Partner Blog

Information of use to those who serve private well owners.

Fairs, Festivals, and Farmers Markets - Oh My!

Fairs, Festivals, and Farmers Markets - Oh My!

It’s no surprise that private well owners, in general, are hard to reach. This is because they can come from every social, economic, and educational demographic. The Private Well Class is always interested in how private well partners reach out to well owners in their area. We asked Alyson McCann about how she reaches well owners with her private well program.

But first, a little bit about Alyson; Alyson McCann is the Cooperative Extension Water Quality Coordinator in the College of Environment and Life Sciences at the University of Rhode Island. She has over 25 years of experience developing and delivering local, regional and national programs focused on water resource protection for a variety of audiences, the impact of which has been to affect behavior change to achieve public and environmental health protection. She has a history of effectively coordinating community and governmental engagement activities working with local, state, regional and federal partners to achieve water quality protection. Her work most notably focuses on private drinking water well protection; collaborating with the Rhode Island Department of Health and local communities to provide residents with the tools and resources needed to protect their drinking water quality; and providing technical assistance to private well owners to facilitate action to protect their health, their families’ health and the environment. She has developed numerous private well protection tip sheets and provides educational programs and technical assistance to both well owners and professional audiences. Program materials are audience-tested with focus groups and interviews to achieve clear communication that results in measured program impacts and audience behavior change.

McCann is also a member of URI’s GeoSpatial Extension Program and develops and trains professionals in the use of geospatial technologies and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). She is currently a reviewer for the Journal of Extension. She has worked with and mentored numerous graduate and undergraduate students.


What made you decide to promote your program during the Rhode Island farmer’s markets and fairs?

AM: We dedicated program efforts to an intensive Intercept Campaign as a pilot project in 2015 and have continued to expand and build upon these efforts to increase our effectiveness. In addition to offering community workshops - where people have to come to us - we wanted to be in places where people are already going – they didn’t need to make a special effort to interact with us. Community farmers markets, fairs and festivals seemed like a logical place to start. A team of well-trained undergraduate Coastal Fellow students attend 2 – 3 community events and farmers markets weekly with our private well water display. Table 1 summarizes the number of events and number of people interacted with at these events. In 2017, we expanded upon the “Intercept Campaign” and piloted a facilitated well water testing kit pick up, where we distributed annual test kits from the RI State Health Lab and scheduled 4 community pick ups at which private well owners could return their well water sample, payment and paperwork to us and we would deliver the samples to the lab in Providence, RI. Since this program addition, we have seen an increase in the number of private well owners who have their drinking water well tested.

Table 1: Intercept Campaign Summary, 2015-2017

Year

Number of Events Attended

Number of private well owners interacted with

Number of people who returned a water sample to us for transport to RI State Health Lab

2015

38

901

*

2016

29

1030

*

2017

37

1125

52


* Facilitated testing not offered until 2017 pilot program.

How many events have you done and do you plan on doing more next summer?

AM: Please see Table 1 above. We are currently continuing this effort in 2018 attending winter markets, the RI Home Show and other community events. We are in the planning stages for summer efforts right now.


Have you formed any meaningful partnerships as a result of these outreach efforts?

AM: Absolutely! We make it a point to interact and stay in touch with market and event coordinators. We get invited back and the organizers of these events appreciate our participation. In addition, we are invited to participate in other community events.

In your opinion, how successful have you been at these events and how many water test kits did you give away?

AM: They are very successful. As you can see from Table 1 – we talk with lots of private well owners, many of who sign up for our quarterly newsletter and attend a local workshop. We plan to expand our water test kit efforts this summer. In addition, it is a highly successful opportunity for our undergraduate students. They receive fabulous training and experience interacting with people and providing education and technical assistance. Once our students are trained, we visit them at these events throughout the summer – checking in to see how they are doing, answering any of their concerns, etc. We also have weekly meetings scheduled to discuss how things are going in the field.


What has been the biggest challenge promoting your program at these events?

AM: It takes a few years to determine what events are most productive – meaning that community members are interested in the information we are providing and that the event is well attended.


What would you tell an organization who is considering participating in a farmer’s market or other local event in this manner?

AM: Make sure the event is in an area where your target audience is. You often have to give an event more than one try before determining if it is worth the time and effort to be there. Have fun. Typically, your audience is out to enjoy themselves at these events and if you can too, all the better.



blog comments powered by Disqus