SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Montana
January 1 - December 31, 2013
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2013 state/protectorate PDP Activities and Results
Funds supported field days, workshops and professional development activities. Topics included: 1) integrated crop and livestock production, 2) horticulture, 3) small-scale agriculture, 4) climate change, 5) cover crops, and 6) IPM. Three Extension Agents attended out-of-state conferences. Five field days introduced sustainable agriculture concepts to close to 450 participants. Six agriculture Extension Agents and ten consultants from the region attended a workshop on plant pathology, and 60 agricultural professionals attended training on new IPM technologies. Support partially funded the production of the Weed Seedling Identification Guide for Montana and Northern Great Plains. Outcomes were highly successful. For example, we observed a 48% improvement in respondent’s attitude towards mobile app or web-based technologies. Also, due to high interest, plans are to repeat the plant pathology workshop. One Extension Agent plans to include climate change in his educational activities “as it touches all parts of natural resources.”
Context and Overview
Sustainable agriculture is a complex enterprise that encompasses social, economic and environmental dimensions. What was once conceived as an almost linear set of food production and distribution tasks, now requires multi- and trans-disciplinary studies to assess the vulnerability, resilience and adaptive capacity of complex socio-ecological systems. In this context, the main goal of the Montana PDP is to foster learning opportunities and promote critical thinking on sustainable agriculture issues. Our targeted audience is wide and encompasses Extension Agents, Extension Specialists, farmers and agricultural professionals, and the public. To reach this broad audience, we sponsored in 2013programs utilizing different approaches, including face-to-face meetings, workshops and field days. Topics addressed through mini-grants and special activities included, but were not limited to, the integration of crop and livestock production, small-scale agriculture, integrated crop management, assessment of impacts and mitigation of climate change, and social networks to facilitate farmer-to-farmer learning. More information of the Montana PDP can be found at the following webpages:
Funds partially supported the production of Parkinson, H., J. Mangold, and F. Menalled. 2013. Weed Seedling Identification Guide for Montana and the Northern Great Plains. MSUE, Bozeman, MT
Activities and Methods
Participation at the National Extension Climate Science Initiative Conference in Cloquet, MN. Brad Bauer, the MSU Gallatin County Extension Agent – Natural Resources, participated in this meeting to 1) gain a broad appreciation of extension programming and extension’s role in delivering outreach and education on climate change, 2) improve his ability to work through controversial issues with clients, and 3) add depth to his understanding of climate change science and tools.
Trowel and Error Investigating Northeast Montana Horticulture: Discovering Resources in our Counties, Reservations, and Businesses. Wendy Becker - MSU Fort Peck Reservation Extension Agent, and Ann Ronning - MSU Roosevelt County Extension Agent organized two field tours to provide a learning environment for those interested in horticulture aspects and how to network with other individuals, businesses and growers in North East Montana. This region is characterized by a small population, long distances to travel to meetings, and now an influx of people (due to the oil boom) not familiar with the area and climate. The activities included two tours, one east and west in Roosevelt County and the Ft. Peck Reservation, and were planned to diversify new and traditional information small-scale agricultural production. The agents contacted four to five speakers that were willing to showcase their growing operation. Approximately 40 participants attended these tours.
Participation at the 2013 NACAA Western Region County Agents Meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado.Jesse Fulbright – MSU Liberty County Extension Agent - received support to attend this Regional County Agents Meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado. The conference was attended by approximately 50 Extension agents from the western region of the U.S. The conference featured a day of presentations by various Extension Agents from around the region and a tour of several agriculture related facilities, including an organic vegetable farm, sugar beet farm, as well as an organic small acreage farm that provided educational classes and participated in local farmers’ markets, providing organic produce.
Consumer Connectivity and Awareness to Organic Production and Land Stewardship. Charles Holt, the farm manager of Towne’s Harvest, a three-acre diversified vegetable farm located at the MSU Horticulture Farm, received support to organize a field day in conjunction with the Montana Organic Association (MOA) Tour. The theme and educational content presented was Consumer Connectivity and Awareness to Organic Production and Land Stewardship. During the tour, participants were chartered by bus and visited three diversified certified organic farms: 1) Almathia Dairy - organic goats, pigs and vegetables, 2) Towne’s Harvest, MSU - organic vegetables/herbs/sustainable rotation, and 3) C-5 Organics - organic beef and grain. This tour provided information to the general public of the diverse foods produced in the Gallatin Valley of Montana. Approximately 50 participants attended this field day.
