State SARE co-Coordinators:
Summary of 2014 state/protectorate PDP Activities and Results:
In 2014, Washington’s sustainable agriculture PDP topics included: invasive weed management; cover cropping; soil health; small scale dairying; beef cattle efficiency; livestock disaster preparedness; pasture management; vineyard micro-irrigation; food systems and farmers markets; planned grazing and holistic management; presentation of data for lay audiences; incubator farm programs; farmland conservation; food security and sustainability; plasticulture; nutrient management; organic vegetable systems; and livestock handling. A combination of mini-grants for both hosting and attending sustainable agriculture activities, targeted educational events, and travel scholarships for new extension educators reached 130 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 live webinars in 2014 with a total of 127 participants, 83 of whom were ag professionals. These webinars, as well as a webinar presented in 2013, were recorded and their asynchronous views tracked. The recorded webinars were viewed 318 times, with approximately 100 of those by ag professionals. Titles and links to recordings are available below.
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) irrigation water use efficiency, 2) value-added processing on-farm, and 3) ecologically-based pest management. 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. In 2014 we implemented a new survey of PDP potential recipients and will incorporate the results in next year’s PDP awards.
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 (34% of funds), 2) educational events (17% of funds), and 3) training of new extension educators (32% of funds). The remaining funds were allocated to development of educational materials and to travel to the 2014 coordinators conference.
We made three calls for mini-grant applications and awarded 12 mini-grants; one for hosting a training event and 11 for individuals to attend conferences.
A mini-grant was awarded to partially host the following training event:
- The Country Living Expo & Cattlemen’s Winterschool (Stanwood, WA) – January 31, 2015 (funds expended in 2014). The event presented over 130 classes geared towards gaining knowledge and skills to promote the health of Washington’s people, land and communities. Topics ranged from “Improving the Fertility, Condition and Tilth of Soils” to classes with Dr. Temple Grandin in livestock handling. Participants included 85 Extension, conservation district, and other agricultural professionals.
Mini-grants were awarded to fund or partially fund attendance at these training events:
- Pasture Management Professional Development Workshop (Mount Vernon, WA) April 22-24, 2014. This three-day train-the-trainer series provided ag professionals in western Washington with fundamentals and skills in the following: grass and legume growth, seedling identification, nutritional needs of grazers, stocking rates and densities, tools to assess westside pastures, pasture species and weeds, behavior of animals on pastures and different grazing systems, and Managed Intensive Grazing (two ag professionals were funded to attend this event).
- Putting Grasslands to work (London, UK) August 1-2, 2014. This Savory Institute event brought together climate activists, ag professionals, ranchers, farmers, and concerned citizens from around the globe to discuss the use of Holistic Management and Holistic Planned Grazing in restoration of the world’s grasslands.
- Presenting Data and Information (Seattle, WA) August 5, 2014. This one-day seminar covered the design of data graphics, principles for the presentation of data, and a method of giving efficient and useful scientific and agricultural presentations.
- National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI) Conference (Portland, OR) October 1-3, 2014. This three-day conference focused on farm incubator programs, which often target integrating refugee populations in the U.S. through the familiar activity of agriculture. The conference included one day of incubator farm site visits.
- 2014 Washington State Annual Weed Conference (Wenatchee, WA) November 5-7, 2014. 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.
- American Farmland Trust Conference (Lexington, KT) October 20-22, 2014. This conference titled, “Farmland, Food and Livable Communities” focused on the challenges facing American agriculture in the 21st Century.
- Tainio Technology BioAg Symposium (Spokane, WA) February 6-7, 2014. This event featured a number of speakers on “eco-ag” topics, including some novel approaches to soil health and the role of soil biology.
- Joint 2014 Annual Meetings & Conference of the Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS) and the Association of the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) (Burlington, VT) June 18-22, 2014. This event focused on collaboration and innovation across the food system.
