Enhancing the Exploring Energy Efficiency - Alternatives (E3A) Curriculum

Final Report for EW13-014

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $42,277.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Milton Geiger
University of Wyoming Extension
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Glen Whipple
University of Wyoming Extension
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Project Information

Abstract:

The economic viability of agricultural operations and rural enterprises is directly tied to the production and consumption of energy. To aid producers through Extension and other natural resource professionals in decisions related to energy, the existing tools of the Exploring Energy Efficiency and Alternatives (E3A) curriculum were enhanced and expanded. The project developed energy education resources and trainings focused on empowering Extension and other natural resource educators to be a primary resource for a rapidly evolving energy landscape. The resources are especially relevant as producers no have choices related to energy, including radically reducing consumption or profitably producing their own energy.

 

The materials, co-branded by the University of Wyoming and Montana State University, continue to be used nationally. Acknowledging staffing challenges at UW and MSU, the resources were made available through Creative Commons.

 

 

This PDP project addressed the following goals:

1) Develop additional content that is required to address specific agricultural producer needs,

2) Offer additional training opportunities for other states desiring to utilize the E3A curriculum, and

3) Enhance support options for currently trained educators to improve the effectiveness of programing for producers.    

 

These goals are progressing well, including the incorporation of new training techniques and open source publication practices.

 

The E3A material continues to be utilized by states across the country.

Project Objectives:

The objectives and performance targets were defined in the original proposal and further refined in a no-cost extension request.

 

(From original proposal)

 

The objectives/deliverables of the project fit into three broad foci: 1) Develop additional content that is required to address specific agricultural producer needs, 2) offer additional training opportunities for other states desiring to utilize the E3A curriculum, and 3) enhance support options for currently trained educators to improve the effectiveness of programing for producers.    

With existing E3A templates and design, the development of new materials can be completed rapidly – Four new folders within six months of grant award.

The four folders will address:

  • Ground source heat pumps (geothermal) – High and volatile heating costs (e.g. propane or electricity) are the reality for many producers;
  • Direct-use geothermal – A very site specific opportunity for specialty agriculture production (e.g. greenhouses, aquaculture) that exists in some locations throughout the West;
  • Solar/wind-powered livestock watering systems – Often the most cost effective use of renewable energy on livestock operations;
  • Irrigation efficiency – The largest non-transportation use of energy on many farming operations with significant opportunity for a rapid rate of return.

State level trainings will be completed at the most opportune (effective) time as determined by the recipient states. Ideally it will occur after the development of the enhanced support infrastructure and additional folders – Three trainings within 18 months of the grant award date.

The three trainings will offer the E3A toolkit to at least 50 agriculture and natural resource professionals, including Extension, Conservation Districts, and USDA employees (Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Rural Development). As an example, all Montana NRCS offices have received the E3A training and possess the toolkit.

As the E3A toolkit already has infrastructure to support video creation and webinars, the enhanced support tools can also be created rapidly. To maximize the effectiveness of training webinars, these will be delivered over the course of one year – Creation of two videos, twelve support webinars, and a functioning “Skype-an-Expert” resource with 12 months of the award date.

The support tools will reach both newly and previously trained educators. By the end of the project, we will have reached over 200 contacts with the enhanced content. The videos and webinars will include the active participation of at least four producers, who are vetted for their experience and expertise in energy issues.

Overall, the project will be responsive to the needs of producers, incorporating both positive and cautionary experiences with alternative energy.

(From approved no-cost extension) –

Additional Time and Justification

Time request – I kindly request an additional ten months to complete Enhancing the Exploring Energy Efficiency and Alternatives (E3A) Curriculum, resulting in a closing date of June 14, 2016.

 

The primary reason for the extension request is the resignation of the lead partner from Montana State University. With the resignation of Sarah Hamlen in November 2013 and the subsequent retirement of her supervisor Dr. Mike Vogel in June 2014, MSU has not yet re-filled the either energy extension position. With the lack of partnership support, the project became a much greater time burden for UW than anticipated. UW has recruited additional institutional partners, namely University of Alaska-Fairbanks and University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to develop content. Still, UW remains the sole institution organizing the required trainings, events, and outputs. With the additional time, the entire E3A suite will be made open-source, allowing for broader institutional use and utility.

