Summary of 2015 PDP Activities and Results for Wyoming:
The 2015 reporting year represented a transition period for the Western SARE-PDP program in Wyoming. Upon Dr. Mike Smith’s retirement in May 2014, Kelly Crane assumed the Western SARE-PDP Coordinator responsibilities for Wyoming. This change in program coordination assignment provided an opportunity to reexamine PDP program objectives, engagement and implementation strategies. In 2015, we did continue to provide travel scholarships for agricultural professionals to participate in SARE related professional development activities. These scholarships are awarded for professional development activities which are likely to advance technical capacity in sustainability topics and subsequently foster educational programming “on the ground” in Wyoming. Two Area Extension Educators received these scholarships in 2015. A retrospective assessment from these educators regarding the knowledge gained and potential educational outputs and outcomes of these activities was conducted.
Context and Overview:
The University of Wyoming (UW) and UW Extension are uniquely capable of advancing the objectives of the Western SARE-PDP program and the associated development, delivery and evaluation of research-based educational programs to agricultural professionals throughout Wyoming. UW Extension has agriculture/natural resource educators in every county in Wyoming and on the Wind River Indian Reservation. These academic professionals have a minimum of a Master’s degree and are hired with the expectation that they develop an applied research program to support the relevancy, technical accuracy and objectivity of their educational programs. Accordingly, UW Extension, the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES) and the four UW Research and Extension Centers are increasingly collaborative in their effort to meet the educational and research needs of Wyoming agricultural producers and professionals. Leadership for each of these entities is under the direction of the Dean of UW’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
In Wyoming, the Western SARE-PDP program provides educational opportunities which enhance the awareness, technical knowledge and educational capacity of agricultural professionals. These educational objectives support our overall goal of fostering a cohort of agricultural professionals (UW Extension, NRCS and Conservation Districts) who can effectively address the contemporary needs of agricultural producers, natural resource managers and landowners in Wyoming. Travel scholarships undoubtedly advance our objectives for the PDP program. However, our recent needs assessment effort indicates potential opportunities to enhance program impacts through workshops and publications. Accordingly, we have expanded our effort in this area in the current year.
Activities and Methods:
Professional Development for Agricultural Professionals (travel scholarships)
Ranching for Profit School, two agricultural professional participants (one Extension Educator, one Ranch Manager from Hyattville, Wyoming).
Impacts and future educational outputs (as identified by participants): Participants used knowledge gained to initiate a beginning farmers and ranchers program in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming. The rancher indicated that the knowledge gained at this workshop “permeates all of the work I do on the ranch” and has already lead to innovation in his management strategies.
Targeted livestock grazing symposium (SRM), one agricultural professional participant.
Future educational outputs (as identified by participants): Workshops for agricultural producers on using livestock grazing to advance natural resource management objectives.
Symposium on contemporary development and implementation of ecological site descriptions (NRCS/SRM), one agricultural professional participant.
Future educational outputs (as identified by participants): Publications and educational programs for agricultural professionals and producers on ESDs.
Natural resources educational program development for K- 12 audiences (SRM), one agricultural professional participant.
Future educational outputs (as identified by participants): Development of a curriculum and associated youth natural resources adventure camp in Wyoming. This educational event will explicitly address the objectives of sustainable agriculture and natural resource management.
Ranch Sustainability, Economics and Profitability (SRM).
Future educational outputs (as identified by participants): Workshops and digital media outputs for agricultural producers which integrate ranch system economics, natural resource management objectives and sustainability. Information gained from this event will also culminate in the development of a comprehensive educational program for Beginning Farmers/Ranchers in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin.
Soil Health and Management for Agricultural Professionals
This project included 1) a workshop for agriculture professionals, 2) a series of farmer video interviews, and 3) supplies for statewide soil educational programming. Funding for this project was provided by Western SARE Professional Development funds allocated through UW Extension.
On May 27 and 28, 2015, Washakie County Extension hosted a workshop for agriculture professionals on the topic of soil health and management.
Workshop attendees included eight Extension Educators, one industry agronomist, three crop advisors, and two NRCS staff. Five other individuals had registered for the workshop but were unable to attend due to weather related road closures. There was no cost for UW Extension employees to attend the workshop, and they also received all resources and tools free of charge. Non-UW employees were charged a fee of $100, with the exception of one individual who was charged only $30 to cover the cost of meals. The workshop met requirements for continuing education credits for Certified Crop Advisors, and Wyoming Commercial Pesticide Applicators. Photos from this event are available to download.
