SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Idaho
January 1 - December 31, 2012
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2012 PDP Activities and Results
In 2012, 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 demonstration of composting animal mortalities, soil mineralization studies and workshops, a direct marketing/agritourism workshop, and farm tours at the Western region NACAA meetings in Idaho last year.
Extension educators who reported on their mini-grant projects indicated an additional involvement of over 30 extension, state agencies and agricultural crop advisors who assisted with the project and/or attended a workshop or farm tour. 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 provide new research and educational programming for Idaho’s producers. 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 soil and water resources; small acreage farming; IPM; direct marketing and food systems and sustainable grazing systems. You can read more about these and other projects at our Idaho Sustainable Agriculture web site.
Our focus in Idaho SARE PDP is to distribute information and provide financial support for our agricultural professionals to participate in a variety of educational opportunities related to sustainable agriculture. In 2011, we began a state mini-grants program for 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 funded three new sustainable agriculture educational projects in 2012, and two were carried over from the previous year. Individual projects focused on demonstration of composting animal mortalities, soil mineralization studies and workshops, a direct marketing/agritourism workshop, and sustainable and forage farm tours at our Western NACAA meetings in Idaho last year.
Soil Mineralization study and outreach, Year 2:
Three extension educators and one specialist continued soil mineralization studies and reported on their research at several events to growers, extension educators and agronomy professionals. The funds allowed continuation of a four-year study that will help growers understand nutrient availability form dairy compost. Over 100 soil samples were analyzed and used for dairy compost soil management research and outreach efforts. Extension educators hosted the second annual Sustainable Soil Management Workshop in 2012 and provided printed materials on their research to participants.
Composting of Animal Mortalities Demonstration, from 2011:
The mini-grant that funded the construction and demonstration of an aerated composting box for small animal offal and mortalities was a huge success. The composting system was demonstrated on a diversified lamb and poultry farm in June of 2012 to a diversified audience of 40, including six extension educators, several NRCS and other agency employees, and producers.
Farm Tours at the Joint Western Region NACAA and Western Forage Workers Meetings:
These two meetings of agricultural professionals from throughout the western region were held jointly in Idaho in 2012. A SARE mini-grant helped to co-sponsor a full day tour to visit an aquaculture facility, a greenhouse producing vegetables for the local market, a feedlot, a dairy with an anaerobic digester, a dairy that has a unique barn/parlor design, a sheep grazing operation that also makes artisan cheeses and a farm using hoop houses for fruit and vegetable production. A total of 47 extension educators and specialists attended the tour, and 20 were from Idaho.
Marketing Idaho’s Harvest - Farmers’ Markets, Agritourism and Food Hubs:
Three extension educators planned and hosted this two-day conference attended by a total of 66 people. Attendees included 19 ag professionals: 7 extension educators, 2 UI College of Ag faculty, 3 Idaho State Dept. of Agriculture, and 7 others from non-profit groups, city, county and state agencies.
Lost River Grazing Academy
One new Extension educator received a travel scholarship to attend the four-day grazing academy in Idaho that includes classroom and applied field work to learn sustainable practices to increase productivity, improve grazing management skills and increase net income. She increased her knowledge, skills and capacity for addressing grazing issues of producers.
Other Idaho SARE activities:
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 250 publications were distributed at various workshops/courses in 2012.
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 thirteen of our Idaho extension educators/specialists were involved in developing or hosting the four mini-grant projects. Participation in the educational outreach involved another fourteen Extension educators and numerous NRCS, field men and agricultural agency representatives.
Mini-grant surveys indicated:
The project that demonstrated construction and use of an aerated composting box for small animal offal and mortalities was a success. In fact, the farm owner was so pleased with the system that she created a second composter to increase her composting capabilities. Attendees listed numerous practices they were planning to implement and the workshop was rated 4.8/5.0 on quality of information delivered.
Sixty-four percent of ag professionals who attended the Western region NACAA meetings were highly satisfied with the farm tours and another 20% were satisfied. Many commented that the tour was the highlight of the meeting. Although the event evaluations did not capture specific knowledge gained, the participation increased awareness of sustainable agricultural practices on a variety of farming enterprises.
The Marketing Idaho’s Harvest post-conference evaluation indicated a significant increase of participants’ knowledge in most conference topics. Evaluations indicated a significant knowledge level increase (rating over 4.0/5.0) in the following areas: identifying appropriate agritourism enterprises; minimizing risks associated with agritourism; how food hubs and online marketing cooperatives work; and potential opportunities through online marketing. Eighty-five percent of attendees indicated they would likely implement what they learned in their farm business or work. Four educators have already used the information from the workshop to reach an additional 425 people in other events.
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.
Additional changes in knowledge, skills and action:
This past year showed continued involvement of Idaho Extension Educators in SARE grants as a team of six Extension faculty continued their second year on the project “Incorporating Cover Crops and Green Manure in High-Desert Organic and Conventional Farming Systems” and Idaho’s Extension Forage specialist is in the second year of a 2011 funded SARE PDP grant to provide “Forage and Pasture Educational Program for Professionals in the Northwest. While no Idaho proposals were successfully funded for 2012, a few were submitted in 2012 for this year’s round of funding.
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.
Our regional food systems group in northern Idaho continues to be active in creating more partnerships for enhancing our regional food system. We have strong partnerships with Small Business Development Centers and county and regional Economic Development Associations. The university’s Office of Community Partnerships has identified sustainable food systems as a priority and works with county extension to garner funds, develop partnerships and enhance student engagement in community level projects.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation
We have identified some new people to provide input on sustainable agricultural programming: four extension educators, two specialists, two producers and a new non-profit member. We have reached out to NRCS, and currently have one person involved and a few other possibilities. The state coordinator continues to involve additional Idaho Extension Educators in one-on-one conversations to seek input to provide direction related to SARE Professional Development opportunities which meet their needs.