Final report for ENC16-156

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2016: $73,447.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2018
Grant Recipient: Practical Farmers of Iowa
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Sally Worley
Practical Farmers of Iowa
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Project Information

Abstract:

Project summary Practical Farmers of Iowa’s members are committed to both economical and ecological sustainable agricultural practices. PFI members have identified conservation investment, cover crops and third crops as three sustainable agriculture priorities. Farmer-educators within PFI are eager to share their knowledge on these practices with other farmers and stakeholders, have asked for help improving their teaching skills, and are the target audience for this project. The goal of this project is to help farmer-educators become more effective teachers, increasing the quality of educational programs to help shift Iowa’s farming systems to a more sustainable agriculture. Outcomes for this project: 1) Enhance presentation skills of PFI staff and board, 2) Educate PFI staff on effective one-on-one coaching, 3) Educate 10 farmer-educators through one-on-one coaching, 4) Hold an in-person boot camp for farmer-educators, and 5) Create a farmer-educator resource kit to train future farmers. Additional outcomes based on evaluation feedback include: 1) 80% (of 1000) will increase their knowledge on grant focused topics, 2) 60% (of 1000) will plan to makes changes based on what they learned. Activities designed to reach our outcomes include intensive educational trainings, and opportunities to practice new skills and receive feedback. Specific activities are: 1) Two-day in-person presentation training for PFI board members and staff, 2) One-on-one field day coaching between PFI staff and the farmer-educator, 3) Field days to demonstrate and practice skills and receive feedback, 4) Two-day farmer-educator training, and 5) Farmer-led workshops. Project description PFI members are committed to sustainable agricultural practices. Farmer-educators within PFI are eager to share their knowledge with other farmers and stakeholders and have asked for help improving their teaching skills. The goal of this project is to help farmer-educators become more effective teachers, increasing the quality of educational programs to help shift Iowa’s farming systems to a more sustainable agriculture. Activities include intensive educational trainings, and opportunities to practice new skills and receive feedback. Proposal narrative Background and situation Practical Farmers of Iowa was founded by farmers who wanted to learn from each other; farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing remains at the core of our mission. Practical Farmers has a critical mass of farmer members who are experts on practical implementation of conservation investment, cover crops and third crops. These farmers are willing to share their expertise with others; they value the cooperative learning model applied by PFI since 1985. Farmers in PFI realize collaborative education improves practical understanding of sustainable agriculture practices, leading to increased implementation and positive impacts to Iowa agriculture. PFI farmer-educators are sustainable agriculture experts. In addition to years of operating farm businesses and implementing farm practices, they participate in continued education through PFI, ISU, SARE and other networks, and many have ag-related degrees. Here are some comments from the past year: ”I get motivated talking to other PFI farmers about what they do.” “I like the focus on farmers versus agency and/or programs. Practical way to deliver these practices. Great information.” “Very knowledgeable speakers – It’s always nice to have producers speaking.” “This conference is always educational and often inspirational.” PFI’s farmer-led approach is effective: 90% of PFI members report we have helped them achieve their goals. As a result of 2015 field days, 99% reported some change in knowledge; 75% reported a large to very large change in knowledge; and 84% of attendees are considering making changes to their farm operations. As a result of PFI’s 2016 annual conference, 99% of attendees reported an increase in knowledge. While farmer learners in our membership appreciate PFI’s farmer-led approach, they have identified the need for increased training to help farmer-educators improve presentation skills. Here is some feedback from PFI’s farmer-led educational events: “Field Days are making a difference. We just need to continuously look for ways to improve the ‘presentation’ of the ‘Cover Crop Story.’” “We have talked about the need for a clear moderator with a clear agenda, especially in regards to the order of the day. There is even room to lay out specific learning outcomes, much like a classroom environment, that are introduced, reiterated frequently, and summed up at the end.” “You may consider having speakers get coaching or provide a clear structure for talk. There are some easy strategies to help presenters. Communicate their messages clearly, concisely and effectively.” Farmer-educators in our membership have asked for help to effectively educate other farmers and stakeholders. They want to know how to decide and pare down the amount of information to cover, define presentation goals and outcomes, organize a focused and relevant presentation, and deliver effectively (stay on task, engaging presentation skills, intro and summary, etc.). They also want to know what common information needs to be shared across Iowa to increase adoption of sustainable agriculture practices.  Practical Farmers of Iowa has held farmer-led events since 1985. All farmer-led educational events address priorities identified by farmers in the membership. PFI works to teach farmers to set and stick to an agenda and keep on time. In recent years Practical Farmers has increased the amount of tools used to help farmers plan successful workshops. Practical Farmers of Iowa has held outreach leader trainings in the past to help farmers tell their story. However, it is clear we need to do more to further equip farmer-educators with tools and skills to best convey their expertise in and knowledge of sustainable agriculture to other farmers. We propose to expand on this work. Target audience The target audience for this grant is PFI farmer-educators committed to effectively educating other farmers on conservation investment, cover crops and third crops. These three focus areas come from PFI’s strategic plan, which is based on priorities of farmers within the membership. Three letters of commitment are included to illustrate that PFI farmers are committed to teaching others on these subjects and are invested in learning how to be more effective at doing so. Practical Farmers’ members have provided input on project components, and the consultant PFI proposes to work with is a farmer within PFI’s membership who is a communication educator at Creighton University.

