Field Extension Officer for Western Australia
Extension of research and development outputs and other information remains a critical factor in advancing the vegetable industry. Along with a range of other extension tools, a key means of achieving this in WA is the provision of a vegetablesWA Field Extension Officer. There is generally a limited knowledge by the state’s growers on how to interact with the national R&D system, and as such a large part of the growers feel disenfranchised and as though they can have little impact on how their levy is being spent. There is a lack of knowledge of how to engage with the system and this has left the growers feeling that WA is potentially being underrepresented in how the R&D projects are being funded. This project provided critical funds for the Field Extension Officer and enabled the extension of research and development outputs and other information on best practices and technology to be communicated to the vegetable industry in WA. The Field Extension Officer/s were able to develop trust though ongoing relationships and provide the support required over a period of time for growers to implement change. The role also provided a valuable feedback mechanism so that research providers and broader industry are kept aware of issues important to growers. The project encountered a few challenges along the way including the appointment of a new Field Extension Officer and the difficulties associated with structural change at a national level. As a result, it was difficult to determine quantitative outcomes. The achievement of reaching 299 participants in 16 Good Practice Workshops and a Young Growers Tour from the 3 September 2014 until 15 September 2015 was very positive. The workshops encompassed topics such as WHS, agronomy, export, and marketing and provided a clear pathway to communicating critical information where it’s needed most. During the same period, 439 grower meetings were conducted (nearly half of all vegetable growers in the state). This is an average of 8.8 per week. The Young Growers Tour brought together 17 growers (18-40 years) from across the state (4 distinct production zones) for networking and participation in the Vegetables Leadership Summit and later a dinner with the guest speakers. The feedback on this event was also very positive, and a continued focus on the states next generation of growers will be a priority for future activities. Additionally, in the past 12 months 16 articles were compiled for inclusion in the vegetablesWA magazine, the WA Grower. The full text of these articles can be found on the vegetablesWA website (www.vegetableswa.com.au).