Empowering conservation professionals to promote climate resilience through carbon farm planning

Final report for ENC21-198

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $78,298.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: WI Land+Water
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Christina Anderson
WI Land+Water
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Project Information


Wisconsin Land & Water Conservation Association (WI Land+Water) will partner with Carbon Cycle Institute (CCI) to adapt their Carbon Farm Planning Curriculum for a Midwestern audience and initiate carbon farms throughout the region, providing conservation planners and technical assistance providers the necessary background and tools to aid farmers in building healthy soils and mitigating the effects of climate change.

While introductory webinar and educational materials will be available to a wide audience of conservation leaders, the target audience for the Carbon Farm Planning workshop are Wisconsin’s County Land and Water Conservation Department (LWCD) staff, the implementers of conservation practices on the state’s 13 million acres of agricultural land.

The intended outcomes of providing the workshop to LWCD staff are:

  • Introduce a wide audience of conservation leaders to carbon farming as a viable solution to mitigate the effects of a climate change,
  • Train LWCD staff to use carbon accounting tools (COMET) and develop carbon farming plans that support landowners to build farm resilience to variable weather, and
  • Provide communities opportunities to lead on climate action.

We will achieve our outcomes by partnering with CCI to:

  • Deliver the Introduction to Carbon Farming webinar to a wide audience of conservation professionals, and
  • Adapt and deliver CCI’s three-week online Carbon Farm Planning Workshop to LWCD staff.
Project Objectives:

Educational Materials

  • We will develop and deliver the Introduction to Carbon Farming webinar that will provide an overview of what carbon farming is, the benefits of assessing the landscape through a carbon lens, and how to sign up for the Carbon Farm Planning workshop. We expect to have approximately 100 participants made up of staff from LWCD staff, NRCS field staff, agency partners, University of Wisconsin – Madison Division of Extension staff, producer-led watershed groups, and regional conservation leaders interested in learning more about Carbon Farming. To enhance the impact of the webinar and maximize educational opportunities around it, we will record it and make it available on our website for viewing by our members and partners after the event.
  • We will develop educational materials to support participants in better understanding and sharing the carbon farm concept with their conservation networks.
  • In adapting the Carbon Farm Planning Curriculum to a Midwest audience, we will develop a Wisconsin-specific farm case study to use in the curriculum and during weekly discussions.
  • We will deliver the adapted Carbon Farm Planning workshop to approximately 40 LWCD staff.
  • We will develop materials and stories highlighting the benefits of carbon farming to be distributed through the WI Land+Water newsletter, on WI Land+Water website and social media, and through partner newsletters and public news outlets.



  • By providing the Carbon Farm Planning workshop in Wisconsin, we will strengthen our relationship to our national partners and leaders in carbon farming at CCI and the COMET team at CSU. Our relationships to these carbon farm leaders will help ensure our success in taking the step from training to implementing carbon plans on the landscape.
  • Through our Introduction to Carbon Farming webinar, we will expose more partners to the concepts of assessing landscape through a carbon lens and provide more opportunities to collaborate on carbon farming throughout the Midwest. This partnership will help conservationists in our area share best management practices for our soils, determine COMET validation and calibration needs on our soils, and share experiences in developing and implementing Carbon Farm Plans with Midwest farmers.
  • We will share our educational materials to a wider network of conservation partners through the Introduction to Carbon Farming webinar and in other speaking events and conferences. All materials will be designed to allow attendees to use to share the concepts of carbon farming with their networks.


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  • Lynette Niebrugge


Educational approach:

We provided multiple opportunities to connect with learners to ensure our message was shared across a wide audience geographically and level of understanding. Through an introductory-level webinar, we offered the basic understanding of the role of carbon on the landscape. Through a multi-week workshop, we allowed the participants a deeper understanding of the science behind carbon and soil health, hands on experience planning conservation practices, and tools to account for the carbon. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Introduction to Carbon Farming

To provide stakeholders an overview of carbon farming and its importance in agriculture and climate mitigation. And to promote our in-depth workshop for technical service providers interested in incorporating carbon into their conservation planning.