Project Objectives:

Short-term outcomes

During the grant, PFI plans to:

  • Increase presentation skills of PFI staff and board, who all serve as sustainable agriculture educators.
  • Educate PFI employees on how to most effectively coach farmers one-on-one to hone messaging, and educate other farmers and stakeholders about conservation investment, cover crops and third crops.
  • Educate 10 farmers, through one-on-one coaching, to effectively present at 10 field days in 2017. Evaluate effectiveness through intense evaluation efforts. Create action plan to improve all field day presentations through one-on-one coaching and educational tools moving forward.
  • Hold an in-person boot camp where farmers learn and practice presentation skills as well as work with partner experts to create effective messages on the three identified sustainable agriculture focuses.
  • Create farmer-educator resource kit to train future farmer educators how to provide effective education to other farmers.

Intermediate outcome

Farmer-educators at PFI and partner events are more effective educators, increasing the quality of educational programs to assist farmers and stakeholders in shifting to sustainable agriculture systems that adopt conservation investment, cover crops and third crops.

Long-term outcomes

  1. Farmers in Iowa enhancing sustainability of agriculture by increased conservation investment, cover crops and third crops.
  2. Farmers using these practices continue to offer farmer-led educational programs to other farmers to enhance the sustainability of agriculture in Iowa and beyond.

Inputs

People will be the primary inputs to be used in this grant. PFI personnel, a communications consultant, farmer-educators, agronomic experts and partners will work together throughout the project. PFI staff will dedicate extensive time to working closely with farmer-educators, our consultant, agronomic experts, as well as conducting in-depth evaluation to gauge effectiveness and make improvements to coaching and farmer educator toolkits.

This project will also use existing presenter training curriculum and resources, both within PFI (Current PFI curriculum includes: presentation templates, planning forms, presentation tip sheets) and from external resources.

In addition, funding from Walton Family Foundation and Ceres Trust will pay for field days held as part of this project.

Activities

Two-day in-person board and staff training. Board and staff will learn presentation skills themselves, for three main goals: 1) Board and staff are seen as agricultural educators already, present on sustainable agriculture regularly, and have expressed an interest in and need for training; 2) Staff confident in their presentation skills will be better equipped to coach farmer educators; 3) Board members, who are current Iowa farmer-educators and known as farmer leaders, will provide in-depth input on where they most need to build skills.

Tina Bakehouse, farmer and communication educator and executive coach, will work with staff to plan and lead this training. Tina has 15 years of experience teaching communication, five years of executive coaching experience, six years of experience developing and facilitating communication workshops, and direct experience with Practical Farmers of Iowa.

After this training, 15 of the board and staff will present on focus grant topics at least once during the upcoming year.

