SARE Professional Development Program Annual Report for Washington
January 1-December 31, 2012
State SARE Coordinator:
Summary of 2013 state/protectorate PDP Activities and Results
In 2013, Washington’s sustainable agriculture PDP topics included: invasive weed management; small ruminant parasite control; vegetable pathology; sustainable livestock - methane capture, production, and use; vegetable grafting; urban food forests; tools and education for young/new farmers; financial tools for farmers market success; fresh food in schools; and targeted information for women in agriculture. A combination of mini-grants for both hosting and attending sustainable agriculture activities, targeted educational events, and travel scholarships for new extension educators reached 100 agricultural professionals who gained knowledge and/or skills in one or more of these topics.
One particularly useful event funded by PDP this year was the PNW Small Farms Extension Educator Forum, which brought together educators from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to coordinate regional activities and better develop extension strategies.
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 (43% of funds), 2) educational events (26% of funds), and 3) training of new extension educators (10% of funds). The remaining funds were allocated to development of educational materials and to travel to the 2013 coordinators conference.
We made one call for mini-grant applications and awarded 13 mini-grants; 11 for individuals to attend conferences and training events (one registration paid in 2013 for a 2014 event; details will be reported next year) and two for hosting training events.
Mini-grants were awarded to host the following training events:
- Women in Agriculture Conference: Growing Your Successful Farm Business (19 sites throughout WA) – February 23, 2013. The webinar and local workshops during the day focused on business strategies, financial risk and marketing. Local women producers and ag professionals discussed their successful practices and methods for limiting their farming risks, balancing work-life situations and financial management.
- Small Ruminant Parasite Control Workshop (Ellensburg, WA) April 20, 2013. Topics included an overview of small ruminant parasites, new concepts in internal parasite control, conducting fecal egg counts, (FECs), and using the FAMACHA parasitism assessment tool.
Mini-grants were awarded to attend these training events:
- National Young Farmers’ Conference (Tarrytown, NY) – December 12-14, 2012. The event gathered over 250 young farmers from around the country for three days of workshops on an 80 acre working farm. Many workshops took place in classrooms, but there were hands-on workshops in greenhouses, fields, animal stables, tractor garages and more.
- Washington State Farmers Market Association Conference (Vancouver, WA) – January 25-27, 2013. Over 200 farmers market organizers, farmers, state agencies and partner organizations came together in Vancouver, WA for continuing education, collaboration, networking, and celebration of the achievements of Washington’s outstanding farmers markets.
- Fresh Food in Schools Summit (Moses Lake, WA) February 20-21, 2013. This was a conference for farmers, school food service staff, parents, and community advocates to network, attend sessions on farm involvement, school cafeteria as classroom, and geographic preference in food purchases.
- Western Extension Sustainability Conference (Park City, UT) October 2-3, 2013. This conference was designed by extension educators, for extension educators, to assess what major environmental sustainability programs are currently being delivered through Cooperative Extension and to envision a future direction. Environmental sustainability is envisioned to encompass five thematic areas: Land (conservation, reduce, reuse, recycle), Air (quality, climate change), Food (local food, sustainable food systems), Water (quality, conservation) and Energy (renewable, sustainable).
- Washington State Annual Weed Conference (Wenatchee, WA) November 6-8, 2013. Provided knowledge for WSU Tribal Extension Educator to conduct future educational activities on aspects of integrated weed control and management applicable to sustainable management of invasive weeds on rangeland of the Colville Indian Reservation. The conference covered a variety of integrated weed management practices, including rangeland, turf, ornamental and vegetable crops.
- Online training for qPCR vegetable pathology (Mount Vernon, WA). This training provided in-depth training on qPCR specifically for a project on field flooding as an alternative to using soil fumigants for plant disease control.
- The ABCs of Farm Education (Burlington, VT) March 8-10, 2013. A workshop to explore hands-on ways to develop agricultural education programs for school groups based on "project seasons," a collection of teaching ideas developed by teachers and agriculture educators over the past 20 years. Topics included marketing farm education programs to schools, safety and meeting teachers’ needs.
- Methane Expo 2013 (Vancouver, BC) March 12-15, 2013. This event was organized by EPA's Global Methane Initiative for promoting methane recovery and use projects by agriculture and other industries. The expo featured high-quality presentations from around the world and more than 100 exhibitors of state-of-the art technologies.
- Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society/ASFS Conference “Toward Sustainable Foodscapes and Landscapes” (East Lansing, MI) June 19-22, 2013. Each feature of the program was oriented toward helping situate the production, distribution, acquisition and consumption of food within a complex web of social, cultural, economic and political processes.
- Creation of Sustainable Livestock Reference Library. While funding as an “attending” mini-grant, this grant was awarded in lieu of conference attendance for an extension educator in a new position to contribute to the creation of a reference library specific to sustainable livestock.
