SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Washington
January 1-December 31, 2011
State SARE Coordinators:
Summary of 2011 PDP Activities and Results
In 2011, Washington’s sustainable agriculture PDP topics were: economic viability of sustainable agriculture, western Washington wine grape production, sustainable rangeland management, targeted grazing, raspberry production, value-added processing, sustainable organic ag business, food security/policy, mushroom ID, and using new technologies in extension education. A combination of mini-grants for both hosting and attending sustainable agriculture activities, targeted educational events and travel scholarships for new extension educators reached 162 agricultural professionals who gained knowledge and/or skills in one or more of these topics.
New extension educators in particular highlighted the value of their PDP travel grants by reporting having integrated what they learned into their extension work. The three new educators reported reaching or intending to reach over 700 farmers and extension educators via livestock short courses (both live and online), organic weed management education, organic compost training and storm water runoff training, all rooted in new knowledge from PDP-funded conference attendance.
Context and Overview
The Washington State Professional Development Program (PDP) is part of the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR). The PDP program gives priority to projects that address the top three informational needs among Washington’s extension educators, according the 2009 Survey of Western Region Extension Educators’ Knowledge and Actions in Sustainable Agriculture: 1) water use efficiency in irrigation, 2) value-added processing of agricultural products on the farm and 3) ecologically-based insect and disease management strategies. However, in Washington there are a limited number of field personnel working in any one technical/geographical area or farming system. Therefore, we have focused on giving mini-grants to individuals so that they can take advantage of educational events put on by professional organizations or events that can attract a sufficient number of participants because they are regional or national.
The goal of our professional development program is to help WSU Extension, NRCS and other agency personnel gain knowledge and skills that will help them serve their constituents to promote the health of Washington's people, land and communities. Specific activities focus on both experienced and new WSU Extension personnel and on using new technologies in sustainable agriculture education.
Activities and Methods
This year we allocated our funds for 1) mini-grants (44% of funds), 2) educational events (34% of funds) and 3) training of new extension educators (22% of funds). Of these allocations, we made an award to one new extension educator who was not able to use the funds in 2011. The funds will be reallocated for the same purpose in 2012.
We made one call for mini-grant applications and awarded 12 mini-grants; one for attending a Technology to Teach training, six for hosting training events (one postponed to 2012), and five for individuals to attend conferences and training events.
The Technology to Teach training covered low-cost production of podcasts, videos and enhanced PowerPoint presentations. It gave instruction on the use of equipment, software and webinars, and how to post products on the internet. We funded several grants for this training in 2010 that were very well received by recipient extension educators (reported on last year), though one recipient was unable to attend in 2010 so her funding was extended to this funding cycle. In exchange for travel expenses to this training, the funding recipient agreed to produce one sustainable ag related video, podcast or webinar after receiving the training.
Mini-grants were awarded to host the following training events:
- Wine Grape Growers’ Workshop for Western WA – March 30, 2011. Targeted to support attendance by extension educators from counties in western Washington where wine grape growing is an element of their agricultural portfolio. Topics included regional pest management problems; overview of wine grape varieties suited to cool humid climates; and comparative evaluation of typical wines from this region and similar climates around the world.
- Targeted Grazing Workshop – December 3, 2011. Topics included animal selection, management and training; facilities; noxious and toxic weeds; multispecies grazing; and grazing objectives.
- ECORAZ 2011 – April 1, 2011. Ecological Raspberry Production Systems: An educational symposium exploring productivity, soil health, water and nutrient management.
- WSU Small Farms Team Retreat: Enhancing Small Farm Profitability through Value-Added Processing – March 29-30, 2011. Western SARE funds were used to co-sponsor an intensive statewide WSU Small Farms Team professional development annual meeting. Specifically, funding allowed the team to learn new information on a regional food processing project presentation, titled “Developing Community-Based Processing and Value-Added Infrastructure.”
- Basic Mushroom Identification – October 1, 2011. One of the goals of the workshop was to help extension staff become more knowledgeable about mushroom species and how to accurately identify those safe to ingest in order to better serve their landowner clientele.
Mini-grants were awarded to attend these training events:
- National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) Conference – August 7-11, 2011. Topics included targeted grazing and controlled burning. S. Van Vleet (the grantee) was also able to promote the SARE Fellows Program at the meeting.
- International Rangeland Congress (Argentina) – April 1-9, 2011. Western SARE funding supported conference registration. Topics included sustainable grazing systems and farmer-to-farmer communication.
- Organicology – February 10-12, 2011. This conference allowed the funded educator to expand her understanding of sustainable business.
- Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society conference: Food and Agriculture under the Big Sky – People, Partnerships, Policies – June 9-12, 2011. Two applicants were funded to attend this conference on food security, food assessment, food policy, school food, values-based supply chains, farmers markets and more.
We also partially funded two educational events:
- Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems session at WSU All-CAHNRS Conference – October 6, 2011. The keynote speaker presented an overview of economic viability of sustainable agriculture in today’s national and global economy.
- 10th annual Western Region National Association of County Agriculture Agents (NACAA) Professional Improvement Conference – October 11-13, 2011. Event included a Renewable Energy Symposium on Wheels (tour) and a tour of precision agriculture locations.
Finally, we provided three new extension educator training grants designed to provide support for new faculty to attend a national conference in their field:
- Two grantees attended Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) conference in La Crosse, WI; the largest organic farming conference in the United States (February 24-26, 2011). Topics grantees participated in included grazing systems and ruminant behavior, compost for the mid-sized farm, creating a regional food economy in our backyard, overview of organic fertilizer options and developing a soil fertility plan for your farm.
