Broadening the Audience: Providing Sustainable Agriculture Education for Pest Control Advisers and Agricultural Consultants in California and Oregon
The overall goal of this project is to provide pest control advisors (PCAs), agricultural consultants and other agricultural professionals with current information on ecological pest management. To accomplish this goal we are using several non-traditional approaches, and evaluating which information delivery methods are most effective. Discussions with project participants during the initial phase of the project established the following project objectives (slightly revised from initial proposal):
1. Develop and distribute a computer-based/Internet course in ecological pest management for PCAs and other agricultural professionals.
2. Provide practical training in ecological pest management and sustainable agriculture to PCAs through a series of audio cassettes.
3. Provide practical information on sustainable agriculture and ecological pest management to PCAs in Western Oregon through a subscription Fax service and electronic mail list-serve. (Sub-contract with OSU Integrated Plant Protection Center)
4. Evaluate the effectiveness of the various educational approaches for this group of agricultural professionals.
There are currently more than 4,000 licensed pest control advisors (PCAs) in California and 960 licensed pesticide consultants in Oregon. These professionals are responsible, along with the farmers and ranchers who employ their services, for making critical crop management decisions. They are also in the unique position of educating their clientele about efficient use of farm resources and enhancing natural biological cycles and controls. Although PCAs and consultants have many continuing education opportunities available to them, the focus is largely on conventional farming practices dependent on outside inputs of pesticides and fertilizers. The overall goal of this project is to reach this key audience (PCAs, agricultural consultants and other agricultural professionals) with practical information on ecological pest management through several non-traditional methods (audio cassettes, subscription fax and email, and computer-based course), and evaluate which educational approaches are most effective.
During this initial reporting period we have accomplished the following:
· Produced and evaluated four audio cassette presentations on ecological pest management approaches in orchards and vineyards,
· Distributed four bulletins on sustainable agriculture practices to crop consultants in Oregon via subscription fax and e-mail, and
· Begun development of a computer-based course for certified PCAs in ecological pest management in grapes.
These educational approaches have been identified as fitting into consultants’ busy work schedules. Each approach provides flexibility in terms of time, location, and intensity. Integrating them into a unified program has the potential of reaching a large number of people across a wide area, including more remote rural locations not served through traditional conferences and workshops. During the coming year we will complete an evaluation of the feasibility and effectiveness of each method and establish protocols with appropriate state agencies for obtaining continuing education credits.
Dissemination of Findings
During this reporting period, practical information on ecological pest management and sustainable agriculture has been conveyed to approximately 100 PCAs through the audio cassette series and the OSU IPPC fax/email service. We expect to expand this audience significantly during the second year of the project through the development of the computer-based course and additional subscriptions to the fax/email service in Oregon. Since the project is in it’s early stages there are no findings to disseminate regarding the effectiveness of the various educational approaches.
Impacts on Agricultural Professionals
At this stage of the project we can only assess the impact of the audio cassette series. Four presentations on three tapes were produced for the 1999 growing season (see titles above).
From survey feedback, our conclusion is that this method of distributing educational materials to practitioners is useful and practical, and fits their information needs and learning styles. The major challenge with this component of the project was finding the technical experts who would agree to develop the content, and commit time to making the recordings. Because of this difficulty, we will not be pursuing the audio cassette series any further on this project and will instead focus on the subscription fax/email service and the computer based course in grape pest management.
This summary was prepared by the project coordinator for the 2000 reporting cycle.
Calif. Dept. of Pesticide Regulation