One-on-one field day coaching. PFI will develop a toolkit including protocols, internal agenda templates, handout tips, and other resources needed to create a high-quality event. The toolkit will be based on feedback from the two-day training, current PFI templates and planning forms, late co-founder Dick Thompson’s written field day instructions, and additional existing resources. PFI staff will use this toolkit to work with 10 farmer-educators for the 2017 field day season. We will use rigorous evaluation to determine the effectiveness of the coaching. Based on feedback we receive from the farmer-educators as well as people in attendance at field days where farmer-educators present, PFI will make changes to its toolkit. In 2018 and beyond, PFI will use its more intensive coaching format with all field day hosts.

Field days will be held on PFI member farms, allowing people to see and hear first-hand how practices and business decisions shape farm operations. This project will include formal intensive coaching for farmer-educators presenting about conservation investment, cover crops and third crops at 10 field days in 2017.

Two-day farmer educator training (boot camp): During this boot camp, farmer-leaders committed to educating others on sustainable agriculture practices of conservation investment, cover crops and third crops will learn and practice effective presentation skills. At this two-day boot camp agriculture experts in these three areas will work with the farmer-educators to create messaging to create common action steps and priorities to implement these practices across the state. Ten farmer-educators in attendance will commit to presenting at least one educational event, and participating in one outreach piece (radio, article, interview, etc.) to share messaging created during the training.

This boot camp will focus on best presentation practices for meeting and workshop settings. PFI will create a presentation toolkit based on this boot camp, as well as the first training in this project, to share with farmer-educators within PFI as well as with other partners who are sustainable agriculture educators. The toolkit will consist of mixed media to provide multiple learning platforms. Specific components for this toolkit will be identified during the project, based on research, existing resources, and farmer-educator and communication consultant feedback.

Farmer-led workshops provide a classroom setting where farmer-educators provide detailed information on a particular topic. Workshops are always structured to promote attendee participation. Ten farmers who receive training during the boot camp will present at a workshop or meeting before the grant end date.

Timeline

October-December 2016 Prepare for two-day, in-person board and staff training. (PFI staff organizes in partnership with consultant Tina Bakehouse and farmer advisory committees)

January-March 2017 Full board and staff participate in two-day workshop; 15 of these 25 individuals will present on focus grant topics at least once during the upcoming year.

Create additional tools to assist in one-on-one coaching.

April-June 2017 Educate 10 farmers, through one-on-one coaching, to effectively present at 10 field days in 2017.

July-September 2017 10 farmers who participate in one-on-one coaching present at 10 field days; rigorous evaluation to evaluate effectiveness of one-on-one coaching.

October-December 2017 Create action plan to improve all field day presentations through one-on-one coaching and educational tools moving forward.

Prepare for two-day in-person boot camp. (PFI staff organizes with consultant, farmer advisory committees and agronomic experts.)

Hold in-person boot camp to teach and practice presentation skills; work with partner agronomic experts to create effective messaging to share across Iowa to increase implementation of three grant topic focuses.

January-March 2018 Five farmer-educators who attended boot camp present at workshops or meetings on one of the three identified sustainable agriculture issues.

April-June 2018 Ten farmer-educators who attended boot camp conduct outreach (in newsletter article, radio interview, newspaper, agriculture publication, etc.) on one of the three identified sustainable agriculture issues.

July-September 2018 Five farmer-educators who attended boot camp present at workshops and field days on one of the three identified sustainable agriculture issues

With feedback from farmers and experts on what components are most needed to help them create good presentations, create presentation toolkit (mixed media, paper, online, video, etc.) to use with future presenters.

Outputs

Coaching toolkit: Protocols and worksheets resulting from the two-day, in-person board and staff training to help PFI staff coach farmer-educators one-on-one to prepare high-quality field days featuring sustainable agricultural practices.

Presentation toolkit: Presentation outlines; videos, presentation templates; presentation tips; messaging on conservation investment, cover crops and third crops (including graphs, statistics, etc.); and other tools resulting from the two-day farmer-educator boot camp to help farmers prepare effective presentations for workshops and meetings.