- National Association of County Agriculture Agents annual meeting and professional improvement conference (Mobile, AL) July 20-25, 2014. This event provided opportunities for the participant to attend SARE Fellows events and sustainable agriculture presentations, particularly those focused on livestock.
- National Grape and Wine Initiative summer board meeting (NGWI) July 2014. This event provided an opportunity to interact with research and extension professionals, as well as grape-based industry leaders and stakeholders.
We also partially funded one educational event:
- Saving Nature and Improving Agriculture: Where does Nature’s Wisdom Lie? (Pullman, WA) October 28, 2014. This symposium showcased 32 academic posters describing research on sustainable agriculture topics. Categories included: Horticulture; Nutrient/Water; Agronomy; Insects & Disease; Food Quality & Nutrition; Marketing & Economics; Environment; and Livestock. In addition to the symposium poster session, two keynote talks were presented by Emma Marris (author of Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World) and R. Ford Denison (author of Darwinian Agriculture: How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture).
We provided three new extension educator travel grants designed to provide support for new faculty to attend a national conference in their field:
- American Society for Horticultural Science 2014 Annual Conference: Science for Specialty Crops (Orlando, FL) – July 26-31, 2014. The two extension educators who attended this conference reported attending numerous poster sessions and presentations on a variety of topics including: organic horticulture, plasticulture, vegetable crop management, herbs, spices, vegetable cultivar trials, small fruits, nutrient management, and irrigation, among others.
- International Tri-Societies Conference (American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America and Crop Science Society of America) (Long Beach, CA) November 2-5, 2014.The four-day conference included thousands of presentations, most addressing world food security and natural resource sustainability. A pre-conference seminar focused on sustainability of organic production systems.
Finally, we supported the development of educational materials via emerging technological formats:
- Hosted and facilitated three sustainable agriculture webinars (archived HERE):
- Nitrogen Cycling and Losses in Agricultural Systems (March 13, 2014)
- Nitrous Oxide Emissions in Inland Pacific Northwest Cropping Systems (March 27, 2014)
- Nitrogen Management and Climate Change Mitigation in Pacific Northwest Cropping Systems (April 17, 2014)
- Hosted and edited an ongoing, Center-wide blog, “Perspectives on Sustainability.” Contributors included CSANR faculty, staff, and student guests.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products:
- Many symposium posters from “Saving Nature and Improving Agriculture: Where does Nature’s Wisdom Lie?” were submitted electronically and are posted online. Coordinator-supported educational materials include the following (registration links connect directly to webinars):
- Webinar – Nitrogen Cycling and Losses in Agricultural Systems
- Webinar - Nitrous Oxide Emissions in Inland Pacific Northwest Cropping Systems
- Webinar - Nitrogen Management and Climate Change Mitigation in Pacific Northwest Cropping Systems
- Webinar - Soil Carbon Dynamics and Climate Change Mitigation in the Inland Pacific Northwest (recorded in 2013; views tracked through 2014)
- CSANR multi-author blog – Perspectives on Sustainability
Changes in Ag Professionals’ Knowledge, Intention and Action
1) Acquisition of new knowledge and skills
- The educator who attended the National Incubator Farm Training Initiative conference learned the basics of farm incubator programs and learned that very few are focused on increasing farm production per se. An exception was a program in Portland OR. Its goal is to develop new farmers place on agricultural trust land than comes available during urban development. The educator found this program in particular to be a hopeful model for his area.
- The FRTEP Educator who attended the Washington State Annual Weed Conference learned a variety of safety practices for applying herbicide. This included personal equipment for the applicator, but also safety precautions for orchard workers, community members, animals, children, etc.
- The educator who attended the American Farmland Trust conference reported: “The most important take-away from this event for me was learning about tools and resources for making an economic case for the importance of agriculture in the community. Two workshops focused on economic analysis and were particularly useful in demonstrating what metrics to track, how to frame discussions of economic impact and what pitfalls to avoid in doing so.”
- The educator who attended the Tainio Technology BioAg Symposium learned the importance of root exudates in the soil/plant/microbe relationship and a new analytical technique (plant sap analysis) that may be useful for more real-time monitoring of plant health.
