Context, Justification and Assumptions:
The Arizona Sustainable Agriculture Development Program assists Extension agents and specialists, Natural Resource Conservation Service personnel, producers, and other agricultural/education professionals in their efforts to learn and apply the concepts and techniques of sustainable agriculture systems. The SARE development program is important to Arizona because it strives to link Cooperative Extension and USDA field personnel with producers and agricultural professionals statewide. Organic, biodynamic, and permaculture and other producers of various scale apply sustainable agriculture principles to food and fiber production systems in Arizona. A variety of marketing philosophies are used to connect with consumers including farmers’ markets, consumer supported agriculture, field stands, local markets, and internet sales. Additionally, Native American authorities and community members desire to reconnect with their past agricultural heritage and seek assistance in learning and teaching concepts that interface and enhance traditional agricultural techniques. The overall natural arid environment of Arizona creates unique challenges for all producers and the current long-term drought in the Southwest adds a critical emphasis. These issues make it important for the current 20 Arizona Extension agents, their supporting specialists, other agricultural professionals, non-governmental entities, decision makers, producers, and consumers to work together in a synergistic manner. The key for these linkages is effective communication and partnership at all levels. For these reasons, it is important that all parties better understand the concepts of sustainable agriculture and the methodologies required to appropriately apply them in arid land conditions. Arizona programs facilitate the distribution of knowledge and experience to stakeholders statewide. The state program coordinator encourages communication and interaction between interested parties in Arizona and all segments of the national and regional SARE programs.
Stakeholder involvement: Members of the Arizona SARE Advisory Committee provide input and direction to the program. There are four members currently, all from Cooperative Extension. These include; James Walworth, Peter Warren, and Kelly Young with Rick Gibson as chair provide oversight and input.
Producer input comes from stakeholders known by the individual members. Needs assessment surveys help guide programming. Additional stakeholder participation is achieved by partnering with producers, agricultural professionals, producer organizations, and other outreach programs. Individual agents receive suggestions, input, and feedback from the clientele with whom they work.
1. Financial – SARE funding provides financial support to enhance the development of Arizona Extension PDP programs.
2. Human – The experience and professionalism of Cooperative Extension professionals, including their professional education skills and their increasing understanding of sustainable agriculture concepts and techniques; the guidance of stakeholders, and the engagement of other agriculture education professionals; office support to assist with proper documentation of resources, communications and benchmark information processing.
3. Physical – Equipment and office space of participating agencies and organizations, web and Internet-based support for the distribution of information.
1. Extension professionals taking the opportunity to participate in sustainable agriculture seminars, conferences and other professional development activities through travel grants will be better able to address local sustainable agriculture issues (short term)
2. Extension professionals participating in local workshops will feel comfortable adopting or recommending adoption of sustainable agriculture techniques (medium term)
3. Trained professionals will teach the concepts that they have learned to their clientele (medium term)
4. Agricultural operations will become more sustainable (medium and long term)
In Arizona, great strides have been made in helping Extension faculty and others better understand the nature and applicability of sustainable agricultural concepts. This increased knowledge has been demonstrated in the adoption of sustainable agriculture principles into Extension programming, in stakeholder awareness of SARE grant opportunities, and by Extension faculty engagement with local sustainable agriculture producers. Specific needs that require focus are detailed in the proposed activities for 2017-18 time period and in the outcomes and impacts associated with the work performed over this time period and into 2019. This funding and associated activities build upon a solid foundation previously laid and addresses the next needed steps to move the work forward.
