Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa

Progress report for ENC18-168

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Iowa Organic Association
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Rosalyn Lehman
Iowa Organic Association
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Project Information

Abstract:

This proposal is to develop and deliver "Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa," a series of 20 workshops over a three-year period across Iowa to build the capacity of organic expertise among agriculture service providers. The workshops will provide information and resources developed for the targeted audience to expand awareness, knowledge, and expertise to meet the needs of organic and transitioning farmers.

A diverse group of agriculture service providers, including Iowa Department of Agricultural Land Stewardship
(IDALS), ISU Extension and Outreach, FSA, NRCS, RC&D, crop insurance agents, lenders and farmer-mentors, will gain basic knowledge about organic transition and certified farming systems from organic experts and the resources presented during the workshop series. Based on target audience and three to four county workshop region, we expect an average of 10 participants for each workshop (200 total participants from 20 workshops).

The workshops will build upon the outreach and education the Iowa Organic Association (IOA) has conducted - statewide - over the past two years to expand organic educational opportunities and grow the organic community in Iowa. These activities include producer workshops, field days and webinars, participation at organic farm tradeshows and conferences and through research and materials development.

At the conclusion of the workshops, participants will gain basic understanding about the principles and processes for organic transitioning and certified farmers; a greater awareness about the issues and opportunities related to transitioning and organic farming systems; and additional tools and resources to assist and guide farmers in transitioning and managing an organic farm.

Project Objectives:

OUTCOMES
The "Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa" workshop series will provide information and resources to help agriculture service professionals better assist and guide the organic community in Iowa.

Short term outcomes:

* Gained Knowledge: 95% of attendees gain new knowledge in organic agriculture, organic economics, organic transition, certification, organic system plans, recordkeeping, organic standards, organic integrity and the economics of organic transition. Measured through pre-workshop questionnaire and evaluation responses.
* Improved connection to the existing organic service provider network and resources available to growers. Through these workshops 75% of attendees gain knowledge in existing resources and programs offered to organic and transitioning farmers in Iowa. 75% identify networking among other local service providers as a benefit of the training. Measured through pre-workshop questionnaire and evaluation responses.
* Interest in seeking additional knowledge: 75% of attendees express an interest and intention in seeking additional knowledge in organic agriculture following the workshop. Measured through workshop evaluation responses.

Mid-term outcomes:

*Following participation in a "Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa" workshop, 75% of attendees show an improved understanding and comfort level in organic topics, demonstrate knowledge and resources retained and utilized after the workshop and increased organic-related farmer interactions. Measured by follow-up evaluation responses.                *50% increase in utilization of IOA online resources and fact sheets. Measured by website click data.

Long-term Outcomes:

* 75% of agriculture service providers who attended "Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa" demonstrate increased interactions with organic and transitioning farmers and conventional farmers considering a transition.
* 75% of agriculture service providers who attended "Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa" demonstrate increased knowledge and interest in seeking new organic knowledge to meet the growing needs of transitioning farmers and the organic industry to help them stay viable in our changing farm economy.
* Agriculture service providers help to expand, support, and strengthen Iowa's organic community and build upon diverse partnerships to expand programs and resources that support the needs and opportunities of the organic community in Iowa. Measured by number of collaborative events, workshops and/or materials.
* An increase in certified organic farms in regions where workshops took place compared to regions where there were no workshops. Measured by National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data compiled in the USDA 2021 and 2026 Certified Organic Surveys.
* An increase in Iowa acres covered by organic crop insurance programs. Measured by the annual USDA Crop Year Organic Summary of Business Report Iowa data.
* 75% increase in utilization of IOA online resources and fact sheets. Measured by website click data.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Ben Bowell (Educator)
  • Kristine Lang (Educator)

Education

Educational approach:

2020

IOA continued to coordinate and refine agenda and program content for the second round of Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa workshops held in February 2020.  IOA utilized information collected from 2019 workshop evaluations, presenter feedback and anecdotal observations to reach and meet the needs of the target audience. IOA continued to recruit and utilize a diverse group of experts during this round of workshops to deliver content; including, the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension, Oregon Tilth, Rodale Institute – Midwest Organic Center, and organic researchers, farmers, certifiers and industry leaders.