PDP-funded Publications/Educational Materials and Products:
All individuals who registered for the Soil Health and Management workshop (regardless of attendance) were given access to an online folder that contained over 70 extension bulletins, articles, e-books, and other resources related to soil health and management. Since the workshop, this folder has been updated to include over 100 resources and has been shared with all UW Extension agriculture, horticulture, and range management educators. This URL has also been shared with gardeners and farmers across the state during classes and workshops.
All workshop attendees also received the following items:
- A copy of the “Soil Fertility Manual” published by the International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI).
- Hard copies of several Extension bulletins and research articles.
- The book “Building Soils for Better Crops” published by Western SARE.
- A USB drive with the same resources that are available in the online folder.
- A soil thermometer.
- Set of two soil infiltration rings (including cellophane and stopwatch) in a UW Extension bag.
All Extension educators that registered for the Soil Health and Management workshop (10) received a set of tools and soil nutrient test strips. Tools were distributed based on what would be most valuable to the educators (not every educator received every tool).
- EC Meter with calibration sachets (used for testing levels of soluble salts in the soil solution).
- Soil penetrometer (for measuring soil compaction).
- Soil sample probe.
- Set of pH test strips.
- One set each of nitrate and phosphate test trips.
We are producing a series of videos that highlights the innovative, profitable, and regenerative soil management practices of Wyoming farmers and ranchers. We want to provide a platform for sharing ideas and show what is possible within the limits of our climate, production systems, and soils. In response to “that won’t work here” we want to ask, “what is possible?”
The videos will be less than 15 minutes in length and the target audience will be farmers and agriculture professionals. They will not be scripted, but the host will provide a brief introduction to the farm and the farmer(s), and ask some leading questions. This will be a relaxed conversation, and the goal is to give the audience the experience of visiting the farm and sharing ideas about soil management. The host may provide additional supporting information as well.
Example leading questions:
- What is your typical crop rotation? Are livestock integrated in any way?
- What was your previous soil management system? How is your current system different?
- What motivated to adopt new/different soil management practices?
- What benefits have you seen in adopting a new system?
- What challenges have you experienced in adopting a new system (short-term vs long-term)? Was there a transition period?
- What do you wish you had known when you started? What advice might you give to other producers?
As of March, 2016 five interviews have been completed and are in the editing phase. This first set of interviewees included farmers in Goshen, Fremont, Washakie, and Park counties. We anticipate that the first videos will be released by May 2016. Four more interviews are scheduled for May, 2016.
Changes in Ag Professionals’ new Knowledge, Intention and Action:
To assess changes in knowledge, behavior and perceptions we used TurningPoint® software and clickers. The following tables summarize the responses of agricultural professionals before and after their participation in our Soil Health and Management workshops.
Q1: If a grower asked me a question about soil health and management, I am confident I could help them find the information they need.
Q2: I could explain the difference between the various pools of soil carbon.
|Yes, with a little help from my friends||12||1||25||2|
Q3: I know how to help a grower select the right cover crops for their farm.
|Yes, with a little help from my friends||56||5||50||4|
Q4: I could explain the difference between saline and sodic soils.
|Yes, with a little help from my friends||22||2||20||2|
Q5: I could explain what a disease suppressive soil is.
|Yes, with a little help from my friends||22||2||25||2|
Approximately four weeks after the workshop, a follow-up evaluation was sent to participants via email. Eight workshop participants responded to the follow-up survey. Participants were asked to rate the workshop on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). Responses were as follows:
|Number of Responses||0||0||2||4||2|
When participants were asked about the most useful things they learned in this workshop, they provided the following responses:
“The hands on exercises were great…because it gave me a foundation for doing the same thing with land owners. The horticulture exercise at the end was great because it felt like we were walking through exactly what we could do in a workshop. It was like practice, very good.”
“Networking with other Soil Health people. Better understanding of Soil OM and Biology.”
“Since it is outside my expertise, how crops impact soil and how to build soil in a cropping system. The horticulture discussion was also very useful! Being in the field and actually use the tools and learning the quirks was helpful.”
“The discussions about gardening and gardening clientele.”
When participants were asked changes they would suggest to the content or format of this workshop, they provided the following responses:
“Due to the diverse audience needs, I would split the group and have subject matter specific information at the beginning and overlapping information in the middle and then subject matter specific information at the end so that the group is always engaged and involved with the subject matter being presented.”
“Presenting the lessons in a way that makes it easy to imagine sharing the same information with landowners. Sometimes the scientific jargon makes it difficult to figure out how to share the information in a clear, concise manner.”
