State SARE co-Coordinators:
Summary of 2015 State/Protectorate PDP Activities and Results:
In 2015, Washington’s sustainable agriculture PDP topics included: soilborne disease management of berry crops; alternative/unique fruit crops; permaculture; livestock BMPs; farm financials; food/artisan skills; pasture management; short, cold climate farming; priority needs in Indian country agriculture; grazing and water quality; sub-surface micro-irrigation in wine grapes; markets and food safety for small producers; organic grains; and diverse topics for small/beginning farmers. A combination of mini-grants for hosting and attending sustainable agriculture activities and targeted educational events reached at least270 agricultural professionals who gained knowledge and/or skills in one or more of these topics.
In addition to these topics and activities, the PDP State Coordinator hosted three webinars in 2014 and one in 2013. The webinars were recorded and their asynchronous views tracked. In 2015 these archived webinars were viewed 107 times, with approximately 34 of those by ag professionals.
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 top informational needs in our state according to a 2014 Washington State survey of past and potential recipients of PDP funds. Topic areas include livestock management, natural resources, soil and fertility, waste management, and crop protection, among others. 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, Conservation Districts 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 agricultural personnel and on new technologies in sustainable education.
Activities and Methods:
This year we allocated our funds for 1) mini-grants (51% of funds) and 2) educational events (24% of funds). The remaining funds were allocated to development of educational materials and to travel to the 2015 coordinators conference.
We made one call for mini-grant applications and awarded six mini-grants; two for hosting a training event and four for individuals to attend conferences.
A mini-grant was awarded to partially host the following training events:
- The Country Living Expo & Cattlemen’s Winterschool (Stanwood, WA) – January 30, 2016 (funds expended in 2015). The event presented over 175 classes geared towards gaining knowledge and skills to promote the health of Washington’s people, land and communities. Topics ranged from raising livestock using BMPs to farm financials. Participants included 137 Extension, conservation district, and other agricultural professionals, for a total of 1250 attendees.
- Grazing & Water Quality Workshops (one for ranchers, one for natural resource and ag professionals) (Ellensburg, WA) – October 22-23, 2015. These workshops brought the most recent scientific discoveries in wildland pollutants related to domestic livestock down to earth for people who have to make decisions. One workshop specifically targeted conservation district personnel and other natural resource professionals, for a total of 45 ag professional participants. The second workshop for ranchers drew 90 participants.
Mini-grants were awarded to fund or partially fund attendance at these training events:
- National Grape and Wine Initiative spring board meeting (NGWI) April 2015. This event provided an opportunity to interact with research and extension professionals, as well as grape-based industry leaders and stakeholders.
- American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) Conference (New Orleans, LA) – August 4-7, 2015. The faculty participant who attended this event presented a poster on a project investigating alternatives to soil fumigation in red raspberry; served as a judge for the graduate student poster competition; and moderated a workshop that she organized for the Viticulture and Small Fruits ASHS working group that was attended by 35 scientists and extension educators.
- Tap o’ Noth Permaculture 2015 Permaculture Design Certification (PDC) Course (Aberdeenshire, Scotland) – May 2015. The PDC course is a 72-hour training that teaches the ethics and principles of permaculture as well as practical applications, with strong emphasis on design skills.
- Alaska Sustainable Agricultural Conference (Anchorage, AK) Feb. 2016 (funds expended in 2015) & National Intertribal Ag Council (IAC) Membership Meeting (Nevada) December 2015. These events provided information that is relevant to tribal audiences served by the educator who attended. These audiences many times are geographically isolated communities facing resource limitations as well as harsh or other challenging climate and growing conditions.
We also partially funded two educational events:
- FEW Workshop – Addressing the food-energy-water system trilemma balancing reliance on technological and institutional solutions. (Seattle, WA) Oct 7-9, 2015. This 2.5 day in-person workshop focused on identifying pathways to promote technological and institutional innovations within and across FEW systems to support broader policies for sustainable management. Thirty-five participants from 16 different institutions (e.g. academic, governmental, NGO) collectively represented a diverse set of disciplines, professions, and areas of FEW expertise.
- Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference (Spokane, WA) November 13-15, 2015. This conference is the largest organic/sustainable agriculture event held annually in Washington. It targets producers, especially small and beginning farmers (though many ag professionals from throughout the state attend) and provides an array of educational sessions on a wide variety of practical topics ranging across various crop and livestock issues to financial and risk management to policy.
Finally, we supported the development of educational materials via emerging technological formats:
- Hosted and edited an ongoing, Center-wide blog, “Perspectives on Sustainability.” Contributors include CSANR faculty, staff, and student guests. This year, blog posts were contributed by 11 WSU students reflecting on their participation in the Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference (partially funded by SARE PDP funds). These posts received considerable online traffic generating nearly 800 page views in 2015 (which is only a subset of the traffic, as much of it occurred in 2016) and reached over 2500 readers via CSANR’s social media channels.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products:
- Padowski, J.C. et al. 2015. NSF FEW Workshop White Paper – Addressing the Food-Energy-Water System Trilemma: Balancing Reliance on Technological and Institutional Solutions. National Science Foundation.
- The instructor team involved with the Grazing & Water Quality Workshops is developing a white paper series on timely topics such as current research conclusions and applicability for policy and practice.
- The Grazing & Water Quality Workshops were professionally recorded and 3-4 WSU peer-reviewed video publications are being produced from the workshop content.
- Coordinator-supported educational materials include the following (registration links connect directly to webinars):
- Webinar – Nitrogen Cycling and Losses in Agricultural Systems (recorded in 2014; views tracked through 2015)
- Webinar - Nitrous Oxide Emissions in Inland Pacific Northwest Cropping (recorded in 2014; views tracked through 2015) Systems
- Webinar - Nitrogen Management and Climate Change Mitigation in Pacific Northwest Cropping Systems (recorded in 2014; views tracked through 2015)
- Webinar - Soil Carbon Dynamics and Climate Change Mitigation in the Inland Pacific Northwest (recorded in 2013; views tracked through 2015)
- CSANR multi-author blog – Perspectives on Sustainability
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Intention and Action:
Acquisition of new knowledge and skills:
- The educator who attended the Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference and the National Intertribal Ag Council Membership meeting gained a wealth of new knowledge including: the current priority needs in Indian country agriculture; innovative “farm-to-table” programs in Indian country; financial resources available for youth and adult tribal beginning and existing ag producers; enhancing tribal food sovereignty; and gardening in the arctic (facing many of the same climate and other issues of the tribes in NE and NC Washington State).
- The educator who attended Tap o’ Noth Permaculture Design Certification Course learned the ethics and principles of permaculture as well as practical applications, with strong emphasis on design skills.
- The educator who attended the National Grape and Wine Initiative spring board meeting strengthened collaborative partnerships with leading grape industry researchers and extension professionals critical to forming an effective proposal to be submitted to an anticipated Specialty Crop Research Initiative RFP.
- The educator who attended ASHS learned a lot about anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) and was able to network extensively with other fruit scientists with similar interests and expertise.
- At the Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool, 175 educational classes were presented to 1,250 attendees (including 137 ag professionals), and were geared towards gaining knowledge and skills to promote the health of Washington’s people, land and communities. From water conservation to farm financials, ag professionals increase their ability to respond to the needs of their constituents with cutting-edge information.
- Feedback from professionals (conservation district personnel, biologists, rangeland ecologists, NRCS personnel, and others) who attended the Grazing & Water Quality Workshop for ag professionals indicated that the content exceeded expectations. In particular they were surprised by recent scientific findings regarding microbial contaminants of surface water, namely the relative immobility of microbial pollutants when deposited on land rather than water and the efficacy of practices/conditions intended to restrict overland movement of said pollutants.
