Pacific Northwest Sustainable Agriculture Systems Training Program
1. Implement a diversified, comprehensive educational program in sustainable agriculture principles and practices for Extension agents, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel, private consultants, agricultural industry representatives and other agricultural professionals in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.
2. Develop, implement, and evaluate participatory processes relevant to the creation of a sustainable agriculture educational program for the Pacific Northwest agricultural professionals.
Abstract of Results
This four-state collaborative project in sustainable agriculture education has consisted of three linked components; (1) several in-service education workshops involving basic concepts of sustainable agriculture and specific information relevant to local cropping and ranching systems (with planning facilitated by our four-state coordinating team); (2) a four-state small-grants program for specific in-service education programs developed by local teams to meet local needs, and (3) a series of educational publications on participatory methods of learning.
The in-service education workshops included:
Agricultural Systems Assessment: Field Evaluation of Efficiency and Long-Term Productivity, July 25, 1995, Richland, WA;
Assessing and Managing Soil Quality, July 27, 1995, Aurora, OR; Marketing Opportunities for Small Farms, May 20, 1996, Spokane, WA;
The Progress of Our Dreams: Assessing Sustainability for Communities Large and Small, October 8, 1995, Pullman, WA; and,
A series of Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Workshops for all state extension agents and specialists.
The four-state, small grants program was designed to enhance local leadership in sustainable agriculture education around pertinent local issues. Requests for in-service education proposals in sustainable agriculture were distributed to more than 1,000 extension educators and specialists, agricultural agencies, agricultural industry representatives, producer, and non-profit groups. The grant program was also publicized in newspapers throughout the region. Nineteen proposals were received and reviewed in a two-tier review process involving farmers, NRCS and Extension personnel, and agricultural industry representatives. Topics of funded projects included:
Training Program on Cultural Management of Green Manure Crops;
Alternative Lending Mechanisms for Sustainable Agriculture;
Implementation of a Computer-based Decision-support System for IPM on Mint;
The Grazing Manager: NRCS and County Extension Training; Sustainable and Global Marketing of Forages;
Land Ethics and Agriculture;
Dryland Agriculture in Eastern Washington in the Year 2020 and Beyond;
Decision Cases for Professional Development;
Use and Purpose of a Best Management Practices Handbook; and,
World Wide Web Management Intensive Grazing Module.
A total of 13 educational programs were conducted in this project, with more 500 people involved as planners, instructors, or attendees. This project involved a diverse group of agricultural professionals in setting program priorities and in planning and conducting educational activities. Through these interactions, individuals were able to reach common working definitions of sustainable agriculture, and by working together, develop educational programs relevant to local and regional needs.
Dissemination of Findings
Resource materials developed for workshops have been disseminated to educational program participants, to the sustainable agriculture coordinators in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, and to SARE. Additional copies of the materials have been distributed, by request, to individuals throughout the four-state region and are available for loan through the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University (WSU). Currently, WSU is in the process of making the resource materials available through a newly developed Internet web site. The web site will not only include citations, abstracts, and in some cases text of relevant resource materials, but also a searchable database of sustainability expertise in Washington. Through this electronic medium, we are providing both access to information and enhanced networking between agricultural professionals and the clientele they serve. The live satellite presentation of The Progress of Our Dreams: Assessing Sustainability for Communities Large and Small was down-linked by eight states and is being used in sustainability programming around the country. Currently over 50 video tape copies have sold.
The printing of seven new publications by Washington State University were partially funded by this project. They are designed to assist agricultural, natural resource and community practitioners undertaking community-based, applied research and education. (See Sustainable Agriculture Resources section.)
This highly-visible, four-state collaborative project in sustainable agriculture education involved a very diverse group of agricultural professionals in setting program priorities and in planning and conducting educational activities. Through these interactions, individuals were able to reach common working definitions of sustainable agriculture, and by working together, develop educational programs relevant to local and regional needs.
Another attitudinal shift that occurred during this project was the growing recognition of the importance of farmers and ranchers as educators. Traditionally farmers and ranchers are seen as the end-point of an information chain starting with university-based researchers. In this project, however, the leadership of many farmers and ranchers in developing sustainable practices was recognized and these individuals were involved as instructors.
Through this project, there has been an increased interagency participation in educational programming by Extension and the NRCS, since both organizations are involved with environmental quality and land stewardship issues. Many program participants have expressed that improved networking among agencies, states, farmers, and non-profit groups involved in this project has been an important benefit.
Reported in 1996