- The educator who attended and presented at the UVM Food Systems Summit reported: “…I found that there was a great deal of interest by conference participants in our WSU research on farmers markets. Our presentation was well-attended with significant audience participation, questions, and discussion. A group of people stayed afterwards and asked for copies of the paper. I was encouraged by academic peers to develop this paper into a journal article. I also gained significant knowledge from attending other research presentations and keynote addresses. For example, I learned about the standard that has been developed for the European Union’s labeling system for ‘place of origin’ products at a panel presentation with speakers from France and the Netherlands. As part of this same workshop track, I learned about programs being put in place to protect the place names of ‘Vermont Maple Syrup’ and ‘Maine Lobster’ so that these producers can build and protect their unique market niches.”
- The educator who attended the National Association of County Agriculture Agents annual meeting reported touring a small-scale raw milk dairy and engaging in conversations with colleagues about the sustainability and ethics involved in this operation. She also reported learning about technology options for both Extension outreach and producers. Additional knowledge was gained by attending workshops on beef cattle efficiency, prolonged grazing seasons, dairy cattle financial management, bovine disaster preparation, and meat goat programming.
- The educator who attended the National Grape and Wine Initiative summer 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 in 2015.
- One of the educators who attended the Pasture Management Professional Development Workshop reported that the training provided him with the fundamental ecological basis of pasture ecology, which provided the foundation for the sustainable pasture/grazing land management strategies presented during the training. He reported that the understanding of these principles within the context of Western WA ecosystems was critical and allowed him to apply these principles to aid in enhancing the sustainability of pasture based livestock operations.
- The second educator who attended the Pasture Management Professional Development Workshop reported: “As an Agriculture Extension Faculty with training and experience in crop-based agriculture, I had minimal exposure to training on livestock-oriented agriculture prior to this train-the-trainer series. However, with the growth of small farms integrating livestock into their production systems, and the growth of consumer interest in grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, there is a great need in the South Puget Sound region for additional trainings around livestock and pasture management so that operators adopt the most sustainable practices possible. This training exposed me to the fundamentals and skills needed and I’m better prepared to develop and deliver livestock/pasture-oriented outreach programs in the South Puget Sound region as a result.”
- The educator who attended “Presenting Data and Information” reported gaining substantial knowledge about effectively presentation data to readers, emphasizing a design principle of minimal “ink to data” ratio. More generally this means stripping unnecessary colors and effects where a simpler design would convey information more effectively. The educator reports, “The principles of design factor directly into my work in developing web interfaces for the Measure to Manage Program tools. There is a great deal that can be done to increase the usability and display of information in these tools, and the design principles and examples in the seminar provide a framework from which to complete this redesign.”
- At the Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool, 130 educational classes were presented to 1,550 attendees (including 85 ag professionals) and were geared towards gaining knowledge and skills to promote the health of Washington’s people, land, and communities. From “Native Trees of Western Washington” and “Improving the Fertility, Condition and Tilth of Soils,” to classes with Dr. Temple Grandin in livestock handling, ag professionals increase their ability to respond to the needs of their constituents with cutting-edge information.
- At the “Saving Nature and Improving Agriculture: Where does Nature’s Wisdom Lie?” event, 30 ag professionals participated. Participants were challenged to reconsider some of their preconceived notions, such as more diversity is always better; that farms should somehow be compared to natural systems, even though they are highly disturbed and usually artificial constructs. Participants were encouraged to think outside their comfort zones.
- The educator who attended the American Society for Horticultural Science conference reported gaining substantial knowledge in southern highbush blueberry (SHB) production. Washington grows northern highbush blueberry but with a very different pruning strategy that is labor intensive and difficult to transfer technique to farm workers. SHB is pruned by hedging. She reported planning to utilize this knowledge in her research and extension program of blueberry.
