The topics covered by this California PDP proposal included equitable outreach to traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers and related communities of color, to enhance quality of life and viability of all of California’s rural communities via agricultural and
food systems extension. The focus was on engaging with local community organizations of underrepresented farm and rural community groups to develop and offer a training workshop for Cooperative Extension, NRCS, and non-profit organizations on addressing institutional
disparities in outreach to communities of color. In addition, a portion of the additional funds granted were used to increase familiarity with the use of prescribed fire in California to help landowners sustainability manage their natural resources and reduce hazardous fuels on their working lands.
The objectives included:
- engage with community-based organizations of underrepresented farm and rural community groups and assess their needs for extension services
- offer a training workshop for Cooperative Extension, NRCS, and non-profit organizations on addressing institutional disparities in outreach to communities of color.
- Conduct prescribed fire training workshops for owners and managers of grazing land.
The overall outcomes were increased capacity of CE advisors, NRCS field staff, non-profit agricultural organizations, and other agriculture professionals to apply the principles and practices of racial and social justice in working with their clientele (farmers, ranchers,
consumers, youth, businesses, government, or communities), and to increase their capacity to engage constructively with clientele that reflect California’s diverse population. Additional outcomes included increased capacity of rangeland extension professionals and rangeland managers to conduct prescribed burns.
The WSARE Professional Development Program in California has strong ties to specific programs within the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR), which implements the land grant mission in California. The most notable affiliations are with Cooperative Extension (CE) and the Agricultural Sustainability Institute (ASI). UC ANR is large and diverse, encompassing three campuses (faculty from UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and UC Riverside), and 54 county-level CE offices. UC Cooperative Extension has about 200 county-based advisors serving farmers, ranchers, families, and communities across the state; of which about 170 focus on agriculture and natural resource programs. USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) technical field staff also work throughout the state in 54 service centers, field offices, and partnership offices. These agricultural professionals are at the front line helping farmers, ranchers and other groups develop food and farming systems that are profitable, sustain natural resources, and promote stable and prosperous communities.
To engage stakeholders in the development of the racial equity in extension workshop, we conducted 7 in-depth, open-ended interviews with community stakeholders representing farming communities of color, and organizations that serve them, to assess needs for engagement with extension organizations. Organizations interviewed included the CA chapter of the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC), the California Farmer Justice Collaborative (CFJC), Agriculture and Land-Based Learning Association (ALBA, a farm incubator for farmworkers learning to operate their own farms), NRCS, and Cooperative Extension leadership. These interviews directly informed the development of workshop content and focus. They also provided opportunities to invite direct participation of local experts from these communities in the training workshop, to help extension trainees build connections with potential future community partners.
We hosted a workshop for California-based extension professionals in spring 2019 to engage with members of underserved communities of color in agriculture, to learn cross-cultural communication skills and brainstorm ways in which they can begin to address historical and institutional disparities in outreach to communities of color.
We also held 3 live fire training workshops in northern California for community members and agency staff to learn from prescribed burn professionals to increase familiarity with the use of prescribed fire and to help landowners sustainably manage their natural resources and reduce hazardous fuels on their working lands. These workshops were held in June to focus on grassland burns, the perfect opportunity for low-pressure training burns, helping landowners to learn how to control late-phenol invasive grasslands species without the use of herbicides.
Outside of California, a portion of these funds were used for travel to the annual PDP meeting in Guam and other Pacific Islands where the PDP coordinators hosted grant writing, soil health, irrigation, and other needed workshops with their PDP Coordinator colleagues from other states.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Educate landowners and Volunteer Fire Departments on fire behavior and prescribed fire use in an effort to regain fire as a landowner tool in the state of California.
For many years, we at University of California Cooperative Extension have fielded questions from landowners about using fire as a tool. Ranchers and forestland owners here in Humboldt County have voiced interest in using fire to improve range resources, enhance wildlife habitat, reduce fuels, and beat back the trees and shrubs that are quickly engulfing their prairies and woodlands, but we have struggled to provide them with good options.
