Colorado State Report
State SARE co-Coordinators:
Summary of 2015 PDP Activities and Results:
Colorado’s sustainable agriculture professional development supported four major programs:
(1) the CSU Extension and NRCS hosted the Soil Food Web Workshop; a training to improve diagnostic skills for agency staff relevant to soil health indicators. Participants learned about how to ID and document the soil food web and communicate soil health strategies with clients. Ten participants implemented 100% of these ID and soil health strategies for the soil food web with clients.
(2) Improving Stewardship Utilizing Pasture Establishment and Management Demonstration Plot; specifically designed to help landowners and managers understand and implement stewardship on the land.
(3) The Colorado State University Crops Clinic partnered with the Colorado Certified Crop Advisors and offered a total of 15 CCA credits. The conference provided opportunities to educate Certified Crop Advisors with the most current research technology. The reported economic benefit from this program was $2,429,700.
(4) CSU Extension held the First Annual Western Colorado Beef Cow Symposium with a total of 117 people in attendance focusing on Beef Industry Strategies were knowledge gained was on average over 90% for all participants. One travel scholarship was awarded to an Extension agent to attend the Western Region Professional Improvement Conference where his poster “Effects of Cropping Choices on Cover Crop Performance” was presented.
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 ongoing educational activities provided to agriculture professionals rather than have stand-alone activities. The target audience may be Extension, NRCS personnel and agriculture producers were we try to “widen our circle” as much as possible.
Activities and Methods:
A. We followed the same protocol as in the past. The state Western SARE PDP coordinator’s 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 20 - 25 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.
B. 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 “Western Colorado Beef Cow Symposium”. The table top display gave agriculture professional and producers an opportunity to ask questions and learn about Western SARE and viewers showed interest in the grant proposal process.
C. Colorado Western SARE provided scholarships to attend trainings and or give presentations at national meetings focused around sustainable agriculture.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products:
No materials funded by Western SARE were produced in 2015.
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills and Action:
Most changes are in the form of observation by the PDP coordinator 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, Soil Food Web Workshop, Improving Stewardship Utilizing Pasture Establishment and Management Hotchkiss Demonstration Plot, Colorado State University Crops Clinic, and the first annual Western Colorado Beef Cow Symposium. These events have evaluations attached and where very well received.
CSU Extension and NRCS hosted the Soil Food Web Workshop, a training in Northern Colorado to improve diagnostic skills for agency staff relevant to soil health indicators. Participants learned about how to ID and document the soil food web, novel ID methods, tools to use with clients and communicate soil health strategies with clients. Ten of the participants implemented 100% of these ID and soil health strategies for the soil food web with clients. Participants rated understanding of how to ID and document the soil food web before and after this workshop significantly improving their knowledge and understanding.
The Hotchkiss demonstration plot is specifically designed to help landowners and managers understand and implement stewardship on the land. This grass demonstration provides a hands-on visual approach allowing better understanding and increased exposure to what works best locally. Landowners in the Tri-River Area have voiced their desire for education and hands-on demonstrations related to irrigated and dryland pasture establishment, renovation, and management. On October 3, 2015, CSU Ext, USDA-NRCS, Delta Conservation District, Colorado Weed Management Association, Tamarisk Coalition, Shavano Conservation District, and others invited the public to an open house at their pasture grass demonstration site.
Landowners and land managers were treated to some one-on-one discussion with local experts on a variety of topics. Booths were staffed by specialists from local agencies, organizations, non-profits, and companies. These stations were spread out throughout the pasture plot and folks were encouraged to walk among the various grasses while visiting the different stations with their questions. Stations included irrigation, pastures and grazing, invasive weeds, soils and fertility, and pasture economics.
The informal open house provided opportunities for participants to gather information and practical advice about which adapted grasses will be adequately established, survive their specific climate, and outcompete invasive weeds in order to improve the quality of their land. Each booth was well stocked with a plethora of handouts and additional materials for participants to take home in their provided folder. It served as a location for real world observations and allowed attendees the chance to discuss their challenges and successes with one another.
During the Open House, more than 50 landowners attended. Participants gave positive feedback related to the Open House ‘experience’ and were enthusiastic about this type of event. The evaluations indicated that participants expected to save in excess of $40,000 by implementing new skills learned during the open house. This demonstrates that our efforts, put together by the cooperative work of all our partners, were very beneficial to the landowners. One landowner indicated that “increased pasture productivity will save money on feed in the long run.”
We had attendees drive more than an hour from locations as far away as Fruita, CO to attend. Participants indicated this event met their expectations and one reported “more knowledge gained in the last 2 hours than in the past 2 years”, and another said they “appreciated valid experts’ suggestions and recommendations”. Luckily many gave the event high reviews and attendees also suggested they “appreciated all the time and effort that each person put into the Open House.”
Funds provided by the Colorado Western SARE grant will enable us to continue to offer services to the public after the event is over. Plot signs have been installed and allow folks to participate in self-guided walking tours of the site for a majority of the growing season.
The 2015 Colorado State University Crops Clinic was held December 1 and 2 at Ft. Morgan, Colorado. CSU partnered with the Colorado Certified Crop Advisors and offered a total of 15 CCA credits. These credits are necessary for Certified Crop Advisors (CCA’s) to renew agronomy licenses. Evaluation results indicated that more than 400,000 acres were represented at the meeting with a $2.4 million impact from program information. Furthermore, information presented indicated 94% was useful to their operation and the benefit in terms of $/acre for this program delivered was 52% $2.50/acre, 28% $10/acre, 12% $20/acre, 2% $50/acre, 7% greater than $50/acre.
Colorado State University Extension held the first annual Western Colorado Beef Cow Symposium December 1, 2015 at the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction Barn in Loma, Colorado. The event and speakers were well received. There were a total of 117 people in attendance, which included 11 speakers and 10 committee members. The proceedings were recorded and posted on line at http://livestream.com/BarnMedia/events/4551183. The topics presented included and knowledge gained by topic were:
• Beef Industry Market Outlook and Update: 94%
• Larkspur and other Poisonous Plants: 97%
• High Altitude Calf Death Loss: 97%
• Does Cow Size Really Matter: 99%
• Learning from the Land (State and Transition Models): 97%
• Preventing and Handling Cattle Theft: 88%
• Sage Grouse Update: 97%
• Saving calves what works and what doesn’t! (Scours). 99%
The 2015 Western Region Professional Improvement Conference occurred the week of September 21st in Anchorage, Alaska. The poster at this conference was titled “Effects of Cropping Choices on Cover Crop Performance”. There were agricultural Extension Agents from 10 different states presenting scientific agricultural information at this meeting. In addition, the University of Alaska hosted participants at their Fairbanks Research Station and reviewed current research findings they had discovered. Interacting with these professionals gave the Extension agent insight into agricultural challenges, remedies, and educational strategies from other states. In addition, he had conversations with these peers regarding targeting underserved and diverse audiences.
Following is the reference for the presented poster:
1. Meyer, RF, G. Campfield, K. Franz, K. Gay, J. Stephen, F. Wedel. 2015. Effects of Cropping Choices on Cover Crop Performance. 14th Annual NACAA Western Region Professional Improvement Conference. Anchorage, Alaska.
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.
Unintended outcomes are also addressed in the above impacts and contributions.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation:
The primary advisory group we use is the members for the Small Farms/ Small Acreages, Food Systems and Livestock /Range Extension Work Teams. In addition, we have involved an NRCS and Colorado County Agents Association to review plans and provide input. 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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