According to Sarah Hamlen, Montana State University Extension, and Milton Grieger, University of Wyoming Extension, Western producers’ profitability is closely linked to the consumption and production of energy resources. Decisions made by these producers on energy issues have long-term implications for the sustainability of agricultural production, they assert.
To increase producers’ knowledge of energy issues, Hamlen and Grieger led the “E3A Project” that created energy education resources targeted at meeting the needs of producers and ag professionals by developing materials, web-based tools, an in-depth energy training and educational toolkits.
The project resulted in the creation of the E3A toolkit, containing over 100 fact sheets plus lesson plans and supplemental materials. Most fact sheets and resources can be found online at e3a4u.info. Topics included in the toolkit include:
- Home Energy Efficiency
- Farm Energy Efficiency
- Small Wind
- Solar Photovoltaic
- Solar Hot Water
- Anaerobic Digestion
- Microhydro Electric
- Mobile Home Energy Efficiency
- Heating with Wood
- User Guide, including basic energy fact sheets
- User Guide Supplement (lesson plans, press tools, etc.)
Leading educational events was another key element of the project; both direct-to-consumer and train-the-trainer. For example, 40 direct-to-consumer workshops reached 1,217 people in Montana. Various events in Montana and Wyoming that focused on small acreage, sustainability, local foods and agricultural expos included E3A energy programming. Specific topics include a general overview of renewable energy options, solar-powered livestock watering, small hydropower and farmstead energy. Educators have offered informal renewable energy assessments, conducted trainings and provided input into a general discussion of energy literacy, such as where energy originates or how to read a utility bill.
Train-the-trainer workshops were held in Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico, with Extension personnel in 11 additional states receiving training as well. In Montana, 55.6% of faculty has been trained in teaching E3A. Wyoming trained 18.8% of extended-term educators, and 7.4% of faculty in New Mexico were trained. Montana NRCS trained their field office personnel in E3A as well.
As Hamlen and Grieger report, this project provided an educational framework for engaging educators in energy education. The information design, lesson plans, online collaboration tools and self-contained nature of the project can be applied to energy education efforts in other subjects, but can also be used for other agricultural education projects. Hamlen and Grieger have recently received another Western SARE grant to develop additional content that is required to address specific agricultural producer needs, offer additional training opportunities for other states desiring to utilize the E3A curriculum, and enhance support options for currently trained educators to improve the effectiveness of programming for producers.
Want more information? See the related SARE grant: