Washington SARE PDP 2022-2024

Progress report for WWA22-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $90,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G260-22-W8618
Grant Recipient: Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
State Coordinators:
Chad Kruger
Washington State University
Andrew McGuire
Washington State University Extension
Georgine Yorgey
Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources
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Project Information


The Washington SARE PDP is designed to help Extension, Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other agricultural professionals increase their ability to respond to the needs of farmers, ranchers, and the public regarding sustainable agriculture concepts and systems.

In Washington State, SARE PDP is housed in WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR). CSANR integrates the joint responsibilities for sustainable agriculture research with extension programming in Washington. The goal of our professional development program is to assist WSU extension, Conservation Districts, NRCS, and other agency personnel to gain knowledge and skills that will help them serve their constituents in these areas to promote the health of Washington’s people, land, and communities. Using tools such as mini-grants for attending and hosting events, development of curriculum, and utilization of new communication tools provides CSANR means of sharing available information in our priority topics for 2022-2024 of soil health, climate change, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Project Objectives:
  1. Facilitate knowledge gain for 250 agriculture professionals within the topic of soil health by developing curriculum and trainings. Curriculum and trainings will be available by the end of the grant period.
  2. Facilitate knowledge gain for 200 agriculture professionals within the topic of climate change through curriculum and trainings. Curriculum and trainings will be available by the end of the grant period.
  3. Facilitate an introductory level knowledge gain for 20 agriculture professionals within the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion through training coordination and support.
  4. Facilitate knowledge gain for 20 agriculture professionals for self-designated topics in sustainable agriculture through support for travel and trainings.

Washington State PDP is housed in the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. The goal of Washington PDP is to support WSU extension, NRCS staff, Conservation District staff, and other ag professionals in gaining and sharing their expertise across the diverse landscape of Washington agriculture. Washington State PDP prioritizes development opportunities that address top needs in our state, which are determined by both our SARE State Program Advisory Committee and a survey of past and potential recipients of SARE funds. For 2022-2024 we identified the top priorities as climate change, soil health, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. To adequately support professional development in each of these topics, we provide funding for large educational events, create accessible resources such as webinars and presentations, and facilitate a mini-grant program to host and attend applicable professional development opportunities.

Our recent State survey of participants in the SARE PDP showed success in using State Program funds to facilitate mini-grants for 1) training at regional and statewide events, and 2) travel support for extension educators to attend regional or national sustainable agriculture conferences. A prior PDP survey indicated a strong interest in extending travel funding to ag professionals beyond WSU extension educators and we have worked on increasing availability of travel funding to all Washington ag professionals to attend sustainable agriculture trainings and conferences in recent years.

Maintaining accessibility to sustainable agriculture trainings is a priority to Washington PDP, especially with the changing circumstances and availability of in-person trainings due to the pandemic. We want to continue to provide mini-grant opportunities as they are available, but also shift our focus to sponsoring and hosting more in-depth training events and providing durable products that are accessible online for other parts of the Western SARE region and the US. Between our State survey indicating a preference for both in-person and online trainings and the time sensitive nature of many of our priority topics (e.g. climate change and soil health), we plan on hosting educational events through both digital and in-person venues with the 2022-2024 program to accommodate each topic’s most beneficial format.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Chad Kruger
  • Brad Bailie
  • Kevin Corliss
  • Brenda Book
  • Tim Crosby
  • Melissa Spear
  • Chery Sullivan
  • Dianna Sanchez
  • Maurice Robinette
  • Derek Sandison
  • Anne Schwartz
  • Bill Warren
  • Kevin Corliss


Educational approach:

In Washington, the Advisory Committee for the WSU Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources serves as our SARE State Program Advisory Committee. This is a group of 18 people representing a cross-section of diverse farms/ranches (irrigated, dryland, organic, small and large farms, dairy, beef, poultry, tree fruit and wine grape sectors), local NGOs, other professionals in the ag sector, and WA Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Ecology. The group meets twice a year to provide feedback on CSANR activities including the SARE State Program.

Activities and methods will include the following -

Mini-grants: We plan to spend $15,000 on mini-grants to support either hosting or attending a conference, workshop, or training program related to sustainable agriculture. Priority will be given to proposals for activities that relate to our state’s priority information needs. We will use mini-grant and travel scholarship forms modified from those on the WSARE website for our program.

