Utah is a very “urban” state (eighth in the nation), where 91% of the population lives on 1% of the land. It also receives, on average, just 12 inches of rainfall per year (second driest in the nation). Due to these challenges, the protection of natural resources and human safety demands the implementation of thoughtful and sustainable plant management approaches. The Utah WSARE PDP Program is committed to implementing these approaches and fulfilling the professional development goals of SARE, particularly within specialty crops (13,600 acres valued at $33 million) and forage and rangelands (710,000 acres). Professional training efforts, travel scholarships, and mini-grants in sustainable agriculture will help Utah producers and ranchers overcome these challenges and implement sustainable practices.
There are three objectives for this proposal:
- Deliver training opportunities in sustainable agriculture.
- Provide opportunities for further training of agricultural professionals by awarding travel and event hosting scholarships.
- Promote WSARE grants and SARE publications and services.
The Utah PDP emphasizes multiple modes of education, including face-to-face, written and online, and self-exploratory. The content for the professional development and other workshops range from beginner to intermediate and consist of indoor presentations and where appropriate, hands-on activities or outdoor farm visits. The trainings also include complementary written materials and publications for attendees to review. The written and online training involves production and delivery of crop management guides and a subscription email service of seasonal, pertinent content. The self-exploratory education occurs through travel and event hosting scholarships, where agricultural producers attend or host professional development workshops to further their understanding of sustainable agriculture, and pass the information on to their constituents.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Train agricultural professionals and producers in sustainable agriculture practices.
The Utah WSARE PDP sponsored, partnered with (USU Extension and NRCS), and organized five workshops. The annual UT/AZ Range Livestock Workshop and Tour was attended by 175 ag professionals and producers. Two high tunnel workshops were attended by 34 and 16, respectively. One high tunnel field tour was attended by 78. The annual Utah Urban and Small Farms Conference was attended by 215 (where WSARE specifically coordinated a full-day sustainable vegetable production track attended by 48).
In addition, in spring of 2019, the state coordinator will partner with NRCS and Extension specialists to host a two-day training program on cover crops. The content will cover A to Z aspects of cover cropping in vegetable crops to get producers on the right track, and to help ag professionals extend their knowledge. Topics will include the pros and cons of cover crop species; deciding which species to use; in-season cover cropping; recommended rotations with vegetables; reduced tillage plus cover cropping; and cover cropping on small acreage. Speakers will be comprised of personnel from each of the partner agencies, plus one to two producers to speak about “real-world” sustainable agriculture stories. Field visits will accompany the training on the second day.
For the workshops that have been delivered, WSARE was able to reach 154 ag producers in NRCS, Utah Dept. of Agriculture and Food, USU Extension agents, USU researchers, farm managers of the Wasatch Community Gardens (non-profit), and others. In surveys that were delivered to attendees, on average, 94% of producers learned new skills or knowledge to help them farm more sustainably, and 72% of ag professionals felt that they could incorporate new knowledge learned into training for their constituents.
Provide opportunities for self-training of agricultural professionals by awarding travel or event-hosting scholarships.
To date, the Utah WSARE PDP has awarded two event-hosting scholarships, and two travel scholarships. The events were the Curt Pate Stockmanship Clinics in Randolph, UT, attended by 32 ag professionals and ranchers, and an Agriculture Water Conservation Field Day in Cedar City, UT, attended by 41 professionals (including one state senator and other politicians) and farmers. Both workshops included in-class training and field demonstrations. One travel scholarship has been completed (to give a presentation on “A Year of E. coli Testing on Utah’s Fremont River” at the National Association of County Agricultural Agents Annual Meeting/Professional Improvement Conference) and the second scholarship trip will occur in January.
At the Stockmanship clinics, attendees learned how to improve their stockmanship skills, resulting in less stress on livestock. It was reported that 100% of attendees plan on using the skills and information they learned in their own operations. The Water Conservation field day focused on water-saving technology in agriculture. Most of the attendees (73%) indicated that they had gained knowledge in new irrigation technology research as a result of the field day. The greatest increase in knowledge (92% of participants) occurred for presentations on ongoing irrigation research in Utah. General comments about the event were all positive, and 100% of the ag professionals in attendance indicated that the information provided at the field day would help them better serve their clientele.
The recipient of the travel scholarship was able to learn more about water quality testing in other areas of the country from his peers from across the nation. He shared his new knowledge with his local constituents at a Utah Department of Water Quality public input meeting, required for the development of the TMDL for E. coli on the Fremont River, which was attended by approximately twenty people.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Face of SARE
For face-to-face promotion of WSARE grants and services, the State Coordinator has reached approximately 85 agriculture professionals from various universities, state/federal agencies, and nonprofits. In addition, the State Coordinator ordered the full SARE book and pamphlet packet and displayed them at the fall Fruit School attended by more than 126 growers, and plans to display them in a booth at two upcoming conferences in 2019 (Green Conference and Urban and Small Farms Conference), potentially reaching over 800 clientele. The coordinator has also promoted WSARE grants in emails to community mailing lists, the Utah Pests Facebook page, and through our quarterly newsletter delivered to over 6,000 individuals in Utah.