Water availability is essential for food and energy production and thus for societal sustainability. Climate change along with an exponential growing population has increased demand on the water resources in Central Oregon. New producers are acquiring small agricultural properties that once were viable large-scale farms. Many of these new irrigators are beginning farmers or ranchers with little experience or education in irrigation water management (IWM). Furthermore, experienced agricultural producers could gain additional knowledge and resources in adopting new irrigation technologies.
Because of the diverse irrigation knowledge, pressures on the water resource, and climate change, producers need the skills to improve their irrigation water management and the ability to utilize new irrigation technologies that can sustain their viable farming operation.
The goal of the Irrigation Technology and Management (ITM) Professional Development Project is to enhance and expand upon the successful IWM training efforts of Oregon State University (OSU), Central Oregon Extension and the Deschutes Soil and Water Conservation District (DSWCD). These training efforts have shown to increase knowledge and understanding of IWM to local producers and technical experts. It uses a multidisciplinary approach, which provides information on best methods and innovative approaches. Trainings have connected producers with local experts, institutional resources, and experienced producers, which supports the economic, cultural, and ecological health of communities. Broader implementation of these efforts will amplify the knowledge and understanding of IWM methods and utilization of new irrigation technologies. This knowledge is crucial for educators, agricultural professionals, and producers in order to communicate to diverse groups of irrigators and increase the adoption of water conservation techniques.
Project objectives from proposal:
Objectives of this project are to create a hybrid curriculum that is web-based and field oriented and provide professional development trainings to allow the DSWCD and OSU, Central Oregon Extension to reach expanded audiences via Extension agents and educators, NRCS staff, SWCD personnel, and other agricultural professionals who provide educational and technical assistance to farmers and ranchers.
- OSU and DSWCD will collaborate in developing and publishing the ITM curriculum containing the 11 modules. The objective is to publish the Train-the-Trainer guidance document by year two of the grant.
- For each module, OSU and DSWCD will convene a group consisting of agricultural professionals and producers to develop management/technology guidance (MTG’s) documents that instructors can use for teaching and can be distributed to producers. These MTG documents correspond to a module topic, providing information about the technology or management. The guidance document also contains an assessment worksheet for producers, evaluating their current on-farm management or technology and identifying opportunities to adopt new water conservation practices. Target date for completion of this objective is the second year of the grant.
- OSU and DSWCD will collaborate in developing the hybrid version of the ITM training. The objective is to develop a web-based platform for the ITM curriculum, along with identifying producers and agricultural specialists to hold field-based trainings. Curriculum with on-farm field training will be offered in the third year of the grant.
- In Year 3 of the grant, OSU and DSWCD will provide three, two-day professional workshops to train approximately 45 professionals to use the curriculum guidance document, hybrid program, and MTG documents.
- In year 3 of the grant, OSU will present at three state and national conferences to introduce these tools to an additional 50-100 professionals. The objective is to further reach agricultural professionals and producers in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.