IOA staff continued to diversify workshop locations for accessibility and to foster community and regional connections among participants and local resources to build support beyond the workshop within the community. The intimate workshop format provided engaging discussion and interaction among presenters and participants. 

The Feb 2020 workshop series delivered a full-day agenda with information about the National Organic Program, organic certification and transition, organic standards and production practices and insight into current organic market trends and demands.  The target audience for the workshop included NRCS, Extension, IDALS, FSA, SWCD, RC&D, County Conservation, crop insurance agents, farm lenders, farming organizations, farmers, agriculture educators and students, and others interested in learning more about organic opportunities.

2019

IOA developed Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa, a full-day workshop to deliver information about the National Organic Program, organic certification and transition, organic standards, organic production practices and insight into current organic market trends and demands. The target audience for the workshop includes NRCS, Extension, IDALS, FSA, SWCD, RC&D, County Conservation, crop insurance agents, farm lenders, farming organizations, farmers, agriculture educators and students, and others interested in learning more about organic opportunities. 

The information developed for the targeted audience was intended to provide an introduction about the organic industry and the opportunities available for Iowa farmers, businesses and consumers.  Many of the technical staff in Iowa county offices lack the information or training to support a growing interest in organic transition. 

In developing the agenda, resources and presenters for the workshop series, IOA met with staff at the NRCS, Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension, Oregon Tilth, Rodale Institute/Midwest Organic Center, and with organic certifiers and organic farmers.

IOA staff developed the workshops to reach smaller audiences across Iowa was to make them accessible geographically and to initiate a connection among participants and local resources to build support beyond the workshop within the community.

IOA identified local organic experts to present and substantiate workshop content. Ben Bowell with Oregon Tilth was instrumental in facilitating the first round of four workshops in October 2019, both OT and Ben are established leaders in organic education and training among NRCS staff and technical field professionals.  Ben provided the experience and materials to further guide IOA staff in continuing to present the Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa workshop. Additionally, a range of organic stakeholders, including researchers, farmers, certifiers and industry leaders, helped deliver information about the organic industry and organic opportunities in Iowa.  The intimate workshop format provided engaging discussion and interaction among presenters and participants. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Outreach & Research
Objective:

Identify and coordinate a workshop planning committee of organic experts, partners and stakeholders to assist
with workshop and resource development.

Description:

2020

IOA staff expanded and utilized a list of Iowa organic stakeholders and industry leaders to help inform and participate in the workshop series.

IOA staff recruited a diverse group of presenters with organic experience and ties to the workshop region for the Feb 2020 workshop series. 

  • Kathleen Delate, Ph.D., ISU Extension (Educator)
  • Kristine Lang, Ph.D., Rodale Institute – Midwest Organic Center (Educator)
  • Matt Miller, IDALS certifier (Educator)
  • Maury Wills, IDALS certifier (Educator)
  • Matt Leavitt, Albert Lea Seed (Educator)
  • Beth Bennett (Organic Handler)

Iowa Farmer Panelists:

  • Aaron Lehman, Polk City - Craig Fleishman, Minburn - Scott Ausborn, Ida Grove
  • Bob Pearson, Wesley and Matt Miller, Allison
  • Kim Andersen, Brighton - Kent Boyum, Fairfield - Nelson Smith, Brighton - Francis Thicke, Fairfield
  • Eric Madsen, Atlantic Iowa - David Rosmann, Harlan Iowa - Teresa Troxel, Crescent Iowa

2019

IOA created a list of Iowa organic stakeholders and industry leaders to help inform and participate in the workshop series.

IOA coordinated a meeting with three Iowa NRCS staff members, as well as a meeting with three Iowa State University Extension staff; additionally, IOA worked individually with Oregon Tilth, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Rodale Institute/Midwest Organic Center, OGRAIN, IOA board, organic certifiers and organic farmers to create content for the workshops. 

Outcomes and impacts:

2020

Utilized local organic experts, existing resources and first-hand farmer experiences to best present information about organic opportunities in Iowa.

  • 92% of attendees gained knowledge in existing resources and programs offered to organic and transitioning farmers in Iowa. 
  • 100% of attendees identify networking among other local service providers as a benefit of the workshop.
  • 100% of attendees express an interest and intention in seeking additional knowledge after participating in the workshop.