Educational Events: Between 2022-2024 we will sponsor a sustainable agriculture event targeting ag professionals and producers in Washington.

Educational materials: We will support an Extension Coordinator who will provide technical support and expertise in the production of webinars and other emerging communication tools covering sustainable agriculture topics.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Aggregation 2023: A Soil Health Intensive

Increase technical expertise on building resilient soils and build an understanding of the opportunities for climate-friendly practices to build soil health and community resilience.


Aggregation 2023: A Soil Health Intensive was a multi-day workshop focused on the role of agriculture in climate mitigation strategies, building resilient soils, and fostering community.  The event brought together soil scientists, farmers, technical advisors, and innovators working to explore the interface between scientific understanding of soil carbon and on farm sequestration strategies. Participants learned skills for assessing soil health and soil carbon and shared current research, on farm practices and other questions. 

There is a need for hands-on training to prepare producers and ag professionals for assessing and documenting soil carbon storage, interacting with carbon markets, and adopting soil health metrics in their management and decision-making. The event targeted agricultural professionals from Conservation Districts, NRCS, WSDA, and NGOs working at the interface of agriculture and climate change mitigation. Strategies to enhance soil resilience and provide a realistic assessment of the role of soils in climate change mitigation were covered, as well as opportunities for farmers to be compensated through climate-friendly practices.

Outcomes and impacts:

The event was evaluated with a post-event paper evaluation.  Evaluations (n=21) indicated that the largest knowledge gains were around understanding of soil health indicators and metrics (73% increased knowledge) and in implementing conservation strategies (73% increased knowledge). Large knowledge gains (68% increased knowledge) were also reported for incentives for soil conservation, practical hands-on soil measurement, and developing on-farm trials.  Ninety-five (19/20) respondents indicated that they planned to make a change based on the event. Nearly half planned to implement new soil conservation practices.

Many respondents (14/21) indicated that they particularly enjoyed the networking and community-building aspect of the event.  The lightening talks were also highly favored (11/21).

To improve the event, several attendees suggested that more diversity of farmers and farm types be included. Also, more time for small group discussions. Though the lightning talks were mostly favored, one attendee thought there were too many.

IPM in a Changing Climate

The goal of this symposium is to enhance collaboration and exchange between professionals committed to sustainable farming practices, benefiting both the farmers and the environment they steward.


The WSU Regional Small Farms Team co-hosted the 2023 Tilth Conference along with Tilth Alliance and the Washington Organic Recycling Council, held in Port Townsend, October 26th to 28th. With the help of PDP funding, the Small Farms Team created a Science Symposium on the first day of the conference. Structuring a symposium topic on Integrated Pest Management into a conference for small-scale organic farmers presents an outstanding opportunity to foster the exchange of knowledge among professionals dedicated to these farms. As our climate continues to evolve, small-scale organic farmers face unique challenges in managing pests sustainably. By featuring this symposium, we can bring together county-level practitioners, researchers, and farmers themselves to share their insights and experiences. The symposium will serve as a platform for participants to learn about innovative strategies and practical techniques that can help them mitigate the impacts of a changing climate on pest management. It will also provide a sounding board for farmers to weigh in on the relavance of this research to their operations.

The theme of the science symposium was, “Integrated Pest Management in a Changing Climate,” and featured speakers included Dr. Sanford Eigenbrode from the University of Idaho and Dr. Lindsey Du Toit, from WSU. Eigenbrode is an expert in plant-insect-environment interactions, and recently authored the most comprehensive review paper to date on how climate change is impacting the management of pests and beneficial insects in farm environments. Du Toit, recently named Chair of the WSU Plant Pathology Department, talked about the influence of environmental conditions on plant disease, how farmers can work the natural aspects of the land, weather features, and crop spacing to decrease conditions that facilitate certain diseases.

Outcomes and impacts:

84 participants attended the Science Symposium, including 30 agricultural professionals from WSU, Conservation Districts, WSDA, NRCS and other agencies that work directly with farmers. The rest of the participants were farmers. The symposium was a big success. An evaluation was conducted that included questions on knowledge gained and overall rating of the presentations.

Some of the comments included:

“Lindsey DuToit was brilliant. A national treasure.”

