State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2015 State/Protectorate PDP Activities and Results:
2015 Alaska SARE PDP funds were used to support a large statewide conference, a statewide SARE newsletter, website, and travel. Training topics of the conferences and workshops included: all day workshop on holistic management and decision making, half day workshop on hydroponics for vegetable production, and talks on a variety subjects in the areas of sustainable practices, vegetable/livestock/fruit production, farm management, marketing, and Alaska needs.
The Eleventh Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference was held March 3-5 in Fairbanks, Alaska at the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel and Conference Center. There were over 120 different attendees at the pre-conference workshops and two-day conference. Attendees came from communities across Alaska.
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.
Context and Overview:
The Alaska SARE PDP is part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Department within the School of Natural Resources and Extension 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 objectives of the SARE program. Other state partners and audiences for SARE programs include the USDA 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 is used to build partnerships, collaborations, and linkages with other agricultural groups as well as educate agriculture professionals. The SARE program is also integrated into other agriculture activities throughout AK. 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 pre-existing, 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 2015, PDP funds were given to support Extension agents and personal to attend conferences and workshops that further expanded their knowledge of sustainable agriculture practices in order to aid their clientele with sustainable agriculture ideas and practices. Extension personnel attended the annual Western SARE Professional Development Summer meeting held in Colorado. Travel Scholarships were also given to Extension agents from Anchorage, Delta Junction, Juneau, Kenai, and Bethel to attend the 2015 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. The publication is mailed to over 500 interested individuals and producers, as well as federal agencies (NRCS, FSA) state agencies (Division of Agriculture, Plant Material Center), and university personnel (CES, SNRAS).
The Sustainable Agriculture in Alaska 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 SARE website. It is a one-stop shop for Alaskans that is not available in any other format.
We also have a regularly used Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Listserv.
The Sustainable Agriculture Listserv is designed 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, Intention and Action:
There were 32 University of Alaska CES and SNRAS employees, 13 students, 12 USDA and 6 SWCD employees, 2 borough employees, 13 State of Alaska employees, 124 farmers, and 17 other people that attended the Tenth Annual Statewide Sustainable Agriculture Conference.
Results from the 2015 evaluation forms recorded that 82 percent of the individuals that had attended past a conference reported making changes in their practices i.e. fertilization, water use, cover cropping, pest management, and infrastructure improvement as a result of attending a SARE Conference.
Specific examples of these changes in practice include:
- Using rain barrels
- Split application of fertilizer
- Use of cover crops
Of the attendees that reported being agricultural educators, 95 % of the conference attendees have used the information learned at the conference in educational programs.
Specific examples of some of the educational programs include:
- Classroom demonstrations
- Newsletters, in person conversations
- Farm to school and school gardens
- Assist rural communities and owners of off-grid homesteads
The amount of interest from people interested in hydroponics was unexpected and our plan is to boost this part of the conference in future years.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation:
Alaska PDP now has a state advisory board that consists of:
Amy Pettit, AK Division of Agriculture
Ruby Hollembaek, Alaska Interior Game Ranch, Inc.
Susan Willsrud, Calypso Farm and Ecology Center
Daniel Consenstein, USDA/FSA
Robert Carter, Alaska Plant Materials Center
Pat Holloway, retired Georgeson Botanical Garden, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Steven Seefeldt, University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service
Darcy Etcheverry, University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service
The board met twice by teleconference to discuss broadly the educational needs for farmers and ranchers in AK and what this conference could do to address those needs as well as attract new farmers and ranchers. The members of the advisory board were selected for their outspokenness and their areas of expertise. With a little prompting after the initial polite suggestions, the teleconferences proved to be extremely useful in letting us know that we needed to think about sustainable agriculture as a goal for all farms and ranches in Alaska.