2019

Utilized local organic experts, existing resources and first-hand farmer experiences to best present information about organic opportunities in Iowa.

  • 87% of attendees gain knowledge in existing resources and programs offered to organic and transitioning farmers in Iowa. 
  • 98% of attendees identify networking among other local service providers as a benefit of the workshop.
  • 94% of attendees express an interest and intention in seeking additional knowledge after participating in the workshop.
Outreach
Objective:

Create a database of targeted audience participants, organizations and other stakeholders, utilizing current IOA
database and resources, stakeholder outreach and online data collection.

Description:

2020

Expanded a comprehensive list for regional target audience outreach for the Feb 2020 workshop series to include NRCS, Extension, IDALS, FSA, SWCD, RC&D, County Conservation, crop insurance agents, farm lenders, farming organizations, farmers, agriculture educators and students, as well as statewide stakeholders for outreach and promotion. This list included an additional 200 contacts within regional NRCS, ISU Extensions, FSA Offices, Soil and Water Conservation offices, County Conservation Boards, farmer organizations, banks and insurance providers; and IOA supporter list reaches 1,500 supporters. 

2019

Developed a comprehensive list of target audience for each October workshop location as well as statewide stakeholders for outreach and promotion  This list included over 450 contacts within regional NRCS, ISU Extensions, FSA Offices, Soil and Water Conservation offices, County Conservation Boards, farmer organizations, banks and insurance providers; and IOA supporter list reaches over 1,400. 

Outcomes and impacts:

2020

The goal for each workshop was for 10 people to attend and participate.  Workshop participation exceeded the goal at 173% (four workshops/69 participants).

A range of participants within the target audience attended the workshops. 

  • 3 Extension
  • 3 NRCS
  • 3 Educator
  • 4 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
  • 2 Farm Food Business
  • 4 Wholesale/retail (seeds/feed)
  • 28 Farmers/ranchers
  • 2 Landowner

2019

The goal for each workshop was for 10 people to attend and participate.  Workshop participation exceeded the goal at 163% (four workshops/65 participants).

A range of participants within the target audience attended the workshops. 

  • 1 Extension
  • 11 NRCS
  • 4 Researchers
  • 5 Nonprofit
  • 2 Agency
  • 12 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
  • 21 Farmers/ranchers
  • 9 Others
Outreach
Objective:

Organize workshop logistics, agenda, curriculum, materials, meals and presenters.

Description:

2020

IOA staff developed agenda and content for four workshops in February 2020.

IOA staff secured venue, equipment, and meals.

IOA staff prepared materials and correspondence related to each workshop.

2019

IOA staff developed agenda and content for four workshops in October 2019.

IOA staff secured venue, equipment, and meals.

IOA staff prepared materials and correspondence related to each workshop.

Outcomes and impacts:

2020

Provided a comprehensive introduction about the National Organic Program, organic certification and transition, organic standards, organic production practices and insight into current organic market trends and demands.

  • 92% of attendees gained knowledge in existing resources and programs offered to organic and transitioning farmers in Iowa. 

Provided four low-cost, regional / accessible learning opportunity for technical professionals and other interested in learning more about organic. 

  • 69 participants during the second round of workshops; The goal for each workshop was for 10 people to attend and participate.  Workshop participation exceeded the goal at 173%.

2019

Provided a comprehensive introduction about the National Organic Program, organic certification and transition, organic standards, organic production practices and insight into current organic market trends and demands.

  • 87% of attendees gain knowledge in existing resources and programs offered to organic and transitioning farmers in Iowa. 

Provided four low-cost, regional / accessible learning opportunity for technical professionals and other interested in learning more about organic. 

  • 65 participants during the first round of workshops; The goal for each workshop was for 10 people to attend and participate.  Workshop participation exceeded the goal at 163%.
Outreach
Objective:

Develop promotional materials and conduct outreach. Develop workshop materials.

Description:

2020

Developed workshop materials: agenda, evaluation, PowerPoint presentations and resources about organic transition, organic production systems, organic markets and the National Organic Program.

2019

Developed promotional materials: Press Release, Postcard, email invitation, follow-up email invitation, social media events, newsletter and website content and stakeholder outreach.