- ISHS International Symposium on Vegetable Grafting (Wuhan, China) March 17-21, 2014 (registration funded, event to be reported in 2014).
We also partially funded three educational events:
- Seeding the Future: Ensuring Resiliency in Our Plant Genetic Resources (Symposium at Tilth Producers of Washington Conference) – November 9, 2012. Seven speakers representing a wide range of influence and expertise – the USDA-ARS, Washington State University (WSU), WSU Extension, small seed companies, and commercial farmers – provided a diversity of viewpoints on national and local issues pertaining to plant genetic resources. Symposium presentation topics were the following: (1) The Role of Extension, (2) Overview of the Genetic Commons, (3) Public and Private Seed Systems, (4) What is a Genetically Modified Organism, and (5) The Role of Local Seed Companies. This event drew a diverse group of attendees.
- Sustainable Food, Agriculture & Natural Resources Symposium (at CSANR 20-year anniversary event) – December 6, 2012. The event showcased 48 academic posters describing research on sustainable agriculture topics. Categories included: Crop Breeding and Quality; Climate Change and Modeling; Stakeholder Engagement Programs & Tools; Non-synthetic Weed, Pest and Disease Management; and Sustainable Fertility Management. In addition to the symposium poster session, a keynote address was presented by David Montgomery, author of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations.
- Pacific Northwest Small Farms Extension Educator Forum (Hood River, OR) – December 9-11, 2013. The purpose of the project was to offer a forum for small farms Extension agents from the Pacific Northwest to exchange information on educational programs, research and publications. Rather than create more work for individual agents, the forum was designed to foster collaborations to improve efficiency and complementarity of programs between Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
We provided two new extension educator travel grants designed to provide support for new faculty to attend a national conference in their field:
- Society of American Foresters National Convention (Charleston, SC) – October 23-27, 2013. The extension educator who attended this conference reported that this conference highlighted current research that delved into developing innovative silvicultural practices that meet the objectives of landowners for whom timber production is one of many goals. Also, he found the urban forestry and “food forests” information particularly useful.
- 2013 Crop Science – Soil Science – Agronomy meeting: Water, Food, Energy and Innovation for a Sustainable World (Tampa, FL) November 3-6, 2013. Topics included: conservation agriculture and sustainable intensification; organic systems and climate change stability, resilience and profitability; polyculture and perennial grains for sustainable agriculture; sustainable nutrient management systems; and sustainable crop choices for biofuel production, among others.
Finally, we supported the development of educational materials via emerging technological formats:
- Hosted and facilitated a sustainable agriculture webinar: Soil Carbon Dynamics and Climate Change Mitigation in the Inland 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.
- Facilitated the transition to a new web platform and launched CSANR website for sharing research information regarding sustainable agriculture.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products:
- Symposium presentations from “Seeding the Future: Ensuring Resiliency in Our Plant Genetic Resources” have been captured through digital audio recordings and are posted on the Tilth Producers of Washington website.
- Coordinator-supported educational materials include the following:
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Skills and Action
1) Acquisition of new knowledge and skills
- The written survey tracked levels of understanding of eight topics pertaining to plant genetics and breeding before and after the “Seeding the Future: Ensuring Resiliency in Our Plant Genetic Resources” Symposium. Based on 48 complete responses, there was a gain in topic understanding for all eight topics, and the percent gain ranged from 1% to 29%. The largest gain in understanding was realized for the history and role of the USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), while the smallest gain was realized for the role of diversity in agricultural systems. Respondents claimed a 14% to 16% gain in understanding of four topics: public breeding and privatization of U.S. seed industry, breeding/selection for organic production systems, history and role of Cooperative Extension Service, and the science of transgenic crops. The following topics saw an increase understanding of 6% and 9%, respectively: open pollinated and hybrid varieties and on-farm variety improvement and development.
- Attendees at the Small Ruminant Parasite Control Workshop learned about the regulations pertaining to the use of medications in food animals, impacts of overuse of dewormers, benefits of selecting for animals resilience in the face of parasitism, how to assess degree of parasite loads and determining when to treat. All attendees were encouraged to share what they learned and their handouts with other colleagues and producers.
- The educator who attended the Fresh Food in School Summit gained an understanding of some of the health and safety issues surrounding fresh foods in schools and felt better prepared to discuss options with her local food service director.
- The educator who attended the Crop Science, Soil Science, Agronomy meeting felt the information he learned would strengthen his soil and water management program with new concepts and practices of sustainability.
- The educator who attended the Methane Expo reported learning more about EPA’s GMI program, and by participating in the work session of the agricultural subcommittee he learned about a wide variety of agricultural methane programs around the world, including Argentina, China, Finland, Jordan, Thailand and more.