Participation at the 2013 Range Beef Cow Symposium. Rapid City, South Dakota. Lee Schmelzer - MSU Stillwater County Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources and 4-H Agent – received support to participate together with three ag producers at this bi-annual educational event designed as in-service training for cow-calf ranchers. The conference featured well-known speakers who provided updates on production topics in the areas of beef industry issues, genetics, reproduction, range and forage management, cattle health, beef nutrition and more. Unfortunately, a severe winter storm blanketed the area two days before the departure date for the conference. Officials advised emergency travel only for the whole of the 835 miles to the conference. Due to the severity of the storm the producers were unable to leave their operations and livestock to attend the conference but were obligated to pay the registration fee.
Integration of Targeted Grazing to Manage Weeds and Cover Crops in Small Grain Systems. Devon Ragen – Research Associate, MSU Dept. of Animal and Range Sciences – received support to conduct demonstration trials on the feasibility to use targeted sheep grazing to manage weeds and terminate cover crops. Throughout the summer and fall of 2013, grazing paddocks for sheep were constructed using electric fencing in a variety of fields and locations around Montana. Different crops and weeds were grazed at agricultural experiment stations (Fort Ellis Experiment Station, Arthur Post Agronomy Farm, Townes Harvest in Bozeman, MT), on the Montana State University Campus in Bozeman, MT and at the Quinn Farm and Ranch in Big Sandy, MT. They conducted four field days where targeted sheep grazing was discussed with the audience. More than 350 participants attended these activities.
Advanced Plant Disease Diagnosis of Field Crops Workshop. Linnea Skoglund, the Plant Pathology IPM specialist at the MSU Dept. of Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology, received support to organize a workshop tailored to County Agents, crop consultants, hail adjusters and chemical industry representatives that have expressed concern about their ability to accurately identify plant diseases. The two-day workshop “Advanced Disease Diagnostics for Crops” was attended by six county agriculture extension agents from Montana and ten industry consultants from Montana and Idaho. David May, graduate research assistant, and Dr. Jacobsen, professor of plant pathology, gave guest lectures. Dr. Mathre, professor emeritus, gave a retrospective of important impacts of diseases on wheat in Montana during his tenure at MSU. The workshop included a visit to two farms where participants collected disease samples. They then spent the afternoon in the lab learning about pathogen types, the diseases they cause and how to diagnose them. Epidemiology was covered the second morning; participants carried out a tabletop exercise to demonstrate disease spread from single vs. multiple sources. The participants graphed their ‘epidemics’ and learned how disease prediction models differ from reality. There was a lecture/discussion about fungicides. Finally, there was a demonstration of fungicide modes of action on wheat stem rust and Ascochyta blight of pea.
IPM Technology Forum.This forum was organized by Cecil Tharp from the MSU Pesticide Safety Education Program, who received support to conduct a four-hour training that presented new technologies in the fields of plant pathology, range/cropland weeds, horticulture and pesticide education. This included over 21 downloadable mobile apps, eight online IPM tools, and 16 hand-held IPM tools. This was an extremely popular topic, with 60 attendees from various integrated pest management disciplines, including commercial applicators, private applicators, homeowners, small acreage owners, horticulture industry, Extension Agents and other members of the government sector. Cecil conducted pre- and post-event surveys for 30 randomly selected participants. Thirty participants that registered prior to November 25th and had Internet access were randomly selected for these pre- and post- surveys.
Assessing Montana Agricultural Professionals Research Priorities. Research in ecological weed management is extensive, but researchers struggle to convince producers to use this information when they make decisions. To fill this gap, Fabian Menalled, Mary Burrows, Jane Mangold, Hilary Parkinson and Selena Ahmed convened in the fall of 2013. The group obtained reports created by the Organic Advisory and Education Council (OAEC) summarizing surveys designed to assess the research and educational needs of organic grain producers and organic vegetable and herb producers in Montana. The reports provided a broad overview of the biggest challenges facing organic producers, and what future research will best address their needs. In January, the group reviewed and revised the OAEC surveys and submitted them to those attending the 2014 Crop and Pest Management School at MSU. These surveys targeted conventional producers, as well as consultants, who often play a critical role in on-farm decision making. In February, the group received permission to obtain the raw data from the OAEC surveys (40 surveys from organic grain producers, 21 surveys from vegetable and herb producers). The ability to combine these data sets with conventional producers (nine surveys) and grain consultants (26 surveys) provides an opportunity to assess biggest challenges facing Montana producers, how they make their decisions and how researchers and consultants can best assist them.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products
The materials presented at the IPM Technology Forum have been posted on the MSU Pesticide Education website under the category of “integrated pest management.” This includes presentations and handouts for pesticide education coordinators (MSU Extension Agents) to use in county programs statewide.