 

 

Projected timetable and modifications

 

Objectives and Timetable

The objectives/deliverables of the project fit into three broad foci: 1) Develop additional content that is required to address specific agricultural producer needs, 2) offer additional training opportunities for other states desiring to utilize the E3A curriculum, and 3) enhance support options for currently trained educators to improve the effectiveness of programming for producers.    

 

The four folders will address:

  • Wood Heat – Use of wood energy in home, farm, and ranch properties. Complete
  • Ground source heat pumps (geothermal) and Direct Use Geothermal – High and volatile heating costs (e.g. propane or electricity) are the reality for many producers; Direct-use geothermal is a very site specific opportunity for specialty agriculture production (e.g. greenhouses, aquaculture) that exists in some locations throughout the West. In final review
  • Irrigation efficiency – The largest non-transportation use of energy on many farming operations with significant opportunity for a rapid rate of return. In publishing/editing
  • Solar/wind-powered livestock watering systems – Often the most cost-effective use of renewable energy on livestock operations. In draft version

All folders will be finalized by June 15, 2015

 

In addition, the existing folders will be revitalized and made open source, including images. This will allow other institutions and entities to use the material more readily. A protocol for sharing, including citation and reference guidelines related to SARE support, will be completed by May 15, 2015. The solar photovoltaic, home energy, and micro-hydroprower folders will be completed prior to June 15, 2015.

 

The remaining folders will be made open-source by September 15, 2015.  

 

State level trainings will be completed at the most opportune (effective) time as determined by the recipient states. Ideally it will occur after the development of the enhanced support infrastructure and additional folders – Two additional trainings will be completed by February 15, 2016

 

As the E3A toolkit already has infrastructure to support video creation and webinars, the enhanced support tools can also be created rapidly.

 

Additional webinars (5), devolved into on-line conversations, will be completed by December 31, 2015.

 

The creation of at least two videos (depending upon funding), focusing on specific, teachable topics focused on agriculture, will be completed by October 15, 2015

 

The Skype-an-Expert platform will be operational by June 15, 2015. At least two events utilizing the process will be completed by December 31, 2015.

 

Final evaluation will be conducted from March 15, 2016 to May 15, 2016.

Introduction:

The existing E3A curriculum provided a robust foundation for the subsequent enhancements. Recognizing that energy issues, particularly renewable energy, are both rapidly evolving and regionally specific, additional resources and approaches were needed to further the impact of the existing resources. Guiding the entire creation of the E3A process was the idea of making energy education accessible to natural resource professionals whose technical training is not in an energy discipline. Many agriculturally focused organizations, such as NRCS, Extension, and Conservation Districts, expose the need to engage in emerging topics like energy. Yet without an approachable training and teaching curriculum, the respective organizations chased buzzwords without substantive contributions for agricultural producers. The E3A curriculum attempted to reduce the individual organizational burden related to gearing up for this new challenge.

 

Even with a robust curriculum, engaging Extension professionals in energy education required a deep understanding of how to make the topic approachable. Three elements guided the curriculum:

  1. Easy to Use: A standardized curriculum must be developed and faculty must be able to quickly reference topics within each technology. Pilot testing showed that using a variety of materials added stress and confusion for those trying to learn and teach the subjects.
  2. Scalable: The curriculum and training must accommodate a variety of levels of energy knowledge.
  3. Easy to Incorporate:       The project needed to emphasize incremental increases in energy education engagement within existing programming areas. With current budget restrictions in each state, hiring new faculty with background was not feasible. Strategies needed to allow energy to be incorporated within the existing educational infrastructure.

