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
Champaign County Soil and Water Conservation District
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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.

Educational & Outreach Activities

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

Participation Summary:

12 Extension
1 Researchers
11 Nonprofit
3 Agency
10 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
51 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

91 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
40 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. 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%. In total, the two online office hours sessions had 41 attendees. The sessions focused on maintaining herd energy levels year-round and managing cover crop residue in grazing systems. 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.

40 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
51 Farmers reached through participant's programs
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.