SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Idaho
January 1 - December 31, 2011
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2011 PDP Activities and Results
In 2011, Idaho’s sustainable agriculture professional development focus was on enhancing extension educators’ capacity for programming in sustainable agriculture. We did this by funding five mini-grants to Idaho extension educators. One educator was awarded travel funds and four received funding for research and educational projects. Individual projects focused on soil mineralization studies and workshops, compost production and utilization demonstration, and soil building workshops.
Three extension educators who reported on their mini-grant projects indicated an additional involvement of over 40 extension, state agencies and agricultural crop advisors who assisted with the project, attended a presentation they gave on their research project or attended one of the events held. Each expanded on what they had originally planned to do and leveraged the small amount of Western SARE funds with other grants to expand the outreach efforts.
Context and Overview
Sustainable agriculture in Idaho is a collaborative and multidisciplinary effort. College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty in research and extension are collaborating with other faculty, producers, non-profit organizations and agricultural and environmental agencies to address those challenging problems facing Idaho agriculture today. The focus of our work in sustainable agriculture is to help Idaho producers improve agricultural productivity and economic return while preserving their natural resources. Some of our current areas of focus for Idaho are Conserving Natural Resources; Small Acreage Farming; Alternatives for Pest Management; Sustainable Grazing Systems; and Biodiesel Fuels. You can read more about these and other projects at our Idaho Sustainable Agriculture web site.
Our focus in Idaho SARE PDP has been to distribute information and provide financial support to our agricultural professionals to participate in a variety of educational opportunities related to sustainable agriculture. In 2011, we started a three-year plan to fund state mini-grants to extension educators to support their research, demonstration and programming efforts related to sustainable agriculture. The goals are: 1) to enhance the understanding and applications of sustainability in agriculture and 2) to build professional expertise and capacity to address the concerns of farmers and others.
Activities and Methods
Mini grant funded projects
Idaho SARE agreed to fund five sustainable agriculture related educational projects; one was not completed, but planned for the coming year. Topics included soil mineralization studies and workshops, compost production and utilization demonstration, and soil improvement workshops.
Soil Mineralization study and outreach
Three extension educators conducting soil mineralization studies reported on their research at seven events to growers, extension educators and agronomy professionals. They provided printed materials to participants who attended the Sustainable Soil Workshop. Over 100 soil samples were analyzed and used for dairy compost soil management research and outreach efforts. A Grower Summary Report was developed from dairy compost research results. They extended their outreach to other ag professionals through a presentation at the Western Regional NACAA meeting.
Digging Deeper: Building Soils for Better Crops workshop series
An advanced level three-part educational series ‘Digging Deeper’ focusing on soil management for sustainable production was attended by over 50 participants. Topics included: 1) soil physical and chemical properties and the influence of management practices on soil health; 2) cover crop species choices and establishment; and 3) sustainable pasture management. Resource materials for each topic were provided to attendees at a reduced cost through the use of mini-grant funds, including two SARE publications, Building Soils for Better Crops and Managing Cover Crops Profitably.
The ‘Digging Deeper’ series attracted a wide audience, including beginning and established producers from both small acreage and conventional, large-scale operations. Several agricultural professionals, whose job involves helping farmers and ranchers attended as well, including five county extension faculty, two university faculty, one ARS scientist, one Idaho State Dept. of Agriculture and at least six commercial field men.
Other Idaho SARE activities
Idaho SARE funds helped to support the participation of Gail Feenstra, UC Davis, Food Analyst, at the UI President’s Sustainability Forum on the University of Idaho campus in Moscow. This was the first year that this event included a food related track, and Gail was an excellent addition to address issues of food systems and community food system assessments. This event was attended by over 50 UI faculty, students, producers and interested community members.
The Idaho SARE PDP Coordinator continued efforts to distribute information about sustainable agriculture, SARE and SARE grant opportunities. SARE publications are regularly distributed to extension educators and farmers at meetings, workshops and classes. Over 300 publications have been distributed at various events and in classes.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products
No publications/products submitted this year
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills and Action
We continue to see more and more involvement of our extension educators in sustainable agriculture activities. This year participation in one or more of the mini-grant projects involved nine Idaho Extension Educators. Participation in the educational outreach related to their programs involved another 10 Extension educators and numerous NRCS, field men and agricultural agency representatives.
Mini grant surveys indicated
Evaluations from the Soil Mineralization study and presentation involved a series of knowledge gain questions related to dairy compost and soil nutrients with the average before and after rating from participants. Respondent’s level of knowledge on the following topics increased an average of 1.7 (on a 5 point scale) from before to after the presentation:
- Nutrient availability from dairy compost in a high-elevation environment
- Ability to estimate application rate of dairy compost for P & K in a high-elevation environment
- Ability to build-up soil residual nutrients from dairy compost
- Variability in compost nutrient content
Lessons learned by project team:
- A 5 ton/acre application rate is optimal when managing for P.
