Building Deeper Connections: Advanced Regenerative Grazing Training For Agriculture Advisors in Eastern Illinois

Progress report for ENC21-202

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $89,093.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2023
Grant Recipient: Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Erin Gundy
Soil Health Institute
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Project Information


The Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District will deliver the project “Building Deeper Connections: Advanced Regenerative Grazing Training for Agricultural Advisors in Eastern Illinois” in collaboration with the University of Illinois Extension, The Land Connection, Terra Elossa LLC, and the Pasture Project.

The goal of this project is to deepen the knowledge-base on the principles and practices of regenerative grazing of agricultural educators and technical advisors serving Illinois farmers, enabling them to more successfully assist landowners and producers to develop and implement regenerative grazing plans specific to their operations’ goals and objectives. The participants will also develop closer professional relationships with each other, creating space for continued networking, sharing resources, and partnerships that will increase the regenerative grazing momentum in Illinois. This project directly supports the “Roadmap for Expanding Regenerative Grazing in Illinois” developed by the Illinois Statewide Regenerative Grazing Working Group.

The project team recently collaborated to host an introductory train-the-trainer learning series on regenerative grazing for a cohort of agricultural advisors in the Embarras River Watershed of eastern Illinois. This project will build on that foundation, bringing advanced regenerative grazing training to the original cohort as well as other interested advisors near the watershed. Participants will attend a series of on-farm half-day intensive workshops and online network-building discussions to grow their knowledge and confidence on regenerative grazing principles. The intensive workshops will cover: watering, fencing, rotation setup and timing, forage quality and biomass, herd health, soil health, water quality, and marketing and profitability.

Project Objectives:





Program Participants 

Agriculture advisors and farmers that serve as peer advisors participating in the online and on-farm workshops will be conservationists, farm managers, Extension educators, NRCS staff, NGOs, etc.

30 participants at each on-farm event; 20 participants at each virtual Office Hour sessions (6 sessions); total of 180 participants

Educational handouts

Handouts will be developed for each station at the on-farm intensive, providing quick, brief regenerative grazing practice information


Educational videos

Professional videographer will attend on-farm events and produce educational shorts of workshop topics, as well as a video-based project report promoting regenerative grazing

6-8 educational short videos (2 min max); 1 post project video (2 min max)


Total number of organizations represented among project partners, participants, and advising groups for promotion

15 partners


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Online Workshop Series

Hold two formal presentation and discussion style workshops to discuss value chains, marketing, and profitability of regenerative grazing systems.


Two 1.5-hour online workshops were held in April 2022 covering regenerative grazing marketing and profitability. The workshops detailed the economic opportunities regenerative grazing brings to the landscape, both at the farm-level, but also explaining the watershed-level impacts. Offering a marketing and profitability intensive workshop online prior to the on-farm workshops provided participants the opportunity to consider the various components of regenerative grazing through an economic lens.

Summer Regenerative Grazing Field Days

Demonstrate regenerative grazing practices on-farm across two days.


The EGP held two summer field days at the Burnt Hill Cattle Co., LLC in Hamilton County, Illinois, focused on teaching and demonstrating the principles behind regeneratively grazing livestock. The field days will include discussion around grazing cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens.

On Monday, June 27, EGP held two half-day sessions at the Burnt Hill Cattle Co., LLC from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CT. The morning session focused on assessing forage health and diversity, led by Ed Ballard, Grazing Consultant. Lunch was provided to attendees. In the afternoon, Matt Bunger, State Grazing Lands Specialist with NRCS in Illinois, and Grant Bauman of Bauman Family Farms, led a session on the design of permanent fencing and water structures.

On Tuesday, June 28, two more half-day sessions took place at the Burnt Hill Cattle Co., LLC from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CT, following a similar format to the first day. In the morning, participants learned from Trevor Toland, owner and operator of Toland’s River Oak Ranch, about designing and setting up a paddock. Following lunch, the host farmer, Logan Karcher of Burnt Hill, led a session on multi-species grazing and how they manage cattle, sheep, and pigs on their own operation utilizing regenerative grazing techniques.

Office Hours Series

Host 6 informal, discussion style online sessions, led by experts and a farmer, covering common questions not previously discussed at online intensive workshops or on-farm.


The Embarras Grazing Partnership is offering 6 live, virtual office hours (a less formal version of a webinar) with experts focused on different aspects of regenerative grazing. Each session will be hosted on the online community of practice platform, REGAIN. All office hours were/are recorded and posted to the CCSWCD YouTube playlist. Two of the six sessions were held before 2023. The rest of the four will be included in the final report.

For our first session (Dec 6, 2022), Dr. Nick Minton, Beef Systems Specialist at Purdue University, discussed energy levels in livestock and grass during winter and how to manage your pasture for nutrition and economics. 

In the second session (Dec 13, 2022), Jim Isermann, grazer and Soil Health Specialist with the Illinois Sustainable Ag Partnership, and Greg Thoren, grazer, discussed tips and benefits associated with grazing cover crops and residue.

