Colorado State Report
SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Colorado
January 1 - December 31, 2012
State SARE Coordinator:
Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Colorado State University
Campus Delivery 1173
Fort Collins CO 80523
Summary of 2012 PDP Activities and Results
In 2012, we anticipated using the bulk of our financial resources to sponsor and host a Professional Improvement Conference (PIC) for Colorado Extension faculty to be held in Grand Junction on the western slope of 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 hosted the Fellowship program and toured the Front Range and Northeastern Colorado. We also supported a conference which had a significant impact on Front Range small scale agriculture farming known as the Colorado Agriculture Big & Small Conference. All these programs where evaluated and had significant impact on the attendees.
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. More recently, CSU Extension has a new Work Team (WT) titled “Small Farms and Specialty Crops” and a second one titled “Small Acreage Management” which, in many respects, are focusing on the goals of Western SARE. 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. Due to budget constraints in Colorado, we try to take advantage of ongoing educational activities provided to ag professionals rather than have stand-alone activities. While the target audience in some cases may be ag producers, Extension and NRCS personnel in attendance may, although indirectly, absorb as much information and training as the targeted participants.
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 web site.
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
A. We followed the same protocol as in the past. The state Western SARE PDP coordinator fielded phone calls and emails from the public asking questions about Western SARE, and especially the grant process. Reviewed approximately two full proposals prior to their submission in fall 2012 and answered approximately 15-20 phone calls and emails about the Western SARE program. In most instances, we encouraged the PI, while in other situations we told the PI that their proposal may not fit within the goals and guidelines of the Western SARE grants process. 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. Below is a brief synopsis of the hosted Fellows tour, and I especially wish to note the many contributions of my colleagues as we planned and executed the actual tours. It was because of their outstanding relationships with the producers that we were able to assemble such a varied mixture of agricultural enterprises which we pleased to showcase.
After numerous meetings and correspondence by the planning group, a booklet was prepared and posted on the Western SARE website in early May 2012 so anyone interested could observe the purpose and intent of the SARE Fellows program in addition to the specifics of the Colorado tour.
Approximately two weeks prior to coming to Colorado, the Fellows were sent an electronic survey for them to complete. The purpose was for us to get a better understanding of their knowledge of sustainable agriculture principles and agriculture in the West. The replies we received from the eight Fellows.
After the Fellows returned home and had opportunity to reflect on their observations in Colorado, they were sent another survey. The results.
Overall, we were quite pleased with the results.
C. Ongoing financial support for the annual Colorado Agriculture Big & Small Conference, which was held February 15-16, 2012, 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.” Due to the late nature of our Western SARE financial support becoming available, Western SARE was not featured on the web site or in promotional literature, but please note the Western SARE was given credit this year at the February 13-14, 2013 Big & Small Conference. There was signage about Western SARE as a “Platinum” sponsor at the event itself for both years.
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 in November 2012, the table top display gave faculty and Extension an opportunity to ask questions and learn about Western SARE at the “Share Fair,” where 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 2012.
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 ag 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. It appears these professionals are “getting their feet wet” with Western SARE proposals, and then pursuing other grants which may or may not be more rigorous. 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.
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. In the near future, it could be that our Colorado State University administration will dictate we more closely align with CSU research efforts, especially in the College of Agricultural Sciences. When this occurs there will be a shift in resources completely towards Western SARE funding directed towards 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. They are mostly Extension agents and specialists, and we currently have about 20 or so faculty reporting against these Work Teams. In addition, we have involved an NRCS individual (Boyd Byelich) and a Colorado State Forest Service employee (Greg Sundstrom) to review plans and provide input. Many of the committee members gathered at the recent Big & Small Conference, as well as the CCAA Professional Development Conference in Grand Junction. Generally, we utilize email more than anything else to communicate since face-to-face meetings are often not feasible.
Resources for marketing possibilities and strategies