The focus of the Great Plains Resource Conservation and Development is to empower local people by providing connections, training and skills needed to stabilize and grow our community while protecting and developing our natural resources. Great Plains RC&D also provides direction and planning to coordinate implementation of specific projects within our boundaries. Most projects are carried out by using local & volunteers utilizing help from local resources.
Great Plains RC&D works together with area groups and organizations who share and have a working interest in the purpose and basic policies of the RC&D. The program emphasizes the grassroots involvement in making decisions about our local area.
The groups and organizations that work together with RC&D include:
*Native American tribes
*cities and towns
*councils of government
*interested individuals electric/telephone cooperatives
Many good things are happening for the South Plains Agricultural Resources Coalition (SPARC). David Eyster furnished 500 pounds of wheat from a field that has not been touched by tillage equipment for 10 years. Over 500 pounds of whole wheat flour milled from the wheat has been delivered to Stillwater for our pilot project with Farm-to-School program. The whole wheat flour grown on healthier soils through no-till conservation cropping systems will provide better nutrition for the students and greater environmental benefits for all of us. A test conducted on the no-till wheat flour showed a protein content of 18 %. This is in line with similar results on tests that have been conducted in other states by the Agricultural Research Service.
SPARC has also worked with Stars and Stripes Pizza in Oklahoma City to manufacture frozen whole wheat pizza dough. Over 700 pounds of no-till wheat was milled by Upper Red Fork for the project. Stars and Stripes Pizza produced 1050, 12 X 16 rectangular whole wheat pizza crusts which were used for pizza and bread-sticks. This amount served three school sites in Stillwater. Erick Womack at Stars and Stripes Pizza and & Vici Grimes met with the Stillwater Public Schools in early January to see how they were currently making their bread-sticks to better understand how to produce the whole wheat rectangular crusts to meet school food service needs. Chris Kirby is the new Farm-to-School Program Administrator with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, & Forestry. She will be a great asset to the project.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service has awarded the Great Plains RC&D a conservation innovation grant to assist SPARC with market based incentives that promote implementation of no-till conservation cropping systems. Chuck Willoughby and Jim Brooks with OSU Food and Agricultural Products Center are working on market evaluations. Plains Grains will be assisting with sampling and testing of the SPARC whole wheat flour.
David Eyster and Vici Grimes as David delivers over 500 lbs. of wheat grown with the No-Till cropping system for SPARC. A test conducted on the flour from this wheat showed an impressive 18% protein content!
The trends in food consumption are focusing more on healthy eating. We hear every day about the problems of overeating and the lack of nutrition. The Great Plains RC&D has facilitated the creation and development of several projects that will address the issue of food quality and sustainable agriculture.
The Great Plains RC&D began a facilitated process to form a regional coalition in western Oklahoma that would improve soil quality, rural economies, and water resources. A result of the monthly meetings of Oklahoma producers and representatives from supporting organizations was the creation of the Southern Plains Agricultural Resources Coalition (SPARC). The mission statement is: The Southern Plains Agricultural Resources Coalition will spark rural sustainability consumer, and communities by promotion of market based incentive, education, demonstration, participation, and research. In 2006, a NRCS Conservation Innovation grant was awarded to SPARC to advance their mission, and broaden their outreach.
Meanwhile the Great Plains RC&D worked on a Farm-to-School pilot project of delivering 100% whole wheat flour (SPARC flour). The tremendous success of the pilot project has created a demand that will require an increased production capacity of identity preserved 100% whole wheat flour. Nearly two tons of flour was used during the test project. Also, 20,000 pizza crusts were made into breakfast pizzas or topped with turkey pepperoni and/or cheese. The students have taken taste tests and truly enjoyed the rolls, cookies, and pizza crusts made with 100% whole wheat flour from wheat that was raised in a no-till conservation cropping system. In addition to the extra nutritional value of the 100% whole wheat are the environmental benefits provided from wheat grown in no-till conservation cropping systems. Consumer purchases will produce the market based incentives for conservation management systems. Consumers will benefit with healthier food and a healthier environment.
The Joy of Eating and Living Well
Market-based environmental stewardship is a new tool to achieve environmental goals. Such an approach can lead to implementation of more conservation practices and systems by providing added financial incentives. This project will develop the market based incentives to encourage and promote the adoption of no-till conservation cropping systems that will improve soil resource in measurable environmental benefits, including improvements to wildlife habitat, reduced erosion, improved soil quality, improved water quality, increased efficiency in use of water, decreased toxicity with reduction of pesticides, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration in soils.
At the Oklahoma Food Policy Listening session the evening meal was entirely made of Oklahoma grown products. The SPARC flour was used for the hot rolls and cinnamon rolls. The Caddo Kiowa Technology Center Culinary Arts Class is known for their great tasting cinnamon rolls, those made with SPARC flour had to be the best ever! The student who made the rolls commented several times throughout the evening that the SPARC flour was the & most tenderest flour she had ever worked with.
The Great Plains RC&D has received funding from the USDA Rural Development and has purchased flour milling and packaging equipment. This is needed to provide the increased capacity to meet the growing demand of providing an Oklahoma grown and highly nutritional flour for our public schools. Tests by Agricultural Research Service scientists have shown that wheat grown in no-till cropping systems that have produced higher quality soils also results in higher quality plants. The healthy plants provide healthy foods. The Great Plains RC&D and members of the Southern Plains Agricultural Resources Coalition are conducting their own evaluations during this years wheat harvest. A continuous streaming sampling procedure was adopted to gather representative samples from three separate farms. These samples were sent to an independent laboratory with the assistance of Plains Grains. Soil quality analysis is also being conducted in conjunction with the wheat sampling.