Clear and influential messaging for sustainable agricultural practices – such as conservation investment, cover crops and third crops – created during this project will be shared widely to increase implementation of these practices.

Fifteen presentations on identified sustainable agriculture focuses by PFI board and staff

Ten field days, average 50 in attendance at each

Ten workshops, average 50 in attendance at each

Ten media pieces, read by 1,000,000

Outcomes

  • Increase presentation skills of PFI staff and board, who all serve as educators to farmers on these topics. Measured by pre- and post-training surveys
  • Educate PFI employees who work with farmers to organize farmer-led educational programs how to most effectively one-on-one coach farmers to hone messaging and educate other farmers and stakeholders about conservation investment, cover crops and third crops. Measured by qualitative and quantitative feedback from farmer-educators, audience participants and field day surveys
  • Educate 10 farmers, through one-on-one coaching, to effectively present at 10 field days in 2017. Evaluate effectiveness through intense evaluation efforts. Create action plan to improve all field day presentations through one-on-one coaching and educational tools moving forward.
  • Hold an in-person boot camp where farmers learn and practice presentation skills as well as work with partner experts to create effective messages on the three identified sustainable agriculture focuses. Ten farmers who participate in boot camp will lead a presentation as well as complete an outreach activity (radio interview, newspaper, etc.) by the end of the grant period.
  • Create farmer-educator resource kit to train future farmer-educators on how to provide effective education to other farmers at future field days, workshops and meetings.
  • 80% of 500 (50 in attendance x 10 field days) who attend field days increase knowledge on grant focus topics.
  • 60% of 500 (50 in attendance x 10 field days) who attend field days plan to make changes based on what they learned.
  • 80% of 500 (50 in attendance x 10 workshops) workshop attendees increase knowledge on grant focus topics.
  • 60% of 500 (50 in attendance x 10 workshops) who attend workshops plan to make changes based on what they learned.
Introduction:

Practical Farmers of Iowa is a non-profit organization committed to agricultural research and education. Created by farmers in the 1980’s, the mission of Practical Farmers of Iowa is to equip farmers to build resilient farms and communities. Our founders knew that profitability and conservation were not mutually exclusive, but rather inter-related. They set out to conserve their natural resources and make a profit to support themselves and the rural communities in which they lived. Our theory of change is based on the farmers leading the way. Farmers view each other as a credible resource for knowledge exchange. At Practical Farmers of Iowa we create the necessary learning environments for a large network of farmers and other agriculture stakeholders to collaborate and re-imagine the landscape of Iowa ensuring that we are sharing practices that regenerate our soils and improve our water.

We know that people are spread thin for time and resources. Therefore, at our events, we want our message to be loud and clear. We want attendees to walk away not only having gained valuable knowledge, but to have the necessary resources to create change on their own land. Preparing our farmer-leaders to lead high quality events and share their message is critical. This grant will help our staff and board members coach our farmer-leaders to convey the important messages to their friends and neighbors and spread the word about conservation and agriculture.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand

Education

Educational approach:

At Practical Farmers of Iowa, our farmers are the leaders in spreading the word to increase conservation practices in Iowa and throughout the Midwest. One thing we typically hear from a new members is, “Why would anyone want to hear from me?” or “I am not an expert”. We want to give our farmers the skills and confidence to embrace their knowledge and share it with others as an example for others to adapt as appropriate on their own farms. We know from research and our experience that farmers look to each other as a trusted resource for knowledge sharing and our farmer-led model uses this approach for our research and information sharing mission.

At field days and through our education workshops, we provide farmers with real examples of how regenerative practices are being implemented in their own communities. Seeing these conservation practices working for their friends and neighbors empowers attendees to venture out of their established practices and try something new. Attendees learn from those who have gone before them and gain valuable knowledge from the hosts successes and failures.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Emotionally Connected, Intellectually Charged: How Your Speaker Style Gets You There
Objective:

Goal: Staff and board will improve their presentation skills during a two-day workshop and learn how to most effectively coach farmers 1-on-1 to hone messaging about ag and conservation topics.

