Strengthening Sustainable Agriculture Programming with Native American Producers in the West

Final Report for EW05-005

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $90,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Western
State: Nevada
Principal Investigator:
University of Nevada Reno Extension
Staci Emm
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
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Project Information


This Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Program proposal addresses the educational needs of agricultural professionals working with Indian Tribes or Native American producers. While almost every reservation works with a USDA agency and agriculture professional, most programs are not specifically designed for Native American agriculture producers or Indian Tribes. If is extremely important for agriculture professionals to understand the “Indian situation” in order to assist in facilitating the enhancement of environmental quality and natural resources to satisfy a quality of life founded by human food and fiber needs. A focus group in Nevada organized by the Nevada Extension Indian Reservation Program in September 2003 asked agriculture professionals and Tribal representatives to identify problems with getting government programs on the ground on Indian reservations. One of the problems listed by agriculture professionals was that “We don’t understand the Indian situation. Each reservation is different.” This professional development program led by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension with collaboration from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Intertribal Agriculture Council, will have three primary objectives. The objective are 1) To prepare USDA and other ag professionals with the knowledge and understanding of the Tribes or Native American ag producers; 2) To strengthen and increase sustainable ag programming with Tribes and Native American producers in the West by USDA and other ag professionals; and 3) To increase the participation of Tribes or Native American ag producers in the educational programming and services or programs offered by USDA agencies. The target audience for this SARE professional development program will be USDA field personnel including Cooperative Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development, Farm Service Agency and any other agriculture field personnel interested. However, other University faculty outside of Cooperative Extension and non-profits currently working with Indian Tribes will also be invited to participate. It is anticipated that agriculture professionals will anticipate in Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. This will be a two-year professional development program project. The first year will be compiling data, including interviews, to create publications and a video. Printing of 1,000 publication and DS’s will occur within the first quarter of the second year. Training workshops will be scheduled in the second year with Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Oregon being the targeted states with at least one training session per state. Workshops may be scheduled in other Western states as time and funding allows.

Project Objectives:

The research-based information featured in this self-paced curriculum addresses the political, social, and economic environments on Indian reservations within a select four-state area of the northwestern U.S. This program seeks to increase the capacity of agricultural professionals to work as effectively as possible on Indian lands. The intended outcomes of this program include:

1. Increased agricultural professionals' knowledge and appreciation of the cultural, historical, social, political and economics environments on reservations relevant to developing sustainable agricultural and natural resource education programs on Indian lands;
2. Improved program design and outreach that serves Indian producers, land owners and tribal governments, keeping in mind the infinitely unique characteristics that may be found on a given reservation;
3 Strengthened and/or increased sustainable agricultural and natural resources management programs and practices on Indian reservations; and
4. Increased participation of tribal government and individual Indian agricultural producers and land owners in sustainable agricultural and natural resources management programs


American Indian farmers and ranchers contribute significantly to the economic base of rural reservations. USDA programs (i.e., NRCS, FSA and NIFA) are designed to increase farm and ranch profitability. The needs assessments I conducted with Indian producers on Nevada reservations in 2003 revealed perceived obstacles with respect to the implementation and success of USDA programs that encourage sustainable agriculture programs and practices on reservation lands. Additional research conducted between 2005 and 2007 with Indian producers and agriculture/natural resource professionals on the 10 largest Indian reservations in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington identified a significant knowledge gap for professionals’ about the social, political, and economic environments unique on Indian reservations


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Education & Outreach Initiatives



Critical information used to develop the curriculum People of the Land: Sustaining American Indian Agriculture in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, CM-09-01, (Emm and Singletary, 2009) was provided by primary data collected from American Indians (98%), an audience officially recognized by Extension as “underserved.” The research and pilot teaching effort on each reservation resulted in increased support for Extension curriculum and program development. Additionally, the curriculum material relied heavily upon analyses of secondary data, archived documents, research published in refereed journals and theoretical models concerning economic development and educational outreach with Indian populations.
The peer-reviewed 166-page curriculum was released to the public in 2009 following a three-year research, pilot and revision period.

