California Professional Development Program 2021-2023

Progress report for WCA21-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $107,250.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G276-21-W8618
Grant Recipient: University of California Cooperative Extension
Region: Western
State: California
State Coordinators:
Jeffrey Stackhouse
University of California Cooperative Extension
Dr. Sonja Brodt
University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Ed
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Project Information


In order to streamline the execution of the PDP program in California, we plan to continue using the PDP award to fund mini-grants.  We have an established advisory committee to prioritize funding criteria and review submitted proposals for this proposal’s funding cycle.  We also have assistance available through the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources division to manage the mini-grant application and funding processes.  We plan to fund approximately 3 to 6 mini-grants $5,000-$35,000 each that will be awarded through formal call for proposal(s).

The incredible diversity of California’s agriculture creates an equally diverse need for educational and professional development.  Current high-priority topics include: 

  • Climate change
  • Fire: Wild and Prescribed
  • Nutrient management practices to minimize environmental impairments
  • Water use efficiency
  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Alternative marketing approaches
  • Succession planning
  • Community-based food systems
  • Agricultural community disaster preparedness 

These identified topics will help prioritize projects during the review of PDP mini-grant proposals.  

Project Objectives:

The overall outcome of this plan is to increase the capacity of Cooperative Extension advisors, NRCS field staff, and other agricultural professionals to apply the principals of sustainable agriculture while working with their clientele (Farmers, ranchers, consumers, youth, businesses, government, and communities). Generally, this will be accomplished through funding workshops that will 1) extend emerging sustainable agricultural practices to extension educators and agricultural professionals, and 2) bring together extension educators and university faculty working on sustainable agriculture to develop collaborative priorities, goals, and strategies for researching and extending sustainable agriculture issues. Predicting precise outputs from future workshops whose topics, location, and COVID-friendly make it difficult to estimate specific outputs. with the advisory committee in place, projects that increase knowledge or skills in more participants receive a higher ranking. Additionally, projects that produce outputs that have a longer shelf-life and continue to be a source for increasing knowledge into the future are also favorable. Now that we are expecting both project size and duration to increase with these larger grants, we are hopeful that deeper knowledge and skill can be gained through educational programs with longer duration. We have an expectation is that each workshop will train between 30 and 100 extension educators or agriculture professionals on topics identified in the mini-grant and travel scholarship funding criteria.  Grant recipients will be requires to provide participant evaluations to be embedded in each educational event so that feedback can be provided to the California PDP advisory panel on the acquisition of learning objectives for each project. The advisory panel will use workshop evaluations and general knowledge within their professional cadres to develop ideas and priorities for future PDP activities in California.


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  • Sonja Brodt (Educator)

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Building equitable community-based food systems in Silicon Valley

This project aims to provide agricultural professionals, community-based organizations, food access providers, and local government staff with training on the historical inequities in the Silicon Valley food system to support deeper engagement with underserved urban farmers and associated urban communities and identify obstacles and opportunities for enhancing equity in today’s urban agricultural and community-based food systems. These trainings will help participants better deliver on shared goals for improved quality of life through equitable urban agriculture and food initiatives and stronger food justice and food sovereignty. We will work with a community of practice, the South Bay Food Justice Collaborative, to develop and offer a series of 5 workshops on topics related to the root causes of inequities in the food system, which will be accompanied by local case studies and a summary white paper to reinforce and extend workshop learning.


We will hold a series of 4 online educational workshops on food justice and historical inequities in the food system. Final topic selection will be made in consultation with the South Bay Food Justice Collaborative, but potential topics include: the history of local farmland ownership and access; the roots of uneven neighborhood food access; applying an equity lens to food assistance programming; urban agriculture and equitable community development; and recognizing and addressing implicit biases to form stronger community partnerships. Webinars will include a historical overview of the issue; examples of agricultural organizations who are addressing these issues in ways that advance food system sustainability and equity; and dialogue between presenters and attendees. In Spring 2023 we will hold a fifth, in-person workshop, in which attendees will visit a local farm and have a structured discussion about what they have learned from these workshops and how they can apply it in their work. We anticipate that 50-70 people will attend

Outcomes and impacts:

• Participants will gain knowledge of the historical roots of inequity in the Santa Clara and San Mateo County food system
• Participants will develop a shared knowledge base and interest in making the regional food system more sustainable and equitable.
• Participants will increase their understanding of strategies for promoting equity and food justice in their programming and in their outreach to farmers and associated communities.

Nitrate Optimization Methods with California Certified Crop Advisors

The project would help train PCAs and CCAs in hands-on methods required to gather appropriate field data for a nitrogen optimization webtool/model that has already been developed by UC ANR/ UC Davis. Trainings would occur throughout northern and central California. Trainings would cover field sampling techniques such as soil nitrate quick tests, representative sampling, as well as drone and satellite image processing (canopy reflectance). Trainings would utilize collaborator demonstration sites where possible and leverage case studies from different grower collaborator experiences to teach participants how to interpret data and model outputs appropriately.


Educational workshops and webinars that will be held in person but will also be recorded and archived for later access. Locations would include 7 UCCE offices throughout California that would cover most of the primary wheat growing regions in California: Tehama, Glen, Shasta, Colusa, San Joaquin, Yolo, and Stanislaus counties.

