Natural Resource Conservation Professional Development Project

Progress report for WPDP21-007

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $96,400.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G374-21-W8617
Grant Recipient: Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
Region: Western
State: Arizona
Principal Investigator:
Deborrah Smith
Arizona Association of Conservation Districts
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Project Information

Abstract:

PROGRAM

Arizona Association of Conservation Districts (AACD) is in the process of holding 16 professional development workshops over the next two years. Conservation District Supervisors are being trained to become more effective leaders in locally-led conservation efforts; workshops are being used to expand the knowledge base of Supervisors and other invited agricultural professionals about natural resource conservation management best practices. Best practices are scientifically based, developed, and accepted by experts in the field. Workshops are providing effective leadership training and increasing the skills/knowledge of Supervisors and other agricultural professionals needed to educate farmers and ranchers about best practices and technical and financial support programs available to them emphasizing sustainable agriculture and natural resource conservation.

Project Objectives:

AACD is providing leadership training to District Supervisors so that they may become more effective educators and trainers to producers, as well as increasing the knowledge base, skills, and technical capacity of District Supervisors and other agricultural professionals in best practices suitable to Arizona and, more specifically, to each Supervisor’s specific District, so that they may in turn educate local producers and landowners/managers. In addition to best practices, District Supervisors are becoming proficient in the types of technical and financial assistance programs available to producers so that when advising them around best practices, Supervisors can also effectively guide producers towards which programs may be best for them to find support.

  • AACD visited with 30 Conservation Districts to obtain a list of desired training topics.
  • AACD secured technical support for seminar and workshop topics
Timeline:

Principles, Assumptions, Beliefs, Project Operations, Achievements:

  • Professional development will improve ability of Supervisors to be better leaders and trainers.
  • Supervisors will lead the way in effective locally-led conservation and sustainable agricultural practices.
  • Ag professionals will leave with the knowledge/skills to educate producers about best practices.
  • AACD will organize/operate the workshops; develop leadership training materials for Supervisors; coordinate partner cooperators contributions.
  • Cover all Districts, train all Supervisors, and reach as many agricultural professionals as possible to encourage technical knowledge sharing, share information about the Districts, and foster greater collaboration to support sustainable agriculture and conservation.

Resources, Contributions, and Investments:

AACD:

  • Organize workshops: identify dates/times that works for presenters, find/reserve workshop locations/lead Zoom-based workshops, develop and share marketing materials, advertise through social media, email, etc.
  • Develop training materials for effective leadership; collect/collate materials for specific District regions to educate in best practices (partner contributor materials will be incorporated in training packets).
  • Make materials available online through AACD’s website, YouTube channel, social media, eNewsletters, etc.
  • Record all workshops and produce e-learning videos.
  • AACD Executive Committee will conduct Supervisor outreach to lead and organize participation in trainings.

Project Cooperators:

  • Arizona Farm Bureau will assist in outreach efforts, marketing workshops to agricultural professionals within their network. They will also contribute leadership training materials to assist AACD in developing its trainings.
  • UA Coop. Extension will present/provide training and educational materials around range management and soil health.
  • NRCS will present/provide technical training and educational materials around Local Work Group policy and procedures, soil health, water conservation best practices, and other pertinent area practices.
  • AZ Department of Agriculture will present/provide training and educational materials around pesticide safety.
  • Mollen Foundation will contribute technical assistance/best practice support for natural resource/agricultural conservation education and professional development training support.

Methodology and Activities:

According to different educational professional sources, the following are effective training methods, and are the methods AACD will utilize: instructor-led; interactive/hands-on; computer-based/e-learning/videos; coaching and mentoring.

Timeline:

Year 1: We will divide the state into eight “team areas” (this coincides with regional groupings of Districts used by project cooperator NRCS) with each area serving approximately five Districts. The year will be divided into quarters (July-Sep, Oct-Dec, Jan-Mar, Apr-May). We will hold two workshops each quarter for a total of eight workshops. For example, in the first quarter we may hold one workshop in August and the second in September, covering two regions and approximately 10 Districts.

