SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Washington
January 1-December 31, 2012
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2012 PDP Activities and Results
In 2012, Washington’s sustainable agriculture PDP topics were program evaluation strategies, outreach to beginning farmers, small-scale poultry production, agricultural economics, value-added products, food hubs, GAP certification, connecting with tribal communities, desktop publishing for ag marketing, organic fruit production and marketing, and farm animal welfare. A combination of mini-grants for both hosting and attending sustainable agriculture activities, targeted educational events and travel scholarships for new extension educators reached 65 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 which were used to attend the WesternSARE conference “Strengthening Agriculture’s Infrastructure: Adding Value, Breaking Down Barriers, Increasing Profits” in Portland, Oregon.
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 (21% of funds), 2) educational events (27% of funds), and 3) training of new extension educators (22% of funds). The remaining funds were allocated to development of educational materials and to travel to the 2012 coordinators conference.
We made one call for mini-grant applications and awarded six mini-grants; four for individuals to attend conferences and training events (one postponed to 2013) and two for hosting training events.
Mini-grants were awarded to host the following training events:
- The Washington Farm Animal Welfare Symposium – September 15, 2012. A diverse group of speakers in the field of animal welfare science, ethics and policy convened to present varying opinions and approaches to address mounting concerns regarding the care and well-being of farm animals. Presentations focused on topics such as: The Science of Animal Welfare, Consumer Attitudes of Animal Welfare, Global Developments in Farm Animal Welfare, Farm Animal Welfare Legislation, Humane Animal Handling, and Developing Washington's Approach to Farm Animal Welfare. This event drew a diverse group of attendees.
- Basics of Small-Scale Poultry Production – November 17, 2012. The City of White Salmon's animal ordinance was recently changed to allow ownership of up to six chickens, ducks or rabbits, thus basic educational support was needed. Topics included nutrition, sanitation, biosecurity and composting.
Mini-grants were awarded to attend these training events:
- USDA Small Farm Conference (Memphis, TN) – Sept 18-20, 2012. Topics included evaluation strategies, challenges to and opportunities for today’s agriculture, and outreach to beginning farmers.
- Agricultural and Applied Economics Annual Meeting (Seattle, WA) – August 14, 2012. Provided networking and collaborating opportunities for agricultural economists working on farmers markets projects.
- Desktop Publishing Overview and Adobe Illustrator Fundamentals May 1, 2012. Topics included creating basic and complex shapes, graphics, layers, etc. to build logos and other images for print and web. The attendee works directly will small farmers to assist with business planning.
We also partially funded two educational events:
- 2nd International Organic Fruit Symposium – June 18-21, 2012. Designed to update researchers, extension and other professionals on recent developments in organic fruit production and marketing. The event consisted of several plenary sessions with keynote speakers, several breakout sessions on specific topics, a poster session and a day-long field tour. The primary crops represented were temperate tree fruits and berries, with a few presentations on grapes.
- Western Region NACAA conference tours – October 2011 (this event was funded in FY12 but event details and outcomes were reported in FY11. To avoid double-reporting, they are not included here).
We provided three new extension educator travel grants designed to provide support for new faculty to attend a national conference in their field:
- All three grantees attended “Strengthening Agriculture’s Infrastructure: Adding Value, Breaking Down Barriers, Increasing Profits”, the USDA Western SARE conference in Portland, OR December 3-5, 2012. Topics grantees participated in included adding value in fruit and vegetable operations, distribution for specialty or local markets, values-based branding and farm-to-institution sales.
Finally, we supported the development of educational materials via emerging technological formats:
- Hosted and facilitated three sustainable agriculture webinars: Struvite as a Phosphorus Fertilizer Source for Greenhouse Crop Production; What do we currently know about the impacts of climate change on Pacific Northwest cropland agriculture?; and Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Pacific Northwest.
- Hosted and edited an ongoing, Center-wide blog, “Perspectives on Sustainability.” Contributors include Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources faculty and staff.
- Support the transition of a new web platform (to be launched in 2013) for sharing research information regarding sustainable agriculture.
PDP-funded Publications/ Educational Materials and Products
- Presentations from the Washington Farm Animal Welfare Symposium were recorded on video and are available here.
- Abstracts and video-recorded presentations from the 2nd International Organic Fruit Symposium are available here.
- Coordinator-supported educational materials include the following:
- Webinar - Struvite as a Phosphorus Fertilizer Source for Greenhouse Crop Production
- Webinar - What do we currently know about the impacts of climate change on Pacific Northwest cropland agriculture?