“I really like the combination of classroom and field time. I don't know if it's possible but maybe more tours of different practices and soil impacts. Some of the presentations were a bit dry and didn't hold my attention.”
“Good workshop, good presenters.”
Acquisition of New Knowledge, Skills and Awareness:
Survey results also indicate that through participation in travel grant scholarships educational professionals gained new knowledge, technical skills, teaching capacity and educational program development strategies in the following topic areas:
- Ranch systems economics and implications for ranch planning.
- Contemporary advances in the science and management of rangelands for agricultural production and natural resource objectives.
- Educational program delivery strategies to specifically address farmers and ranchers.
- Connecting land health, profitability, business enterprise planning and family dynamics into sustainable management strategies.
- The conceptual framework, science and philosophy of using livestock grazing to specifically advance natural resource management objectives (targeted livestock grazing).
- How to incorporate targeted livestock grazing into management strategies and educational programs for agricultural professionals and producers.
- The contemporary science, application and development of ecological site descriptions and how to incorporate this tool into effective assessment, management and planning for rangelands.
- Developing natural resource educational programs, curricula, content and delivery strategies for youth audiences.
Trainees’ Intention of Using What They Learned in Future Educational Programs and Products:
Survey results indicate that educational professionals who participated in our Western SARE-PDP program have advanced their technical insight and teaching capacity. These outcomes will support their effort to develop and deliver the following educational programs in Wyoming and the region:
- A statewide educational programming and associated applied research effort has been initiated to address management challenges and opportunities for Wyoming farmers. Specifically, agricultural professionals who participated in our Soil Heath and Management Workshops have developed several county-based educational efforts on these topics for local agricultural producers. Importantly, our initial efforts continue to foster improved cooperation among NRCS, Extension, Conservation Districts and Producers in addressing soil health and cropping sustainability issues.
- A series of educational programs in western Wyoming introduced ranchers and agricultural/natural resource professionals to recent advances in ecological site descriptions, associated spatial data and the utility of these tools to make management decisions.
- UW Extension, in cooperation with NRCS and Conservation Districts continue to host a Natural Resource Adventure Camp for youth. The explicit objectives of this event include enhancing the awareness and technical knowledge of youth in the areas of natural resource management, sustainable agriculture and careers in natural science fields.
- New knowledge in soil health, assessment of soil conditions and cropping systems has also fostered several new soil management programs aimed at small acreage landowners and community horticulture interests.
Changes in Action on the Part of Trainees:
Our post-hoc survey and supervisor’s assessments both indicate that participants in Western SARE-PDP educational events have enhanced their confidence, objectivity and accuracy in addressing questions from stakeholders regarding the topics previously addressed. We expect continued positive impacts in this area. In this program year, we observed several new programming focus areas and expansion in educational programming breadth as a result of agricultural professional’s participation Western SARE-PDP programs.
As a new Western SARE-PDP coordinator this attribute is difficult to address. However, UW Extension is regarded, by many, as a national leader in terms of the technical expertise and specialization of our field-based educators. The resources provided by our Western SARE-PDP has undoubtedly contributed to this capacity and associated positive impacts to our stakeholders.
Soil and horticulture Extension programs are enhanced by hands-on and interactive activities. Readily available and inexpensive soil test kits can be useful in Extension programming in the classroom and the field. With the addition of a few extra supplies and tools, a complete kit can be created for Extension Educators to use in horticulture and soil management programming.
Five soil test kits from different manufactures were evaluated for both ease of use and accuracy. All kits included tests for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and pH. The kits used for this project are available at many garden centers and online retailers. To expand the kits for use with large groups, inexpensive and readily available materials like drinking straws and medicine cups can be added. Additional teaching and soil assessment tools have also been evaluated and added to the kit for measuring or demonstrating soil texture, structure, and salinity. By using and evaluating several kits and tools, a set of supplies and protocols was developed that work well in both the classroom and the field.
The results from this project will be presented as a poster at the annual meeting of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents in July, 2016. In addition, an abstract has been submitted to the Soil Science Society of America for the annual meeting in November, 2016.
Involvement of Others in State PDP Planning and Implementation:
In Wyoming, the Western SARE-PDP advisory committee is comprised of two UW Extension initiative teams: 1) Agriculture and Horticulture, and 2) Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources. Each of these teams consists of Area Educators, Specialists and Administrators. These teams have also solicited the participation of NRCS and occasionally include stakeholders and other community partners. These individuals are all engaged in statewide needs assessment processes related to their respective programming focus. Initiative teams meet a minimum of three times per year and the Western SARE-PDP program will be addressed at two of these meetings.