The MSU Extension Plant Pathology website provides information on tools to 1) diagnose and properly treat plant diseases, 2) educational opportunities and diagnostic resources, and 3) rapid detection, diagnosis and communication about pest outbreaks to protect our agricultural biosecurity.
Funds partially supported the production of Parkinson, H., J. Mangold, and F. Menalled. 2013. Weed Seedling Identification Guide for Montana and the Northern Great Plains. MSUE, Bozeman, MT
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Intention and Action
Participation at the National Extension Climate Science Initiative Conference in Cloquet, MN
Acquisition of new knowledge, skills and awareness. Brad Bauer indicated that “the Conference provided me a great opportunity to learn, grow and develop. I gained a broad appreciation of extension programming and extension’s role in delivering outreach and education; improved my ability to work through controversial issues with clients; and added depth to my understanding of climate change science and tools. Additionally, through the Conference I developed new networks with other natural resource extension agents, extension specialists and researchers.”
“The Conference’s field trip provided me an opportunity to see active management of forest systems that considers climate change. It was clear that land managers are looking to experts to provide them with direction on how to manage ecosystems in the face of climate change. Additionally, it was particularly interesting to see how climate science is already influencing on-the-ground management in some parts of the country and how extension is critical to developing these management recommendations and outreach.”
Trainees’ intention of using what they learned in future educational programs and products. Brad Bauer indicted the following intentions to incorporate climate science in his outreach activities: “Having the time to visit and see how extension fits into natural resources was very rewarding and provided me with several ideas I hope to implement in Gallatin County, including a Master Naturalist Program and climate programming. Through the Conference I gained tools to help me to continue to learn about climate change and ideas on how to develop programming that includes climate change.”
“The Conference also included several days of presentations and breakout groups. The presentations and breakout groups provided insight into finding and using climate tools, new and emergent climate research, and strategies and experience in developing a dialog on a hot button issue.”
Changes in action. Grant recipient indicated that through the Conference he has a better understanding of the possible roles and topics a natural resource extension agent can serve. He hopes that as he continues to develop his program to better serve the breath of topics in natural resource that he can include climate change as it touches all parts of natural resources.
Trowel and Error Investigating Northeast Montana Horticulture: Discovering Resources in our Counties, Reservations, and Businesses
Acquisition of new knowledge, skills and awareness. As a result of the Horticulture Tours, grant recipients indicated that there is a confirmed interest in horticultural practices in Northeast Montana. Participants gained an understanding of the diversity of horticultural practices. The tours highlighted the increased interest for horticultural issues and needs.
Trainees’ intention of using what they learned in future educational programs and products. Grant recipients indicated to be “…considering these tours as a possible new venue to educate people on various horticulture topics in the future… (and) ponder whether to continue this same format or expand and/or change it to further meet the needs of our residents.” For example, it is possible they organize “a parade of lawns/gardens or every Wednesday at a different home for an hour and talk about what they do, what they have done to get to where they are today, addressing any of their concerns and having a Q and A session.”
Changes in action. In the evaluations, participants of the tours were asked if they would like to have tours in the future and what they would like to see addressed. Responses will propel more pointed programming and new program topics, such as water gardens with fish, doing a tour in the spring, hands-on demonstrations, use of native plants in landscape, care for bulbs over the winter, school projects, tree and tree care, natural insect control methods, amendments, composting, and lawn diseases, among other topics.
Participation at the 2013 NACAA Western Region County Agents Meeting in Fort Collins, Colorado
Acquisition of new knowledge, skills and awareness. Jesse Fulbright, the MSU Liberty County Extension Agent who attended the 2013 NACAA Western Region County Agents Meeting, indicated that he was able to attend several presentations by various Extension Agents from around the region, as well as a tour of several agriculture related facilities, including organic farms. The conference emphasized the need for Extension to not only be out in the communities they serve but to also become involved in many different circles.