 

With the need and approach defined, the project coordinators worked with institutions across the west and central region to develop and refine printed, online, and in-person materials. The format maintained the existing E3A look, where each topic is broken into steps. Understanding that access to the resources was paramount, the ready-access to open source materials was emphasized. This emphasis honored WSARE ‘s commitment to have broadly applicable resources, preventing redundant efforts in individual states.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Sarah Hamlen
  • Dr. Glen Whipple

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

The methods followed the broad approach delineated in the original proposal, but significant changes occurred among the PIs. Uniquely, both PI(s) left Extension before the end of the grant. Sarah Hameln departed very early in the grant project, while Milton Geiger left the University of Wyoming in January 2016. (Milton is preparing this final report while working in the private utility sector.) In addition, other supporting members left Montana State University Extension, thus they were no longer active in the project. The project incorporated new partners, including University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

(from original proposal)

The APLU 2011 report regarding Extension energy work in identified:   “There is much more, however, that may be achieved as national priorities for energy goals are set, if CES is used to its full capacity” (p 2). Further, “…while Cooperative Extension exists in every state and territory of the country and has a presence in almost every county, the level of ‘energy’ expertise varies greatly” (p. 3). Addressing this variability in expertise remains a key consideration in advancing the E3A project.  

The assumptions in this project are grounded in three ways: a) piloting of training and educational techniques, b) prior WSARE needs assessment, and c) examination of change theory (specifically the reliable and valid Stages of Concern Questionnaire) (Hall G. E., 2006) related to field faculty concerns regarding adoption of renewable energy and energy efficiency programming. Using this basis of research, the proposed project will operate on the following assumptions:

  1. Materials and trainings must provide a combination of simple, brief assessment tools and in-depth, research-based information that educators can use to discuss energy with producers. Materials must be:
    1. Relevant to addressing producer decision-making, focusing on technical, economic, and regulatory issues;
    2. Unbiased and representative of multiple perspectives on energy issues;
    3. Helpful to agricultural producers seeking to understand their own energy efficiency and potential for renewable energy generation related to the sustainability of the agricultural operation.
  2. It cannot be assumed that all educators will engage at an equal level in energy programming. Training tools and support must offer educators the opportunity to engage at a variety of time commitments with diverse levels of prior knowledge.
  3. Educators require a variety of programming options – from simple “over the hood of the pickup” conversation tools to formal one-hour programming alternatives.
  4. Educators require tools, training, and on-going support/resources if educational programming is to be effectively implemented.

This proposal also assumes the Innovation Diffusion Model, whereby information is disseminated to agricultural producers through Cooperative Extension. This model has been established within CES since the 1930s and continues to be effective in agricultural education efforts (Rogers, 2003).

Even with a robust methodology, extensive effort must be invested to achieve the goals of this project. As would be expected with a collaborative project, the inputs are employee/volunteer time, financial resources, and use of existing technological infrastructure.

Time – Both paid faculty/staff and unpaid volunteers will be utilized during the project.   The project co-coordinators are fully within their job description to create the enhanced E3A materials, but unfortunately, allocating time to sharing it with other states would not be an appropriate use of resources. The WSARE grant will “buyout” 220 hours of Sarah Hamlen’s and 160 hours of Milt Geiger’s, allowing them to share the resources with other states, and develop non-MSUE or UWE-specific materials. Additional time beyond the WSARE-funded hours will also be committed to the project as part of typical duties. Volunteer agricultural producers will also be used in project, especially in the creation of videos. Real-world examples of the application of efficiency and renewable energy technologies strengthen the relevance of the E3A toolkit. Although other agricultural producers will be involved, currently Jim Rogers, Wyoming, and Shad Cox, New Mexico, will share their experience with solar-powered livestock watering systems through video content and canned “Skype-an-Expert” segments.  

Financial resources – The WSARE funds enable printing, video, and travel costs that could not be justified as a component in MSUE or UWE budgets. Without these resources, the E3A curriculum is cost-prohibitive for many other states to adopt/adapt.

Technology – The robust communication and technology infrastructure of MSUE and UWE will be harnessed as part of this project. Video production expertise in the form of script design, filming, sound, and editing, will be utilized. WSARE funds will help underwrite some of the costs, but the use of in-house talent will not be cost neutral. The existence of high quality equipment for video, webinars, and “Skype-an- Expert” make the project possible. The previous E3A project demonstrates the availability and effectiveness of these in-house resources.