- Attendees at the Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference completed evaluations and 86% of respondents indicated they either “agree” or “strongly agree” with a statement that their knowledge increased as a result of the event. Twenty-four percent of event participants completed the evaluation.
- Information and ideas discussed during the FEW workshop by the 35 participants were synthesized into a white paper identifying four cross-cutting areas in which new technological and institutional innovations will play a fundamental role in framing productive, integrative and insightful FEW solutions: 1) defining the FEW nexus; 2) coordinating across sectors and scales; 3) facilitating date intensive research and extension, and 4) understanding resilience in FEW systems.
Intention to use knowledge gained in future programming and changes in action:
- Knowledge gained by the educator who attended the Alaska Sustainable Ag Conference and the National Intertribal Ag Council Membership Meeting will be used to increase his capacity to offer mentoring to other Extension working in Indian country and to consult with reservation producers or tribal staff working in Indian country agriculture.
- The educator who attended the permaculture event plans to develop a number of workshops to introduce the local public in Spokane to permaculture, its ethic and principles, and some of the techniques employed in permaculture design and implementation. Having learned that misconceptions exist about the “promises” of permaculture, he also plans to write Extension factsheets on permaculture design, dispelling the myths about what it is and what it is not.
- The most significant programmatic impact for the educator who attended the NGWI was the award of a Specialty Crop Block Grant from the WA State Department of Agriculture to further research with a primary emphasis on evaluation of potential use of sub-surface micro-irrigation to conserve water and precisely regulate physiological activity of the grape vine to produce high quality fruit and wine.
- The educator who attended ASHS gained knowledge about alternative fruit crops that will help her to answer grower/stakeholder questions that she receives routinely about emerging crops. She incorporated the soilborne disease management techniques information at a raspberry field day she coordinated in August 2015 and plans to jointly publish an extension article providing information on soilborne diseases management. In total she expects to reach at least 60 of the ~100 red raspberry growers in western WA. She will also use relationships made with colleagues working on ASD to submit a proposal on soilborne disease management for red raspberry and other berry crops.
- Evaluation data collected at The Country Living Expo & Cattlemen’s Winterschool indicated that 97% of participants planned to adopt new practices or ideas as a result of presentations they attended at the event. Examples of planned changes included better pasture management techniques to maximize pasture output; use safer food preserving techniques; experiment with new techniques to keep bees from swarming. Of the 1,250 attendees, 137 were ag professionals.
- Professional attendees who participated in the Grazing and Water Quality Workshop indicated their intent to share the best practices that were taught in the workshop. These included that growing-season-long grazing is rarely protective of riparian function and should be changed such that every stream reach receives some growing season rest. Additionally, simple distribution techniques such as off-stream water and strategic supplement placement will make a significant reduction in the amount of time animals spend in the riparian corridor.
- Attendees at the Tilth Producers of Washington Annual Conference completed evaluations and 89% of respondents indicated they either “agree” or “strongly agree” with a statement that they plan to make a change in their work/operation based on new knowledge learned. Twenty-four percent of event participants completed the evaluation.
- Post-workshop collaborative partnerships following the FEW workshop include 1) the ongoing preparation of a joint-authored FEW manuscript describing the major challenges and opportunities for future FEW scientific research and extension and 2) the formation of an interdisciplinary research team focused on addressing FEW nexus issues in the Columbia River Basin.
- Total farmer/rancher attendance at 2015 PDP supported events: >1,800 (one “hosting” mini-grant and one event drew large numbers of producers, in addition to agriculture professionals)
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation:
The state coordinators for the program are Tara Zimmerman and Chad Kruger. The PDP faculty committee includes Chris Benedict in western Washington, and Steve Van Vleet in eastern Washington. All 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 23 people representing farms/ranches (irrigated, dryland, organic, small and large farms, dairy, tree fruit and wine grape sectors), local NGOs, other professionals in the ag sector, WA Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Ecology, and the University of Washington. The group meets twice a year, most recently in March 2016, to provide feedback on CSANR activities including the SARE State Program.