Final report for WSP19-021
Because Utah is the 9th most densely urban, and the 2nd driest, state in the nation, the Utah WSARE PDP Advisory Committee recognizes that Utah’s Professional Development Program (PDP) must address these challenges in agriculture to help agricultural professionals protect natural resources and human safety while enhancing the quality of life for our producers, particularly within specialty crops and forage and rangelands. The Utah PDP achieves this through various trainings and mini-grant awards. A summer 2021 professional development training targeted approximately 36 producers and agricultural professionals and focused on pest ID and monitoring to reduce crop losses. Three mini-grant awards for hosting an event targeted farm succession, ag mental health, and soil health in Utah for 653 producers and 29 professionals. The Sustainable Grazing Institute provided to 31 livestock producers and professionals, and the Utah/Arizona Range and Livestock Workshop and Tour provided training in sustainable rangeland and livestock health and rancher profitability to an audience of 148.
There are four objectives for this proposal:
- Organize a program for professional development.
- Provide professional development travel/event-hosting mini-grant awards.
- Support the Sustainable Grazing Institute and the Utah/Arizona Annual Range and Livestock Workshop and Tour.
- Promote WSARE grants, publications, and services; and provide general outreach in sustainable agriculture.
Utah is the 9th most densely urban and the 2nd driest state in the nation, and the Utah WSARE PDP Advisory Committee has helped this program to address these challenges to protect natural resources and human safety while enhancing the quality of life for our producers, particularly within specialty crops (13,600 acres valued at $33 million) and forage and rangelands (710,000 acres). The program has focused on development and support of conferences, travel and event-hosting awards, printing costs, and a small portion of the coordinator’s salary and PDP travel.
Utah’s program works in partnership with the IPM Program to meet common goals, sharing office space, web resources, and other common essential services. Funding for the travel and event scholarships is split with IPM, and no in-kind or matching funds are requested.
The Utah WSARE PDP Advisory Committee is comprised of two county extension agents, one fruit farmer, one vegetable farmer, and one representative from each of Utah Farm Bureau, and Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF). The committee meets up to twice per year and approves the budget and proposed programming, and will review the travel scholarship submissions.
The Utah PDP emphasizes multiple modes of education, including face-to-face, written and online, and hands-on. The content for the professional development and other workshops ranges from beginner to intermediate and consist of presentations, hands-on activities, and farm visits where appropriate. 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 hands-on 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
Organize a program for professional development.
Instead of a single, in-person workshop as proposed, we instead coordinated a group of volunteer “IPM Scouts.” In spring of 2021, 32 fruit and vegetable producers and 4 ag professionals from 9 Utah counties signed up to participate in the program. Each participant received a mailed packet of scouting supplies, including resource books (published by USU), a hand lens, recording notebook, and pheromone traps. We then coordinated 6 Zoom training sessions monthly from April to September. The first session provided the basics of scouting, and volunteers learned how to input their data into a shared drive. The subsequent trainings covered various pest ID topics, and at each session, scouts shared their pest findings for that month.
At the end of the six-month period, the 36 scouts had recorded a total of 498 pest detections on 117 different crops and crop varieties. They also took pictures and uploaded 470 images to the shared folder. In a final discussion of the program, most participants commented that they learned new techniques of pest scouting, and would not have spent the time to scout if it were not for this program. In addition, all participants said they want the program to continue in 2022. They also filled out an anonymous survey and reported the following: 65% had never scouted for pests in this intensive fashion, and of those, 84% became convinced that pest scouting is important; 41% found pests in high numbers on their farm and treated them in time; 100% of the ag professionals passed the training on to their clientele.
Provide professional development travel/event-hosting mini-grant awards.
The Utah WSARE PDP awarded three event-hosting awards including a farm succession workshop (continuation of prior award), mental health workshops, and soil health workshops.
The Farm and Ranch Succession Training award is a continuation of the popular award the PDP program provided in 2019-20, and this one provided funding for one event, held in-person in June 2021. To best serve producers, the USU Extension trainers had received certifications on farm transition and succession topics from a North Dakota State University training program. The trainers then developed and/or modified content to best meet the needs of Utah producers. In Utah, the average age of producers is 59, and baseline surveys revealed that they feel that succession planning is one of the most important programmatic needs.
The second event-hosting award was given to a team of Extension county agents and faculty to produce tailor-made, mental health workshops. The workshops, attended by 385 producers and presented at five in-person events in summer 2021, educated participants on mental health indicators, stress management, and help resources.
The Utah Soil Health Partnership, which was formed in 2019 and on which the WSARE PDP Coordinator is a member, received the third event-hosting award. The team coordinated in-person soil health workshops throughout Utah in summer 2021.
The three event-hosting awards reached 653 agricultural producers and 29 agricultural professionals.
The farm and ranch succession training was attended by 23 producers. Each producer received a workbook and the training covered strategies for communication, preparedness, understanding roles, family meetings, and conflict management. After completing the training, 73% strongly agreed that they know what information is needed to meet with a professional to create a farm succession plan; 100% of participants stated that they intend to start a conversation with their family about succession planning; and 79% intend to gather information/documents that are needed for succession.