- Webinar - Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Emissions in the Pacific Northwest
- CSANR multi-author blog - Perspectives on Sustainability
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills and Action
1) Acquisition of new knowledge and skills
- When asked to rank their level of learning from 1 (not much) to 5 (very much), nearly all participants in the 2nd International Organic Fruit Symposium (53 of whom were ag professionals) who responded to the paper evaluation indicated 4 or 5.
- Fifty-eight attendees of the Washington Farm Animal Welfare Symposium complete paper evaluations (of over 100 participants, including a small number of extension educators). Eighty-three percent indicated that 50% or more of the material presented was new to them. As a result of the symposium, over 90% of attendees better understood the issues facing agricultural animal producers with regards to welfare and would be likely to attend another symposium.
- The educator who attended the Agricultural and Applied Economics Annual Meeting was able to network with other agricultural economists working on similar farmers markets projects and learned how to address the estimation problems she had encountered previously.
- The educator who attended desktop publishing courses gained an understanding of how the various programs that comprise the Adobe Creative Suite complement one another and how Illustrator can be used to develop posters, publications, marketing collateral and vector-based drawings such as company logos.
- For the participants in the Basics of Small-Scale Poultry Production event (five of whom were educators) the main knowledge gains were in the areas of nutrition and biosecurity. Participants are now more aware of what constitutes a balanced diet for poultry and are aware of health concerns and how to reduce their birds’ exposure to diseases.
- All three extension educators who attended the USDA Western SARE Infrastructure conference in Portland indicated significant and relevant knowledge gains. One reported gaining valuable insight into the process of developing a cooperative venture to create opportunity for value-added production. She also reported learning a great deal about food hubs, both virtual and physical, and the opportunities and limitations associated with each.
2) Changes in attitudes or understanding
- Several participants in the Basics of Small-Scale Poultry Production event indicated a new interest in learning about raising ducks and marketing their eggs as a result of being introduced to the idea at the training.
- The Washington Farm Animal Welfare Symposium resulted in attitude change for many participants. Although most (63%) of respondents agreed with the statement “Animal welfare standards should be based on sound science, all else is a matter of opinion and emotion” at the beginning of the program, the percentage dropped to 42% by the end of the program, indicating an attitude shift and a better understanding of animal welfare.
3) Changes in behavior and action
- An extension educator who attended the USDA Small Farm Conference in Memphis reported, “I’ve already shared lessons regarding whole farm plans. I’ve shared information about the USDA’s grant and loan program for women and minority producers with some producers I thought might qualify.”
- One of the new extension educators who attended the Western SARE conference in Portland, OR reported, “Much of the work I do for the agriculture program in my county focuses on working to expand markets for small farms. I will be passing on success stories from other remote and rural areas of the country like Wyoming and Alaska of how farmers have worked together to capture greater shares of their local markets to my constituents. In particular, I plan to use several case studies I learned about at the conference in my upcoming “Cultivating Success” class, a 13-week course starting in February for beginning farmers. In addition to the informative workshops, the face-to-face connections made at these events are invaluable: I have exchanged follow-up emails with several people I met at the conference and hope to bring at least one of the representatives I met from a local distribution company to our next Farm-to-Table gathering on the North Olympic Peninsula.”
- Another Western SARE conference participant reported plans to conduct a series of research, education and coordination activities aimed at connecting South Sound produce growers to under-tapped retail and institutional markets through a combination of improved direct-market channels (e.g. CSAs), as well as scale-appropriate aggregation, processing and distribution centers (e.g. food hubs).
- The third Western SARE conference participant will be using what she learned at the conference to offer programming on value-added and cooperatives in the next two months, working specifically with fiber producers in a five county region who are interested in developing a fibershed cooperative. There are approximately 40 individuals interested in this program.
- In their responses to the Basics of Small-Scale Poultry Production evaluation, participants reported plans to make changes to current management, including feeding more balanced diets, ordering eggs/chicks vaccinated against Marek’s Disease, using lights to extend laying season and ensuring proper environmental temperatures when brooding chicks.
- The educator who attended desktop publishing courses plans to use the skills acquired to develop marketing materials for bilingual Cultivating Success courses and workshops and to develop publications for small farmers. She will also teach small farmers how to use the CS Suite to develop attractive and affordable marketing materials for their farms, including road-signs, fliers, brochures, webpages, business cars and fresh-sheets.
Total farmer/rancher attendance at 2012 PDP supported events: 36
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 20 people representing farms/ranches (irrigated, dryland, organic, small and large farms, dairy, tree fruit and wine grape sectors), WA Departments of Agriculture and Ecology, and the University of Washington. This group meets twice a year, most recently in December 2012, to provide feedback on CSANR activities, including the PDP program.