Trainees’ intention of using what they learned in future educational programs and products. Jesse indicated that attendance to this meeting helped him “network with other Extension Agents, gain insights, and discover further opportunities to become involved in regional and national committees pertaining to Extension.” Direct involvement in this regional meeting allowed the Liberty County Extension Agent to become involved on one committee looking at reorganizing director position rotation schedules, which in turn promotes professional development for Extension Agents.
Changes in action. Many of the presenters were innovative in reaching out to different clientele and provided the Liberty County agent with ideas that could be used or adapted to fit a northern Montana atmosphere, including how to approach and provide outreach to the local school. Even though Liberty County is an agriculturally-based county, many of the students may not realize or understand what occurs on their farms or around their communities. Utilizing experience and training in entomology that exists in Liberty County Extension, the agent could give presentations or demonstrations as to how insects play a vital role in each of our lives, whether the youth live on farms or not.
Consumer Connectivity and Awareness to Organic Production and Land Stewardship
Acquisition of new knowledge, skills and awareness. The grant recipient, Charles Holt, indicated that he has hopes this activity will assist in stimulating local organic food purchasing and consumption. He believes this was one of many stepping stones for future collaborative efforts now being shown between MSU research and certified organic agriculture food systems. Attendees to the field day and tour surprisingly found out how much diverse and largely successful certified organic food is already being produced in our region.
Trainees’ intention of using what they learned in future educational programs and products. Charles Holt indicated interest in continuing collaborative efforts and participation in annual farm tour events between, Montana State University Agriculture Experiment Station managers, Montana Organic Association, CHS Cooperative retail, Montana State University Students and Gallatin Valley consumers.
Integration of Targeted Grazing to Manage Weeds and Cover Crops in Small Grain Systems
Acquisition of new knowledge, skills and awareness. Participants of this project gained knowledge of the usefulness of integrating sheep into farming practices. Pest control advisers, farm managers, chemical company cooperators, Extension Agents, students and the public that attended the field days, grazing demonstrations and campus festivals are now more aware of how sheep can effectively terminate cover crops and weeds in place of traditional tillage practices and herbicide use. Producers now have a greater understanding of the benefits of integrating sheep into farming and how it can help reduce tillage intensity and soil erosion, promote nutrient cycling, enhance soil tilth and reduce weeds.
Trainees’ intention of using what they learned in future educational programs and products. The sheep grazing demonstrations allowed ag professionals’ to visually compare differences between grazed plots and non-grazed plots and more easily understand the benefits that grazing sheep had on fields for cover crop termination and weed termination. An anonymous questionnaire filled out by participants of one of these field days indicates that while producers appreciate the potential benefits of the integration of sheep grazing and crop production, concerns exists on the accessibility to water and sheep and the economic viability of this partnership. Future educational programs will target these needs.
Changes in action. With proof of the benefits of targeted sheep grazing, ag professionals can utilize their new found knowledge to encourage other producers in their area to integrate sheep into their farming practices. Sheep terminated the alfalfa crop at the Quinn Farm and Ranch in Big Sandy, proving that sheep grazing can be an effective alternative to conventional tillage practices.
Advanced Plant Disease Diagnosis of Field Crops Workshop
Acquisition of new knowledge, skills and awareness. The workshop kicked off with a field trip to Ft. Ellis research farm and a local farm where participants collected disease samples. Participants practiced diagnostic techniques as follows: looking at spores under a microscope (wet mount); setting up a culture; moist chamber; look at nematodes under the microscope; search for stylet; Enzyme linked immunosorbant assay and immunostrip for plant viruses; Fungicide mode of action on pathogen groups demonstration; ‘trade show’ of scopes, etc.; equipment for diagnosis. Participants also carried out a tabletop exercise to demonstrate disease spread from single vs. multiple sources and graphed their ‘epidemics’ and learned how disease prediction models differ from reality. CCA and Pesticide Applicator credits were offered to participants.
Changes in action. Due to high interest, plans are in the works for a repeat - with improvements - workshop for next year.
IPM Technology Forum
Acquisition of new knowledge, skills and awareness. Cecil Tharp asked several questions related to the acquisition of new knowledge and skills through post surveys. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed indicated they acquired knowledge of new technologies or skills by attending this program. Seventy-three percent of those surveyed indicated it would be of benefit to combine these IPM technologies with their current IPM skills.
