Enhancing professional development opportunities to improve technical capacity of Indiana conservation delivery professionals

Progress report for ENC18-175

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $74,959.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Mike Smith
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Sue Tull
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Project Information

Abstract:

This project will provide professional development opportunities for conservation practitioners in Indiana that will
improve the delivery of conservation information and drive the adoption of beneficial conservation systems on
Indiana cropland. The project will work with the Hoosier Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society to
augment and leverage their successful professional development program to provide focused conservation
outreach to their broad and diverse membership of conservation practitioners. Participants from professional
development events will be surveyed to better understand the effectiveness of the training and the extent to which
training events help improve delivery of conservation information to Indiana farmers and landowners. Also,
participants will be surveyed to better understand how they use the information learned to change landowner
behavior towards adoption of conservation practices on the landscape. Information from these surveys will
improve future professional development events and be presented to the Hoosier Chapter and other conservation
partners in Indiana, so that they can use the recommendations to improve events well into the future.
Also, this project will work to connect conservation practitioners with Extension experts from Purdue so that there
is a better awareness of the resources that each group offers to help drive the application of conservation
practices on Indiana farmland. These expanded relationships will help both sides better understand how they can
help one another to improve delivery of conservation information by improving awareness of one another’s
strengths and awareness of their programs and priorities.

Project Objectives:

There are three main areas where technical service providers and extension specialists will gain in knowledge,
actions and conditions relative to helping improve the adoption of conservation on Indiana cropland.
Conservation practitioners will gain in knowledge relative to priority conservation systems at 4 professional
development opportunities that will be organized by this project. The knowledge and skills presented during the
events will mirror agency and organization priorities and ultimately benefit the participants’ ability to provide
improved and focused outreach and education to landowners around these priorities. With this advanced
knowledge, the practitioners will employ the tools and techniques learned during the training events to enhance
their outreach to farmers and landowners whom they advise. Finally, because of the improved ability to provide
outreach and education to landowners using new skills and technical information learned at the professional
development events, it is expected that conservationists will host more productive consultations with landowners,
which will lead to additional conservation practices and systems being used by farmers and landowners on their
land. These metrics of knowledge gained, knowledge used and the impact of the training sessions on the overall
behavioral change of farmers and landowners towards using more conservation systems will be measured by
surveying attendees from the training opportunities presented. Through these professional development events,it is expected that 300 people will receive information on conservation practices and systems that can be applied
to improving conservation delivery to landowners.
Secondly, through a networking and sharing meeting organized as a part of this project, extension specialists and
conservation practitioners will be brought together to share information relative to one another’s priorities and
skills. As a result, each will be more aware of the other’s priorities and programs and will have a better chance of
working together more often to benefit conservation in Indiana. Awareness of one another’s programs and
priorities leads to greater collaboration on areas where they overlap, which leads to more information and
resources being shared that will benefit the adoption of conservation practices on the landscape in Indiana.
Finally, as a result of the information sharing and networking meeting organized by this project, extension
specialists will be encouraged to share information with conservation practitioners about research that is ongoing
at Purdue relative to soil and water conservation. It is expected that as specialists work with practitioners and
learn from them at the networking meeting, practitioners can share gaps in knowledge and resources that will help
them achieve greater adoption of conservation practices and systems that will benefit soil health and water
quality. As specialists learn the needs and knowledge gaps of Indiana conservation practitioners, they can reach
out to other researchers and specialists to explore the key questions with other researchers and experts and can
share information back to the practitioners. Also, over the longer-term, extension specialists can take the
knowledge learned from practitioners to influence research topics at Purdue to begin filling key knowledge gaps.
However, this is likely a longer-term effort than will be captured during the 27-month duration of this project.

Cooperators

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  • Leslie Fisher (Educator)
  • Lisa Holscher (Educator)

Education

Educational approach:

To provide enhanced training opportunities through meetings and webinars for conservation practitioners
working in soil and water conservation. This will be done by collaborating with the Soil and Water
Conservation Society’s (SWCS) Hoosier Chapter. Additional webinars with expert speakers and
follow-up surveys to determine the efficacy of trainings will be done to help augment the existing
training opportunities and provide additional opportunities for participants to interface with topic experts. 

The outreach for professional development events will be marketed through various channels, including
directly to federal, state and county governmental units that address soil and water conservation,
targeted newsletter articles through partner organizations, outreach through the SWCS list-serve and
social media outlets from various agencies and organizations. The intent is to develop training
opportunities such that it will be supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which will
allow them the opportunity to send employees. SWCS Hoosier Chapter members will be targeted, but
partner agencies and organizations whose missions include soil and water protection will also be
targeted. Outreach through the Conservation Cropping Systems Initiative newsletters and social media
will also be targeted to farmers who value soil health, and their advisors and partner agencies.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Soil and Water Conservation Society Hoosier Chapter Summer Meeting - The Culture of Adoption
Objective:

To educate and inform on the latest pertaining to Conservation Culture of Adoption.

Description:

Training will include the following topics:

  • Culture of Adoption
  • Boots on the Ground 
  • Interactive Networking/Training Opportunity 

Event Speakers:

  • Linda Prokopy Purdue University, Professor and Department Head, Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
  • Carter Morgan Soil Health Consultant and Indiana farmer
Outcomes and impacts:

Meeting participants will hear about the latest research on cover crop culture — including the importance of relationships between farmers, government agencies and others.

They will also hear from others to learn about the strategies used to increase adoption of soil health practices.

Attendees will have the chance to network with other conservation professionals as well as participate in a training activity.

Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Consultations
2 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Online trainings
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days
2 One completed workshop and one planned.

Participation Summary:

8 Extension
36 NRCS
5 Nonprofit
51 Agency
13 Farmers/ranchers
26 Others

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The SWCS Hoosier Chapter event, to be held in Veedersburg, IN was originally planned for July 8, 2021 and then planned for a possible date of August 10th.  Currently, due to the rise in Covid-19 delta variant cases across the country causing partner travel restrictions, we are looking at October 2021 or later?

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.