This proposal will provide training for Alaska agriculture professionals working with high tunnel producers in a workshop scheduled for autumn 2015 in Kenai. In addition to all Alaska agriculture/horticulture Extension agents, staff from other in-state agriculture organizations will be invited to attend. Topics will include aspects of sustainable practices including nutrient management, integrated pest management, crop selection, irrigation, and construction/maintenance considerations. As a part of the workshop, a farm tour in Kenai will showcase several sustainable high tunnel operations. There will also be a brainstorming session to identify education and research priorities related to high tunnel production in high latitudes. Following the workshop, Extension agents will create a series of high tunnel publications based on the needs identified in the brainstorming session and the information learned at the workshop. Each extension agent will also utilize the knowledge gained in the workshop to offer high tunnel trainings to producers in each district served by an agent.
Objective 1 – provide a professional development workshop to train eight Extension agents and other agriculture professionals on all relevant aspects of high tunnel production at high latitudes to enable provision of valuable technical assistance to producers. Anticipated date of completion: October 1, 2015
Objective 2 – prepare a series of Extension bulletins on high tunnel production at high latitudes to be used by producers across Alaska. At least four publications, in bulletin format, will be created by the eight agriculture/horticulture Extension agents. A final list of publications to prepare will be selected at the workshop based on needs identified during a brainstorming session. Anticipated date of completion: July 31, 2018
Objective 3 – disseminate information learned with each Extension agent offering a high tunnel workshop within a year to current and prospective producers in their district. The workshops will increase attendees’ knowledge of high tunnel production methods leading to adoption of practices that reduce costs and improve natural resource management. Anticipated date of completion: July 31, 2018
This project addresses Western SARE program goals #1 and #2. The professional development workshop will teach sustainable crop production methods that apply regionally to Alaska and other high latitude locations, both for stewardship of natural resources and to enhance quality of life for producers.
By learning, then teaching about, sustainable crop production in high tunnels, agriculture professionals can promote practices that help satisfy food needs in urban and rural Alaskan communities, enhance soil quality and productivity, and increase profitability for producers. High tunnels are regionally important in Alaska for season extension, and to provide a growing environment that allows for production of crops that would otherwise be unrealistic in Alaska without the use of expensive energy resources.
Producer training workshops will be held in rural and urban communities across Alaska. In both community types, commercial and home-use producers will attend the trainings, though in rural communities, a higher portion of the interested producers will likely be for home-use. There are currently a handful of high tunnels being used in rural Alaska, and these trainings could promote greater adoption that could lead to more local fruit and vegetable production in more Alaska communities. Though the initial interest in rural Alaska may have been from home gardeners, those growers may eventually expand into commercial production that could supply food to the community and a livelihood for themselves and potential employees.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Training, Education, and Outreach
Because of the increasing interest and experience with high tunnels in Alaska, we think that it is imperative to develop educators and educational material to better promote this expanding method of agriculture. To accomplish the project outlined in this proposal, partnerships will be strengthened between numerous agriculture professionals, such as NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, State of Alaska Division of Agriculture, and Certified Crop Advisors. Staff from these organizations will be invited to attend the professional development workshop and participate in the brainstorming session. Based on their letters of support and previous conversations, we know they are interested in having some of their personnel attend the workshop. It is imperative that attendees be from diverse backgrounds to allow for varied questions and discussion during the brainstorming session on education and research priorities. Working together we will be able to better focus our outcome efforts into areas that will most help Alaska farmers that use or are going to use high tunnels.
Resources will come from this grant proposal and from agencies sending personnel to the workshop and selected high tunnel operators. Extension personnel will have their travel paid to the workshop through grant funds. Selected guest speakers will also have their travel to the meeting covered. Travel and per diem for other agriculture professionals will be covered by their organizations. There will be no workshop fees charged to any attendees. The grant will cover the cost of transportation to the field tour sites and the rent of the space for the meeting. Owners of the high tunnels toured will be volunteering their time. Bulletins will be prepared by selected attendees and these will be products funded by UAF-CES as part of our expected job performance in cooperation with our communications department.
Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, School of Natural Resources and Extension (UAF SNRE) have participated in some of the only research on use of high tunnels in Alaska, including variety trials and production techniques. Those researchers, Dr. Meriam Karlsson and Heidi Rader, will be asked to present their research as part of the professional development workshop. Dr. Mingchu Zhang, a soil scientist with UAF SNRE, will also be invited to speak about soil fertility and management in high tunnels. Presenters in entomology and in pathology have yet to be identified. Several farmers in the Kenai district will also be invited to attend to provide unique perspectives during the workshop.
