SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Alaska
January 1 – December 31, 2013
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2013 state/protectorate PDP Activities and Results
From March 12 to 14, 2013 we organized a statewide sustainable agriculture conference in Fairbanks, AK. We covered travel and expenses for the Agriculture and Horticulture Extension Agents in AK so that they could attend and give presentations at the conference. Funds from the grant were also used to fund a statewide SARE newsletter.
Over 120 people from throughout the state attended the conference, and there was representation from USDA, the AK Division of Agriculture, AK Soil and Water Conservation Districts, AK Department of Transportation, many farmers, and many people interested in sustainable agriculture. Agriculture and Horticulture Extension agents were able to meet and discuss how we could work better together to address client needs throughout Alaska.
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, AK 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 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 2013, PDP funds were given to support Extension agents and personnel 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. One extension person was funded to travel to the Western SARE Professional Development summer meeting in California. Travel scholarships were given to Extension agents from around AK to attend the 2013 Sustainable Agriculture Conference and Workshop in Fairbanks, AK. Funds were also given to support travel of two speakers, Billy Kniffen from Texas and Don Bustos from New Mexico. The workshops were focused on water collection and irrigation systems and low-cost sustainable farming methods.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products
Sustainable Agriculture for Alaska Quarterly Newsletter. The publication is mailed to well over 500 individuals with federal agencies (NRCS, FSA), state agencies (Division of Agriculture, Plant Material Center), university personnel (CES, SNRAS), and interested individuals and producers.
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 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 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, Intention and Action
There were 27 University of Alaska CES and SNRAS employees and students, 11 USDA and SWCD employees and 11 Alaska Division of Agriculture employees that attended the 2013 Annual Statewide Sustainable Agriculture Conference.
Results from the 2013 evaluation forms recorded that 49% of the individuals that had attended past a 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:
- Cultivar changes, composting and soil management
- Moved to a stronger organic but definitely long-term sustainable. Also expanded our products and farm more acreages.
- Changed sanitation procedures in cheese-making
- Tools used, planting techniques, business plans
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:
- Composting info and mushroom growing
- Farm-to-school mini grants
- We give SARE updates every year to our wellness coalition
Because this is my first year at the position and we have new staff, I do not have any information on unintended outcomes from meetings earlier than 2013.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation
Alaska now has a SARE PDP advisory committee that was established in 2013. We met on the phone once and by email in 2013 in preparation for the 2014 Sustainable Agriculture Conference. The members of the advisory committee are:
A. Amy Pettit – Marketing Manager, Alaska Division of Ag., Anchorage, AK
B. Susan Willsrud – Co-owner, Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Ester, AK
C. Danny Consenstein – Director, USDA, AK Farm Service Agency
D. Dr. Pat Holloway – Director Georgeson Botanic Gardens, University of Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK
E. Ruby Hollembaek – Co-owner, AK Interior Game Ranch, Delta Junction, AK
F. Peggy Hunt – Plant Materials Center, AK Division of Agriculture, Palmer, AK