Professional Training for Developing a Hands-On Organic Weed Management Learning Center for Commercial Market Gardens in Local Communities

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2008: $47,933.72
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Beth LaShell
Fort Lewis College

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: beans, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, sweet corn


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, intercropping, irrigation
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, workshop, youth education
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, botanical pesticides, competition, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, flame, integrated pest management, mulches - living, physical control, mulching - plastic, soil solarization, weather monitoring, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: public participation, urban agriculture, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The Fort Lewis College Field Station's mission is to provide educational opportunities and serve the agricultural community in the inter-mountain, high altitude regions of the Four Corners, an area including parts of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. The site has served as a meeting place for the Agricultural community since the early 1920’s when it was an educational institution (Fort Lewis College).

    However, today’s agriculture is changing. According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture, all of the surrounding counties (La Plata, Archuleta and Montezuma, and San Juan County, New Mexico) have not seen a dramatic loss of farmland, but rather a significant shift from large to small farms. There are increasing pressures on farm viability in this transition from large, conventional ranch operations to smaller landholdings with a variety of uses, all of which may demand new approaches to the use and protection of their natural resources.

    As our region changes, we as educators and resources for technical information must update our knowledge, enhance our skills and shift our research priorities. Small land owners may want to develop sustainable enterprises but may not be familiar with the challenges that occur in an arid climate at high elevations. Their attempts at agricultural production can be a frustrating experience for not only themselves but also the local Agricultural agencies that try to assist them. The development of a Learning Center for organic market garden weed management strategies would address the needs of newcomers to the 4-Corners region and long time residents looking for more sustainable alternatives or methods to increase income.

    Training participants will include agriculture professionals, Master Gardeners, students, and Model Farmers. In addition to Colorado State University Extension Agents, Master Gardeners serve an important educational role in remote areas, Model Farmers are opinion leaders in culturally diverse communities, and training the next generation of professionals and producers (college students) will increase our agricultural knowledge base.

    The Learning Center will train participants in organic weed management strategies such as mulching, mechanical control, intercropping, solarization and organic herbicides. While there are a broad range of weed management techniques, knowledge of organic-only strategies are needed by agents to assist producers who may be organically certified or determined to use organic-only methods. Over the two years of this project, the Learning Center will provide not only training but also how to evaluate their efficacy and long-term sustainability. The Learning Center will offer short-course workshops on methodology, soil and sustainability analysis, control-measure efficacy, managing web-based information, and establishing on-farm demo sites.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Activities and Methods
    > Gather information from Agriculture Professionals, Master Gardeners and Model Farmers to assess current knowledge
    > Gather information from progressive producers to learn current methods and assess knowledge
    > Create website to document establishment and activities at Learning Center.
    > Host initial workshop for all potential participants
    > Create listserv for participants for weekly updates on available trainings
    > Create BLOG for weekly updates
    > Offer 4 workshops as training opportunities for methodology, soil and sustainability analysis, efficacy and production, and managing web-based information.
    > Utilize Student Voice, an online survey tool, to assess workshops
    > Incorporate organic weed management strategies into FLC Field class curriculum
    > Offer Weed Symposium for Small Farm Producers
    > Coordinate on-farm demonstration sites in Year 2
    > Gather post-project information from all participants to assess knowledge gained.

    > Learning Center to provide hands-on training to agriculture professionals, Master Gardeners, Model Farmers, agriculture students and progressive producers
    > Learning Center website, listserv and BLOG
    > Training sessions on 1) methodology; 2) soil and sustainability analysis; 3) efficacy and production; and 4) managing web-based information
    > Training on how to create and maintain site-specific on-farm demonstrations
    > Comprehensive publication on Organic Weed Management Strategies including methodology, cost, efficacy and sustainability data
    > Partnership with Model Farmer Dissemination Project (NMSU Extension)
    > Partnership with Fort Lewis College Agriculture Department

    > Establish Learning Center for training agriculture professionals, Master Gardeners, agriculture students, Model Farmers and progressive producers in organic weed management strategies
    > Determine knowledge level of Learning Center training participants
    > Provide hands-on organic weed management training to Learning Center participants
    > Increase availability of training opportunities and resources on organic weed management
    > Provide printed document that contains purchase information, appropriate methods, cost, efficacy, and sustainability data to all Learning Center training participants
    > Establish website to document strategies and provide links to current literature
    > Maintain contact with participants using website, listserv and BLOG
    > Provide agriculture professionals with different methods of obtaining the knowledge to help organic producers.
    > Assist participants in establishing on-farm demonstration sites in Year 2 to increase local knowledge and implementation.
    > Determine increase in knowledge of training participants from the establishment of a Learning Center and its educational programs.

    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.