Trainees’ intention of using what they learned in future educational programs and products. Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed indicated they would not or were unsure they would combine these skills with the tools provided. This was due to lack of a smart phone, not finding the technologies necessary, or a need to learn more.
Changes in action. Cecil Tharp asked several questions related to a change in attitude or understanding through pre- and post-testing. He observed a 48% improvement in respondents’ attitudes towards mobile app or web-based IPM technologies by attending the IPM technology forum. He also observed a 38% improvement in respondents’ understanding of mobile apps and web based IPM technologies. Most individuals were intimidated by mobile app technologies prior to attending this program, and many never understood that there are many free resources available. One participant wrote, “I was intimidated by mobile apps until attending this program. I never knew there were so many free mobile apps. I intend on using mobile apps and these web resources in my program.” We asked one question related to a change in behavior related to attending the IPM technology forum through pre- and post-testing. We observed a 38% increase in respondents that would use mobile apps by attending the IPM technology forum. We observed a 20% increase in respondents that would use IPM web technologies by attending the IPM technology forum.
Assessing Montana Agricultural Professionals Research Priorities
Acquisition of new knowledge, skills and awareness. Analysis of these surveys is ongoing, but it is expected it will illuminate differences in values and decision making strategies. This will ultimately bridge and improve communication between producers, researchers and consultants, enabling farmers to more confidently adopt research recommendations appropriate for their operations.
Collectively, in 2013 the Montana Western SARE PDP directly reached nine Extension Agents and more than 500 participants (farmers, crops consultants, industry representatives and the general public). The mini-grant and scholarship program fostered new interest in faculty-led professional development efforts as described in the following paragraphs.
Trowel and Error Investigating Northeast Montana Horticulture: Discovering Resources in our Counties, Reservations, and Business’s. Wendy Becker and Ann Ronning reported the following unintended outcomes: “We would say that the biggest unintended outcome is the real need for more programming on horticulture topics in our area. There isn’t a big garden center, or expert, so we have to travel far to get some of the things we need, which in turn changes some of our climate issues. Each year can be a challenge and learning about this year’s weather patterns and comparing them from the past also allowed for the participants to mull over that information and what worked by trial and error. Overall it was one of the more enjoyable programs I have put on because of the need for more programming like this in sustainable agriculture.”
Consumer Connectivity and Awareness to Organic Production and Land Stewardship. Grant recipients indicated that their greatest outcome unintended was the overall awareness of activities and production already successful in the Gallatin Valley. Secondly they were pleased about the interaction between organic consumers, students, research and producers. The mixing of Montana State Ag Experiment farm field day and the tour provided by MOA to the public caused interactions that offered wonderful and educational experiences.
Participation at the 2013 Range Beef Cow Symposium. Rapid City, South Dakota. Because of severe winter storm, the County Extension Agent and the producers were unable to attend the conference but were obligated to pay the registration fee.
Advanced Plant Disease Diagnosis of Field Crops Workshop. Due to audience high interest, grants recipients plan to modify and re-offer the workshop during 2014.
IPM Technology Forum. Cecil Tharp indicated some unintended responses from attendees of the event. Many indicated how much they benefited from this IPM technology training. Many of these individuals indicated we need more programs that present similar material. Some government employees indicated the need for many other co-workers to attend this type of program.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation
The current Montana Western SARE PDP advisory committee is:
- Charles Holt. Farm manager of Towne’s Harvest, a three-acre diversified vegetable farm located at the MSU Horticulture Farm. Role: help review proposals and establish funding priorities.
- Brad Bauer. MSU Gallatin County Extension Agent. Role: help review proposals and establish funding priorities.
- Mary Burrows. MSU Extension Plant Pathologist. Role: help review proposals and establish funding priorities.
- Jane Mangold. MSU Rangeland Invasive Plant Specialist. Role: help review proposals and establish funding priorities.
- Fabian Menalled. MSU Cropland Weed Specialist. Role: coordinate the Montana Wester SARE PDP, help review proposals and establish funding priorities.
The advisory committee will meet in person at least once a year.
Additionally, we will request input from stakeholders, including MSU faculty and Extension Agents, NRCS, tribal officers, other agencies, NGO’s, producer groups and individual producers who are interested in sustainable agriculture.