“Really great duo of presenters. Sanford’s high altitude look and then tied in more specifically

with Lindey’s knowledge was great”

“Lindsey’s talk was exactly what I came to hear”

Sustainable Agriculture Mini-Grants and Travel Support

Facilitate knowledge gain for 25 agricultural professionals by providing mini-grants for attending and hosting professional development events, and 20 agricultural professions in topics on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Topics will vary but will include priority areas described above and other sustainable agriculture areas of need.


The goal of our PDP is to help WSU Extension, NRCS, Conservation Districts and other agency personnel gain knowledge and skills that will help them serve their constituents to promote the health of Washington’s people, animals, land, and communities. Therefore, we allocate mini-grants to individuals so that they can take advantage of educational events put on by professional organizations or regional/national events, and host educational sessions at regional conferences and symposiums.

Outcomes and impacts:

Denmark Ag Symbiosis Tour (Attending)

Participant attended a weeklong study tour of agricultural symbiosis (the idea of recovering value from organics, water, and heat within agricultural systems and other economic sectors) in Denmark.  The trip included visits to a range of innovative projects within Denmark, discussions with them about achievements and current challenges – and also a wealth of time with the other individuals who were on the trip. These individuals are working in related areas in Washington State, and therefore the relationships made have been essential to many parts of programming since returning.

Denmark supports opportunities that reinforce the agricultural economy by generating even more value in agricultural supply chains, while also helping to build new climate solutions. The participant took a lot from the current challenges that colleagues in Denmark are facing, that help think through challenges Washington may face in the coming years. This knowledge has directly influenced several proposed projects that the participant has submitted and which have been approved for funding. One is a podcast relating to carbon markets for dairy, to help people navigate this new landscape (this was in process prior to the training, but new episodes have been informed by the trip, and the personal connections made during the trip have also been used to pull in new guests).

The other is work relating to helping the state understand the contributions that agriculture is already making towards addressing climate change, and what opportunities there are to increase these contributions. The podcasts reach both agricultural producers and agricultural professionals. Episodes are ongoing, but have reached several hundred people each. Participant has transferred a lot of the information through conversations with their team and colleagues relating to ongoing work, as well as building on the relationships formed with colleagues in Denmark in numerous ways over the last 4-6 months since returning. This trip generated a lot of trust between those working on the same issues from different perspectives, and it’s much easier to reach out relating to work and progressing in Ag Symbiosis.

Navigating Difficult Conversations & Finding the Story (Attending)

The participant attended two, interactive on-line science communication workshops: Navigating Difficult Conversations Partisan Science Topics and Finding the Story to refresh their science communication skill set. During the Navigating Difficult Conversations Partisan Science Topics workshop, they learned that climate change discussions are difficult due to increasing partisanship that is further deteriorating due to echo chambers facilitated on social and other media outlets.

One outcome is a growing gap between political parties and their confidence in science with democrats having a much higher trust in science than conservatives. Unfortunately, science literacy doesn’t help with partisanship stances. Instead, active listening to identify audience values and speaking to those values can have the largest impact on some but not all audiences. They examined which audiences to focus on and tips for holding a difficult conversation. A gradient of beliefs called “six americas” displays a linear group of categories of people from dismissive (don’t think climate change exists) to alarmed (are very worried about it). The class suggested focusing on the middle between these two since alarmed people already agree and the dismissive category of people are unlikely to be swayed and targeting this audience would thus be less impactful.

During the Finding the Story workshop, they learned why and when to use stories as a strategic communication tool. A noted impactful tool was learning about the “shape” of stories. This can be thought about as a graph with the ‘character’s fortune’ (despair to prosperity) on the y-axis and ‘time’ on the x-axis. The character’s experience over time moves between varying depths of prosperity and despair, usually ending with prosperity. Based on the goal, communicators want to be strategic about emphasizing key components of a story, including emotion, change, challenge, relevance rounded out to generate a compelling and critical story.

Effective science communication is at the core of CSANR’s work and particularly crucial for the participant’s role as coordinator of the AgClimate blog, as a participant with farm worker practitioner networks, and for communicating research findings from multiple projects through Extension publications. They will share climate science-related research with interdisciplinary and non-academic audiences. They hope to influence other academics the importance of the topics in climate resilience and adaptation.

