Colorado State Report
State SARE co-Coordinators:
Summary of 2014 PDP Activities and Results:
In 2014, Colorado’s sustainable agriculture professional development program sponsored the Colorado County Agents Association Professional Improvement Conference for Extension faculty/Agents and NRCS where 18 professionals gained knowledge and awareness of sustainable agriculture. The CSU Soil Health Tour significantly impacted 11 agriculture professionals by increasing awareness and knowledge of methods of enhancing soils through no-till farming and rotational cropping systems. The Soil Conservation Program Farm Tours trained and allowed professionals to work with their communities and produce six workshops in Adams, Eagle, Jefferson, Montezuma, Pitkin, and Routt Counties, impacting 220 land managers. Evaluations revealed participants are expected to save a total of $81,400 over the next 10 years. The “Ranching and a West that Works” held at Colorado State University program reached Extension, NRCS, University faculty across the Western Region, and ranchers. Livestock and Range program featuring Rangeland Seeding and Beef Quality Assurance Training was held over until spring of 2015.
Context and Overview:
Colorado’s sustainable agriculture professional development program has a long history which began in 1988 with the first training provided for Extension professionals in the concepts and principles of sustainable agriculture as they were known at that time. Recently, CSU Extension tweaked their program and reporting system, defining work teams in a Planning & Reporting Unit (PRU). These areas have similar goals as Western SARE: Food Systems, Natural Resources, Livestock & Range, Environmental Horticulture, and Cropping Systems. This makes all our efforts in this regard quite compatible and avoids duplication of effort.
Hence, we find it difficult at times to separate our Western SARE professional development activities from ongoing educational efforts supported by Extension. With budget constraints in Colorado, we take advantage of on-going educational activities provided to agriculture professionals rather than have stand-alone activities. While the target audience may be Extension and NRCS personnel and agriculture producers, in attendance we try to “widen our circle” as much as possible.
Small acreage management is a major concern all across the state, but especially along the Front Range corridor extending from Wyoming to New Mexico. Many Extension agents and Ag professionals working in this arena are collaborating in educating landowners about using sustainability principles.
Activities and Methods:
We followed the same protocol as in the past. The state Western SARE PDP coordinators field phone calls and emails from the public asking questions about Western SARE and especially the grant process. Discussion of proposals by phone and email are the primary form of communication with clientele. We answered approximately 10 - 15 phone calls and emails about the Western SARE program. In most instances, we encouraged the PI, while in other situations told the PI their proposal may not fit within the goals and guidelines of the Western SARE grants process, but not till after checking with appropriate SARE personnel. A common theme was to tell potential PIs there will be no grant funds forthcoming if they do not submit a proposal. They often decide to proceed with their proposal submission. An overall impression from visiting with these folks is they do not comprehend the competitive nature of the process and the need for them to have first-rate proposals.
The PDP coordinator presented a Western SARE tabletop display this year and distributed numerous fact sheets and information about the SARE program at Colorado State University program “Ranching and a West that Works.” The table top display gave faculty and Extension an opportunity to ask questions and learn about Western SARE and viewers showed interest in the grant proposal process.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products:
No materials funded by Western SARE were produced in 2014.
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills, and Action:
Most changes are in the form of observation by the PDP coordinators pertaining to the interest and expertise demonstrated by these agriculture professionals. Particularly noteworthy is the increased numbers of grant proposals to Western SARE, and secondly, the pursuit of other grant options such as Risk Management Education, Rural Development, and USDA. Recent success by these individuals means their level of expertise has improved and hopefully, Western SARE can take credit for some of that knowledge gain.
Detailed feedback is shared with the four major events which were evaluated; namely, Colorado County Agents Extension Professional Improvement Conference, CSU Soil Health Tour, Soil Conservation Program Farm Tours, and “Ranching and a West that Works” held at Colorado State University program.These events have evaluations attached and where very well received.
