The value of the best management practices outreach education program

Donald P. Rainey, Laurie Trenholm

Abstract


Sarasota County was one of the first to require professionals who apply fertilizers in landscapes to pass a 5-h class entitled “Best Management Practices for Florida Green Industries” (BMPs). Since then, other counties and municipalities have passed similar education code requirements. The state target audience is 100,000 landscape management professionals statewide. Sarasota Extension is actively measuring the overall value that the BMPs program has on the individual and environment. Measurements are made using pre-class and post-class tests, voluntary evaluations, and an annual follow-up survey. The process includes: 1) statewide leadership in the fertilizer ordinance/BMPs facilitation with University of Florida Extension and Florida Department of Environmental Protection; 2) guidance to stakeholders and several adjacent counties and cities regarding similar fertilizer ordinances; 3) information dissemination through more than 3000 mailings; 4) maintenance of a BMPs website calendar; 5) creation and maintenance of an online registration system for the 5-h class; 6) creation and maintenance of an online annual follow-up survey; 7) production of a 63-page class reference manual and a 12-min county television public service announcement; and 8) development of a computer database, “Hort Stats,” that tracks the BMP participants and publishes results on the county Extension website. More than 1250 professionals have attended the training in Sarasota, and more than 85% have received the mandatory BMP certification. A 2008 follow-up survey of 383 participants showed an overall improvement in recommended fertilizer practices. One of the most significant was a 27% increase in the number of professionals who use slow-release nitrogen products.


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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283