The two-hour webinar was hosted by WI Land+Water and featured our partners at Carbon Cycle Institute (CCI). We provided an overview and justification to why our members, Wisconsin conservationists should be incorporating carbon into planning. CCI provided technical basis for why carbon is important to soil health and how focusing on carbon in agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help farms adapt to climate change impacts. The webinar also served as a promotional tool for the January workshops.


Outcomes and impacts:

Our primary learning outcome was to introduce participants to carbon farming as a viable opportunity for Wisconsin farmers. We met this goal through our webinar through the over 100 participants that joined live and the nearly 100 more that have viewed the on-demand video through our website. 

Our primary action outcome of the webinar was to encourage participants to sign up for the more in-depth workshop. We achieved this goal by meeting our registration cap at 45 participants. 

Carbon Farm Planning Curriculum

Over a three-week intensive workshop, provide hands on experience to technical service providers interested in understanding the science of carbon farming, incorporating carbon into conservation planning, and using tools to account for greenhouse gas emission reductions.


Our partners at Carbon Cycle Institute have created online modules that allow participants to walk through detailed information over the course of three weeks. Weekly webinars provide a time for participants to learn more, ask questions, and create a community of carbon farm planners. Weekly quizzes ensure participants understood the material. 

Module 1: What is Carbon Farming? Participants learned about the role of carbon in agriculture and walked through the science behind carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emission reduction potential in conservation practices.  

Module 2: Planning Through a Carbon Lens. Participants learned more about the connection of carbon in conservation planning efforts. They learned about talking with farmers about carbon and climate and was introduced to the COMET suite of greenhouse gas emission accounting tools. 

Module 3: Developing a Carbon Farm Plan. Working with a real farm in Polk County, participants used mapping tools and COMET farm/planner to develop a list of carbon-focused practices. The results were shared with the farm family to initiate a carbon farm plan for their farm. 

Outcomes and impacts:

Our primary learning outcome was to provide multiple different technical service providers the baseline for understanding the role of carbon in agriculture and to begin conservation planning through a carbon lens. We were not promoting participants provide support for farmers working with private markets, but rather encouraging using carbon as a proxy for soil health and opportunity to talk about climate with agriculture. With 45 active and engaged participants, we were able to change the narrative and understanding that carbon can be a great tool for conservation. 

A primary action outcome was to create a class of carbon farm planners in Wisconsin to help farmers unlock their soil health potential. While the regulatory structure of Wisconsin favors nutrient management planning, we have been working with our CCI partners and participants to identify ways to take our Carbon Farm Planning education and simplify a plan that can be easily incorporated into other planning reports. 

Many of the workshop attendees have gone on to host their own trainings and are incorporating carbon into county planning efforts and materials. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Online trainings
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

2 Extension
1 Researchers
7 Nonprofit
6 Agency
19 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
8 Others

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The introductory webinar and online workshop were intended to be baselevel educational opportunities to drive more conservation providers to think about carbon and climate in agriculture. Over the course of the last year, our federal government has provided many incentives that will be rolling out over the next 10 years that will accelerate climate action through sustainable agriculture. Our workshop and webinar has served as a great baseline to help practitioners better understand the new incentives and tools that will be required to account for implementing climate-smart agriculture. 

All workshop participants are now connected with other carbon farm planners across the country through Carbon Cycle Institute's planner listserv. They have been attending the CCI monthly café webinars and are engaged in planner discussions posted on the listerve.    

Since our trainings, WI Land+Water and Monroe County Land Conservation Department staff partnered with two participants from the workshop: Savanna Institute and Organic Valley to plan, implement, and account for conversion of a pasture land to silvopasture on a 30-acre farm in Cashton, Wisconsin. 

WI Land+Water has also received additional training support from The Brico Fund to continue developing online resources and webinars to support local climate action through sustainable farming practices. 

2 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
1 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

This project has been a great first step in creating a shared understanding of how conservation can support climate action at the field scale. We have gained our own deeper understanding of carbon farming and the necessary tools needed to account for greenhouse gas emission reductions. We could not have anticipated the federal government's promotion of climate-smart agriculture through federal incentive programs that have boosted interest in carbon farming. And, because of our partnership with Carbon Cycle Institute, we are connected to and learning from planners across the country as we all navigate how to roll out climate-smart agriculture programs in our states. 

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.