The agriculture mental health workshops reached 372 producers and 13 ag professionals from 29 counties in Utah. The evaluations revealed that 71% of participants noted that they had already or that they were going to change their attitudes and behaviors towards mental health. To better understand how the USU Extension team can address future needs specific to rural stress and mental health, they developed and delivered a statewide assessment. They will use results of that survey to modify and enhance the workshop and available resources.
A total of seven soil health workshops were held across the state, reaching over 245 producers and 16 ag professionals representing over 100,000 acres. The average follow-up survey results were that 83% rated these workshops as very good or exceptional, 70% of ag professionals plan to advise farmers on soil health decisions, 76% of producers intend to use the content learned to improve their crop management and 100% would attend the workshop again.
Support the Sustainable Grazing Institute and the Utah/Arizona Annual Range and Livestock Workshop and Tour.
The annual Urban and Small Farms Conference, which is a major project of the WSARE PDP program, was held in February 2021 as a virtual conference, and registration was free of charge. The state PDP Coordinator taught at the conference and moderated one track. However, realizing that the WSARE PDP did not need to provide monetary support for this event, as was proposed, the Advisory Committee chose to support another USU event called the Sustainable Grazing Institute.
The Sustainable Grazing Institute is a workshop for Utah livestock producers who want to increase sustainable forage production, animal performance, and net income through improved grazing management. In June 2021, a 3-day hands-on, in-person workshop was held where participants learned the science of grazing in the classroom and made management decisions designing pastures for grazing livestock. Topics included grass growth, designing grazing cells, economics of grazing, and sustainable grazing methods.
The AZ/UT Annual Range and Livestock Workshop is an event that the WSARE PDP program has long been involved with for many years. It brings together ranchers, land management agency personnel, representatives from federal and state agencies, state farm bureaus, conservation districts, and businesses serving the livestock industry. In 2021, the 43rd workshop was held over three days in three locations in late March. Topics included low-cost water monitoring technology, BOV-IQ app livestock record-keeping, grazing during drought/impacts, game camera issues, water rights, old cow DNA, and a rancher spotlight.
The virtual Urban and Small Farms Conference was attended by over 212 producers and 32 ag professionals and a majority of the attendees (82%) appreciated the virtual format.
The Sustainable Grazing Institute was attended by 25 livestock producers and 6 agricultural professionals. In a follow-up survey, participants’ responses included: 91% gained new skills and 86% will apply something new to their farm or ranch.
At the range and livestock workshop, 102 Utah producers and 46 Utah agricultural professionals were in attendance representing approximately 3,600 cattle managed. On average, the quality of the workshop was scored as “excellent” and producers estimated that the value of the knowledge they equated to, on average, $5,850. All attendees (97%) improved their knowledge, 95% gained new skills, 78% of producers plan to modify their opinions and 95% of ag professionals say their advice to their clientele will improve.
Promote WSARE grants, publications, and services; and provide general outreach in sustainable agriculture.
The Utah PDP Coordinator serves on the committee for the Utah Soil Health Partnership, which is a group run by the Utah Department and Agriculture and Food to bring together professionals for the goal of improving soil health. From this partnership, the Utah PDP Coordinator participated in some of the soil health workshops mentioned above.
The PDP Program's produced a variety of outreach materials in 2020-21. We produced and printed a vegetable diseases infographic to distribute at the few in-person events in summer 2021. We also printed copies of our newly updated vegetable and tree fruit production guides. Spanish-speaking farming audience was served by the translation of seven Utah State University pest management fact sheets into Spanish in spring and summer 2021, and then delivered to appropriate farms.
The Utah PDP Coordinator promoted SARE publications and Western SARE grant opportunities at five fruit and vegetable grower meetings (95 producers and 14 ag professionals) and two virtual Extension presentations. In addition, the PDP Coordinator visited approximately 18 farms multiple times in summer of 2021 to re-connect with producers after mostly virtual programming, and included the WSARE grant opportunity (Farmer/Rancher) in conversations.
The Soil Health Partnership has submitted one large proposal to the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program which was awarded in excess of $1.5 million. The project will set up cover crop demonstration sites, purchase equipment for testing incorporation methods and timing, and conduct outreach.
To date, the Spanish-translation fact sheets have been downloaded a combined total of 2,748 times.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Face of SARE
For face-to-face promotion of Western SARE grants and services, the State Coordinator has reached approximately 350 agricultural professionals and producers through two presentations, five grower meetings, and on-farm visits in 2020-21. The topics focused on integrated pest management to target audiences in forage crops (alfalfa, wheat), tree fruits (apple, peach, cherry), and vegetable production (onion, melon, lettuce greens, and more). In addition, the State Coordinator promoted WSARE grants in emails to community mailing lists, the Utah Pests Facebook page, and through a quarterly newsletter delivered to over 10,200 individuals in Utah.