Growing Org Exp_PR_final2
Postcard_Growing Organic Expertise
IOA Organic Workshop Training Flyer
Email Correspondence_Growing Org Exp
eNews 9.4.19_Growing Organic Expertise
eNews 9.19.19_Growing Organic Expertise
Growing Organic Expertise_Sample Facebook Event

Developed workshop materials: agenda, evaluation, PowerPoint presentations and resources about organic transition, organic production systems, organic markets and the National Organic Program.

Agenda_Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa - Oct 1_Calmar
Evaluation_Growing Organic Expertise_10.1
Iowa 2019_what is organic
Iowa 2019_Organic Regulations and Production
Postcard 2019 8.5x11_PRINT 2

Outcomes and impacts:

2020

Development of the promotional materials were instrumental in raising awareness about this learning opportunity and exceeding participant goal at 163% (65/40 goal attendees over 4 workshops).

  • Postcard was mailed to: 350
  • Email invitations to target audience x2: 200
  • Statewide stakeholder outreach: 40 agencies/organizations
  • IOA eNews supporters: 1500; distributed 3 eNews
  • IOA Facebook “friends”: 1479
  • IOA Homepage; website Calendar
  • Insert in annual membership appeal: 750
  • Farmers/grower conferences – fliers and conversations
    • Attendance: Practical Farmers of Iowa: 739; University of Wisconsin-Madison/OGRAIN Winter Conference: 209; MOSES 2700

Coordination of reputable and knowledgeable presenters and workshop materials were critical for delivering the promoted program content.

  • 33 survey respondents said the workshop was Excellent; 13 responded with Good; no one indicated Fair or Poor and 2 did not answer. 
  • 92% of survey respondents (45 of 49) shared that they gained knowledge from the workshop;
    • NOP background 68%
    • Standards/Regulations 67%
    • Certification/Record-keeping 66%
    • Organic Production Systems 72%
    • Organic Benefits/Challenges 59%
    • Organic Transition Resources 76%

2019

Development of the promotional materials were instrumental in raising awareness about this learning opportunity and exceeding participant goal at 163% (65/40 goal attendees over 4 workshops).

  •  Postcard was mailed to: 450
  •  Email invitations to target audience x2: 450
  •  Statewide stakeholder outreach: 40 agencies/organizations
  •  eNews supporters x3: 1336
  •  Facebook connects: 1041

Coordination of presenters and workshop materials were critical for delivering the promoted program content.

  • 36 survey respondents said the workshop was Excellent; 17 responded with Good; no one indicated Fair or Poor and 2 did not answer. 
  • 82% of survey respondents (55) shared that they gained knowledge from the workshop; 
    •  NOP background 87%
    •  Standards/Regulations 84%
    •  Certification/Record-keeping 80%
    •  Organic Production Systems 80%
    •  Organic Benefits/Challenges 71%
    •  Organic Transition Resources 87%
Education
Objective:

Deliver Growing Organic Expertise Workshops across Iowa.

Description:

2020

IOA staff planned and delivered four Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa workshops in February 2020; for a total of eight of the 20 workshops proposed. 

  • Tuesday, Feb 4 -- Mason City Public Library, Mason City
  • Thursday, Feb 6 -- Oakwood Road Community Center, Ames
  • Tuesday, Feb 11 -- Fairfield Public Library, Fairfield
  • Tuesday, Feb 18 -- Council Bluffs Public Library, Council Bluffs

2019

IOA staff planned and delivered 4 of 20 Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa workshops in October 2019. 

  • October 1 -- NE Iowa Community College, 1625 HWY 150 South, Calmar
  • October 2 -- Indian Creek Nature Center, 5300 Otis Rd SE, Cedar Rapids
  • October 3 -- Rock Island Depot, 102 Chestnut St, Atlantic 
  • October 4 -- Hamilton County Extension, 311 Bank St, Webster City 
Outcomes and impacts:

2020

Delivered workshop materials and information to 69 participants to build the capacity of organic expertise among agriculture service providers in Iowa. The workshops provided information and resources developed for the targeted audience to expand awareness, knowledge, and expertise to meet the needs of organic and transitioning farmers.

