Connecting Florida Farmers Through Monthly State-Wide Invasive Species Webinars
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Agent
Invasive species pose significant threats including economic losses in agriculture, human and animal health hazards, disruption of native ecosystems and more. A recent study suggests that the U.S. loses around $1.2 trillion annually due to invasive species. Florida is high risk for the introduction of invasive species and thus, education is critical to protecting agriculture and natural resources. Research demonstrates that farmers, green industry professionals, and the public play an important role in early detection of invasive species, but awareness is critical to developing strong volunteer-based networks. UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County partnered with the Florida First Detector Program to host a state-wide First Friday webinar series on invasive species. Bi-weekly cooperator meetings with regulatory agencies guided creation of agendas targeting diverse audiences of farmers, landscapers, homeowners, and more. Beginning in September 2022, an hour-long webinar occurred on the first Friday of every month. Webinars were approved for Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Pesticide Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in 11 categories. Monthly webinar recap blogs and video recordings were also shared broadly. Post-webinar surveys were utilized, and 6-month follow up surveys will be implemented to measure outcomes as the program continues. The six webinars, thus far, have been highly successful, with over 420 participants, more than 300 CEUs issued, and over 1,600 views on recap blogs and recordings. In post-webinar surveys, an average of 95.5% (321/336) indicated they agreed or strongly agreed that they understood the topics measured (+30.3% from before webinar). Additionally, 94.3% (317/336) self-reported increased knowledge on invasive species and 99.4% (328/330) intend to adopt at least one practice learned (i.e. reporting suspect pests, using caution to avoid spreading invasive species, employing integrated pest management, etc.). The First Fridays with Florida First Detector webinars have broadened the capacity to teach diverse audiences about invasive species identification and early detection. The series has directly contributed to the acquisition of over $136,000 in grant funds to further support invasive species educational programs in 2023 and 2024. Since the series began, other researchers and extension professionals have directly reached out for guidance on hosting interdisciplinary webinars based on this model.
Poster has NOT been presented at any previous NACAA AM/PIC
This poster is being submitted for judging. It will be displayed at the AM/PIC if not selected as a State winner. The abstract will be published in the proceedings.
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Authors: Morgan Pinkerton, Amanda Hodges
Pinkerton, M. Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Agent, UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County, Florida, 32773
Hodges, A. Doctor of Plant Medicine (DPM) Program Director, University of Florida, Florida, 32611