- 2011 Land Grant and Sea Grant National Water Conference – January 31-February 1, 2011. Topics included incentives for farmers to implement water quality practices, different approaches extension programs have utilized in implementing water quality programming using non-traditional media for outreach education, use of citizen science and monitoring, and programs for urban runoff.
PDP-funded Publications/ Educational Materials and Products
The funding recipient who attended the Technology to Teach training implemented what she learned by hosting a Women in Agriculture conference in Februay 2012 in 16 locations via webinar. She is also developing an electronic newsletter for women involved in agriculture. Some of her work is available on her website.
The conference brochure for the Agriculture and Sustainable Food Systems session at WSU All-CAHNRS Conference that was partially funded is available here: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/file_uploads/b6c53a031f196a362ffa42cb6789df93_ConferenceBook_R3b.pdf . The keynote speaker’s presentation is available here: http://extension.wsu.edu/pd/resources/documents/Klonsky%20Sustainable%20Agriculture.pdf
The ECORAZ Symposium website includes a summary of current research.
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills and Action
1) Acquisition of new knowledge and skills
- The educator who attended the Technology to Teach training reported learning the basic steps for using video to enhance the quality of teaching.
- Of the participants in the Wine Grape Growers’ Workshop (10 of whom were extension personnel), overall average knowledge of respondents for all topics presented increased by 23% (as per post-workshop evaluation). The greatest increase in awareness resulted from the talk on botrytis management, where initial knowledge was rated lowest.
- Four ag professionals who attended the Targeted Grazing Workshop gained a better understanding poisonous plants and grazing rotations for goats.
- Ten educators who attended the ECORAZ 2011 Raspberry Production symposium increased their knowledge in the areas of raspberry production systems, water quality and quantity issues, soil health and nutrient management, and diseases and nematodes.
- Based on evaluations received after the Small Farms Team Retreat: 83% said they gained new knowledge on value-added processing, 94% said the meeting was an excellent or good venue to network with team members, and 94% said that this two day meeting is the best way to get their statewide, collaborative work accomplished for the year.
- Thirty WSU extension educators learned about long-term food systems research projects at UC Davis and how key sustainability issues such as soil health and soil management are impacted by marketing issues such as food safety.
- A new extension educator gained knowledge from a conference that directly influenced his research and programming activities, including integrating research methods learned into an existing project, “Alternative Forage and Fodder Crops and Reduced Tillage in Organic Production.”
- One new extension educator learned about incentives for farmers to implement water quality practices while attending the 2011 Land Grant and Sea Grant National Water Conference.
2) Changes in attitudes or understanding
- One educator attending NACAA conference learned how to use different management tools to enhance the sustainability of the environment. Even though he had been using grazing as a management tool in his programs, he reported learning the importance of using multiple management techniques (e.g. fire) to obtain a desired outcome.
- One educator improved her understanding of sustainable business. She learned about the importance of and tools for accurately tracking business inputs and outputs. Essentially, she found this is poorly done by many producers, and a lack of reliable information prohibits analysis of potential improvements in profit or efficiency. Second, she improved her understanding of the “triple bottom line,” including human and environmental impacts.
- One new extension educator found the compost workshop at MOSES to be extremely beneficial to him as he works to get more small- and mid-sized farmers to employ on-farm composting. He has implemented what he learned into his presentations and throughout his outreach efforts.
3) Changes in behavior and action
- Using skills gained at the Technology to Teach training, one educator is developing an electronic newsletter for women involved in agriculture that will be part of the website. A webinar conference for statewide of engagement of women in agriculture was held in February 2012 with the intention to reach over 250 women via the newsletter in development.
- In their responses to Wine Grape Growers’ Workshop evaluation questions, participants mentioned: more effective use and timing of spray materials 18 times, increased understanding of disease control (specifically powdery mildew and botrytis) 19 times, and sprayer calibration and effective use 10 times. Other responses stressed general increase in viticultural knowledge, and details of cultural practices such as the proper timing and amount of leaf stripping canopy management and disease control. Three participants mentioned improved grower contact through additional workshops and encouraging regional production. One participant mentioned planning to buy a recommended book on effective vineyard spraying, and one winemaker noted the intention to become more involved with detailed aspects of grape growing.
- Most participating educators in the ECORAZ 2011 raspberry symposium indicated they intended to incorporate what they learned into their work; some indicated they would work more collaboratively and some indicated they would work with their clients on information received.
- A livestock extension educator who attended the International Rangeland Congress has now incorporated the importance of both rangeland-based livestock production system and guidance on sustainable grazing methods into his outreach planning.
- A new extension educator reported networking at a conference he attended and as a result, applied jointly for two research grants for future outreach projects.
Total farmer/rancher attendance at 2011 PDP supported events: 67
Involvement of others in state PDP planning and implementation:
The state coordinator for the program is Tara Zimmerman, and the PDP faculty committee includes Chad Kruger in central Washington, Chris Benedict in western Washington and Steve Van Vleet in eastern Washington. All three committee members are members of the WSU CSANR Leadership Team, a diverse group of WSU faculty that set the direction for the work at CSANR, including the professional development program. In addition, the advisory committee for the CSANR serves as the PDP advisory committee. This is a group of 19 people representing farms/ranches (irrigated, dryland, organic, small and large farms, dairy, tree fruit and wine grape sectors), EPA, WA Departments of Agriculture and Ecology, and the University of Washington. This group meets twice a year, most recently in December, 2011, to provide feedback on CSANR activities including the PDP program.