- Animal Production: watering systems
- Crop Production: irrigation
- Education and Training: decision support system, display, extension, networking, workshop, youth education
- Energy: bioenergy and biofuels, energy conservation/efficiency, energy use, solar energy, wind power
- Farm Business Management: feasibility study, agricultural finance
The existing E3A (Exploring Energy Efficiency and Alternatives) Toolkit curriculum emerged from a 2009 WSARE PDP grant received by Montana State University Extension (MSUE) and University of Wyoming Extension (UWE). The purpose of proposed program enhancement is three-fold: 1) Develop additional content that is required to address specific agricultural producer needs, 2) offer additional training opportunities for other states desiring to utilize the E3A curriculum, and 3) enhance support options for currently trained educators to improve the effectiveness of programing for producers. The additional content will address, and involve, agricultural producers through four new folders, specifically: • Ground source heat pumps, • Direct-use geothermal, • Solar/wind-powered livestock watering systems, and • Irrigation efficiency. The training opportunities will focus on western states, as 11 states (including non-western) have committed to using the curriculum as part of field faculty energy education at a October 2012 E3A event. The additional funding will allow UWE and MSUE to offer training and a small scholarship for three states to adopt and adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of their state. Two detailed video series, additional monthly webinars, and a new “Skype-an-Expert” function will also be developed. These tools will allow educators to stay current on technologies, offer programming outside their usual subjects, and address question and answer sessions with confidence. Through these enhancements, the E3A toolkit will allow educators to offer information that enables producers make informed energy decisions.
Project objectives from proposal:
The objectives/deliverables of the project fit into three broad foci: 1) Develop additional content that is required to address specific agricultural producer needs, 2) offer additional training opportunities for other states desiring to utilize the E3A curriculum, and 3) enhance support options for currently trained educators to improve the effectiveness of programing for producers.
With existing E3A templates and design, the development of new materials can be completed rapidly – Four new folders within six months of grant award.
The four folders will address:
• Ground source heat pumps (geothermal) – High and volatile heating costs (e.g. propane or electricity) are the reality for many producers;
• Direct-use geothermal – A very site specific opportunity for specialty agriculture production (e.g. greenhouses, aquaculture) that exists in some locations throughout the West;
• Solar/wind-powered livestock watering systems – Often the most cost effective use of renewable energy on livestock operations;
• Irrigation efficiency – The largest non-transportation use of energy on many farming operations with significant opportunity for a rapid rate of return.
State level trainings will be completed at the most opportune (effective) time as determined by the recipient states. Ideally it will occur after the development of the enhanced support infrastructure and additional folders – Three trainings within 18 months of the grant award date.
The three trainings will offer the E3A toolkit to at least 50 agriculture and natural resource professionals, including Extension, Conservation Districts, and USDA employees (Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and Rural Development). As an example, all Montana NRCS offices have received the E3A training and possess the toolkit.
As the E3A toolkit already has infrastructure to support video creation and webinars, the enhanced support tools can also be created rapidly. To maximize the effectiveness of training webinars, these will be delivered over the course of one year – Creation of two videos, twelve support webinars, and a functioning “Skype-an-Expert” resource with 12 months of the award date.
The support tools will reach both newly and previously trained educators. By the end of the project, we will have reached over 200 contacts with the enhanced content. The videos and webinars will include the active participation of at least four producers, who are vetted for their experience and expertise in energy issues.
Overall, the project will be responsive to the needs of producers, incorporating both positive and cautionary experiences with alternative energy.