Description:

Practical Farmers staff and board met in March 2017 to participate in a training session led by Creighton University professor and PFI member, Tina Bakehouse. Tina led the group through training on best practices for presentations, knowing your audience, and how to coach others.Workbook-Improving-Your-Speaker-Style-Booklet

Outcomes and impacts:

From this training session, the staff and board were able to practice new skills and learn through others experiences on how to enhance the effectiveness of our educational activities. Following the training, we created several training documents based on Tina’s workbook, to help staff and our farmer leaders develop and present impactful content. Since the training, we have had our staff, board of directors and farmer leaders present at dozens of events.Presentation-Tips_final Field-Day-Coaching-for-Staff-Final

2017 Small Grains Conference
Objective:

Find and Promote more small grains research.

Description:

The first day brought together growers and buyers of small grains together to discuss small grains research and how to make information more accessible. The second day, farmers were trained on presentation skills directly related to small grains research and based on the information from the staff training in March. The training included how to find research that is out there, and how to effectively spread the message.

Outcomes and impacts:

At PFI, our farmers are our voices. Trainings that help develop skills and confidence for more farmers to discuss conservation goals is critical. From the small grains conference, 12 farmers were coached and are helping to spread the message about sustainable farming. 

Educate 10 farmers through one-on-one coaching to effectively present at 10 field days in 2017
Objective:

1) Increase the preparedness and comfort level of the field day host, 2) Maximize impact of the intended topic and message

Description:

Prior to the 2017 field day season, Practical Farmers staff identified 10 field day hosts to receive additional coaching and the presentation toolkit to assist in their field day preparation. Staff used the coaching and presentation skills knowledge gained in the March training to assess the hosts speaking experience and confidence and offered them additional coaching to create a more effective presentation.

2018_Preparing-for-Your-Field-Day Field-Day-Coaching-for-Staff-Final Presentation-Tips_final Workbook-Improving-Your-Speaker-Style-Booklet

Outcomes and impacts:

At Practical Farmers of Iowa, we rely on our farmer-leaders to be examples for change. We recognize the time it takes to be an effective leader and so we are always looking for opportunities to identify and foster new leaders. While each host and presenter will have a unique set of experiences and comfort levels, through our conversations with them we know that they appreciate having the tools and extra coaching available to them. As we grow more leaders, having the toolkit available will be valuable step in empowering them to be a confident voice for Practical Farmers and for their area of expertise. 

One respondent indicated that the tools “moderately” helped them organize their thoughts and help plan a logical progression to the day, the other respondent answered that the tools were “very” helpful in organizing their thoughts, and “extremely” helpful in planning a logical progression to the day. Both reported that the tools “moderately” helped them feel more prepared and confident. The survey feedback we received from hosts was positive. However, the sample size was small so we will continue to assess and make necessary adjustments.

Field days
Objective:

Create an on-farm learning experience for attendees to see and hear first-hand how practices and business decision shape farm operations

Description:

Practical Farmers of Iowa field days are on-farm events that are free and open to the public. They provide an opportunity for members and non-members to share in PFI’s vision: an Iowa with healthy soil, healthy food, clean air, clean water, resilient farms and vibrant communities. We welcome everyone and include farms of all sizes and production practices. Our topics span the agricultural spectrum and explore production, land stewardship, conservation, local foods and more.

 

Outcomes and impacts:

Based on our overall 2017 field day evaluations, 97% of attendees reported a change in knowledge. Analyzing just those field days where hosts received extra coaching, the reported change in knowledge was 98%. We also want to know that increased knowledge leads to changes on the farm. Our 2017 evaluations show that 78% of attendees plan to make production changes as a result of a PFI field day and 76% plan to make conservation changes to their farming systems. In 2018, these numbers are 74% who plan to make production or conservation changes.

Farmer-led workshops
Objective:

Workshops offer an alternative learning environment via classroom setting and allows farmer-educators to dive into topics at a deeper level

Description:

Workshops are open to the public and are structured for participant engagement. Workshop presenters come from a variety of backgrounds from farmer to professional speaker. The focus of this grant will be to support the less experienced farmer-leaders by providing the support and tools to create effective messaging.

