2023 Central District All Faculty Symposium – Natural Resources
G. Vicari, UF/IFAS Extension, Marion County. 2232 NE Jacksonville Rd, Ocala, FL.
Situation: In Marion County, about 60% of our water is used for irrigation. Agriculture uses about 20% for food production, while industry and golf courses make up the rest. During Covid, the county had many urban and suburban residents moving to rural areas. Several of these residents have started hobby farms for recreation and business. Since the county and city have placed education liaisons focused on turfgrass irrigation, and FDACS has active technicians working with large-scale agriculture, this specific audience is considered underserved. Methods: I joined fellow agents in landscaping, gardening, and farming-related programs. My portion of the programs were delivered with the intention to inform participants of water quality and quantity issues in Marion County, as well as methods and technologies to increase irrigation efficiency. I joined six programs discussing these topics to fill this educational gap. Depending on the time constraint, either pre and post-tests or retrospective evaluations were administered to capture knowledge gained and intent to change behavior. Results: A total of n=105 participants indicated an average knowledge gain of 59.7 %. Those who reported that they planned to implement changes ranged from 91 to 100 %. Follow-up surveys were administered between 6 and 9 months later. Surveys suggested an 18% long-term behavior change was reported, such as quantifying irrigation output. 100% of survey respondents reported taking other actions, like applying mulch to reduce water loss and increase water holding capacity in soil (n=59). Based on feedback from class participants, low registration for pilot programs, and needs assessment surveys, there seems to be low interest in standalone irrigation and water conservation programming. Conclusion: Collaborating with other agents that offer diverse courses draws a larger audience allowing for conveyance of irrigation and water conservation knowledge.