Partners

The effective integration of research, education, and outreach at SARA depends on partnerships that include both sponsors and collaborators. SARA and its partners are able to leverage resources and coordinate efforts to accomplish common goals and activities that effectively integrate research, education, and outreach in sustainable agriculture and rural development. SARA’s partners include the following sponsors and collaborators.

Sponsors partnering with SARA include:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS)—is a USDA agency that protects and promotes U.S. agricultural health, which includes protecting animal and plant resources from agricultural pests and diseases. APHIS provides resources to UTRGV for projects related to food safety.

Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA)—is a USDA agency that is responsible for implementing farm conservation and regulation laws, including farm commodity programs, and provides farm ownership and operating loan programs. FSA provides UTRGV with resources for farm-loan outreach and training.

National Institute for Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA)—is a U.S. Federal government body within USDA that consolidates all federally funded agricultural research. NIFA funds UTRGV projects for agricultural education, food safety, organic production, beginning farmer assistance, food security, agroecology, and numerous other projects that include agriculture and food research.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS)—is a USDA agency that provides farmers and ranchers with financial and technical assistance for conservation practices. NRCS provides UTRGV and its stakeholders with funding for research and operating practices that support environmentally sustainable agriculture.

National Science Foundation (NSF)—is a Federal agency dedicated to advancing the progress of science by funding proposals for research and education made by scientists, engineers, and other researchers.

Rural Business-Cooperative Services (USDA-RBS)—is a USDA agency within its Rural Development mission area that offers programs for rural business development. RBS funds UTRGV programs that assist rural cooperatives and businesses, including value-added ventures, energy audits, feasibility studies, and business plans.

Collaborators partnering with SARA include:

Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA)—is a national membership-based non-profit organization that supports independent family farmers and protects a healthy and productive food supply for American consumers. FARFA collaborates with SARA to promote cooperative approaches to food safety and marketing for small-scale and family farms throughout rural Texas.

Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley—works to end hunger and food insecurity in South Texas and partners with organizations that focus on making food accessible to high-need communities. The Food Bank collaborates with SARA to teach local residents how to grow their own food, create new beginning farmers, and strengthen small-scale businesses that are key to the local food system.

Hilltop Gardens—is a tropical healing garden and an organic fruit, vegetable, and Aloe Vera farm located in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, and is one of the first commercial Aloe farms in the U.S. Hilltop Gardens collaborates with SARA as part of a team of students, scientists, and farmers engaged in systems research aimed at addressing the critical challenges of sustainable agriculture in Texas.

Holistic Management International (HMI)—supports small, limited-resource, beginning farmers and ranchers by introducing them to whole-farm planning and local food networks. HMI collaborates with SARA by participating in outreach and education events in Texas and New Mexico, and by providing information on holistic-management principles of financial planning, land planning, enterprise assessment, local-food systems, time management, and decision-making.

HOPE for Small Farm Sustainability (HOPE)—is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and Community Based Organization, focused on food security, that teaches colonia residents about intensive vegetable production and develops potential members for agricultural marketing cooperatives. HOPE collaborates with SARA to provide targeted training and hands-on assistance to Hispanic beginning farmers and ranchers on production techniques, technologies, business planning, and financial management.

La Semilla Food Center—is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a healthy, self-reliant, fair, and sustainable food system in the Paso Del Norte region of Southern New Mexico and El Paso, Texas. La Semilla collaborates with SARA on outreach to provide training, technical assistance, materials & supplies, demonstration sites, and mentorship to small-scale Hispanic farmers and ranchers that are learning to farm.

National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)—is a national organization that supports sustainable energy, agriculture, and communities. NCAT collaborates with SARA on both research and outreach. On research, NCAT is part of a collaborative team of students, scientists, and farmers engaged in systems research aimed at addressing the critical challenges of sustainable agriculture in Texas. On outreach, NCAT assists SARA in providing training, technical assistance, and mentorship to limited-resource beginning farmers and ranchers, with a special emphasis on beginning farmers and ranchers that are military Veterans.

National Immigrant Farming Initiative (NIFI)—is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that strengthens the capacity of immigrants to farm successfully and to advance sustainable farming and food systems. NIFI collaborates with SARA to provide training and technical assistance to immigrant farmers and ranchers in the border-region area of Texas and Southern New Mexico.

PPC Farms—is a family-owned and -operated farm, and an innovative and progressive leader in the fresh organic and conventional produce industry in South Texas. PPC Farms collaborates with SARA as part of a team of students, scientists, and farmers engaged in systems research aimed at addressing the critical challenges of sustainable agriculture in Texas.

Proyecto Desarrollo Humano (PDH)—is a community-based non-profit organization founded by the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (ICM) that provides direct services to high-need families in Texas colonias. PDH collaborates with SARA to assist community members in growing food to improve their food security and health, and in creating and managing a cooperative garden that helps improve and increase household incomes through collaborative marketing.

Rio Farms, Inc.—is a non-profit agricultural research and demonstration operation located in Hidalgo and Willacy Counties that focuses on researching and demonstrating crops that can be grown in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Rio Farms collaborates with SARA to develop and market disease-resistant grapes that can produce high-quality wine.   

SCORE (Service Corp of Retired Executives)—is the nation’s largest network of expert business mentors. SCORE has begun to assist and mentor beginning farmers and ranchers as a result of an agreement signed by US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and VP for Field Operations for SCORE, Steve Records, in August, 2017. SCORE collaborates with SARA to mentor beginning farmers and ranchers, and to assist them with value-added ventures, particularly in the food industry.

Small Business Development Centers (SBDC)—is a nationwide small-business assistance program, funded through the Small Business Administration and individual states across the U.S. SBDCs in South Texas collaborate with SARA to provide beginning farmers and ranchers with assistance developing business plans and guaranteed loans for starting value-added businesses, particularly in the food industry.

Texas/Mexico Border Coalition, CBO (TMBC)—is the South-West Texas region’s leading community-based organization for the development of Hispanic farmers and ranchers. The CBO is comprised of, and governed by, Limited-Resource Hispanic farmers and ranchers. TMBC collaborates with SARA to help primarily Hispanic beginning farmers and ranchers with agriculture credit, loan packaging, and conservation-program assistance.

Texas Rural Cooperative Center (TRCC)—provides training and technical assistance to start-up and existing cooperatives in Texas. TRCC collaborates with SARA to help create and assist agricultural cooperatives, including farmers’ markets and marketing cooperatives, and to assist with the development of Value-Added Producer Grants for farmers and ranchers.

Texas International Produce Association (TIPA)—is an agricultural produce association formed to represent the business, economic, and political interests of Texas-grown fruits and vegetables, and to address the issues and opportunities surrounding the importation and marketing of foreign-grown produce shipped through Texas ports. TIPA collaborates with SARA to assist the produce industry through systems research, value-added production, and food-safety development.

Texas Small Farmers and Ranchers, CBO (TSFR)—is the North-East Texas region’s leading community-based-organization for the development of Black/African American farmers and ranchers. The CBO is comprised of, and governed by, Limited-Resource Black/African American farmers and ranchers. TSFR collaborates with SARA to assist these Socially-Disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to provide outreach and education events that focus on introducing USDA programs and agriculture-related information.

Veteran’s Business Outreach Center (VBOC)—helps create, retain, and develop businesses and contribute to the success of entrepreneurs who are military Veterans or members of the U.S. military community. The VBOC collaborates with SARA to provide entrepreneurial training and business-plan assistance to Veteran farmers and ranchers interested in starting value-added processing and marketing ventures.