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In an effort to reach as many agricultural producers and professionals as possible, the Arizona project engages agricultural and natural resources Extension professionals and provides training to them specific to their needs. These trained educators then, in turn, provide assistance, training, and consultations with their specific clientele and stakeholders, including NRCS, other governmental agencies, agriculture professionals and producers, and nongovernmental agencies. In so doing, sustainable agriculture techniques are disseminated throughout the Arizona industries. In 2018 and 2019, Extension professionals were offered travel grants to meetings both within and outside of Arizona and one local workshop was provided.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
• Learn and apply basic principles of sustainable agriculture
• Study practicing sustainable agriculture systems in Arizona and elsewhere
• Encourage SARE grants applications
• Link with non-governmental organizations
• Strengthen infrastructure of local food systems
The Arizona sustainable agriculture professional development program (PDP) strives to help Extension, NRCS, non-governmental organizations, agricultural professionals, and agricultural producers understand and apply the principles of economic viability, environmental safety, and public awareness in the production and marketing of food, energy and fiber products. The Arizona PDP focuses on SARE goals and programs. The PDP program also encourages professionals to conduct research and education programs that will help build sustainable agricultural systems in Arizona.
Cooperative Extension, a vital part of The University of Arizona’s land grant mission, interacts with state and federal employees, producers, industry representatives, and non-governmental organizations to extend new knowledge and understanding in agricultural production techniques. Currently, the Arizona PDP focuses on helping Cooperative Extension agents, specialists, department heads with Extension appointments, and administrators learn sustainable agriculture concepts. These, in turn, reach out to expanded and larger audiences among their stakeholders.
Professional development efforts are generally focused upon current interests and needs of Extension professionals. Water conservation, heat stress management, soil health, production strategies, and farm marketing strategies are areas of concern in both plant and animal systems. Cooperative Extension and NRCS have primary responsibility to help clientele learn agricultural sustainability in arid lands.
Six travel scholarships assisting Extension professionals defray travel costs to a wide variety of sustainable agriculture related meetings during 2018. Those professionals attending sustainable agriculture meetings reported that participation in these events helped them better understand sustainable agriculture techniques and gave them an increased ability to communicate with clientele.
A workshop attended by key Extension professionals was sponsored in part by SARE. Resulting exit conversations indicated an increased awareness of the requirements for SARE grant consideration, the basic tenets of sustainable agriculture, and an increased desire to sponsor and help work on future SARE related events and activities. Roughly half of those attending were new to Extension or new to SARE training.
Elements of sustainable agriculture programming were included in various Extension outreach efforts through the programming year. These were based in part upon awareness of issues and past participation in Professional Development Program activities.
Administrative travel for co-coordinators in 2018 allowed for attendance to the Our Farms Our Future Conference and to attend the Western SARE PDP Conference in Blaine, WA. These opportunities provided for additional training in SARE related concepts and activities that were shared with local Extension and Ag professionals in Arizona through local meetings.
Four travel scholarships were awarded in 2019 and included travel to a variety of different conferences with varying topics covered. The Extension professionals receiving travel grants provided feedback based on their experiences. One individual provided the following summary of her experience at the conference she attended (1st National Conference on the Management and Conservation of Wildlife).
“Mexico supplies the US with a large amount of fresh produce, and like us, they have issues with animal intrusion which impacts food safety risks. Some growers in Mexico have begun using more natural ways to deter animals than what we use here, such as enhancing habitat and improving ecological corridors to support wildlife. These activities have reduced the likelihood that wildlife will enter the fields. This sounds counterintuitive, but studies in the US have shown that destroying habitat increases animal intrusion into fresh produce fields. My goal in attending this conference was to share information about my current sustainable agriculture research projects (the use of falconry and barn owls to protect fresh produce fields) by giving an oral presentation, and learning as much as I could from the wildlife biologists in attendance about their natural animal deterrent methods. I was able to establish relationships with researchers in Mexico to facilitate regional wildlife research projects together that are specific to sustainable agriculture.”
Videos – Two video productions were initiated in the late fall of 2019 with expected completion in 2020. The overall general topics of the two videos include, Rangeland Monitoring and Forest Health Management. This Rangeland Monitoring video production will demonstrate the UA range monitoring program and show how it may be used to maintain a sustainable rangeland production system while complying with regulations set forth by public land owners. The goal of this production will be to provide information that can be used by both land owners and ranching families to achieve equitable outcomes for both sides. The second video will address the topic of sustainable forest management in Arizona including ways to maintain and cleanup forest lands while at the same time providing a source of revenue for local clientele living in these forested areas.