These inputs are available to the project throughout the two-year project time-frame. The two-year project will commence upon funding receipt, but with a planned June 1, 2013 start and May 31, 2015 close. The guiding methodology will also direct the project throughout its duration.

Outreach and Publications

New folders released:

 

Daran R. Rudnick, Suat Irmak. Milt Geiger, ed., E3A: Irrigation Efficiency. University

of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wyoming Extension. B-1264. 2015.

  • Nine-part factsheet series

 

Robbin Garber-Slaght, Vanessa Stevens, Molly Retting, and Art Nash; Milton Geiger

editor E3A: Ground Source Heat Pumps. B-1284. 2016.

  • Eight-part fact sheet series

 

Twer, Martin and Peter Kolb. Milton Geiger ed.   E3A: Wood Heat. Montana State University. 2014.  

  • Seven-part fact sheet series

 

An unpublished manuscript for Solar Stock watering remains with UW Extension. The document was not able to be completed and subsequently supported with the departure of the PI (Milton Geiger) prior to the close of the grant.

 

The following folders received updates, including extensive graphics alternations to allow for placement into creative commons. They were also formally placed into the roster of UW Extension, peer-reviewed publications. The updated publication date reflects when they were formally published into creative commons, as previously the publications were not UW Bulletins or MSU MontGuides.

 

Biodiesel – Seven-part series

 

Schumacher, Joel; Sarah Hamlen, Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Biodiesel Applications for the

Home, Farm, or Ranch. E3A-BD.0. 2011.

 

Home energy – Eighteen-part series

 

Hamlen, Sarah, Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Energy Management for Home. B-1282. 2016.

 

Micro-hydropower – Seven-part series

 

Geiger, Milton; Sarah Hamlen and Mike Vogel, eds. E3A: Micro-hydropower for the for the Home,

Farm, or Ranch. B-1281. 2016.

 

Solar electric – Ten-part series

 

Bilo, Susan; Sarah Hamlen, Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Solar Electricity for the Home,

Farm, or Ranch. B-1281. 2016.

 

Small wind – Eleven-part series

 

Hamlen, Sarah; Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Small Wind Energy Applications. B-1280. 2016

 

Solar Hot Water – Nine-part series

 

Bilo, Susan; Sarah Hamlen, Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Solar Hot Water for the Home,

Farm, or Ranch. B-1279. 2016

 

User Guide Assessment and Fact Sheets – Eight-part series

 

Hamlen, Sarah; Mike Vogel and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A User Guide. B-1278. 2016.

Outcomes and impacts:

This project focused on allowing western agricultural producers to make more informed decisions about the utilization of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in their operations. The outcomes for this project were as follows:

  • Educators will increase training and educational outreach to agricultural producers. This outreach may take a variety of forms, including informal one-on-one discussions, formal workshops, and/or references to materials and tools. Participants in the trainings will be expected to implement programming in their own counties to further leverage this investment. Educational outreach may include breakout sessions at commodity organizations annual conventions, agency training sessions for their own staff, etc. Extension and other agricultural educators already possess a robust method for quantitatively recording these contacts and their qualitative impact.
    • The project trained a new cadre of educators, including participants from Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, and Alaska to address producer needs. Through in-person events and webinars, educators received the tools to address producer inquires. In addition, self-paced learning opportunities were enhanced through the creation of new materials and website updates.
  • A support system for energy educators in the Western SARE states will be developed. This support will enable greater education capacity and will leverage resources available in MT and WY throughout the WSARE region. In the long term, it will establish a network structure that will enable educators to adapt and respond to emerging energy issues. The use of these resources is readily quantified.
    • With the loss of key partners at MSU, less emphasis on regional trainings was possible. Still, Alaska with very unique opportunities for energy efficiency and renewable energy, received formal training. In addition, the majority of E3A materials were made open-source, to allow for less structured utilization of materials. Other trainings involving representatives from WY, MT, and CO were also conducted.
  • Producers and educators will be able to more easily access unbiased, research-based information through traditional agricultural educator networks.
    • The move to place resources into open-source, formal Extension publication numbering, and website enhancements advanced this aim.
  • Producers will apply the available information in their decision-making processes. This will not necessarily result in more installations, but it will lead to more cost effective and efficient actions.
    • Through the project, more educators had access to accurate, unbiased information. This should empower producers to make informed decisions.
  • Evaluations will indicate that the materials and resources available are relevant to meeting producer decision-making needs.
    • With departure of both PI-s before the close of the project, a robust evaluation was not undertaken. The reviews from the two in-person trainings were superb.
  • Ultimately, the project will aid producers in making informed energy decisions and will encourage them to seek out the trained educator network when faced with new energy concerns. It increases the relevance of agricultural professional in the burgeoning agriculture/energy nexus.
    • Although capacity in WY and MT is now limited, the E3A project brought attention and capacity to Extension.  

