Coordinated by the NCR-SARE Alumni Organization, the term "NCR-SARE Hero" recognizes the leadership, vision, contributions, and impact that certain people have made in the field of sustainable agriculture in the region.
Ron Macher is known to many within the sustainable agriculture community as the publisher and editor of Small Farm Today magazine. For thirty years his publication has been dedicated to the preservation and promotion of small farming, rural living, sustainability, community, and agripreneurship. He is the author of Making Your Small Farm Profitable and is the founder of the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference which has been held for twenty-two year in Columbia, Missouri. The conference serves as an educational venue showcasing advancements in small farming practices.
Ron served on the NCR-SARE Administrative Council from 1997-2000. The NCR-SARE Farmers Forum was founded by and first established by Ron at the Small Farm Trade Show and Conference in 2005. From 2005-2012, over 175 Farmer Rancher and Youth/Youth Educator grant recipients have presented their SARE projects and findings to their peers and colleagues at the trade show. He also published their SARE grant project results in Small Farm Today magazine, helping to get the word out about the SARE program and SARE project results.
Leaders in sustainable agriculture offered tributes as Macher was nominated and selected to receive this recognition:
- "Ron Macher has clearly been a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement – locally, regionally, and nationally. He was one of the early pioneers of the movement and among the first to bring it to public attention. Sustainable agriculture was not a popular subject in many rural areas in the early days. It took a lot of courage for Ron to risk the future of his magazine and his conference by openly supporting sustainable agriculture and the USDA-SARE programs. Furthermore, his support has persisted now for more than 30 years with his magazines and more than 20 years with his conference and trade show. He is truly a sustainable agriculture pioneer who has had the persistence to 'stick with it.' Ron Macher’s legacy in the North Central Region and beyond will be the link he has established between small farms and agricultural sustainability. To make sustainable agriculture more acceptable, some advocates have persistently claimed that farm size is irrelevant to sustainability. While sustainability may not be impossible on a large farm, the inconvenient truth remains: as farms have become larger, American agriculture has become less sustainable. That relationship is not a coincidence, and Ron knows it. Ron doesn’t bother to condemn large farms as being unsustainable. He simply sends a clear message, through the Small Farm Today magazine, conference, and trade show, that the future of agriculture – the sustainability of agriculture – depends of the sustainability of small farms. Someday this truth will be self-evident: that will be Ron Macher’s greatest legacy." - John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri Columbia
- "I’ve worked with Ron Macher for eight years or more, promoting the latest sustainable agriculture practices and ideas from SARE grant projects via his Small Farm Today magazine and the NCR-SARE Farmers Forum at the National Small Farm Trade Show and Conference. Ron has a passion to share sustainable agriculture information and is always looking for ways to get the latest developments to farmers and ranchers. He not only shares new ideas, he tries them out on his own farm. I’ve grown corn that Ron bred -- ‘Macher’s Freedom’ -- which he developed from the heirloom corn, ‘Bloody Butcher.’ He was exploring the higher protein content of open-pollinated corn breeds at the time. That was after he explored aquaculture techniques (long before they were popular), and before he started looking into his latest interest – bamboo. Ron is a voracious reader – he loves knowledge and loves to share it. Every conversation we have covers a new idea and the latest books or articles he is exploring, which is why I enjoy every call and visit. Small Farm Today and the Trade Show and Conference are perfect venues for Ron to share sustainable agriculture ideas. He sponsored the Farmers Forum to provide a place where farmers can share their ideas with other farmers – their favorite way to get information. He makes a point of keeping prices down at the Trade Show and Conference so everyone can afford to attend. He creates an atmosphere of sharing that has led to networking between farmers and ranchers across the North Central Region. The result has gone far beyond information sharing. I know farmers who have developed strong working relationships and friendships after meeting at the Trade Show and Conference, and others who became mentors or found mentors as a result of traveling together to the Show or preparing for their Farmers Forum presentations. I’ve seen very young farmers develop speaking and leadership skills as they presented information about their SARE grant projects at the Farmers Forum. There aren’t many venues for the youngest farmers to share sustainable agriculture information but Ron’s Trade Show and Conference is certainly one of the best. Ron is truly an NCR-SARE hero to hundreds of farmers, ranchers, educators, and youth who look to him as an innovative source of sustainable agriculture knowledge." - Joan Benjamin, NCR-SARE Associate Regional Coordinator
NCR-SARE is one of four regional offices that run the SARE program, a nationwide grants and education program to advance sustainable innovation to American agriculture. Since 1988, NCR-SARE has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program. The program, part of USDA's National Institute for Food and Agriculture, funds projects and conducts outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.
The NCR-SARE Hero Recognition acknowledges individuals who 1) have provided service to NCR-SARE, sustainability, and/or national SARE, 2) have shown leadership in sustainable agriculture locally and regionally, and 3) have made lasting impacts to sustainability in the North Central region.