of the broad range of types of people and organizations knowledgeable about sustainable agriculture. The first version will be available by fall of 1992, in both electronic (database) and printed forms.
Preparing information in a form that is useful to farmers is a high priority of the SARE/ACE program. Mike Brusko of the Rodale Institute (publisher of The New Farm magazine), serves on the network committee and oversees the SAN publications. The first handbook, Managing Cover Crops Profitably, is available for $9.95 from Sustainable Agriculture Publications, Hills Building, Room 12, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405-0082.
ELECTRONIC INFORMATION EXCHANGE
Electronic exchange of documents and other information is a small but increasingly important activity. The committee is developing guidelines for the preparation of documents so that they can be shared electronically. Kevin Gamble, extension computing specialist at Oregon State University, is leading this effort. A mail group has been formed on the Internet system for electronic sharing of ideas and information regarding sustainable agriculture networking. To subscribe, send the following statement in the body of an Internet message to email@example.com: subscribe sanet-mg The Almanac software, previously developed at Oregon State University under Kevin Gamble’s direction, automatically sends any message sent to firstname.lastname@example.org to the other members of sanet-mg. It also automatically handles electronically mailed requests for documents and other information. If you do not have convenient access to a computer that is connected to the Internet system (such as at your local university or college), there are “gateways” from other systems such as Econet, Compuserve or MCIMail. Check with your system vendor.
INFORMATION ON DISKETTE
A microcomputer database of summaries of projects funded by SARE/ACE demonstrates the power of state-of-the-art, off-the- shelf text “infobase” management, using Folio Views software. The program runs on MS-DOS- compatible machines only. For a free copy, send a blank, formatted, high-density diskette to Phil Rasmussen, Dept. Soil Sci. & Biometeorol., Utah State Univ., Logan, UT 84322-4820.
The committee has recommended that more and better information from `experiential’ sources such as case studies and other forms of careful observation be made available through the network, in addition to information that is experimentally tested. We are exploring appropriate ways to describe and share this information so that its validity and range of applicability will be more easily assessed by potential users. John Ahlrichs of CENEX/Land- 0′-Lakes is in charge of this planning.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
You can “join” SAN simply by participating in one or more of its activities: contribute information to the Showcase, join the electronic discussion group, volunteer yourself or another expert for listing in the Directory, use the Cover Crops Handbook or the Folio Infobase and let us know what you think of them!
You are encouraged to correspond with committee chairperson Jill Auburn or other committee members. Correspondence can be by electronic mail (Internet:email@example.com; Bitnet: jsauburn@ucdavis), telephone (916/757- 3278) or surface mail: Info. Group, Sustainable Agriculture R&E Program, University of California, Davis, CA 95616-8533.
Jill Auburn, SAREP, University of California, Chairperson (jsauburn@ucdavis .edu)
John Ahlrichs, Agrisource, Cenex-Land O’ Lakes Mike Brusko, The New Farm, Rodale Institute
Kevin Gamble, Oregon State University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
John Ikerd, University of Missouri (email@example.com)
Diana Jerkins, University of Georgia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jim Lukens, ATrRA (email@example.com)
Jayne MacLean, Alternative Farming Systems Info. Center, Natl. Agricultural Library (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Patrick Madden, University of California/LISA Program (email@example.com)
Ed Rajotte, Pennsylvania State University (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Phil Rasmussen, Utah State University (email@example.com)
Tory Shade, University Extension, University of Missouri (firstname.lastname@example.org)
For additional information contact:
Dr. Jill Auburn
CA Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education Program (SAREP)
University of California-Davis
Davis, CA 95616-8533
v: (916) 757-3278
f: (916) 757-3281