State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2015 Arizona PDP Activities and Results:
Five travel scholarships assisting five Extension professionals defrayed travel costs to a wide variety of sustainable agriculture related meetings during 2015. Those professionals attending sustainable agriculture meetings reported that participation in these events helped them better understand sustainable agriculture techniques and increased their ability to communicate with clientele.
Reference materials were purchased from SARE and distributed to specific stakeholder groups. Sustainable agriculture-related projects were supported and encouraged. Two publications with sustainable agriculture interest were published. Other meetings not sponsored by Arizona SARE funds were attended by the state coordinators and educational materials were disbursed.
Participants in learning experiences report a greater understanding of sustainable agriculture concepts and an increased ability to communicate those concepts with others.
Context and Overview:
The Arizona sustainable agriculture professional development program (PDP) strives to help Extension, NRCS, and non-governmental agricultural education professionals understand and apply the principles of economic viability, environmental safety, and public awareness in the production and marketing of food, energy and fiber products. The Arizona PDP focuses on SARE goals and programs. The PDP program also encourages professionals to conduct research and education programs that will help build sustainable agricultural systems in Arizona.
Cooperative Extension, a vital part of The University of Arizona’s land grant mission, interacts with state and federal employees, producers, industry representatives, and non-governmental organizations to extend new knowledge and understanding in agricultural production techniques. Currently, the Arizona PDP focuses on helping Cooperative Extension agents, specialists, department heads with Extension appointments, and administrators learn sustainable agriculture concepts.
Professional development efforts are generally focused upon current interests and needs of Extension professionals. Water conservation, heat stress management, production strategies, and budgeting are areas of concern in both plant and animal systems. Marketing is also a major area of concern. Cooperative Extension and NRCS have primary responsibility to help clientele learn agricultural sustainability in arid lands.
Activities and Methods:
The following goals were set for the 2015 program year:
- Fund six travel grants allowing Arizona Cooperative Extension professionals to attend sustainable agriculture conferences
- Conduct two sustainable agriculture-related workshops or seminars
- Create or update one Extension bulletin
- Encourage the development and implementation of sustainable agriculture research and educational programs in Arizona
- Support the Arizona Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Committee
Activities during 2015 included:
- Cooperative Extension agents were encouraged to attend conferences and seminars that focused on sustainable agriculture principles.
- Five travel grants were awarded to Extension personnel to assist in defraying travel costs. Each recipient filed a report describing how the event increased their learning.
- Extension professionals were encouraged to apply for Western SARE grants to support their own sustainable agriculture projects.
- Efforts were made to reach out to Extension personnel, non-governmental organizations, and producers to work on common sustainable agriculture issues.
- Two regional professional development meetings encouraged by the SARE-AZ team were conducted by Extension personnel and one was supported fiscally by the Arizona Professional Development Program.
- SARE educational materials purchased with grant dollars were used to promote sustainable agriculture learning activities and visibility.
- One sustainable agriculture-related Extension bulletin, encouraged by the SARE-AZ team, was published by Extension personnel.
- Extension-envisioned projects with ties to sustainable agriculture have been supported and encouraged by program coordinators.
- Stacey Bealmear-Jones attended the 2015 annual WSARE state coordinators training conference in Durango, Colorado.
- A meeting of the Arizona Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Committee was held to discuss programs. Frequent conversations were conducted via email.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products:
Working with Non-Profit Organizations-Cooperative Extension’s Opportunity to Expand Its Reach. Apel, Mark and Peter L. Warren. 2014. Arizona Cooperative Extension. Published. Publication was suggested and encouraged by the state PDP coordinators and a reference was promised in the previous annual report when the final citation was published.
Using Scenario Planning to Prepare for Uncertainty Planning in Rural Watersheds. Kelly Mott Lacroix, Ashley Hullinger, Mark Apel, Kathryn Banister, Bill Brandau, and Sharon B. Megdal. January 2016. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Arizona. Two agents worked on the project to address planning for sustainable water resources.
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills and Action:
Ten Extension professionals attended a variety of sustainable agriculture related meetings. Scholarships granted included:
- Stacey Bealmear, National Association of County Agricultural Agents annual meeting and professional improvement conference (NACAA), Sioux Falls, SD, July 12-16, 2015
- Jeff Schalau, National Association of County Agricultural Agents annual meeting and professional improvement conference (NACAA), Sioux Falls, SD, July 12-16, 2015
- Rick Gibson, National Association of County Agricultural Agents annual meeting and professional improvement conference (NACAA), Sioux Falls, SD, July 12-16, 2015
- Dametreea Carr, Center Produce Safety 2015 Produce Research Symposium, Atlanta, GA, June 23 – 24, 2015
- Natalie Brassill, Center Produce Safety 2015 Produce Research Symposium, Atlanta, GA, June 23 – 24, 2015
- Chris Jones, Extension Sustainability Summit, Portland, OR, 2015
Grants are only given when the applicant has demonstrated by written application that the expected learning during the conference will relate to sustainable agriculture. By written report, all recipients indicated a better understanding of sustainable agriculture concepts after participation. They reported that their knowledge helps them 1) better understand the needs of their clientele and 2) better develop projects and programs tailored to meet local needs. All rated the learning opportunity as useful to their programs.
SARE PDP Workshops and Seminars
While no workshops specifically tied to sustainable agriculture programming were held during 2015, there has been significant progress made in several areas in working with locally grown producers and food systems. In an attempt to lessen the effects of identified “food deserts” in Arizona, Cooperative Extension is focusing on educational series targeting beginning farmers in several locations throughout the state.
For example, Yavapai County Cooperative Extension has offered a series of Beginning Farmer Workshops in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The location of the course alters between the two population centers: 1) the Prescott area and 2) the Verde Valley. Much of the classroom instruction has been presented by campus-based specialists, Russ Tronstad, Ursula Schuch and Trent Teegerstrom. Hands-on activities included soil texture by feel, pH, and salinity testing. Each beginning farmer class had an average of 24 participants. Topics covered were business/crop planning, hoop house construction/siting, plant nutrition, irrigation, soils, composting, and marketing. Local growers and a farmer's market manager also have presented to attendees and Whipstone Farms in Paulden has hosted tours for the participants. In 2013, the class constructed a 100-foot-long hoop house. Kurt Nolte has also taught two GHP/GAP courses in the last three years in Yavapai County. Yavapai County hopes to continue these classes every year with the intent of creating a broad-based program devoted to small acreage education. Similar results have been seen in Pinal, Maricopa, and other counties. These projects are due in part to the outcomes of previous SARE Professional Development Program travel grants and conference participation.
Two separate projects in both Maricopa and Pinal Counties are focusing on the potential for creating a “food hub” in each area. Producers are working with Extension and other stakeholders to envision and create aggregation centers for local distribution of food materials grown with the areas of focus. Both projects are in the needs assessment creation state with feasibility studies pending. If support exists to move forward with the projects, the individual teams will apply for implementation grants from the US Department of Agriculture. Agents interested in these projects are past recipients of travel grants and other PDP programs. In Pinal County, there is interest in bringing school and community garden representatives into the planning phases as full partners, which creates an entirely new target audience.
- Stacey Bealmear, Western Region State Coordinator Meeting, CO
- None were identified
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation:
Extension professionals currently compose the membership of the advisory committee and take the lead with consultation with the state coordinators to determine travel grant appointments and other program applications and outcomes. Additional members will be added during 2016.