Mini-grant was disbursed in late 2018 for work completed in the spring of 2019. This project was designed to monitor and track emergence of the masked chaffer beetle in turf-grass in Arizona. The goal was to predict development and emergence of this pest to allow for more sustainable IPM practices to be developed for effective management. A portion of the final report for this project follows:
“Evaluation and validation of the efficacy of LED light traps for monitoring masked chafer beetles in turfgrass. Kai Umeda and Shakunthala Nair. An integrated pest management (IPM) workshop was conducted on 02 May 2019 at the Wildfire Golf Club in north Phoenix, AZ. Five golf course assistant superintendents and one municipal park supervisor attended. Shaku Nair, UArizona Associate in Extension Entomologist, described beetle pest characteristics and biology. Stu Buck, Spectron Labs, provided light traps and described setup and operational procedures for participants. LED traps were deployed to 7 sites on golf courses and beetle trap counts were collected from volunteer superintendents during the summer and logged into a website.”
Additional administrative travel in 2019 included the 2019 WSARE PDP in the Islands of the Pacific. Randy Norton, Arizona SARE co-coordinator, attended and participated in the Guam region meetings and presented topics related to sustainable soil management and irrigation systems design and implementation. This was a unique and unforgettable trip that allowed for interaction with local island residents and the sharing of information.
Reference materials were purchased from SARE and distributed to specific stakeholder groups. Sustainable agriculture-related projects were supported and encouraged. These items were distributed at several local meetings in Arizona during 2018 and 2019. These included summer and winter annual meetings of the AAEA where Extension colleagues were provided with these reference materials along with a discussion of SARE related funding opportunities. Participants in learning experiences report a greater understanding of sustainable agriculture concepts and an increased ability to communicate those concepts with others.
The calendar year 2020 was a challenging year for everybody. The global pandemic related to Covid-19 made travel extremely difficult. Work from home and shelter in place orders were the constant challenges preventing in person meetings and placed a significant damper on educational programming. As a result of the challenges of the year a decision was made to re-direct resources to something that was achievable within the limitations imposed by the global pandemic. We decided to continue with the development of additional educational videos following the pattern of two successful videos that were produced in the fall of 2019. Two videos produced during 2019 included one on the topic of rangeland monitoring and one on the topic of forest health. The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension takes the science of the University to the people of Arizona, when it comes to health, agriculture, and natural resources. Agent Chris Jones talks about Forest Health in Arizona, and the importance of a recent ‘Forest Health Symposium’ in Gila County in the video clip sponsored in part by WSARE. The second video was related related to managing rangeland for more sustainable production using rangeland monitoring program form the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. Arizona’s rangelands provide both ecological and economic benefits. Monitoring the condition of rangelands over time is important to ranchers, researchers, public land management agencies, and the general public. The UA Cooperative Extension Rangeland Monitoring programs assist in collecting this important data used for land management decisions.
A new series of videos were initiated during the 2020 calendar year to highlight cutting edge research being conducted as part of the Arizona Pest Management Center and the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. This series of videos highlight the tools that can be used to monitor beneficial insects in our Arizona cotton production systems and how to effectively use that information in making more informed decisions regarding pest control in these systems. Effective use of predator populations in the field has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of pesticides needed to effectively manage pest populations in the field. This information has been widely distributed in various online (virtual) workshops and seminars/conferences to well over 500 stakeholders during the 2020 calendar year.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Face of SARE
The Arizona sustainable agriculture professional development program (PDP) reaches out to and assists Extension, governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, agricultural professionals, farmers, and ranchers to understand and apply the principles of sustainable agriculture in the production and marketing of food, energy, and fiber products. The Arizona PDP focuses on SARE goals and programs. The PDP program also encourages professionals to conduct research and education programs that will help build sustainable agricultural systems in Arizona. Assistance is given to potential stakeholders, in the form of information and suggestions, to help them negotiate the grant application cycles.
A major focus for the Arizona Professional Development Program is to help Cooperative Extension agents, specialists, department heads with Extension appointments, and administrators learn sustainable agriculture concepts that they may use in their interactions with stakeholders.