Progress report for WUT21-001
The Utah Professional Development Program (PDP) provides resources and training to agricultural professionals and producers that promote the goals of Western SARE. The program is guided by an Advisory Committee of seven members (as of March 2022). The Committee urges the Utah PDP to seek answers to the state’s challenges, such as being the 9th most densely urban and the 2nd most arid state in the nation, in a way that protects natural resources and human safety, and enhances the quality of life for our producers. Specific topics recommended by the committee include improving local production and distribution of food (as affected/evidenced by COVID-19), building soil health practices, increasing adoption of integrated pest management (IPM), and improving sustainable grazing.
Three objectives will target the overall goals for the Utah PDP in 2021-24 to increase local production and distribution of food (as affected/evidenced by COVID-19), build soil health practices, increase adoption of integrated pest management (IPM), and improve sustainable grazing.
- Increase knowledge and skills of nine Utah Extension agricultural professionals and up to 300 producers through the award of approximately three mini-grants each year for travel or event-hosting (offered spring and fall of each year), measured by reporting and follow-up surveys of award recipients. (“Travel/Event Hosting Awards”)
- Facilitate adoption of sustainable agricultural practices of 900 professionals and producers through the support of four conferences and workshops offered in spring, summer, and fall of each year, as measured by retrospective surveys after each event. (“Support of Conferences/Workshops”)
- Increase knowledge and skills of up to 120 agricultural professionals and 500 producers in integrated pest management through on-going presentations and delivery of publications and guides, conducted throughout the duration of the award, and measured by paper or online surveys. (“General Outreach”)
Because Utah is the 9th most densely urban, and the 2nd driest state in the nation, the Utah PDP Advisory Committee recognizes that this program must 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). Training efforts and travel awards are based on past crop surveys (conducted by our partner, the Utah IPM Program), past conference pre- and post-surveys, and input from the PDP Advisory Committee.
The Utah PDP primarily reaches the livestock, forage, and specialty crop industries, particularly on small farms. For 2021-24, the program will direct resources to the following activities each year: four conferences/workshops, training in IPM, access to publications, and mini-grant awards. Delivery of resources will be structured as needed based on whether the COVID-19 restrictions are in place (virtual or live). Two conferences supported by the program are long-standing events, and include the Urban and Small Farms Conference (reaching over 200 producers and professionals) and the Utah-Arizona Annual Range and Livestock Conference (reaching over 180). Support of additional workshops are new events for the Utah PDP, and mini-grant awards for projects, professional travel, or event hosting will continue as they have in the past.
The Utah PDP emphasizes multiple modes of education, including face-to-face, written and online, and self-exploratory. The content for the workshops and conferences 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
Increase knowledge and skills of nine Utah Extension agricultural professionals and up to 300 producers through the award of approximately three mini-grants each year for travel, event-hosting, or projects (offered spring and fall of each year), measured by reporting and follow-up surveys of award recipients.
The Utah WSARE PDP has so far awarded one event-hosting scholarship and one project award. The event-hosting award was given to the Utah Association of Conservation Districts to host a workshop called Soil Health for Beginners. This workshop, held on Feb 15, 2022, was part of the overall 3-day event, 2022 Utah Soil Health Conference in St. George Utah. The workshop was comprised of three presentations and a field component that included a soil health assessment and soil health demonstrations. The Utah PDP sponsored the supplies needed for the field component (books, brix meters, pliers, etc.).
The project award is to develop a small demonstration vegetable garden and test biological fungicides against cucurbit powdery mildew as well as a squash trap crop trial against squash bug. This project will begin in spring 2022.
At the beginner soil health workshop, there were 42 producers and 7 ag professionals in attendance (from NRCS, Utah Dept of Agriculture and Food and Conservation Districts). A survey was delivered to attendees and 95% of producers improved their understanding of soil health and 38% of them felt that they could incorporate this new knowledge into their current farm practices.
Facilitate adoption of sustainable agricultural practices of 900 professionals and producers through the support of four conferences and workshops offered in spring, summer, and fall of each year, as measured by retrospective surveys after each event.
The Utah PDP Coordinator served on the planning committee for the annual Utah Urban and Small Farms Conference (held virtually, February 22-25, 2022), which was attended by 336 agricultural professionals and producers. At this conference, the PDP Coordinator helped organized and taught at a half-day berry production track. As companion events, we also held in-person field days in three locations in March, attended by an average of 26 ag producers each.
The PDP sponsored the conference proceedings (which included one page dedicated to Western SARE) for the 44th Annual UT/AZ Range Livestock Workshop and Tour, to be held in late March 2022 with current registration at 28 ag professionals and 210 producers.
At the Urban and Small Farms Conference and companion in-person field days, the Western SARE PDP taught and spoke with approximately 16 ag professionals in NRCS, Utah Dept. of Agriculture and Food, USU Extension, and non-profits, and 82 producers. In a 4-question Zoom poll that was delivered to attendees in the berry production track, 92% of producers increased their knowledge of sustainable berry production, 94% increased their knowledge of berry insects and diseases, 53% would incorporate at least one thing they learned into their own practices, and 78% of ag professionals felt that they could incorporate new knowledge learned into their own training programs.
An evaluation survey will be distributed to attendees of the Range Livestock Workshop. In the past, the learning has been significant in many topic areas including watershed restoration, cattle nutritional management and profitable ranch management.
Increase knowledge and skills of up to 120 agricultural professionals and 500 producers in integrated pest management through on-going presentations and delivery of publications and guides, conducted throughout the duration of the award, and measured by paper or online surveys.
The Utah PDP Coordinator organized a 2-day advanced integrated pest management workshop in September 2021 for ag professionals, held in Park City, UT. The first day was discussion of new IPM technologies not yet adopted by producers and methods to promote adoption. The second day was a tour of farms and natural areas, with further discussion. In-person attendance included 14 ag professionals and online attendance (for the first day only) included an additional 13.
The Coordinator promoted SARE publications and Western SARE grant opportunities at four fruit grower meetings in June-July 2021 and March 2022 (35 producers and 3 professionals) and three Extension presentations, reaching 54 hemp producers, 28 vegetable producers, and approximately 18 agricultural professionals.
As a result of the IPM workshop, 100% of the ag professionals in attendance became aware of new IPM technologies/practices (apps, UAVs, biocontrol methods, new trap cropping) to teach to their own constituents.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Face of SARE
For promotion of Western SARE grants and services, the State Coordinator has so far reached approximately 135 agricultural professionals and producers through three presentations and four grower meetings in 2021-22. The audiences included producers of tree fruits, hemp, and vegetables. The coordinator has also promoted WSARE grants in emails to community mailing lists, the Utah Pests Facebook page, and through a quarterly newsletter delivered to over 11,600 individuals in Utah.