Spearman – The Master Irrigator Class of 2022 met for the first time on Wednesday, March 23 at the O’Loughlin Center in Spearman. This is the second new location for the award-winning program in as many years. After moving from the original location at the North Plains Water Conservation Center (WCC) to the Moore County Community Building in 2021 to allow more space for social distancing, the program is being presented at the O’Loughlin Center in Spearman in 2022.
The Master Irrigator Program is an interactive education program designed to encourage adoption of conservation and efficiency practices by reducing the learning curve through in-class presentations, demonstrations and peer-to-peer discussion. It’s a four-day, 24-hour, intensive program spread over four consecutive Wednesdays. The curriculum is designed by retired Texas A&M Professor, Steve Amosson and based on his well-known Master Marketer Program. The obvious difference is that the Master Irrigator Program focuses on Irrigation.
The content is created with extensive input from a Project Advisory Committee, including growers and leaders from industry, education and research. The four, one-day sessions explore the latest information related to agromomics, irrigation scheduling, irrigation systems, and special topics. Each day begins with an economic analysis of the conservation practice and ends with a producer panel composed of growers and other experts with first-hand, real-world experience with the subject matter. According to Amosson the panels are a crucial part of the success, “The producer panels are critical because of the discussions that ensue between the participants and the panelists, and because of the credibility their fellow growers carry.”
Finally, after participants complete the training, they qualify for up to $10,000 in cost-share funding to put toward the cost of applying a conservation practice to their own operations. The funds are made available through the Texas Water Development Board Agriculture Conservation Grant Program. “The TWDB has stepped-up to partner with the district on multiple occasions to support programs that are making a difference in conservation,” said general manager Steve Walthour. “Their collaboration now is vital to the continued success of the district’s premier agricultural conservation program.”
A total of 117 participants have completed the Master Irrigator Program, representing approximately 350,000 acres of irrigated land in the district. Surveys of graduates show that 100-percent of participants adopt at least one of the conservation strategies to be used on their own operations. The survey also reveals actual results in the form of 87-percent reporting improved water efficiency, and 58.7-percent reporting reduced water use.
Past graduates expressed their satisfaction with the program:
“Was well worth the time I spent here.”
“This was a great program that has been a great benefit from a knowledge standpoint & information sharing among producers.”
“Overall, the entire training provided good information, the producer panels showed how many different operations adopted individual practices/tools to make a successful operation.”
Dates for the Master Irrigator Class of 2022 are as follows:
Wednesday, March 23
Wednesday, March 30
Wednesday, April 6
Wednesday, April 13 (graduation)
Enrollment for the Master Irrigator training program is now closed for the 2022 Season. Applications are now being accepted for 2023.
For more information about the Master Irrigator program contact Kirk Welch at firstname.lastname@example.org or go online to northplainsgcd.org/education/mi. For more information on the TWDB Agriculture Conservation Grants, access their website at https://www.twdb.texas.gov/conservation/agriculture/index.asp.