- The educator who attended the International Tri-Societies Conference reported gaining specific knowledge around soil quality as affected by acidification and the prevalence on soil physical characteristics of trivalent cation bridge formation across soil aggregates.
2, 3) Intention to use knowledge gained in future programming and changes in action
- Knowledge gained by the FRTEP educator at the weed conference will be used in hands-on workshops focused on safety protocols for handling, applying, and storing herbicides. Residents of the Colville Confederated Tribes Indian Reservation are the target audience for this programming.
- The educator who attended the American Farmland Trust conference will present what she learned at the San Juan County Agricultural Summit.
- The educator who attended the NACAA annual meeting will incorporate what she learned, particularly regarding technology, in her outreach to producers. She plans to create a curriculum on sustainable livestock production that will include information gained at the meeting. In addition, she gives about 25 presentations per year to producer groups and intends to incorporate her new knowledge into those presentations.
- The two educators who attended the Pasture Management Professional Development Workshop report working together on a new three-part course, “Managed-intensive Grazing in Western Washington” to be delivered in Thurston County for anyone who manages livestock on pastures in Western WA or OR. The workshop provided an excellent base from which to build a relevant and science-based course. Each of the three classes will have an audience of up to 50 livestock producers as well as agriculture and conservation professionals from the Central and South Puget Sound region.
- The educator who attended “Putting Grasslands to Work” will incorporate what she learned into training, consulting, and outreach activities that the Pacific Northwest Center for Holistic Management will host throughout Washington and Oregon. This will include a series of half-day workshops, multi-day workshops, and a grazing conference in May. Audiences will include livestock producers in WA and OR, environmental groups, consumers, and ag professionals.
- The educator who attended “Presenting Data and Information” is implementing what he learned throughout his programming to ensure users have access to clear, succinct information. Users are generally from one of three groups: researchers interested in using Measure to Manage (M2M) data and methods; food producers who want to evaluate the pesticide use profile of their products, and consumers who are concerned about the health impacts of the foods they eat.
- Evaluation data collected at The Country Living Expo & Cattlemen’s Winterschool indicated that 95% of participants planned to adopt new practices or ideas as a result of presentations they attended at the event and 97% indicated they planned to share information with others. Examples of planned changes included changes to cattle/livestock handling set ups; begin using sacrifice areas to protect pastures, soils and lesson compaction; and improved pasture management through better timing of fertilizer application. Of the 1,550 attendees, 85 were ag professionals.
- Participants who presented posters at “Saving Nature and Improving Agriculture: Where does Nature’s Wisdom Lie?” indicated the event was highly valuable to them because it allowed broad exposure of their research and they were able to learn about other research on sustainable ag topics and expand their networks.
- One of the educators who attended the ASHS conference reported specific plans to include pruning in her blueberry research and extension program. She will be evaluating current and alternative techniques in northern highbush blueberries in Washington. She will measure variables including efficiency, effects on canopy volume, yield, fruit quality, and disease incidence. In tandem with this research she will develop pruning workshops, visual pocket guides, and pruning videos that can be accessed online.
- The second educator who attended the ASHS conference has a major program focus of plasticulture. He reported being energized and motivated by the conference, and, through networking opportunities at the conference, was selected to chair a group tasked to survey high tunnel usage across the United States. The results will be published in one of ASHS’s journals and will be the focus of a colloquium to be developed for an ASHS conference.
- The educator who attended the International Tri-Societies Conference reported the following: “One of my areas of focus as new faculty is soil quality. Soil acidification is one the foremost limiting factors in wheat and pulse crop production across the Palouse Region. Knowledge gained during seminars and at poster sessions, in addition to personal interactions with experts, will serve a rich resource when delivering seminars on soil acidification, soil organic matter management and agronomic theory for applications in precision agriculture. I am also planning two extension publications on this topic.”
Total farmer/rancher attendance at 2014 PDP supported events: >1000 (one “hosting” mini-grant drew a large number of producers, in addition to agriculture professionals).
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 March 2015, to provide feedback on CSANR activities including the PDP program.