Colorado State Report
SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Colorado
January 1 - December 31, 2013
State SARE co-Coordinators:
Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Colorado State University
Campus Delivery 1173
Fort Collins CO 80523
Summary of 2013 PDP Activities and Results
In 2013, we anticipated using the bulk of our financial resources to sponsor and host a Western Region Extension Professional Improvement Conference (PIC) for 34 Colorado Extension faculty/agents, NRCS and the Colorado Department of Agriculture to be held in Fort Collins, Colorado. It was sponsored jointly by Western SARE and the Colorado County Agents Association (CCAA) and was open to the Natural Resource Conservation Service and other interested parties. We also supported a Colorado Agriculture Big & Small Conference, which had a significant impact on Front Range small scale agriculture farming. These programs were evaluated and had significant impact on the attendees. We carried over a significant portion of the funds to be used for “Ranching and a West that Works” on April 24-25, 2014 at the Lory Student Center Theater, Colorado State University. The program reaches Extension, NRCS, University faculty across the Western Region, and beginning and seasoned ranchers.
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 in some cases may be agriculture producers, Extension and NRCS personnel in attendance as we try to “widen our circle” as much as possible.
Small acreage management (SAM) is a major concern all across the state, but especially along the Front Range corridor extending from Wyoming to New Mexico. Many Extension agents, specialists and other ag professionals (especially NRCS and Conservation District personnel) working in this arena are collaborating in educating landowners about resource management using sustainability principles. Videos in this regard are now available on the Extension website.
Here are some additional relevant web sites for Colorado sustainable ag and related efforts:
Colorado PDP site
Colorado Extension site
Colorado NRCS State Office
Colorado Department of Agriculture
SW Marketing Network site
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. A common theme was to tell potential PIs that 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.
Ongoing financial support for the annual Colorado Agriculture Big & Small Conference, which was held February 13-14, 2013, in Brighton, CO, is an opportunity to raise awareness about Western SARE and the grant opportunities available through it. The mission of the conference is to “provide ag producers, land managers, ag professionals, input suppliers and other stakeholders with an opportunity for education, networking and community development to meet their goals of sustainability (environmental, economic and social).” There was signage about Western SARE as a “Platinum” sponsor at the event itself.
The PDP coordinator has presented a Western SARE tabletop display each year and distributes numerous fact sheets and information about the SARE program. At Colorado State University Annual Forum November 2013, the table top display gave faculty and Extension an opportunity to ask questions and learn about Western SARE at the “Share Fair.” Over 100 individuals viewed the materials and were interested in the grant proposal process.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products
No materials funded by Western SARE were produced in 2013.
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 three major events which were evaluated; namely, Western Region Extension Professional Improvement Conference and the Big & Small Conference. These events have evaluations that are available from Western SARE PDP or the Colorado PDP Co-coordinators. The “Ranching and a West that Works” conference evaluation will be forthcoming.
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 top down driven model which focused more on using a shotgun approach of programming still has merit when needed, but 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 administration will dictate we more closely align with Experiment Station and the College of Agricultural Sciences. When this occurs there may be a shift in resources completely towards Western SARE funding directed towards more local programming and education in the future.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation
The primary advisory group we use is the members for the Small Farms and Small Acreages Extension Work Teams under the PRU of Food Systems. They are mostly Extension agents and specialists, and we currently have about 20 or so faculty reporting against this plan of work. 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.
Resources for marketing possibilities and strategies