Facilitation Skills Workshop (Attending)

The participant attended a facilitation training workshop hosted by UNH Professional Development & Training on Dec 5, 2023. This was a virtual training session covering the basics of the roles of a facilitator to strategies for engaging audiences in virtual spaces. This training establish a better foundation of what a facilitator should and should not do and they discussed contexts where it is worth taking the time to do certain activities like creating group norms and alternatives to using ice breakers to bring a new group together. Hearing anecdotal evidence that using time-consuming practices like building group norms is a worthwhile strategy to build psychological safety within a group gave the participant confidence to advocate for forming group norms in the Climate Analogs Academy, the CSANR-led program the participant coordinates.

The participant designed the group norm process and practiced their facilitation skills by leading the exercise. They also lead a bi-weekly project team meeting for the Climate Analogs Committee. which has been a great challenge for them in that everyone is supportive and positive and yet somewhat resistant to sharing new ideas.

The participant facilitates climate change education for ag professionals in the Climate Analogs Academy workshop series. In 2024 and 2025, 20 Extension professionals working with specialty crops and six graduate students across the US will engage in virtual workshops and in-person study tours. Their goals are to make climate change concrete and to use dialogue to build a diverse and knowledgeable cohort who will feel supported in taking action on climate adaptation in their work.

Alternative Manure Management & Dairy Digester Tour (Attending)

Participant attended a tour to meet with and learn from a variety of individuals involved in supporting alternative manure management practices and digesters within California. The group included individuals from WSU, WSDA, Washington State Conservation Commission, Dairy Farmers of Washington, Dairy Federation, and Darigold. They met with digester developers, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, Dairy CARES, and agricultural professionals who work with the dairy industry. The visited a functioning on-farm digester in Galt, CA.

The participant learned about both the ongoing policy processes that have supported on-farm changes, as well as the research and outreach that has contributed. Given that Washington is undergoing some of the same policy evolutions that California previously experienced (particularly the implementation of climate policy via the Washington Climate Commitment Act), the participant learned strategies and context to implement immediately in trainings on carbon markets that are facilitating in February. The audience for the training is farmers and other agricultural professionals (e.g. conservation district personnel, NRCS, etc.).  This workshop is scheduled for the first week of February, with an anticipated reach of 20-60 people.

2024 Forest Farming Conference – Gather to Grow: A Conference to Honor the Past and Shape the Future of Forest Farming (Attending- In Progress)

This conference is focused on forest farming, a practice by which producers grow high-value, shade tolerant crops beneath the protection of a forest canopy. Examples of this include maple syrup, log-grown specialty mushrooms, medicinal plants, and huckleberry. This practice provides farmers with low-impact opportunities to produce high value crops from marginal lands while incentivizing forest conservation and restoration, particularly in urban and peri-urban areas where forests take on more importance. In more rural wildland areas, forest farming can incentivize proactive management while providing critical income to forest owners between, or in place of, timber harvests and in riparian buffers that are restricted from harvest.

Supporting the adoption of this practice in Washington State addresses several PDP funding priorities including: enhancing environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends, sustaining the economic viability of farm operations, and enhancing the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole. Forest farming incentivizes conservation and proactive stewardship of forested areas on farms, which are often neglected. The additional crops grown can not only increase income but diversify farm operations, making them more resilient to economic and environmental challenges.

Participant will submit an abstract to provide a 30-minute presentation on work already being done in this field in Washington by WSU, including bigleaf maple syrup, log-grown shiitake, and pending additional forest farming trials. The information gathered and connections made at this conference will help inform future research and outreach on this topic through the Extension Forestry Program.

Educational & Outreach Activities

3 Minigrants
1 On-farm demonstrations
1 Tours
3 Travel Scholarships
3 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

11 Extension
15 Researchers
140 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
80 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

94 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
68 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

68 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
80 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

Outcomes are noted in relation to each educational activity.

Success stories:

None to report at this time.


None to report at this time.

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

SARE support was acknowledged in all conference promotion materials, within newsletter and social promotion, and verbally within the hosted events. All mini-grant recipients are asked to acknowledge SARE in their event materials. We focused our efforts on "hosted" events that were focused on building capacity of extension and partnering ag professionals who will be developing activities and products for farmers or who oversee issues impacting ag sustainability and viability.

80 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
166 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.