During the third session (Jan. 10, 2023), Travis Meteer, Beef Commercial Agriculture Educator at Illinois Extension, discussed breed and cattle selection considerations for grazing, alongside Evan Schuette, grazer.

In the fourth session (Feb. 14,2023), Dr. Teresa Steckler, Commercial Agriculture Educator and producer of various meat goat breeds discussed parasite management and herd health on pasture.

In the fifth session (March 14, 223), Brett Mathews of Dividing Ridge Farm led a troubleshooting scenario on managing grazing livestock during drought conditions.

Our sixth and final session (April 11, 2023), Travis Hood, Sales Representative with This Old Farm Inc. and Joseph Fisher of Fisher Farms, shared their knowledge and experiences with grazing and value chain development.

Winter Regenerative Grazing Field Days

Demonstrate winter regenerative grazing practices on-farm across two days.


The EGP held two winter field days at the Montgomery County Extension office and Hand Farms in Filmore Illinois, focusing on winter management of regenerative grazing. Each day started with a half day classroom session, followed by a visit to Hand Farms to view the practices discussed in the morning session. The field days included discussion of winter cover-crop grazing, herd health management, winter feed and water station design, and resources for grazers. All attendees were given complimentary buckets with tools and educational materials. Each 5 gallon bucket contained various guides for maintaining soil health and forage quality, tools for measuring forage height, soil sampling tools, and fencing supplies like pliers and gloves.

On Tuesday, March 7, EGP held two morning sessions at the Montgomery County Extension office and one afternoon session at Hand Farms from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CT. The first morning session focused on grazing cover crops through the winter, led by Cliff Schuette, Schuette Seeds. The second morning session, featuring Jamie Jones, Outreach Coordinator Illinois NRCS/USDA, discussed the various services and programs offered to grazers by NRCS. Lunch was provided to attendees. In the afternoon, attendees, speakers, and host farmers traveled to Hand Farms for on farm examples of cover crop grazing, watering stations, and cattle movement.

On Wednesday, March 8, three more sessions took place at the Montgomery County Extension office and Hand Farms from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CT, following the same format as the previous day. In the first session Laura Paine, Outreach Coordinator for Grassland 2.0, presented on outwintering cattle and strategies for bale grazing. The second morning session discussed engineering concerns and addressing trouble spots with Matt Bunger, State Grazing Lands Specialist with NRCS in Illinois. Lunch was provided to the attendees. In the afternoon, attendees, speakers, and the host farmers again traveled to Hand Farms for demonstrations on herd health evaluation, pasture evaluations, and other winter management strategies.

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
8 Online trainings
1 Published press articles, newsletters
4 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

15 Extension
3 Researchers
13 Nonprofit
8 Agency
12 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
97 Farmers/ranchers
5 Others

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

A group of 30 livestock producers, agricultural professionals, and researchers attended during the summer field day sessions. Through the on-farm workshops and informational settings, the participants gained knowledge on forage quality, fence design, paddock setup, multi-species grazing, and more. During the winter field day sessions a group of 20 livestock producers, agriculture professionals, and researchers gained knowledge about winter grazing strategies. Educational videos were recorded throughout the field days and are available online for the public. Based on the evaluations of the sessions, an average of 88% of all participants improved their knowledge of these topics, which surpasses our target of 80%. Additionally, a two part online workshop series was held in April of 2022 discussing value chain development and economic opportunities for grazers within the watershed.  Each meeting was attended by 21 participants. From December of 2022 to April of 2023, six, one hour sessions were held on REGAIN grazing platform. In total, the six online office hours sessions had 98 attendees. 82 unique participants registered for and have access to the video catalog of the six office hour sessions. The sessions focused on maintaining herd energy levels year-round, managing cover crop residue in grazing systems, parasite management, value chain development, and trouble shooting for herd management. All six sessions are recorded and available for viewing on the CCSWD YouTube page. It is our hope that following the online office hours series, evaluations will demonstrate that over 80% of participants will report improved knowledge on regenerative grazing.

70 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
97 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

Videos were expanded to be approximately 5 to 7 minutes long to allow for deeper content development. The videos and links are located in the products section of the report. The full catalog can be found on Champaign County Soil and Water District's YouTube page. 

Success stories:

Grazing summer field days attendee evaluation responses. 

  • Participant C
    • the most valuable thing(s) I learned in the program were: "forage management"
    • as a result of this program, I plan to: "monitor grass species and forage quality"
  •  Participant D
    • the most valuable thing(s) I learned in the program were: "biomass calculations. Species of animals that eat what plants when growing"
    • as a result of this program, I plan to: "possible make changes to my family farm" 

Grazing winter field days attendee evaluation responses.

  • Participant A
    • the most valuable thing(s) I learned in the program: "how to choose cover crops to feed livestock and bale grazing."
    • as a result of this program, I plan to: "be more knowledgeable as I talk to grazers as part of my job."
  • Participant B
    • the most valuable thing(s) I learned in the program: "utilizing cover crops with aftermath and bale grazing."
    • as a result of this program, I plan to: "utilize the information for my job"


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.