Outreach and Publications

Emm, S. & Singletary, L. (2009) People of the Land: Sustaining Agriculture on American Indian Reservations in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. (CM-09-01). Reno: University of Nevada, Reno.

Outcomes and impacts:

NOTE: Tables are not included in this report but were sent in an e-mail document.

We (Emm and Singletary) taught the newly released curriculum to participating UNR students in two sessions. We taught 107 participants who attended day-long workshops in Reno or Ely, Nevada; Warm Springs, Oregon; or Lewiston, Idaho. Significant efforts were made to measure program impacts. We incorporated pre-test and post-test methodology and utilized new technology (Microsoft Turning Point technologies clicker system) to make the post-test evaluation more interactive and convenient for participants. We designed a series of questions to first measure knowledge gains, and secondly, measure changes in attitudes. In order to measure behavioral changes, we will conduct a retrospective e-survey of workshop participants approximately 6 to 12 months following the workshops.

Table 1a illustrates evaluation results for selected items from sessions with participating UNR students in 2009. Pre-test and post-test scores increased significantly (statistically significant at p < 0.01) for all 22 knowledge gain impact items. We designed two additional questions to capture attitudinal and behavioral changes. Pre-test and post-test scores for these two items (statistically significant at p< 0.01) indicated that: 1) the program sessions had improved their capacity to discuss American Indian issues knowledgeably; and 2) the program increased their ability to obtain employment because it expanded their world view of American Indian history, government, and policy.

Table 1b illustrates evaluation results for selected knowledge gain items from workshops conducted in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon with tribal members and participating employees of FSA, NRCS, BIA, BLM, City Councils, and Cooperative Extension. Pre-test and post-test scores increased significantly (statistically significant at p < 0.01) for the majority of the 24 knowledge gain impact items.

Table 1c illustrates the results of the five additional questions we designed to capture attitudinal changes for these workshop participants. Although pre-test and post-test scores for these impact items indicated no statistically significant differences, the mean scores did increase for all but one question. These results may indicate that our question design may need further scrutiny and revision.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:
  • Qualitative program impacts for this program collected during 2009 are numerous and include: • We have received numerous requests from Nevada tribal members for similar programming targeting Tribes in Nevada. • Various Nevada county officials have expressed interest in the development of curriculum focused explicitly on Nevada Indian issues. In response to this qualitative indicator of demand, we have begun developing a Nevada version of People of the Land for Nevada counties, Tribes, and Nevada natural resources and agricultural professionals. • The National SARE Director and regional directors are promoting the program and have asked that we teach the curriculum in other SARE regions in the United States. • Newly established US Office of Indian Affairs Director requested 25 copies for distribution to national policy-makers. • Nevada Department of Education Indian liaison requested that we conduct in-service trainings for Nevada public school teachers along with a copy for every school district in the state of Nevada. To address this need effectively, we have begun development of a youth version of People of the Land, targeting Nevada’s youth. • Nevada Indian Commission Executive Director requested 25 copies for distribution to Nevada policy-makers. • The Idaho NRCS training coordinator has requested that we teach an additional workshop in Pocatello, Idaho to agency employees. NRCS has offered to pay our travel expenses for this additional workshop. • FSA officials in Washington have requested a workshop for that state following requests from a Washington state FSA workshop participant who attended the training in Warm Springs, Oregon. • Due to unanticipated requests for copies of the curriculum, we have exhausted the first run or 1,000 copies and received funds to reprint an additional 1,000 copies. • WSARE Directors have offered to pay all costs associated with our participation in the 2010 ANREP meetings in Fairbanks, Alaska to present the quality of life research results featured in our curriculum.

Future Recommendations

Below are some of the recommendations that were give to us in the workshops.

1. We have been asked why we excluded the Hopi and Navajo tribes from our initial program. We submitted a proposal for additional WSARE funds to create a curriculum for the southwestern part of the United States. WSARE officials have asked to meet with us in January, 2010 to discuss the future of People of the Land program.

2. Workshop participants encouraged us to deliver our program to federal policy makers since field personnel have little administrative discretion with regards to how USDA programs are implemented on reservation lands.

3. Indian Tribes have asked to have a curriculum designed to teach them about USDA as our curriculum teaches USDA about tribes.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.