- Of the nearly 500 women who attending the Women in Agriculture conference (approximately 20 were ag professionals; others were producers) most indicated they benefitted greatly from the financial management presentation during the conference.
- The FRTEP Educator who attended the weed conference gained knowledge in mechanical, biological and chemical control methods, as well as best safety practices for application of herbicides and for the safe and appropriate clean-up methods should a spill, leak, or other accident occur while using herbicides.
- The educator who attended the Young Farmers conference reported being really excited by a presentation called Growing Seed as a Farm Enterprise, which detailed how a small grower can begin growing seed for larger seed companies, including how to contact them, what to consider when choosing which plants to grow for seed, and examples of labor vs. profit for specific crops.
- The educator who attended the annual Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society/ASFS Conference reported learning a lot of applicable information for her position, including programmatic details on how the EBT, Double Up Food Bucks and Food Access Partnership at farmers markets work in Michigan (for example) and contacts for more information. She reported really liking the schematic for prioritizing outreach to farmers markets for EBT work.
- The educator who participated in online training for qPCR reported that it improved her understanding and use of the technology.
2) Changes in attitudes or understanding
- While participants in the Women in Agriculture conference were primarily producers (with some ag professionals), many indicated that they understood the connection between having a farm vision, business goals, and business plan and a clear marketing message. Understanding how to use and analyze a balance sheet would give them the tools to determine if they were profitable and then they could make adjustments to plans, goals and marketing.
- At the “Seeding the Future: Ensuring Resiliency in Our Plant Genetic Resources” symposium, the most controversial presenter was Dr. Michael Neff, whose opinion on genetically-modified organisms contradicted with the beliefs held by many of those in attendance. Still, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and the following opinion is representative of the majority viewpoint expressed: “I enjoyed the pro-GMO session for its information and [the] discussion [it] provoked. I hope you continue to bring in speakers with diverse and unexpected perspectives.”
3) Changes in behavior and action
- While participants in the Women in Agriculture conference were primarily producers (with some ag professionals), many indicated that they were going to prepare and analyze their balance sheet to determine if they were making a profit, seek assistance from government agencies to handle risk, create a farm vision to guide decisions, create business goals, develop a marketing plan and many indicated that they intended to established a better work-life balance.
- Education gained by the FRTEP Educator at the weed conference will be used through workshops to reach tribal government, individual tribal members and landowners.
- When asked to list three things attendees plan to do within the next six months with the information they learned at the “Seeding the Future: Ensuring Resiliency in Our Plant Genetic Resources” symposium, 38% of respondents mentioned they would explore and/or utilize the USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), and 40% would either begin growing their own seed crops or would begin conducting on-farm variety trials to make selections for specific production systems and environments.
- The educator who attended the Fresh Food in School Summit is already using the knowledge she gained as she works with community and school gardens and connects food with families and brings it into meal programs and church kitchens in her community.
- The educator who attended the Young Farmers conference plans to share the resources and information she learned “in conversations at young farmer events, meetings and on [her] listserv.”
- The educator who attended the Washington State Farmers Market Association Conference plans to offer a workshop series to local producers with a goal of reaching 30-45 producers.
- The educator who attended the Methane Expo reported, “The information I learned will be integrated into my work providing technical assistance to industry and the public in Washington State. Throughout the rest of this year I hope to reach more than a hundred people with the information I learned.”
- The urban forestry educator reported that as a result of attending Society of American Foresters National Convention, he is engaged in an urban forest group focused on establishing “food forests;” forests that provide nuts, berries, fruits, etc.: “In Spokane, a number of residents currently in the lower stratum of earned income are recent immigrants from Russia, Ukraine and other countries that once comprised the Soviet Union. Many people from these countries are well-used to harvesting foods from forests and wild grown vegetation and are likely to be especially attuned to utilizing foods from this source. Extension currently has few, if any, programs that serve the needs of our region’s Slavic Community and I would love to be able to bring programs to this underserved community. This is only one example of program ideas that result from this Convention.”
- Total farmer/rancher attendance at 2013 PDP supported events: >500 (one event and one “hosting” mini-grant drew a large number of producers, in addition to extension educators)
- The “Seeding the Future: Ensuring Resiliency in Our Plant Genetic Resources” Symposium resulted in press coverage, increasing the reach of the event:
- Organic farmers get lesson in GMOs. By Steve Brown, Capital Press.
- Farmer develops seeds for his region, his scale. By Steve Brown, Capital Press.
- Tilth Producers of Washington: Growing Forward. By Gail Nickel-Lailing, GoodFood World.
- Seeding the Future with Genetic Diversity. By Sylvia Kantor, WSU CAHNRS.
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 22 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 January 2014, to provide feedback on CSANR activities including the PDP program.