Colorado County Agents Extension Professional Improvement Conference indicated knowledge gained and implementation of any of the ideas given were 94.44 % of 18 individuals. The CSU Soil Health Tour significantly impacted 11 agriculture indicated by a pre and post-test. These professionals’ increased awareness and knowledge of methods of enhancing soils through no-till farming and rotational cropping systems. It increased knowledge of the differences in Colorado's dryland and irrigated farming systems and their limitations and increased knowledge of the benefits and liabilities of using cover crops for enhancing soil quality and productivity. After attending this tour many plan to change the way to manage soil with new knowledge of the topic, with 91% saying yes. After attending this tour many will recommend changes to crop, fruit, vegetable, or specialty crop producers, with 91% saying yes. Soil Conservation Program Farm Tours received an additional $5,500 funding from Western SARE and implemented six more farm tour workshops in Adams, Eagle, Jefferson, Montezuma, Pitkin, and Routt Counties. In total, these educational workshops impacted 220 land managers. Evaluations revealed that as a result, participants expect to save a total of $81,400 over the next 10 years.
The Soil Conservation Program utilized blended learning, incorporating online webinars and in person workshops. The farm tours included some lecture but focused on experiential learning, learning by doing and seeing, and offered a setting for networking and peer discussion. A participant noted, “The conversations were invaluable between participants and presenters within the group.” An on-site soil pit at each workshop allowed participants a deep (literally) look at soils. These workshops provided a unique experiential learning opportunity.
Ranching and a West that Works” held at Colorado State University program increased knowledge of the ranching business by 81.82% from 18 Responses. Sixteen people responding did learn new land management concepts during this conference.
The Soil Conservation Program tours and the Soil Health Program created momentum for future farm tour workshops, with tours in Arapahoe and Weld Counties in the planning stages for 2015. The recorded webinars will remain available for viewing on the Small Acreage Management website as long-lasting educational tools.
In addition, the multi-state, multi-agency team who planned the Larimer County workshop is continuing to work together and has applied for a 2015 Western SARE grant to study the impacts of grazing frequency and intensity on soil and grass health.
The results of the project also contributed to environmental sustainability. Soil erosion by wind and water has serious environmental and economic impacts in Colorado. This program demonstrated how to implement sustainable soil erosion reduction practices such as proper grazing techniques, tree planting, and grass seeding. Participants were asked on their evaluations to “list any actions you plan on taking on your property as a result of the farm tour.” Answers included, “Less watering,” “Manage weeds, manage grazing, get soil tested,” and “I think incorporating better management practices will help us increase our yields and potential.”
When we look at the summary of our statewide outreach efforts in sustaining agriculture, it is important to note that Western SARE is only a small portion of these ongoing efforts. The philosophical change of Extension being driven from the local level has generated more need for Extension Agent education in a broader sense. The locally driven model focuses more on needs approach of programming and has merit particularly when local stakeholder input is asking for a broader variety of agriculture based issues. In the near future, it could be that our Colorado State University Extension will more closely align with Experiment Station, the College of Agricultural Sciences, and the Colorado State Forest Service.
Due to weather conditions this program was moved to the following spring: The Livestock and Range program featuring Rangeland Seeding and Beef Quality Assurance Training will be held spring of 2015. The program sponsored by SARE will be held at the Shortgrass Steppe Research & Interpretation Center (SGRC) located on the Central Plains Experimental Range. Lodging accommodations at the SGRC dormitories are available at no cost to participants in the training program in April 2015.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation:
The primary advisory groups we use are the members for the Small Farms/ Small Acreages and Livestock /Range Extension Work Teams. In addition, we have involved an NRCS and Colorado County Agents Association to review plans and provide input. These individuals are the officer team for the Colorado County Agents Association. Many of the committee members gather at the events held to talk about future needs, but the development of a functioning advisory board is the direction for this coming fiscal year. Generally, we utilize email more than anything else to communicate since face-to-face meetings are expensive.
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