SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Arizona
January 1 - December 31, 2013
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2013 state/protectorate PDP Activities and Results
Five Arizona Cooperative Extension professionals attended sustainable agriculture-related professional improvement activities during 2013. Conferences attended included the National Association of County Agricultural Agents annual meeting and professional improvement conference in Pittsburg, PA; the Annual Farm to Table Conference in Alamosa, CO; Western Section, American Society of Animal Science in Bozeman, MT; the Water, Food, Energy and Innovation annual meeting in Tampa, FL; and the National Extension Climate Science Initiative Conference in Cloquet, MN. Specific information is provided below. Each professional participated in sustainable agriculture-related events during the individual meetings. Agents are better able to communicate and share sustainable agriculture concepts with clientele. In addition, one regional meeting brought Extension and other agriculture professionals together with producers to discuss and learn about direct farm marketing in Central Arizona. Extension professionals are better able to understand concepts of sustainable agriculture and how to apply those in their educational programs.
Context and Overview
The Arizona Sustainable Agriculture Professional Development Program (PDP) strives to help Extension, NRCS, and non-governmental agriculture professionals understand and better 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 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 29 Extension agents and 62 specialists in various capacities to learn sustainable agriculture concepts.
Professional development efforts are focused upon current interests and needs of the target audiences. Water conservation, heat stress management, production strategies and budget are areas of concern in both plant and animals systems. Recently, infrastructure of sustainable systems have become of interest. The production of new products is also important. Cooperative Extension and NRCS, together and separately, have primary responsibility to help clientele learn agricultural sustainability in arid lands.
Activities and Methods
The following goals were set for the 2013 calendar year:
- Focus on the basic principles of sustainable agriculture
- See sustainable agriculture in practice in Arizona and in other areas
- Encourage applications for SARE grants and other funding opportunities
- Work with non-governmental organizations
Grant funds were expended in calendar year 2013 to support PDP programs. Cooperative Extension agents were encouraged to attend conferences and seminars that focused on sustainable agriculture principles and travel grants helped defray travel costs. Efforts were made to reach out to Extension personnel, non-governmental organizations and producers to work on common sustainable agriculture issues. The state coordinator attended the annual Western SARE state coordinators training conference in Davis, CA. A regional meeting hosted by Extension agent Everett Rhodes (Pinal County) focused on the development of extended direct marketing infrastructure in Central Arizona. Topics included an update on the central Arizona Beginning Farmer project and business management topics. Thirty-two small farm operators attended. At least one has begun to market produce from their local production operation.
Travel Scholarships Granted
Jim Sprinkle Western Section, American Society of Animal Science, Bozeman, MT, June 2013
Everett Rhodes Annual Farm to Table Conference, Alamosa, CO, July 2013
Rick Gibson National Association of County Agricultural Agents Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference, Galaxy, Pittsburg, PA, September 2013
Melanie Lenart National Extension Climate Science Initiative Conference, Cloquet, MN, October 2013
Shawna Loper Water, Food, Energy and Innovation conference, Tampa, FL November, 2013
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products
None were developed during the year.
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Intention and Action
Agents attending sustainable agriculture-related conferences replied through written reports that they have a better understanding of sustainable agriculture concepts after participating in their respective seminars, conferences and tours. They report that their knowledge helps them better understand the needs of their clientele. It also helps them develop projects and programs to assist clientele. By written survey, all rated the overall learning opportunity as above average.
A review of the Annual Performance Reviews of Arizona Extension agricultural professionals indicated ten of twenty-eight agriculture/natural resources Extension agents and one specialist reported results from sustainable agriculture related programs during 2013. Other agents are involved with sustainable agriculture projects but did not include them in their APR. Extension programs are reported in water management, small farm sustainability, range cattle health, and other areas. One agent has taken leadership in developing food safety programs for vegetable producers, including concepts that are applicable to local foods producers. Other projects reported indicate an increasing effort in Arizona to include sustainable practices in agricultural outreach programs.
Cooperative Extension agents participating in travel grants have begun to synergize among themselves by interacting to a greater level, exchanging ideas and concepts learned from their experiences and planning for the future. Two agents have indicated interest in applying for the SARE Fellows program in 2014, a first for Arizona.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation
The Arizona Sustainable Agriculture Advisory Committee provides input and direction to sustainable agriculture professional development programs. The committee is comprised of two county Extension agents working in sustainable agriculture and a local foods producer. In 2013, there was no formal meeting. However, committee members did provide program input with verbal, individual feedback. Extension professionals continue to say that the travel grants are a valuable resource and should be continued.