Year 2: Repeat Year 1.

Cooperators

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  • Mark Killian
  • Katie Poirier
  • Stefanie Smallhouse
  • Dr. Russell Tronstad

Education

Educational approach:

EDUCATION/OUTREACH METHODS

AACD education and outreach methods include:

  • Instructor-led Zoom seminars
  • Interactive/hands-on workshops
  • Computer-based/e-learning/videos on website with 24-hour access
  • Coaching and mentoring with highly qualified certified agricultural consultants

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Natural Resource Conservation Agricultural Professional Development Project
Objective:

AACD is providing leadership training to District Supervisors so that they may become more effective educators and trainers to producers, as well as increasing the knowledge base, skills, and technical capacity of District Supervisors and other agricultural professionals in best practices suitable to Arizona and, more specifically, to each Supervisor’s specific District, so that they may in turn educate local producers and landowners/managers. In addition to best practices, District Supervisors are becoming proficient in the types of technical and financial assistance programs available to producers so that when advising them around best practices, Supervisors can also effectively guide producers towards which programs may be best for them to find support.
• AACD visited with 30 Conservation Districts to obtain a list of desired training topics.
• AACD secured technical support for seminar and workshop topics

Description:

EDUCATION/OUTREACH METHODS

AACD education and outreach methods include:

·       Instructor-led Zoom seminars

·       Interactive/hands-on workshops

·       Computer-based/e-learning/videos on website with 24-hour access

·       Coaching and mentoring with highly qualified certified agricultural consultants

TIMELINE

AACD has divided Arizona into eight team areas that coincide with regional groupings of Districts used by project cooperator NRCS. Each area is serving approximately five Districts. AACD is providing two (or more) workshops each quarter for a total of eight workshops.

Year 1 – FY 21-22:

QRT 1 – August, September 2021

Completed: August 11, 2021 – Landscape Level Conservation Planning

QRT 2 -October, November, December 2021

Completed: November 9, 2021 – Threatened & Endangered Species Conservation Practices

Completed: November 10th, 2021 – Threatened & Endangered Species Conservation Practices

Completed: November 15th, 2021 – Arizona Department of Water Resources Water Law

QRT 3 – January, February, March 2022

QRT 4 - April, May, June 2022

Year 2 FY 22-23:

QRT 1 - July, August, September 2022

QRT 2 - October, November, December 2022

QRT 3 - January, February, March 2023

QRT 4 - April, May, June 2023

Closing - July, August 2023

EDUCATION/OUTREACH PRODUCTS

  • Professional development workshops
    • 16 workshops are being completed over two years.
  • Training materials: materials needed to educate producers are being developed and provided to agriculture professionals at time of seminar and/or workshop and are available on website for 24-hour access.
    • Technical Training Manuals are posted at https://aacd1944.com/aacd-library/
  • AACD is in the process of producing online videos, of “e-leaning modules,” based on workshops and training materials which will be available for 24-hour access on website.
  • AACD is utilizing its information sharing platforms that are already in place – Instagram, Facebook, website, LinkedIn, emailed Weekly Updates, and monthly e-Newsletters – to advertise workshops and uploading new training/educational materials as they become available.
    • July, August 2021 – 4 Website posts, 8 Instagram posts, 8 Facebook posts, 4 Weekly Updates, 2 Monthly e-Newsletters, 1 ConserveAZ Magazine
    • September, October, November 2021 – 3 Website Posts, 12 Instagram Posts, 3 Instagram Posts, 6 Weekly Updates, 2 Monthly 3- Newsletters, 1 ConserveAZ Magazine

 

Outcomes and impacts:

LEARNING OUTCOMES & PROJECT OUTCOMES

  • District Supervisors are becoming better informed leaders who are now able to provide knowledge and skills around locally-led conservation and sustainable agricultural practices.
  • AACD is in the process of uploading online library materials and e-learning videos to be used by agricultural professionals.
  • Supervisors are being trained to be effective Local Work Group leaders, bringing together all local stakeholders to address resource concerns.
  • AACD is increasing the number of producers who take advantage of the knowledge and resources available to them regarding resource conservation and land management best conservation practices.
  • AACD is increasing the number of conservation practices implemented across Arizona’s agricultural lands.
  • AACD is promoting sustainable, profitable agricultural operations in Arizona.
  • District Supervisors and agricultural professionals are Increasing efficiency in production which is resulting in more, healthier food; an increase in resource conservation; and economic improvement in the community – more production means more jobs, means stable, sustainable agricultural/rural communities.

EVALUATION PROCESS

  1. Recording number of workshop trainees and their affiliations.
  • August 11, 2021 – Landscape Level Conservation Planning:
    • 85 Supervisors (81 are producers), 25 NRCS Staff, 10 Agricultural Consultants, 5 Conservation District Administrators
  • November 9, 2021 – Threatened & Endangered Species Conservation Practices
    • 25 Supervisors, 3 Forest Service, 3 NRCS, 2 AZ Game & Fish, 4 Agricultural Consultants, 2 District Administrators
  • November 10th, 2021 – Threatened & Endangered Species Conservation Practices
    • 8 Supervisors, 1 AZ Game & Fish, 3 Producers
  • Numbers Attending: November 15th, 2021 – Arizona Department of Water Resources Water Law and Agriculture
    • 22 Supervisors, 12 AZ Cattle Growers, 2 Farm Bureau, 5 Agriculture Consultants, 3 District Administrators, 2 County Supervisors
  1. Tracking information requests from producers for each District.
    • In Progress
  2. Recording number of e-learning video viewers.
    • In Progress
  3. Providing questionnaires at each event.
    • In Progress
  4. Summarizing results of open discussions.
    • In Progress
  5. Establishing a baseline number of applicants to NRCS assistance programs.
    • In Progress
  6. Repeating numbers of applicants to NRCS assistance programs after each year.
    • In Progress
  7. Producers who are adopting or intending to adopt new practices.
    • In Progress
  8. Grants Leveraged
    • NRCS Conservation Planning - $20,000
    • EPA Conservation Education Best Practices - $45,000
  9. New Professional Collaborations
    • Agribusiness Water Council
    • Arizona Center for Rural Leadership
    • Arizona Food Marketing Alliance
    • Bayer Crop Science
    • Intertribal Agriculture Council
    • SW Vegetation Management Society
    • Arizona Department of Water Resources
  10. Summarizing results and sharing with NRCS and other interested stakeholders.
    • In Progress

Educational & Outreach Activities

222 Consultations
5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Online trainings
57 Published press articles, newsletters
3 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

34 NRCS
5 Researchers
6 Nonprofit
147 Agency
19 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
160 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

222 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
222 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

2 Grants received that built upon this project
7 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:
  • District Supervisors are becoming better informed leaders who are now able to provide knowledge and skills around locally-led conservation and sustainable agricultural practices.
  • AACD is in the process of uploading online library materials and e-learning videos to be used by agricultural professionals.
  • Supervisors are being trained to be effective Local Work Group leaders, bringing together all local stakeholders to address resource concerns.
  • AACD is increasing the number of producers who take advantage of the knowledge and resources available to them regarding resource conservation and land management best conservation practices.
  • AACD is increasing the number of conservation practices implemented across Arizona’s agricultural lands.
  • AACD is promoting sustainable, profitable agricultural operations in Arizona.
  • District Supervisors and agricultural professionals are Increasing efficiency in production which is resulting in more, healthier food; an increase in resource conservation; and economic improvement in the community – more production means more jobs, means stable, sustainable agricultural/rural communities.
85 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
160 Farmers reached through participant's programs
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.