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Folder Development:

 

All folders received a University of Wyoming Extension bulletin number and are posted at both www.e3a4u.info and http://www.wyoextension.org/publications/

 

The folders are available in both as html, PDF, and In-Design format to allow for ready use and alteration by Extension educators and natural resources professionals across the country. All publications are placed into creative commons with a non-commercial license.

 

New folders released:

 

Daran R. Rudnick, Suat Irmak. Milt Geiger, ed., E3A: Irrigation Efficiency. University

of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Wyoming Extension. B-1264. 2015.

  • Nine-part factsheet series

 

Robbin Garber-Slaght, Vanessa Stevens, Molly Retting, and Art Nash; Milton Geiger

editor E3A: Ground Source Heat Pumps. B-1284. 2016.

  • Eight-part fact sheet series

 

Twer, Martin and Peter Kolb. Milton Geiger ed. E3A: Wood Heat. Montana State University. 2014.  

  • Seven-part fact sheet series

 

An unpublished manuscript for Solar Stock watering remains with UW Extension. The document was not able to be completed and subsequently supported with the departure of the PI (Milton Geiger) prior to the close of the grant.

 

The following folders received updates, including extensive graphics alterations to allow for placement into creative commons. They were also formally placed into the roster of UW Extension, peer-reviewed publications. The updated publication date reflects when they were formally published into creative commons, as previously the publications were not UW Bulletins or MSU MontGuides.

 

Biodiesel – Seven-part series

 

Schumacher, Joel; Sarah Hamlen, Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Biodiesel Applications for the

Home, Farm, or Ranch. E3A-BD.0. 2011.

 

Home energy – Eighteen-part series

 

Hamlen, Sarah, Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Energy Management for Home. B-1282. 2016.

 

Micro-hydropower – Seven-part series

 

Geiger, Milton; Sarah Hamlen and Mike Vogel, eds. E3A: Micro-hydropower for the for the Home,

Farm, or Ranch. B-1281. 2016.

 

Solar electric – Ten-part series

 

Bilo, Susan; Sarah Hamlen, Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Solar Electricity for the Home,

Farm, or Ranch. B-1281. 2016.

 

Small wind – Eleven-part series

 

Hamlen, Sarah; Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Small Wind Energy Applications. B-1280. 2016

 

Solar Hot Water – Nine-part series

 

Bilo, Susan; Sarah Hamlen, Mike Vogel, and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A: Solar Hot Water for the Home,

Farm, or Ranch. B-1279. 2016

 

User Guide Assessment and Fact Sheets – Eight-part series

 

Hamlen, Sarah; Mike Vogel and Milton Geiger, eds. E3A User Guide. B-1278. 2016.

 

Trainings:

 

June 16-18, 2016 – Lander, WY

 

Twelve Extension and natural resource professionals participated (attendance was capped at 14) with several late cancellations in an in-depth 2.5-day training. Three states were represented. The training received a “perfect” review, with educators commenting that it was the most effective training they ever attended.

 

Over 20 unique handouts were developed for the event.

 

April 14-16, 2014 – Fairbanks, AK

 

Recognizing the high travel costs for AK to send participants to the Lower 48, the WSARE curriculum was presented to 12 educators, including representatives from the Agricultural Experiment Station over 2.5 days.

