EDUCATING & EMPOWERING – Safe Digging Advocates for the Ag Community

PASA t-shirt handed out to an ag agent during the annual educational luncheon.

Imagine the power of one action setting off a chain of similar actions. Domino effects are scattered throughout history. The Pipeline Ag Safety Alliance (PASA) was created several years ago to find a unique way to educate farmers and ranchers on safe digging. Find the audience, find the best ways to communicate, and spread the safe digging message in an unconventional way.

Extension professionals, also referred to as ag agents, were identified as one of the most trusted sources of education and information by agricultural professionals. Ag agents are employed by land-grant universities and work with individuals, families, businesses, and communities. They educate farmers and ranchers on business operations and modern ag science and technologies. PASA began its relationship with extension professionals by teaming up with the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) in 2015. Currently, NACAA has over 3,000 members covering nearly 3,000 counties in 47 states. Extension professionals have over two million interactions with farmers and ranchers annually.

Ag agents were asked to sign a board saying they were committed to educating farmers and ranchers on safe digging.

This is where the domino effect comes in. PASA educates the educator, and the educator shares this information with farmers and ranchers. Empowering agents to become safe digging advocates has transformed the way we share information to help protect rural communities from utility incidents.

Building relationships on a foundation of trust and open communication fosters a community of empowered individuals advocating for safety. Combining that with consistent engagement keeps an otherwise static topic dynamic and alive. PASA educates extension professionals on a monthly basis through educational e-newsletters, face-to-face at the annual NACAA AM/PIC Conference, and through safety tools, both digital and print. Agents have done everything from sharing safety information on their social media channels, in their print newsletters, in digital columns on their university websites, handing out PASA Farm & Ranch Excavation Safety Guides at meetings and trainings, and inviting speakers to different events happening around the country.

Every year, we ask agents questions in our annual luncheon at the NACAA Conference to gauge program effectiveness. Do they understand the topics we’re presenting? What type of communication works best when it comes to sharing information with farmers and ranchers? What other audiences are out there, like Master Gardeners? Each year we have new PASA t-shirts created for anyone that shares a story, testimonial, or asks a question in our luncheon. It’s a fun way to keep agents engaged, feel comfortable sharing in front of their peers, and another way to keep the conversation going and making it fun.

The biggest asset to a successful program is never forgetting how much we can learn from each other. Never stop listening and learning.

If you’d like more information on the Pipeline Ag Safety Alliance visit PipelineAgSafetyAlliance.com.

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