- Education and Training: extension
Context, Justification and Assumptions
The WSARE Professional Development Program in California has strong ties to specific
programs within the University of California (UC) Agriculture and Natural Resources, which
implements the land grant mission in California. The most notable affiliations are with
Cooperative Extension and the Agricultural Sustainability Institute. UC Agriculture and Natural
Resources is large and diverse, encompassing three campuses (faculty from UC Davis, UC
Berkeley, and UC Riverside), and 54 county-level Cooperative Extension offices. UC
Cooperative Extension has about 200 county-based advisors serving farmers, ranchers, families, and communities across the state; of which about 170 focus on agriculture and natural resource programs. USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) technical field staff also work throughout the state in 54 service centers, field offices, and partnership offices. These agricultural professionals are at the front line helping farmers, ranchers, and other groups develop food and farming systems that are profitable, sustain natural resources, and promote stable and prosperous communities.
In order to streamline the execution of the PDP program in California, we plan to
continue using the PDP award to fund mini-grants and travel scholarships. As new coordinators
we will work on forming a new advisory committee to prioritize funding criteria and review
submitted proposals for this proposal’s funding cycle. We also have assistance available through the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources division to manage the mini-grant / travel scholarship application and funding process. We plan to fund approximately three mini-grants ($4,000/subaward) and three travel scholarships ($2,000/sub-award) that will be awarded through a formal call for proposals.
The incredible diversity of California’s agriculture creates an equally diverse need for
educational and professional development. Current high-priority topics include:
• Nutrient managmenet practices to minimize environmental impairments
• Water use efficiency
• Alternative marketing approaches
• Farm or ranch succession planning
• Community-based food systems
• Establishing farmer-to-farmer information networks
• Federal and state programs to support sustainable agriculture
These identified topics help prioritize projects during the review of PDP mini-grant proposals.
An additional topic of interest expressed by many extension educators is on soil quality in
cropland and rangeland and the practices that can improve soil quality. One workshop on soil
quality was funded in 2015 and more will likely be funded in future cycles, especially as the State Department of Food and Agriculture is in the process of rolling out a new set of producer grants for its Healthy Soils Initiative.
Stakeholder and partner involvement
The mini-grant process will utilize a panel of stakeholder reviewers that also serve as the
Western SARE advisory panel in California. The panel will preferably consist of two
Cooperative Extension advisors, the NRCS State Resource Conservationist, a non-land grant
university faculty member, a member of a non-profit organization and one farmer/rancher. This panel will be involved in the development of the request for proposals, the review of proposals and in the review of the project evaluations.
The primary contributions in this proposal are financial and human. Financial
contributions include monetary support from the PDP grant and possibly contributions from
other funding sources contributing to the efforts funded through the mini-grant process. Human contributions will be provided by the PDP State Coordinators, advisory committee members and workshop collaborators (Cooperative Extension advisors and specialists and NRCS field staff). UC Agriculture and Natural Resources will provide grant management and accounting support.
Project objectives from proposal:
Predicting precise outputs from future workshops whose topics are unknown at this time
is not possible. However, an expectation is that the workshops will train between 50 and 100
extension educators and agriculture professionals on topics identified in the mini-grant and travel scholarship funding criteria. Grant recipients will be encouraged to provide written material to workshop participants, information on Western SARE grant opportunities, and SARE
publications. A list of workshop participants and evaluations will be required for each workshop
so that feedback can be provided to the California PDP advisory panel.
The advisory panel will use workshop evaluations and general knowledge within their
professional cadres to develop ideas and priorities for future PDP activities in California.
The overall outcome of this plan is to increase the capacity of Cooperative Extension advisors,
NRCS field staff, and other agriculture professionals to apply the principles of sustainable
agriculture in working with their clientele (farmers, ranchers, consumers, youth, businesses,
government, or communities). This will be accomplished primarily through workshops that will
1) extend emerging sustainable agricultural practices to extension educators and agriculture
professionals, and 2) bring together extension educators and university faculty working on
sustainable agriculture to develop collaborative priorities, goals and strategies for researching
and extending sustainable agriculture issues. Other activities that will contribute to the overall
goal include an evaluation process that will be embedded in all workshops and meetings and a
planning meeting or conference call with the California PDP advisory committee to prioritize
training needs for future PDP applications. See Attachment B for details on expected outcomes
and the evaluation plan.