After professional development training, Extension agents will be expected to give a sustainable high tunnel workshop in their district. At least one workshop will be distance delivered through a webinar, smart classroom, or online video series to reach producers in rural areas without access to Extension offices. To support the workshops, grant funds will be available for each agent to organize and pay for the costs of such a workshop. Costs may include travel for an in-state expert to attend and speak, rental fees for vehicles to use during local high tunnel tours, and supplies.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Feedback from the meeting was excellent and all of us think that we have a better understanding of how to work with producers who are buying or managing high tunnels. Our one-on-one talks with growers using high tunnels are much better informed.
Objective 1 – The planned for workshop with the Alaska agriculture and horticulture extension agents occurred on September 8 and 9, 2015. The agenda for the meeting and the participants are listed below.
Objective 2 – This project will continue during 2018 with the production of a high tunnel bulletin. A high tunnel video (11.5 minutes) with 285 views (1/2/2018) has been created and published on the UAF Extension YouTube Channel – https://youtu.be/ncocfx-7vpU
Objective 3. Each of the agriculture and horticulture extension agents will continue to offer training courses for high tunnels in their respective districts in 2018. A recent workshop offered in Palmer (5/8/17 through 5/10/17) was highly successful with 15 participants.
Below, please find the agenda and other information of the workshop that was offered in 2015.
Agenda: High Tunnel 101 for Agents and Partners
September 8th & 9th 2015
Multi- Purpose Room, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge
Tuesday September 8th 2015
9:00-9:30 AM – Greetings and Introductions
9:30-11:00 AM – Construction considerations, irrigation techniques, water monitoring.
Jeff Rypka, NRCS Kenai
11:00-11:15AM – Break
11:15-11:45AM – NRCS and the EQIP program in Alaska, funding, distribution and the future of this popular program.
Meg Mueller, NRCS
11:45-12:15PM – Paperwork requirements for EQIP applicants, what does Extension need to know?
Craig Sanders, NRCS Homer
12:15-1:00PM – Lunch on Site (provided)
1:00-1:45PM – Soils, an indepth look at the local soils supporting plant growth
Pam Voeller, NRCS Kenai
1:45-2:15PM – Nutrient Management Analysis reports, common trends
Mingchu Zhang, SNRE
2:15-2:30 – Break
3:00-4:00PM – Agronomics of High Tunnel production
Merriam Karlsson, SNRE
4:00-4:45PM – IPM for High Tunnels, Insect monitoring, disease and weeds.
Jessie, Janice, Darcy, Steve, etc.
4:45-5:00PM – Partnerships. Who are your partners and how to strengthen communications?
NRCS, Soil & Water Districts, Plant Materials Center, Cooperative Extension personnel
Wednesday September 9th
8:00-5:00 – High Tunnel Tours – Lunch and transportation included
Airport drop off to head home
Participant List of Attendees and tour sites
Merriam Karlsson, School of Natural Resources and Extension
Mingchu Zhang, School of Natural Resources and Extension
Steven Seefeldt, CES Fairbanks
Darcy Etcheverry, CES Fairbanks
Darren Snyder, CES Juneau
Steve Brown, CES Mat/Su
Julie Riley, CES Anchorage
Jessie Moan, CES Anchorage
Phil Kaspari, CES Delta Junction
Leif Albertson, CES Bethel
Casey Matney, CES Kenai
Janice Chumley, CES Kenai
Glenna Gannon, Tanana Chiefs
Craig Sanders, Homer NRCS
Jeff Rypka, Kenai NRCS
Pam Voeller, Kenai NRCS
Meg Mueller, Southcentral NRCS
Todd Steinlage, Plant Materials Center
Heidi Chay, Kenai Soil and Water Conservation District
Terra Schmidt, Homer Soil and Water Conservation District
Jessica Guritz, Fairbanks Soil and Water Conservation District
Brad Casar, Homer Soil and Water Conservation District
Don Thompson, raised beds, innovative growing – Kenai
Rita Jo Shoultz, Commercial production – Homer
Don McNemara, Oceanside Farms, csa gardens, season extension, – Homer
Brian Olson, Alaska Berries, high tunnels, field grown berries, winery.
Velma Bittick, Arena Acres, Cooperative and Farmers Market – Homer