Training for Effective Delivery of Science-Based Soil Health Information – It’s about More than Just Content, It’s About Messaging Skills

Final report for ENC20-196

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $89,817.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Grant Recipient: NDSU
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


Cover crop and grazing train-the-trainer programs have been offered through NDSU using SARE funding to compliment research and Extension programs.  We are seeing increased understanding of science-based concepts by those attending; however, we are being limited by effective, independent delivery of content by attendees after the training (“delivery bottleneck”).  Skillsets (in radio and television interviews, writing articles, social media interactions, informal communication etc.) and confidence to deliver challenging and specified soil health content is lacking, especially at the county level.  As a result, programs are still not being delivered locally by attendees, increasing pressure on state- and regional-level scientists and Extension specialists to deliver soil health information.

Approaches outlined in this proposal will address the “delivery bottleneck” by providing network-based training and mentoring on communication, along with continued understanding of science-based content and practice delivering programs.  Our target audience will be NDSU Extension agents and partnering organizations such as the NRCS and SCD employees.  Additionally, farmers and consultants who are “on the front lines” of sharing soil health practices on-farm (cooperators on research and demonstration plots) will be invited to participate.  We will evaluate the success of educator/cooperating farmer/consultant training (approx. 80 individuals over two years) and adoption of soil health practices by surveying attendees of the DIRT Workshop, Café Talk and field programs where newly trained educators participate (over 1,000 individuals over two years).  Our goal is to effectively increase independent delivery of science-based and practical information to increase adoption of soil health practices on-farm.    

Project Objectives:

The outputs of the project include:

  • A network of skilled individuals who can serve as partners and mentors to each other.
  • Radio interviews, podcast episodes and social media posts demonstrating learned skillsets from the “How To” workshop.
  • Folders of information presented to attendees during the “How To” workshop and additional information to be distributed during field days and Café Talks.
  • At least 50 Extension agents and other educators and 30 cooperating farmers and consultants will be trained on how to effectively share information about soil health both with face-to-face and web-based meeting formats.
  • Evaluation of both effectiveness of training approach (survey educators and cooperating farmers) and adoption of soil health practices as a result of programs offered (survey DIRT Workshop, Café Talk, and Field Day attendees).
  • We anticipate training approximately 80 educators, cooperating farmers, and consultants with the “How To” and “In-Action” programs. We have the potential to influence 500 individuals at the DIRT Workshops, 360 who attend Café Talks and another 360 who attend field days offered by the trained Extension agents.  Over 1,000 individuals could be influenced directly by this SARE PDP program over two years, in addition to the many others who interact with those who participate in the training. 
  • A nationally recognized program that can be the model for soil health network development in other regions.



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  • Jean Haley


Educational approach:

The goal of this project is to reach other communicators with information on how to share information related to soil health.  Because of COVID, we used web-based outreach approaches in 2020, in the form of a single-day Communication Workshop in early December.  Abbey Wick (NDSU) and Tim Hammerich (Cogent Consulting/Soil Sense podcast host) live hosted this workshop to an audience of over 650 pre-registered attendees.  We spent a full day talking with panels of experts about social media, radio/television/written forms of communication, forming partnerships, etc.  

We then followed up this single-day workshop with weekly online workshops from January through the first week of March diving deepening into the different topics related to communication.  Again, they were professionally live-hosted and used panel format.  

All the resources (written and professionally edited video recordings of workshop sessions) are available online:

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Educating the professionals, industry, farmers and the general public on soil health

Create a network of soil health information, knowledgeable professionals, and information to get soil health practices on the ground.


The main goal of this project is to effectively deliver science based soil health information to the people that need it - professionals and farmers.  This is being done through a variety of methods with constant soil health messaging including: Cafe talks, radio interviews, podcasts, social media, webinars, and professional presentations.  The science-based soil health information covers a variety of topics including cover crops, tillage systems, integrated pest management, and environmental quality.  

Outcomes and impacts:

The learning and action outcomes are outlined in the rest of the progress report.

Educational & Outreach Activities

35 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 On-farm demonstrations
31 Online trainings
2 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Tours
8 Webinars / talks / presentations
8 Workshop field days
2 Other educational activities: Ag Adventure Day at the Zoo, Agronomy on Ice

Participation Summary:

84 Extension
241 Researchers
13 Nonprofit
154 Agency
243 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
222 Farmers/ranchers
46 Others

Learning Outcomes

3,662 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
927 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

7 Grants received that built upon this project
Project outcomes:

This works has had a large impact on increasing knowledge in the soil health.  Through field days, workshops, coordinated discussion groups, the DIRT workshop it is estimated that over 3,600+ people reached.  This doesn't include the number that were likely impacted by the radio interviews, podcasts, and youtube videos discussing soil health practices.

223 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
222 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Information Products

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.