SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Alaska
January 1 – December 31, 2011
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2011 PDP Activities and Results
2011 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: nutrient management, developing soils, food security, extending crop availability, CSAs, cheesemaking, small livestock management and employment strategies for small farms, among others.
The Seventh Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference was held March 23-25 in Fairbanks, Alaska at the Princess Riverside Lodge. There were over 100 attendees at the preconference workshop and over 150 attendees at both days of the two-day conference. There were 19 University of Alaska CES and SNRAS employees and 15 USDA and SWCD employees that attended the Annual Statewide Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Attendees came from communities across Alaska: Delta Junction, Fort Yukon, North Pole, Galena, Palmer, Chugiak, Anchorage, Hughes, Healy, Manley Hot Springs, Ester, Wasilla, Homer, Willow, Nenana, Haines, Two Rivers, Salcha, Talkeetna, Coffman Cove, Denali, Bethel Sterling, Juneau, Ruby and Fairbanks. The evaluations and suggestions from attendees came in with a number of ideas and comments that will be taken into consideration when planning next year’s conference. Some statistics from the evaluations are:
- Thirty- five percent of participants traveled more than 40 miles to attend.
- 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, commercial 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, the Office of Sustainability and the USDA Agriculture Research Service (housed on the UAF campus), 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 that CES has limited personnel, the SARE program relies heavily on partnerships, collaborations and linkages with other agricultural groups. It is also integrated into other agriculture programs. We frequently do this by using SARE funds to cosponsor existing agricultural conferences and workshops.
The 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
These include formal professional development sessions (workshops, meetings, field days), travel scholarships and mini-grant funded activities.
In 2011, PDP funds were given to support Extension agents and personal to attend conferences and workshops that further 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 held in Boise, Idaho. Travel scholarships were also given to Extension agents from Anchorage to attend the 2011 SARE Conference in Fairbanks, Alaska to promote practices and ideas of sustainable agriculture.
PDP funds were also given to support a student farm on the campus of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Students from the Office of Sustainability organized and started a small farm and a weekly farmers market on campus to promote sustainable practices and provide local foods to students and community members on campus.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products
Sustainable Agriculture for Alaska Quarterly Newsletter. The publication is mailed to 500 individuals with federal agencies (NRCS, ARS, FSA) state agencies (Division of Agriculture, Plant Material Center), university personnel (CES, SNRAS) and interested individuals and producers.
Alaska SARE website has been on line 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.
The Sustainable Agriculture List serv 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
Results from the 2011 evaluation forms recorded that over eighty-five 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.
The most surprising outcome was the mass number of people that came out to the goats, sheep and small dairy and farmstead cheesemaking preconference workshops that preceded the annual SARE Conference. We had over 100 attendees at the workshops!
People asked for this topic in the past, but it was not known how many people from the Alaska farming community want to do this.
After the high attendance and great interest in making goat cheese at the 2011 Sustainable Agriculture conference and preconference workshops, the University of Alaska -- Fairbanks/Cooperative Extension Service invested in a 15-gallon batch pasteurizer for cheesemaking. The pasteurizer has been incorporated into the commercial test kitchen that can be rented by community members or producers for a small fee. We are hoping this will allow producers and community members to have access to a certified commercial kitchen while they get their businesses off the ground, and that this will encourage more small dairy production in Fairbanks and the surrounding areas by giving them a place to process their products.
Involvement of others in state PDP planning and implementation
In 2011 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 list serv. This also included selecting the national and local speakers and preconference activities. Developing business plans, how to get started farming, mushroom cultivation and getting restaurants using local foods are some of the requested topics from the planning committee.