SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Alaska
January 1 – December 31, 2012
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2012 PDP Activities and Results
2012 Alaska SARE PDP funds were used to support conferences (including a large statewide conference), a statewide SARE newsletter, website and travel. Training topics of the conferences and workshops included: Mushroom cultivation, history of plant varieties in Alaska, beekeeping, late blight in Alaska, farmers markets, pasture management, business planning, local food initiatives at the University and in the state, food security and advice for new farmers.
The Eighth Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference was held March 13-15, in Fairbanks, Alaska at the Princess Riverside Lodge. There were over 120 attendees at the preconference workshops and over 150 attendees at both days of the two-day conference. Attendees came from 24 communities across Alaska: Delta Junction, Fairbanks North Pole, Palmer, Cantwell, Anchorage, Manley Hot Springs, Ester, Wasilla, Homer, Willow, Nenana, Haines, Two Rivers, Talkeetna, Bethel, Juneau, Ruby, Pleasant Valley, Skagway, Dillingham, Soldotna, Copper Center and Auke Bay.
The evaluations and suggestions from attendees offered a number of ideas and comments that will be taken into consideration when planning next year’s conference. Some statistics from the evaluations:
- Over sixty percent of attendees were from outside the Fairbanks area.
- Over forty percent of the individuals who filled out evaluations had never attended a SARE Conference before.
Context and Overview
The Alaska SARE PDP is part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Program within the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Agriculture and Horticulture includes programs in commercial agriculture and horticulture, integrated pest management, pesticide safety education program and western plant diagnostic program that interface with the objective of the SARE program. Within the University of Alaska, Fairbanks we also work collaboratively with the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences and the Office of Sustainability on sustainable agriculture projects. Other state partners and audiences for SARE programs include Alaska NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Alaska Division of Agriculture.
Alaska is a large state. Due to the long distances between communities and limited CES personnel, the SARE program relies heavily on partnerships, collaborations and linkages with other agricultural groups and integration into other agriculture programs. We frequently do this by using SARE funds to cosponsor existing agricultural conferences and workshops.
In addition to meeting audiences where they are gathering for preexisting, agriculture-related events, we attempt to overcome the geographical isolation of Alaska agriculture by utilizing a quarterly newsletter and website to promote sustainable agriculture in the state.
Activities and Methods
In 2012, PDP funds were given to support Extension agents and personnel to attend conferences and workshops that expanded their knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices to further aid their clientele with sustainable agriculture projects and practices. Extension personnel attended the annual Western SARE Professional Development Summer Meeting and Water: The Foundation of Agricultural Sustainability Conference held in Santa Cruz, NM. Travel Scholarships were also given to Extension agents from Anchorage to attend the 2012 SARE Conference in Fairbanks, Alaska to promote practices and ideas of sustainable agriculture.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products
Sustainable Agriculture for Alaska Quarterly Newsletter available on line.
The publication is mailed to around 500 individuals with federal agencies (NRCS, FSA), state agencies (Division of Agriculture, Plant Material Center), university personnel (CES, SNRAS) and interested individuals and producers.
Sustainable Agriculture in Alaska Website.
The website has been online for several years. This site is maintained and updated using SARE funds. This Alaska SARE Website allows online access to contact information, newsletters, educational concepts, educational publications, funding sources, other resources and a link to the Western Region SARE Website. It is a one-stop shop for Alaskans that is not available in any other format. Today the Internet is one of the most powerful tools for building awareness and increasing access to information. It has the potential to reach audiences not normally reached. It also allows viewers to get a quick glance of the total Alaska SARE program, proposal deadlines and educational resources.
Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Listserv.
The Sustainable Agriculture Listserv is used to share information on upcoming educational events and grant proposal deadlines. It also can be used to improve communication for agriculture producers and educators across the state of Alaska.
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills and Action
There were 33 University of Alaska CES and SNRAS employees and students, 13 USDA and SWCD employees and 6 Alaska Division of Agriculture employees that attended the Eighth Annual Statewide Sustainable Agriculture Conference.
Results from the 2012 evaluation forms recorded that over eighty-seven percent of the individuals that had attended a past conference reported making changes in their practices, i.e. fertilization, marketing, pest management, grant writing and weed management as a result of attending a SARE Conference.
Specific examples of these changes in practice include:
- Increased awareness of alternative fertilization and pest control
- Changed sanitation procedures in cheesemaking
- Drip irrigation; new ideas for compost
- I have used info regarding managing and marketing farm business and soil fertility
Of the attendees that reported being agricultural educators, over 96 % of the conference attendees have used the information learned at the conference in educational programs.
Specific examples of some of the educational programs include:
- John Trigg Ester Library’s biodiversity program
- Soil blocking workshop
- Farm-to-school mini grants
- School gardens and agricultural tours
The most surprising outcome was the overwhelming number of people that came out to the Mushroom Cultivation workshop that preceded the annual SARE Conference. We had over 120 attendees at that one workshop! People had asked for the topic, but it was not known how many folks were interested in the community. It really seems like a crop that could be cultivated all year due to its climatic and light needs. (And they do need some light!)
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation
In 2012 the planning committee for the Annual Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference met via conference call and in person in Fairbanks. The invitation to participate in the planning committee was through the Alaska SARE listserv. This also included selecting the national and local speakers and pre-conference activities. The planning committee takes a close look at the evaluation forms from past conferences and events and tailors the program based on suggestions and input from the evaluations.