  • 33 survey respondents said the workshop was Excellent; 13 responded with Good; no one indicated Fair or Poor and 3 did not answer. 
  • 92% of survey respondents (45 of 49) shared that they gained knowledge from the workshop.
    • 95% intend to use information or resources within the next year.
    • 100% of attendees identify networking among other local service providers as a benefit of the workshop.
    • 100% of attendees express an interest and intention in seeking additional knowledge after participating in the workshop.

2019

Delivered workshop materials and information to 65 participants to build the capacity of organic expertise among agriculture service providers in Iowa. The workshops provided information and resources developed for the targeted audience to expand awareness, knowledge, and expertise to meet the needs of organic and transitioning farmers.

  • 36 survey respondents said the workshop was Excellent; 17 responded with Good; no one indicated Fair or Poor and 2 did not answer. 
  • 82% of survey respondents (55) shared that they gained knowledge from the workshop.
    • 100% intend to use information or resources within the next year. 
    • 87% of attendees gain knowledge in existing resources and programs offered to organic and transitioning farmers in Iowa. 
    • 98% of attendees identify networking among other local service providers as a benefit of the workshop.
    • 94% of attendees express an interest and intention in seeking additional knowledge after participating in the workshop.

       

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Objective:

s

Description:

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Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Tours
8 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

4 Extension
14 NRCS
4 Researchers
5 Nonprofit
2 Agency
16 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
49 Farmers/ranchers
20 Others

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

7 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

2020

The “Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa” workshop series will provide information and resources to help agriculture service professionals better assist and guide the organic community in Iowa.

Short term outcomes:

33 survey respondents said the workshop was Excellent; 13 responded with Good; no one indicated Fair or Poor and 3 did not answer.

92% of survey respondents (45 of 49) shared that they gained knowledge from the workshop. Measured by evaluation responses. 

    •  NOP background 68%
    •  Standards/Regulations 67%
    •  Certification/Record-keeping 66%
    •  Organic Production Systems 72%
    •  Organic Benefits/Challenges 59%
    •  Organic Transition Resources 76%

100% identify networking among other local service providers as a benefit of the training. Measured by evaluation responses.

100% of attendees express an interest and intention in seeking additional knowledge in organic agriculture following the workshop. Measured by evaluation responses.

2019

The “Growing Organic Expertise in Iowa” workshop series will provide information and resources to help agriculture service professionals better assist and guide the organic community in Iowa.

Short term outcomes:

36 survey respondents said the workshop was Excellent; 17 responded with Good; no one indicated Fair or Poor and 2 did not answer.

82% of survey respondents (55) shared that they gained knowledge from the workshop; 

    •  NOP background 87%
    •  Standards/Regulations 84%
    •  Certification/Record-keeping 80%
    •  Organic Production Systems 80%
    •  Organic Benefits/Challenges 71%
    •  Organic Transition Resources 87%

87% of attendees gain knowledge in existing resources and programs offered to organic and transitioning farmers in Iowa. Measured by evaluation responses. 

98% identify networking among other local service providers as a benefit of the training. Measured by evaluation responses.

94% of attendees express an interest and intention in seeking additional knowledge in organic agriculture following the workshop. Measured by evaluation responses.

Additional Outcomes:

2020

Additional workshops were to be developed for June/July 2020 and October 2020; however, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a pause, as with most of the United States and world.  Furthermore, our Education Coordinator resigned in March 2020.  This position was filled in August of 2020 when objectives were restructured to best achieve grant outcomes.  IOA staff developed a modified, virtual series of workshops to be delivered in February 2021; in addition to exploring some other options to reach Iowa technical service providers with these educational objectives.

Success stories:

2020

Ag service provide-Mason City: Will use this information to be more informed on and effective in helping organic producers.

NRCS-Ames: Great intro from new/interested – covered most topics that mattered.  Explained rotation options, especially transition.

Other/consumer-Fairfield: I would like to encourage our Extension Service to hold this training, to reach more conventional farmers.

Farmer-Council Bluffs: The panel of speakers and networking was the most useful part of the workshop.

2019 

NRCS Staff in Hamilton Co:  I feel more confident in answering producers questions as they into the NRCS office.

Farmer from Hamilton Co:  Great to hear all [the] ideas about different crops and practices. 

Farmer in Linn Co: Very Informative! I am glad there are workshops like this happening.

Other from Cass Co: The workshop was informative, the speakers were knowledgeable.  I learned a lot. 

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.