Modernizing grazing resources for the next generation of agriculture and natural resource professionals

Progress report for ENC19-177

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $87,977.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: GrassWorks, Inc.
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Jill Hapner
GrassWorks, Inc.
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Project Information

Abstract:

The proposed project will build upon GrassWorks’ ongoing initiative to create new resources and increase the breadth, depth and reach of existing tools, resources, and networks throughout the state to scale up agency awareness and support of managed grazing. The target audience for the project is university, non-profit, and agency staff throughout the state of Wisconsin and neighboring states. Over the last decade, Wisconsin has lost nearly all of its Extension and state-level agency capacity to provide research-based information on managed grazing. GrassWorks, a state-wide farmer-run non-profit, has stepped in to fill the void in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Activities planned include bringing together grazing farmers and agency staff to produce a new series of on-farm videos about managed grazing, developing an online grazing resource library and an “Ask A Grazier” forum, expanding and updating the Grazing Ambassador program, creating a master resource list of grazing events and professionals throughout the state, and recruiting incoming agency staff and Technical Service Providers (TSPs) to join Wisconsin’s growing network of grazing professionals.

Project Objectives:

The on-farm videos series will produce twelve or more brief, 5-10 minute videos explaining key concepts of grazing management in a “show & tell” format in which interviewees explain a concept and demonstrate it in the field. These videos will be freely available on a common online platform (YouTube or Vimeo) and linked on the GrassWorks website, with shareable links available for collaborators. Through sharing with partners, use in events, and online promotion, we anticipate each of these videos generating at least 1,000 views by the conclusion of the grant. These videos will be intended for incoming agency staff and beginning graziers, but could also be accessed by experienced grazing professionals or members of the public.  

The GrassWorks website will be expanded to include new pages listing contact information for grazing professionals in the Upper Midwest, an updated and comprehensive list of grazing events in the area, and grazing resource library featuring links to key grazing instructional materials. An “Ask A Grazier” forum will also be established based on input from the web designer, in which users will be able to post questions and comments that can be responded to by knowledgeable GrassWorks members identified by the project coordinator. Using Google Analytics or a similar web traffic monitoring system, we anticipate having at least 1,000 unique visitors to the GrassWorks website, and more than 25 active discussions in the “Ask A Grazier” forum, in the final year of the grant. The project coordinator will work with collaborators to develop a promotional strategy for the website utilizing word-of-mouth, mailing lists, and social media campaigns.

New materials will be developed for the Grazing Ambassadors program, enabling agency staff or GrassWorks members to deliver presentations for local community organizations such as library groups, nature centers, and high school classes. The project coordinator will oversee this program and work with presenters to maintain records of attendance and participation. With a target of at least 12 Grazing Ambassador presentations within the grant timeline and a conservative estimate of at least 20 attendees per presentation, the Grazing Ambassador program is expected to introduce the concepts and benefits of managed grazing to at least 240 individuals in the Upper Midwest.

In-person training events for incoming agency staff will build upon existing training efforts and will utilize the new grazing resources and individual and interagency competitions to motivate engagement. Quarterly meetings held in conjunction with the GrassWorks grazing conference or in collaboration with the three RC&D partners are conservatively estimated to draw at least 25 attendees each, for a total of 300 attendees at in-person training events. Based on estimates of incoming staff in NRCS, University Extension, DNR, and county conservation divisions, these meetings aim to reach up to 100 unique individuals who are early-career conservation professionals. End-of-meeting evaluations will be used to record attendance and impact of meeting activities.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand

Education & Outreach Initiatives

On-farm video series
Objective:

The first program activity, which will be targeted to incoming agency staff but could potentially have a broad reach, is to produce an on-farm video series about implementing managed grazing. Through this effort, agency staff will gain skills in using video and social media to share information with and educate their clientele. The project coordinator will work with collaborators to have local RC&D staff or local agency staff record brief, on-farm interviews with experienced graziers or grazing professionals.