Outcomes and impacts:

The workshops evaluated for this grant occurred at our 2018 annual conference. 97% of attendees reported a change in knowledge, 35% of attendees reported they plan to make production changes and 20% plan to make conservation changes.

As expected, the percentage of attendees who report an intent to change is lower for our workshops. This makes sense as the conference attracts not only farmers, but other agricultural stakeholders such as landowners, conservation agency representatives, as well as community members. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
52 Published press articles, newsletters
23 Webinars / talks / presentations
52 Workshop field days
7 Videos, podcasts, radio

Participation Summary

5 Extension
7 NRCS
12 Researchers
12 Nonprofit
10 Agency
38 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

1750 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
27 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

25 Grants received that built upon this project
31 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Practical Farmers of Iowa met the outcomes of grant. Through SARE’s support we increased presentation and coaching skills of 21 PFI staff and board members at a 2017 retreat/training. This “train the trainer” method started a ripple effect in which thousands of participants through our outreach and events benefited from the our increased training in messaging and coaching. Beyond our staff and board,  we selected 10 field day hosts in the 2017 season to receive the tools created through our training and to receive enhanced coaching from PFI staff. Also in 2017, we held a small grains conference. A component of this conference included presentation training for farmer-leaders to hone their messaging around the research and best practices for growing small grains. These leaders went on to do additional outreach throughout the life of this grant (and beyond!). A farmer-educator resource kit (presentation and coaching tools) was created through this grant and was distributed to key outreach leaders

Here are the specific outcomes that were met:

  • Increase presentation skills of PFI staff and board, who all serve as educators to farmers on conservation topics. A two-day training was held in March, 2017 led by Tina Bakehouse. Twenty-one staff and board members were present. All attendees were surveyed following the training. Of those respondents, 100 percent reported a positive change in knowledge of presentation skills; 100 percent reported a positive change in knowledge for coaching skills; 100 percent reported a increase in their comfort level for public speaking; and 95 percent reported an increase in their comfort level for coaching.
  • Educate PFI employees on how to most effectively coach farmers to hone message and educate other farmers. Of the 13 staff who participated in the training, all indicated a change in knowledge on how to effectively coach farmer-educators. Based on survey feedback, a few of the top things learned were: coach your host to start with a “hook” – a story, relevant joke, or interesting statistic that gets the audience immediately engaged; know your audience and their expectations; identify 3 main topics/objectives for the presentation and then “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”
  • Educate 10 farmers, through one-on-one coaching to effectively present at 10 field days in 2017. Evaluate effectiveness and create action plan to improve all field day presentations moving forward. We identified 10 farmers to work with individually with the presentation toolkit and our coaching training. All hosts were sent a follow up survey. We received 2 responses. Both indicated that we should continue to use the toolkit and additional training for future hosts. One respondent indicated that the tools “moderately” helped them organize their thoughts and help plan a logical progression to the day, the other respondent answered that the tools were “very” helpful in organizing their thoughts, and “extremely” helpful in planning a logical progression to the day. Both reported that the tools “moderately” helped them feel more prepared and confident. We continue to offer these tools to help our farmer-leaders be better prepared to create a message that resonates with attendees and empowers them to make changes to their systems. We know that everyone we work with comes in with a different level of experience and confidence. We realize that a large part of coaching has to do with identifying their strengths and areas of growth to maximize their interest in the tools.
  • Hold and in-person boot camp where farmers learn and practice presentation skills as well as work with partner experts to create effective messages. Ten farmers who participate will lead a presentation and complete outreach. A small-grains boot camp was held in August, 2017. Fourteen attendees learned where to find research related to growing small grains and how to communicate the findings. PFI staff who participated in the presentation and coaching training the previous March, led participants through the presentation workbook and key points to preparing and presenting an effective message. Ten of the 14 participants completed outreach following the bootcamp.
  • Create a farmer-educator resource kit to train future farmers educators on how to provide effective education to others. Documents developed for the resource kit: 1) Field Day Coaching & Checklist, 2) Presentation Tips to Help You Have a Successful Field Day, 3) Workbook- Emotionally Connected, Intellectually Charged, 4) Preparing For Your Field Day. Each document was created to empower the presenters and give them practical tools to apply to their event and experience.
  • 80% of 500 FD attendees will increase knowledge on grant focused topics. Based on our overall 2017 field day evaluations, 97% of attendees reported a change in knowledge. Analyzing just those field days where hosts received extra coaching, the reported change in knowledge was 98%.
  • 60% of 500 FD attendees plan to make changes based on what they have learned. Our 2017 evaluations show that 78% of attendees plan to make production changes as a result of a PFI field day and 76% plan to make conservation changes to their farming systems. In 2018, these numbers are 74% who plan to make production or conservation changes.
  • 80% of 500 workshop attendees will increase knowledge on grant focused topics. Based on 2018 annual conference evaluations,  97% of attendees reported a change in knowledge.
  • 60% of 500 workshop attendees plan to make changes based on what they learned. Based on 2018 annual conference evaluations, 35% of attendees reported they plan to make production changes and 20% plan to make conservation changes.
27 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
770 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

