Colorado 2011 Activity Report
SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Colorado
January 1 - December 31, 2011
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2011 PDP Activities and Results
In 2011, 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 on the western slope of Colorado. It was to be sponsored jointly by Western SARE and the Colorado County Agents Association (CCAA). A comparable conference was held in November 2010 on the eastern side of Colorado (city of Pueblo). In early fall 2011, the leadership of CCAA made a decision to postpone the PIC until fall 2012 but did not inform the state PDP coordinator in a timely manner. When he discovered this change of plan, he immediately communicated with some fellow Extension colleagues in an effort to arrange some other educational activities since the end of the project year was fast approaching. We determined a Colorado Producer Labor Focus Group meeting could fill a need, as would support for the Colorado Agriculture Big & Small Conference.
Fortunately, we were able to accomplish both of these efforts; unfortunately, they both occurred in early 2012 but the results are being included in this 2011 report due to these unforeseen circumstances.
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:
Activities and Methods
A. The state Western SARE PDP coordinator fielded an increased number of phone calls and emails from the public asking questions about Western SARE and especially the grant process. He reviewed approximately five full proposals prior to their submission in fall 2011 and answered approximately 25-30 phone calls and emails about the Western SARE program. This was a significant increase from previous years. In most instances he was able to be encouraging to the PI, while in other situations he 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 there will be no grant funds forthcoming if they do not submit a proposal. After reflecting on that for a while, they often decided 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 a first-rate proposal meeting established guidelines.
B. A second effort was the establishment of two facilitated agricultural producer “labor” focus groups to: 1) have CSU Extension (CSUE) gain a better understanding of the labor issues Colorado producers are facing, 2) have the producers better understand the labor issues their peers are facing, and 3) determine CSUE’s opportunity for providing educational programming to address key elements of the identified labor issues. Originally, the groups were to meet in Grand Junction and Longmont, Colorado, but lack of producer interest cancelled the Grand Junction meeting.
Download a summary of the Focus Group effort:
It includes the invitation to producers and a summary of the discussions. A more detailed analysis and future educational planning will be conducted in March 2012.
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).” (Conference website) Due to the late nature of our Western SARE financial support becoming available, Western SARE was not featured on the website or in promotional literature. However, there was considerable 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.
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.
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. Generally, we utilize email more than anything else to communicate since face-to-face meetings are often not feasible.
Colorado will host the SARE Fellows group seminar May 14-17, 2012. Involvement in this effort will include numerous ag professionals and Extension faculty.