In recent history, CAL FIRE has been the leader in private lands burning. In the 1980s, their Vegetation Management Program (VMP) was responsible for 30,000-65,000 acres of prescribed burning every year, but in recent decades, those numbers have consistently fallen short of 10,000 acres a year—a drop in the bucket given the habitat and fuels issues that we face in California. CAL FIRE is currently revamping the VMP, which is great news, but it’s become clear that other pathways are needed for landowners to reclaim fire as the important tool that it is.
In 2016, we started looking into prescribed fire models from other parts of the country. We know that other regions have impressive burn programs that blow California out of the water, and in most of those places, they’ve been successful because landowners are doing the burning themselves—something that’s almost unheard of in modern-day California.
One of the most promising models of landowner-led burning is the prescribed burn association (PBA) model, through which landowners and other interested partners can work together to burn each other’s properties. In many regions, these PBAs are spearheaded by the ranching community, in collaboration with conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, and others that see direct benefits for wildlife. In 2015, there were 62 PBAs, almost all of which were in the Great Plains and Texas. The PBA model has successfully spread into parts of the Southeast, too, but these types of efforts have been noticeably absent in the West.
The California political climate is also ripe for this kind of work. The 2017 fire season spurred important legislative movement around fire, and this fall, the Governor signed three new bills that directly relate to prescribed fire: 1) SB901, which includes $200 million per year for the next five years to fund forest health and fire prevention work, including prescribed fire; 2) SB1260, which is focused primarily on prescribed fire and includes pieces on liability and training; and 3) AB2091, which mandates the development of new insurance options for prescribed fire.
The tragic 2018 fire season reinforced the dire need for this work throughout California, and the critical role community members and landowners need to play. These funds from WSARE are helping to educate extension professionals, NRCS staff, and other NGO and government officials of the safe and proper use of prescribed fire.
As part of this project we organized 3 kick-off meetings for new prescribed burn associations, in Tehama County, Siskiyou County, and Humboldt County.
1. Engage with representatives of agricultural communities of color to assess their needs for extension services in sustainable agriculture.
2. Hold a workshop for extension professionals and representatives of communities of color to engage with each other, practice cross-cultural communication skills, and brainstorm concrete approaches to addressing historical and institutional disparities in agricultural extension outreach to communities of color.
Stakeholders were engaged at multiple stages of workshop development. Interviews with farmers of color and other representatives of communities of color directly informed the content and focus of the workshop. Cooperative extension staff with expertise in working with communities of color also provided guidance. Soul Fire Farm, a professional facilitation organization that specializes in racism in the food system, led the workshop facilitation. The workshop, held in May, 2019 in Stockton, CA, provided training on basic issues of racism in the food system and cross-cultural communication, gave a historical context for structural racism in the land grant institution, provided opportunities for direct engagement and open-ended discussion between extension professionals and 6 representatives of underserved communities of color who served on a panel, and also exposed participants to tools for conducting equity assessments and action plans for their own organizations or programs. The workshop was advertised to Cooperative Extension, NRCS and other state and federal agencies, non-profit organizations working in the agriculture and food system arena, and technical service providers.
Interest in the Racial Equity Workshop for CA Extension Professionals was even greater than originally anticipated. The workshop filled up the first week we opened registration, with 63 total participants and a significant waiting list. 79% of participants were UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR, the land grant division of UC) employees, representing the full spectrum of extension roles and services (Youth / family services 11%, Nutrition education 20%, Farm/ranch support 24%, Natural resources management 9%, Food systems / policy 24%, Administration / communications 9%, Leadership 4%). The remaining 21% of participants were non-ANR UC researchers, non-UC extension professionals (NRCS), and farm service non-profits.
See below for learning outcomes.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Participants of the prescribed fire workshops and live fire trainings not only increased their comfort around the liability and legal components of prescribed fire in CA, but also increased their on-the-ground skills and confidence around conducting prescribed burns on private lands. Granting them the ability to replicate these efforts as educators in their communities, and increase the use of prescribed fire as a tool across the state.