Description:

This project objective was significantly impaired by the COVID-19 pandemic. While plans are underway to resume on-farm videos in 2021, objective lead Jacob Grace faced workplace travel restrictions and was unable to collect as much footage as expected. To maintain progress on this objective, four online webinars were recorded as videos for the GrassWorks YouTube channel and Facebook page. These videos, which received over 500 total views, are publicly available at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmvk-Q_iN2vAUVkhRlN0UkQ

Outcomes and impacts:

Four online webinars were recorded as videos and shared on the GrassWorks YouTube channel and Facebook page. These videos, which received over 150 total views on YouTube and over 360 total views on Facebook, are publicly available at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmvk-Q_iN2vAUVkhRlN0UkQ

Online grazing resource hub
Objective:

Developing a comprehensive online resource hub for grazing information on the
GrassWorks website.

Description:

The GrassWorks webpage is already a regularly-used source of grazing information, but details of upcoming events and agency contacts quickly becomes outdated. The project coordinator position will provide stable and consistent management of the grazing news and resources throughout the state. Cooperator Rachel Bouressa has updated the GrassWorks lists of statewide grazing groups, grazing specialists, and maintained the GrassWorks events calendar for the past year.

The GrassWorks Facebook page has also been expanded to include an “Ask A Grazier” Facebook group and Google group, where incoming agency staff and beginning graziers are able to post questions and receive responses from experienced graziers and agency staff.

Outcomes and impacts:

Cooperator Rachel Bouressa has updated the GrassWorks lists of statewide grazing groups, grazing specialists, and maintained the GrassWorks events calendar for the past year. These resources have been advertised at GrassWorks and related grazing events, and are maintained on the following pages:

Grazing Networks

Grazing Specialists

Pasture Walks and Events Calendar

The GrassWorks Facebook page has also been expanded to include an “Ask A Grazier” Facebook group (296 members, https://www.facebook.com/groups/550684955557954) and Google group, (76 conversations, grassworks-ask-a-grazier@googlegroups.com) which have been quite active. These online networking resources seem to have been especially helpful during this year's COVID-19 pandemic.

Grazing Ambassadors program
Objective:

The project coordinator will oversee the update and expansion of the Grazing Ambassador program.

Description:

This objective was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooperator Thelma Heidel-Baker has worked with project partners to update the Grazing Ambassador program and materials, but limitations on in-person gatherings have prevented Grazing Ambassador presentations from being held. We are currently considering options to further develop the program into an online webinar format.

Outcomes and impacts:

The Grazing Ambassador program has been updated and expanded, but has not yet been offered as planned due to restrictions on in-person events.

G-Team meetings
Objective:

Quarterly in-person trainings will be held for grazing-focused agency staff (the "G-Team") throughout the three-year duration of the project.

Description:

Quarterly in-person trainings will be held for grazing-focused agency staff (the "G-Team") throughout the three-year duration of the project: one in each of the three collaborating RC&D areas, which may include a pasture walk or other hands-on event, and a winter meeting for agency staff in conjunction with the annual GrassWorks conference.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to maintain these meetings as online webinars, and have held six meetings to date (details below):

Aug. 15th, 2019 - Marshfield Ag Research Station - 32 attendees

Nov 12th, 2019 - Marshfield Ag Research Station - 45 attendees

Jan 23rd, 2020 - Chula Vista Resort (GrassWorks conference) - 29 attendees

May 7th, 2020 - online webinar - 131 attendees

Sep 29th, 2020 - online webinar - approximately 40 attendees

Nov 17th, 2020 - online webinar - 49 attendees

Outcomes and impacts:

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to maintain these meetings as online webinars, and have held six meetings to date:

Date Location Attendees Host Topic
Aug 15, 2019 Marshfield Ag Research Station 32

CIAS, GrassWorks

Utilizing emergency forages
Nov 12, 2019 Marshfield Ag Research Station 45 CIAS/Golden Sands RC&D Financial analysis
Jan 23, 2020 Wis. Dells (GrassWorks conference) 29 GrassWorks Hosting pasture walks
May 7, 2020 online webinar 131 Glacierland RC&D Grazing & grassland birds
Sep 29, 2020 online webinar appx. 40 River Country RC&D Grazing environmental benefits
Nov 17, 2020 online webinar 49 Golden Sands RC&D Pandemic response

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
6 Online trainings
1 Tours
6 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

20 Extension
30 NRCS
20 Researchers
20 Nonprofit
30 Agency
15 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
15 Farmers/ranchers
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.