2018 University of Alaska PDP Project

Project Overview

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $39,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Alaska
Region: Western
State: Alaska
State Coordinator:
Dr. Casey Matney
University of Alaska Fairbanks


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, rangeland/pasture management
  • Crop Production: beekeeping, crop improvement and selection, food product quality/safety, high tunnels or hoop houses, nutrient management, pollinator health, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance, workshop, youth education
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels, energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, agritourism, farm-to-restaurant, farmers' markets/farm stands, financial management, land access, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, prevention, traps
  • Production Systems: holistic management, hydroponics, integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, food hubs, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, public participation, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    a.) Topics – The topics that will be highlighted at the 2018 Annual Alaska Sustainable Agriculture Conference include: 1) sustainable soil and crop management, 2) sustainable poultry and livestock management, 3) integrated pest management, plant disease, and crop nutritional deficiencies, 4) water quality, crop irrigation, and livestock watering systems, 5) composting and fertilizer management, and 6) agricultural business management. Agricultural business management and economics will be emphasized, since this information is crucial for beginning farmers and ranchers, as well maintaining agriculture businesses across Alaska. Interest in the production and management of reindeer has been increasing
    within the state, and a large proportion of the livestock management aspect of the conference will be aimed at further developing the reindeer industry within the state.

    b.) Context, justification and assumptions – Alaska is the largest state in the United States but has one of the lowest populations. The low population and expansive area of the state contributes to a low population density with few roads and large distances between communities. Alaska is the westernmost extension of the North American Continent having five different climate zones ranging from the mild maritime climate in the southeast to the frigid arctic in the north. Depending on location, annual precipitation ranges from 6 to 200 inches.          While Alaska is expansive and diverse, there are only seven cooperative extension service agents with full or partial agriculture/horticulture appointments to reach all of the communities across the state. In order to be effective, extension agents rely on partnership, collaboration, and cooperation with other agencies and agricultural groups to disperse information across
    the state. To foster these relationships and to increase training opportunities in sustainable agriculture, SARE PDP funds will be used to cosponsor agricultural conferences and workshops, provide travel for extension agents to attend workshops and training programs, and to provide travel for guest speakers from the lower 48 states in order to provide residents with new knowledge, research, and ideas from outside Alaska. The PDP grant funds will support an extension agent to travel to the Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in addition to facilitating the organization/operation of the conference and associated workshops. In recent years, conferences have annually attracted approximately 200 farmers, state agency/entity representatives, non-government organizations, tribal village members, and interested community members from over 25 diverse communities and villages from across Alaska. Conference training and educational topics are developed with the input of an active and interested advisory committee.
         This SARE PDP grant will enable the cosponsoring of additional conferences and workshops with partners and collaborators. Additionally, funds will be used to maintain a SARE listserv and newsletter which is integral for connecting hundreds of Alaskans with innovations and information regarding sustainable agriculture. The Alaska SARE quarterly newsletter highlights sustainable farming operations, research, and projects occurring around the state and abroad.

    c.) Stakeholder and partner involvement- The Alaska SARE PDP is part of the Agriculture and
    Horticulture Program within the School of Natural Resources and Extension (SNRE) at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. The Agriculture and Horticulture Program includes programs in Commercial Agriculture, Commercial Horticulture, Integrated Pest Management, Pesticide Safety and Education Program, and Western Pest Diagnostic Network program. These programs are linked with the objectives of the SARE program. The current advisory committee includes:
    Amy Pettit – Executive Director, Alaska Farmland Trust, Palmer, AK
    Susan Willsrud – Co-owner, Calypso Farm and Ecology Center, Ester, AK
    Danny Consenstein – Dir. USDA, AK Farm Service Agency
    Dr. Pat Holloway – Retired Dir. Georgeson Botanic Gardens, UAF, Fairbanks, AK
    Ruby Hollembaek – Co-owner, AK Interior Game Ranch, Delta Junction, AK
    Rob Carter – Plant Materials Center, AK Division of Agriculture, Palmer, AK

    The advisory committee has been instrumental in planning the annual conference and is actively involved in developing training sessions and outreach materials.

    d.) Inputs- Resources used in the project include the time/labor of personnel from SNRE. The commitment from the Alaska SARE Coordinator will be 24 hours. The project program technicians are budgeted for 196 hours in this proposal to provide assistance to the SARE Coordinator in organizing and conducting programs and the conference. Educational programs will frequently be conducted in conjunction with other programs. There are many advantages to this coordination of activities, including the leveraging of resources devoted to these programs, which will help support the SARE message. The Alaska Farm Bureau, the Grange, Farmers Union, Alaska Division of Agriculture, Soil and Water Conservation District
    Boards and several agricultural companies (Kubota, Delta Meat and Sausage, Craig Taylor Equipment Company, etc.) help sponsor programs and contribute to the cost of mailings, printing brochures, speaker travel, and other expenses. A major expenditure in this budget is to help support out-of-state speaker travel expenses in order to provide an incentive for annual agricultural events in Alaska and to have a speaker on the program with a focus on a sustainable agriculture.

    1.) Outputs-

    1.) Target audience - We plan on having over 250 attendees with representation from at least 30 communities from throughout the state at a 3-day sustainable agriculture conference. We anticipate at least 75 people registering for preconference workshops. Based on input from the advisory committee, the 2018 conference will be held in either Fairbanks or Anchorage, depending on a post-conference survey from 2017. Attendees will come from all over the state of Alaska, many of them are state and federal agency employees, farmers, ranchers, restaurant owners, food enthusiasts, students, and interested community members.

    2.) Activities and methods - At the sustainable agriculture conference we plan on having at least two preconference workshops. Throughout the conference we have break times and poster sessions so attendees can network and peruse the exhibition tables and posters. The Alaska Produce Growers Conference will likely be holding their annual meeting as a part of this conference as will the Alaska Fiber Producers Group.

    3.) Products - We are striving to educate the farmers, agencies, organizations, the public and all of Alaska about sustainable agriculture and its practices. The annual conference is a great venue for farmers, agency people, and community members from across Alaska to get together and share their ideas, successes and opportunities.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Outcomes - Desired outcomes of the Alaska SARE PDP are:
    •  Increase the knowledge of agricultural professionals about sustainable agriculture practices and achievable goals that they can adapt and implement in Alaska
    • Increase the emphasis on sustainable agriculture practices that agricultural professionals
    incorporate into educational programs and publications
    • Facilitate the transmission of knowledge of sustainable agriculture principles from agricultural
    professionals to agricultural producers
    • Promote the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices by agricultural producers and assist
    them in developing the skills necessary to make these practices successful

    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.