Outcomes from the racial equity workshop:
Impact 1: Increased knowledge
Participants reported deepening their knowledge of the history of the Land Grant University system in relation to structural and institutional racism, including land appropriation, the exclusion of marginalized racial and ethnic groups from public benefits, and how different communities may view extension today through the lens of these histories.
Participants also reporting learning new strategies for forming positive working relationships with historically marginalized communities, including engaging trusted third party mediators, focusing on assets rather than deficits, and evaluating the impacts of extension work on diversity and inclusion.
Impact 2: Intended behavior change
Participants broadly reported coming away from the training with an intention to find ways to address racial equity within their scopes of work. Participants included researchers, staff, and administrators with a range of extension roles, and these intended changes included:
- Promote increased focus on racial equity within UC ANR, including internal capacity and community building, identifying opportunities for change, and engaging senior leadership (Newly formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion online group, of which SAREP staff are members, will follow up)
- Increase training opportunities on topics related to racial equity and track progress at both the programmatic and institutional level
- Build better relationships with communities of color, including both Native American and immigrant communities
Continue to learn, reflect, and act on ways to dismantle individual, institutional, and structural racism in food and farming systems
The top specific actions participants reported intending to take were:
- Apply the skills I learned to my current job (86%)
- Take action toward racial justice / food justice in my community (86%)
- Further my food/farming justice education (83%)
- Improve practices in my organization to increase effectiveness and/or equity (83%)
- Educate others about food/farming/justice issues (76%)
Impact 3: Increased capacity to serve the needs and interests of diverse clientele
88% of participants reported that their capacity to serve the needs and interests of diverse clientele has increased as a result of this workshop.
Examples provided of increased capacity included:
- feeling more comfortable with language around racial equity
- intention to design work more explicitly based on diverse client needs, seeking articulation of those needs by clients and potential clients of color themselves rather than assuming all clients have same/similar needs
- increased knowledge of historical and present-day reasons some agricultural communities are under-served and how to better connect with those communities
- increased motivation and connections with colleagues who also want to build capacity to better serve diverse clientele
Impact 4: Increased capacity to apply racial justice principles to extension work
75% of participants reported that they are better able to apply racial justice principles to their work as a result of this workshop.
As a result of the workshop, a state-wide Diversity, Equity and Inclusion online group within the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources system has gained new momentum and considerably increased its activity level in moving forward on the priority areas established during the workshop. In addition, ANR Leadership funded staff to attend a national racial equity training for extension professionals in October, 2019 to support these efforts.
Quotes from the evaluations completed by participants in the racial equity workshop:
“Thank you so much for bringing this training to UC ANR and for having it be customized to our organization. I love that it wasn’t the “standard” pre-packaged diversity training, but really spoke to our work in Extension.”
“I plan to take more action to reach the communities of color my program could serve and approach them with empathy and asking what they want and not pushing my own agenda.”
“My capacity to serve my clientele has been increased by making me feel more comfortable with what they may be interested in learning.”
“I plan to strategize with the CA Communities and Food Systems Program Team and with my County Director about how to integrate more training like this for new advisors and staff. I plan to share some of the content at my next County Staff Meeting.”
In their evaluations of the racial equity workshop, participants spoke to the high level of relevance the workshop had to their work, the need for more similar trainings for extension staff, and their plans to implement what they learned in order to better serve their clientele.
Our experience suggests that demand currently exceeds supply for this type of content. We recommend increased support for racial equity capacity building in extension as a key strategy for ensuring that programs and staff have the tools they need to serve diverse farms and food systems stakeholders in implementing sustainable agriculture.
Face of SARE
As PDP coordinators, we are continually fielding phone calls and emails as the Face of SARE. Annual PDP Coordinator meetings are very beneficial in keeping us up to date, and the 100% supportive staff at WSARE make our roles as PDP Coordinators an enjoyable task.
Lastly, fliers, handouts, and RFPs are displayed at events across the state.