• By Kay Ledbetter •
The Southern Extension Risk Management Education Center named the “Owning Your Piece of Texas: Agricultural Landowner Legal Education Project” conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service as a Project of Excellence.
The Southern Center was established at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture in 2009 and serves several states in the region, including Texas.
Each year the center’s advisory council evaluates projects based on the importance of outcomes, audiences reached, realized and potential impacts, and quality and value of project communications. The Owning Your Piece of Texas program was selected as the top-ranking project from the 13 participating states.
“Owning Your Piece of Texas: Key Laws Texas Landowners Need to Know” is a day-long program designed by Tiffany Dowell Lashmet, AgriLife Extension agricultural law specialist in Amarillo, that addresses landowner liability, fence law, water law, special use tax valuation and more.
During 2019, Lashmet and her team presented the program in Lubbock, San Antonio, Crockett, Cat Spring and College Station, attracting 830 attendees representing more than 432,000 acres.
“This attendance was unexpected, a bit overwhelming and very exciting,” Lashmet says. “We projected to have 125 people total at the live programs.”
In addition to Lashmet, each event included Dr. Blake Bennett, AgriLife Extension economist, Dallas, discussing special-use property tax valuation and at least one additional speaker, usually a local attorney. People enjoyed the chance to hear a different voice and meet an agricultural attorney in their area, Lashmet says.
According to the award announcement, “This project provided practical, important information to Texas landowners. From the Owning Your Piece of Texas handbook, to five live presentations, to an online recording of a presentation, this project achieved its goal of educating Texas landowners on legal issues they are facing.”
Lashmet says program attendees represented a wide range of backgrounds. A Kentucky couple flew to San Antonio to educate themselves on the legal issues they face with their family land in Texas. A widow overwhelmed by the pressure to manage the family operation without her husband also attended one of the sessions.
“Our focus on the practical aspects of the laws seemed to be something that participants really appreciated,” Lashmet says. “Rather than talking theoretically about the laws, we tried to really break topics down into practical steps to take home and put into place.”
Of those completing an evaluation, 98% of attendees reported intent to implement something learned from the program in their operation. Evaluations indicated a 71% knowledge increase over all topics, and multiple attendees dubbed this the best educational program they’ve attended to date.
While Lashmet says it took a considerable amount of time to write the accompanying handbook, the interest from people about the publication was far greater than anticipated and proves its worth.
“We had to order additional copies almost immediately due to the number of requests for handbooks and the number of registrants at workshops,” she says.
A hard copy of the handbook can be purchased without attending the program by emailing Lacrecia Garza at email@example.com.
Those interested in finding a future in-person or online event to attend can go to https://agrilife.org/texasaglaw/upcoming-presentations/ or email Lashmet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kay Ledbetter is an associate editor/communication specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Amarillo.