- A 10 ton/acre application rate is ideal when managing for K.
- Dairy compost has an economic nutrient value for both organic and conventional growers, but users should pay close attention to compost source and variability that might exist in nutrient content.
- Participants really enjoyed the hands-on soil approach more than power point presentations.
Evaluations from the advanced level ‘Digging Deeper’ soil workshop series indicated a considerable increase in knowledge and understanding by most participants during all series sessions. Some of the specific indicators of change in practices include:
- 85% of participants indicated that they were at least moderately likely to do all of the following after attending the pasture management workshop:
- Use knowledge in pasture management decisions
- Develop goals for pasture improvement
- Assess and/or monitor pasture quality
- Consider use of on-farm trials for assessing pasture improvement
- Consider the implementation of rotational grazing
- Over 90% of participants indicated that they were at least moderately likely to do all of the following after attending the cover crop management workshop:
- Use knowledge in soil management decisions
- Incorporate cover crops into a soil management regime
- Assess and/or monitor soil quality
- Consider use of on-farm trials for assessing feasibility of cover crop usage
- Over 94% of participants indicated that they were at least moderately likely to do all of the following after attending the building soils workshop:
- Use knowledge in soil management decisions
- Develop goals for soil improvement
- Assess and/or monitor soil quality
- Consider use of on-farm trials for assessing soil improvement
The advanced soil workshop series that was made available through the use of the SARE mini-grant funds furthered the knowledge and understanding of participants and facilitators alike. Specific educational content, as well as organizational, facilitation, and collaboration knowledge and understanding increases will be used in many additional program efforts by University of Idaho Extension Educators.
All educators completing Western SARE Outreach Surveys indicated improved awareness, new knowledge, new skills and modified attitudes due to participation in the event. All educators will use aspects of the project in educational programs, make the information available to producers and have improved the advice given to producers because of their involvement. Another 200 people will reap the benefit from these activities in the coming year.
Additional changes in knowledge, skills and action
This past year showed continued involvement of Idaho Extension Educators in SARE grant activity, with a team of six Extension faculty submitting a successful R&E proposal on “Incorporating Cover Crops and Green Manure in High-Desert Organic and Conventional Farming Systems.” Idaho’s Extension Forage specialist received a SARE PDP grant to provide “Forage and Pasture Educational Program for Professionals in the Northwest.” One successfully funded producer grant on “Goat Meat is Great!” includes the Wood River RC&D Council in the project.
Over half of our 40 county Ag/NR extension educators have attended trainings and are teaching one or more of the following curricula that are based on sustainable agriculture principles and practices: Cultivating Success, Living on the Land, the Lost Rivers Grazing Academy, Annie’s Project and Building Farmers in the West. At least 10 educators have worked with Idaho Department of Agriculture over the last two years to offer regional workshops on Direct Marketing at Farmers’ Markets.
The partnership developed with Idaho Department of Agriculture’s marketing division through previous years of Western SARE-funded direct marketing workshops has grown every year. Numerous extension educators now help plan and host workshops for Farmers’ Market vendors around the state. Every year more educators are getting involved, and it has been a win-win relationship for Idaho producers.
The partnerships and activity developed in this year’s UI President’s Sustainability Forum with Gail Feenstra as keynote speaker have galvanized several significant actions. Our regional food systems group formed the Palouse Food Action Coalition (PFAC). We have met monthly over the past year to address barriers to our local food system. The UI Sustainability Center and the UI Extension Outreach have merged to focus on broader issues – one of them being sustainable food systems. This new Office of Community Partnerships links county extension efforts with campus faculty and student engagement in community level projects. PFAC was able to obtain an intern to conduct preliminary research on conducting a food systems analysis for our region. The Office of Community Partnerships has become a key partner in areas of community economic development and food systems around the state.
Involvement of others in state PDP planning and implementation
We have identified specific people who provide input on sustainable agricultural programming including: four extension educators, Idaho State Department of Agriculture, non-profits such as NCAP and Rural Roots and farmers and ranchers. We have some new involvement in our advisory group from the UI Office of Community Partnerships and the UI Sustainability Center. We still lack the strong connection we have had with NRCS in past years and are hoping to improve contacts in that area in the coming year. The coordinator has met with subsets of the overall group to discuss programming over the last year. One-on-one conversations with numerous Idaho Extension Educators also helps provide direction related to SARE Professional Development opportunities which meet their needs.