Outcomes and impacts:

Participants will generally be expected to
1) Be capable of independently collecting soil nitrate and canopy reflectance data
2) Be capable of using the Nitrogen Fertilizer Management Tool for California Wheat in a variety of scenarios and understand the general mechanics of the webtool.
3) Be capable of interpreting the results of the webtool to make recommendations to growers

Responding to Growing Trends: Increasing Capacity for California Aquaponic Agriculture Through Targeted Education

This project aims to prepare California agricultural professionals with the tools necessary to increase statewide
capacity in aquaponics, which combines two of California’s most rapidly growing agriculture sectors:
aquaculture and hydroponics. 10-20 agriculture professionals from around the state will be selected to
participate in a collaborative learning experience consisting of six 90-minute remote learning sessions,
followed by a 3-day in person workshop hosted at the UC Davis Aquaponic Greenhouse. Curriculum will cover
terminology, scientific principles, systems design, equipment and vendors, farm tours and Q&A sessions with
USDA specialty crop producers and educators in the Sacramento area utilizing aquaponics commercially and
in STEM education.


Activities include six 90-minute remote online classes to be held weekly, followed by a 3 day in-person
workshop hosted at the UC Davis Aquaponics Greenhouse and the Center for Aquatic Biology and
Remote learning sessions will cover: Recirculating Aquaculture, Hydroponic Systems, Controlled Environment
Agriculture, Aquaculture Effluent as a Fertilizer, Fish Selection for CA (regulations by county), Growing Media
and Substrates, STEM Applications, Urban Ag Applications, Water and Nutrient Conservation, Organic
Aquaponics and Certification, Food Safety and Marketing. Remote sessions will feature case studies on
schools, non-profits, and commercial farms across the U.S. utilizing aquaponics to meet their individual goals.
Supplemental video and print materials will be emailed to participants each week.
The 3-day in-person workshop provides the tangible hands-on experiences to cement the learning from the
previous remote learning sessions. Participants will experience aquaponics to gain an understanding of the
realistic benefits and challenges aquaponic farmers face at differing scales. Participants will see multiple
configurations of aquaculture and aquaponic systems across the UC Davis Campus. We will travel to Luther
Burbank High School in Sacramento to see how they have incorporated aquaponics into their campus’ urban
agriculture academy. At Tsar Nicoulai Caviar in Wilton, CA participants will tour a commercial sturgeon
aquaculture farm utilizing aquaponics for sustainability and profit. Participants will have the chance to learn
and speak directly with the farmers and representatives from the California Aquaculture Association,
Aquaponics Association, Black Urban Farmers Association, Edible Schoolyard, CDFA and CDFW. Supplemental videos and print materials be made available for use by participants and the general public.

Outcomes and impacts:

Participants will gain an understanding and appreciation for the benefits and challenges of aquaponics. They
will be comfortable discussing these topics with students, clients, or relevant agencies and have a
understanding of the growing methods and technologies utilized to produce a large variety of California
Specialty Crops. We expect participants will become, adopt commercial aquaponic production techniques
and/or aquaponic based curriculum to increase amongst participants or stakeholders. By “teaching the
teachers” we hope to create a widespread increase in the awareness and receptivity around aquaponic

Marin County Agriculture Team Professional Development Program

This proposed project is intended to support UC Cooperative Extension, Marin County in developing, delivering and evaluating a professional development program for County of Marin employees to increase their capacity to apply the principles of sustainable agriculture and grasp the full implications of agricultural projects for climate change, local economies and the overall strength of local communities. The proposal consists of a 12-month program to ground a cohort of 16 key county permitting staff in the dynamics of the local agricultural industry in Marin County, providing them with context and a sense of shared purpose they can apply to permit applications related to environmental stewardship, worker housing, market diversification, and economic development within the ag community.


This cohort of county staff (known as the “Ag Team”) will participate in a 12-month series of explorations in topics that cover the agricultural industry from production, through processing, distribution and consumption. These encounters will take place at county offices in a “brownbag” format, via short 30-minute webinars, and in field trips to key locations around Marin County. Content delivery will be by UCCE Marin staff and advisors, other UC specialists, and various local producers, processors and marketing/distribution entities. The 16 members of the cohort will participate in four brown bags, ten mini-webinars and three field trips. Topics include:
•Exploration of three distinct sectors of Marin agriculture and their respective business models (dairy, livestock, fruit/vegetables)
•Peri-urban and urban agriculture – including community food production and community gardening
•Value-added production – who and how it adds to the strength of ag operations
•Marketing and distribution – how and where farmers and ranchers sell their products, how this has changed with time and where things are headed from here.
•Climate and agriculture – ag’s role as cause, victim and solution for climate change
•Natural resource management – ag producers as stewards of air, water and soil quality
•Agriculture and social justice – unaddressed issues within the food system including erasure of native communities from the landscape, the role of institutionalized racism at the USDA and CDFA on access to land,the economics of who has access to local, organic foods
•Ag workers – Employer and employee issues related to working on ag operations (emphasis on housing, wages, working conditions)
•Capstone encounters:
Case studies – cohort tackles permitting implications for real-life projects like changes to manure management systems, construction of ag worker housing and establishment of value-added enterprise
“Roadshow” – Ag Team members meet with ag-related organizations and groups of producers to share their own perspective as county staff, identify shared interests, build trust.

Outcomes and impacts:

UCCE Marin, in collaboration with Marin County leadership has established four key objectives for the Ag Team, representing changes in knowledge, intensions, decision-making and actions.
•The cohort will develop an understanding of both the separate and shared interests of county staff and the agricultural community, enabling them to appreciate the needs and important contributions of the other
•The cohort will affirm the County’s commitment to identify and pursue improvements in specific permit processes that impact agricultural operations
•The cohort will apply consistent focus of review that is appropriate to the ag operators’ objectives, balancing thiswith the County’s interest in protecting public health and safety.
•The County will experience an increase in the total number of ag-related projects successfully submitted and approved.

Educational & Outreach Activities

10 Consultations
10 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
4 Minigrants
20 On-farm demonstrations
7 Tours
10 Workshop field days
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.