Through our evaluation process, we know that knowledge is being shared. Our 2017 field day statistics reveal that 97 % of attendees who completed an evaluation reported a change in knowledge. Eighty percent reported a “very large” or “large” knowledge change from attending a PFI field day. In 2018, we experienced similar outcomes: 99% of attendees reported knowledge change, while 40% rated their knowledge change as “very large” or “large”. While these numbers support our work, we need to continue to work on our messaging to empower farmers and landowners to not only learn about conservation practices, but to adopt them.  Our 2017 evaluations show that 78% of attendees plan to make production changes as a result of a PFI field day and 76% plan to make conservation changes to their farming systems. In 2018, these numbers are 74% who plan to make production or conservation changes. We will continue to work with our farmer-leaders to creating an environment that fosters the learning and the curiosity needed for practical change.

Our presentation and coaching toolkit benefits farmer-leaders in various learning environments. At our annual conference and other workshops, we use those same skills to deliver conservation messaging to a wider audience. Our 2018 annual conference evaluation shows that 97% of attendees indicated a change in knowledge. We did not meet our outcome goal of 60% of 500 workshop attendees report plans to make changes. In retrospect, we did not create an adequate question to assess possible change. For instance, we did not give enough options. We listed “production”, “conservation”, “business management”, and “food purchasing” and asked them to circle the category or categories in which they intend to make changes. We did not give an option for “None” or “NA”. Because 46% of respondents did not answer this question, we cannot evaluate if it is because they do not plan to make changes, or the specific workshop they attended was not relevant. In addition, some of our workshop attendees are not farmers so changes to production and conservation are not applicable. We plan to re-write this question on future evaluations to be able to analyze the results more accurately.

We also found it more difficult than anticipated to survey farmer-leaders on the impact of the presentation and coaching toolkit. We received very few responses. Of those who responded, they indicated that the toolkit was helpful. However, we do not feel it was a representative sample. We intend to gather additional qualitative data through follow up sessions with presenters on ways in which the toolkit better prepared them. Gathering useful information directly through conversation rather than surveys.

Success stories:

Comments from 2017 field day evaluations:

  • Good info covered clearly. Speakers stayed on topic and within allotted time.
  • This host was a wonderful and gifted teacher. I would like to come to another field day at this farm. This was a superb field day.
  • Excellent  organization. Farmer did a great job of sharing and explaining.
  • Both farmers were informative and easy to understand.
  • Thanks for sharing your farm and knowledge and ideas. We all learn from each other.
  • I enjoyed this farmer’s hands-on approach. He handled the large crowd well.
  • Really intelligent and accommodating to people’s questions. Thank you!
  • Farmers presentation was spot on with all his points.
  • Your event showcases best and most intelligent thinking I have seen!
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.