 

Evaluations were strong, although the educators felt that the resources needed additional refinements for the Alaskan audience. This helped to drive the project towards the Creative Commons platform.

 

Webinars were offered under the 2nd Tuesday Technical Shorts and 4th Friday Series. The following were completed:

 

  • E3A – Summary
    • July 26, 2013 to University of Nebraska Bioenergy Webinar Series
  • State of E3A
    • February 28, 2014 – Torie Haraldson, MSU
  • E3 in Montana Agriculture
    • March 28, 2014 – Myla Kelly, MSU
  • State of E3A in Missouri
    • April 25, 2014 – Don Day and Amanda Marney, University of Missouri
  • NRCS Services for Ag Sector Landowners
    • June 27, 2014 – Kip Pheil, NRCS National Energy Technology Development Team
  • Federal Small Hydropower Regulations
    • March 11, 2014 – Milton Geiger
  • Rural Development’s Energy Programs
    • April 8, 2014 – Lorraine Werner USDA RD
  • Exploratory Program Trunks
    • June 10, 2014 – Torie Haraldson
  • E3A - Understanding incentives: A key to a viable renewable energy project
    • Thursday, September 17, 2015 – Milton Geiger
  • Using the National Renewable Energy Lab’s PVWatts: Building interactive learning experiences

Thursday, August 20, 2015 – Milton Geiger

 

The webinars were sparsely attended, so emphasis was altered.

 

The Distance Learning Tool (Skype-an-Expert) is operational, although the response from field educators has been lukewarm. Concerns existed over “presenter management,” where the local educator does not have an opportunity to adequate protection against a distance speaker taking control of an event. In addition, the field educators continued to prefer to have in-person speakers travel to events.

 

The Energy Trunks were revamped under the direction of Torie Haraldson, who filled in for six-months for MSU. The air leakage, insulation, and storm windows trunks were lightly utilized, but the lighting trunk was used extensively by field educators.

 

Website and Media products:

 

The E3A website has undergone significant fortifying to make the open-source present robust after the grant expires.

 

 

The website is now hosted at UW Extension at www.e3a4u.info

 

In addition, four videos addressing Solar Electric Energy Considerations were completed. They can be found at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBNu1peKp1UgDzpNYxObOfdzWS3Pd7kaq

 

Collaboration with NESARE Energy IQ PDP Project:

 

After cordial initial conversations, the Energy IQ project team proceeded to create their own New England-specific curriculum.

 

 

 

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Despite the loss of key personnel, the WSARE PDP funding is kept the E3A project relevant and expanding the available resources for Extension and natural resource professionals, which ultimately benefits ag producers. The renewable energy and efficiency information is especially timely, as the rapidly declining costs are open up new opportunities for agricultural producers.  At its core, this project allows western agricultural producers to make more informed decisions about the utilization of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in their operations.

 

The project also provides a future framework for exchanging information and fostering relationships related to energy. With the support of WSARE, the idea of placing Extension publications into Creative Commons may also provide a lasting impact. In times of uncertain budgets, the ability to customize and amplify existing resources is paramount. The experience with WSARE has driven UW Extension to publish other bulletins in a Creative Commons format. Hopefully this will bring UWE and WSARE information to more audiences, further increasing the value of expended public funds.

 

 

Future Recommendations

  • Promote a robust multi-state collaboration, as energy efforts at state Cooperative Extensions Services are often only one person deep. any staffing changes can significantly impact program development and implantation. This WSARE project was significantly impacted by the departure of key personnel.
  • Continue to advance the sharing of all SARE resources through Creative Commons, as the value of education resources is greatest if they are widely disseminated. This creates reporting and evaluation challenges, but the potential for broader impact is worth the challenges.
  • Work with the Department of Energy or other national player to standardize energy curriculum, especially for agriculture.
  • Focus on a few key technologies, particularly solar electric, energy efficiency, wood heat, and ground-source heat pumps. These technologies have the greatest likelihood of viability for producers.
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.