The broad goal of the program is to help Cooperative Extension and NRCS practitioners work with conventional cattle farmers that haven’t yet embraced basic operational practices that can improve soil health and reduce environmental impacts. The specific goals of the program include:
1) Identify current operational practices on farms in their localities that if changed, have the most potential to reduce environmental impacts and improve profitability.
2) Identifying the most effective ways to implement changes.
3) Facilitate improved linkages between agricultural extension agents and NRCS field personnel.
The proposed program would be delivered by a combination of University of Kentucky extension, NRCS specialists, and University of Tennessee extension.
Regional day-long meetings (2-3 per state) bring together county extension agents and NRCS conservationists. Basic and intermediate programming would cover soil health, water quality, and sustainability (including profitability).
Local area meetings (3-5 county areas) organized by extension agents and NRCS field personnel would identify those operation practices with the most potential in their locality. Participants would start the process at this meeting of developing a local action plan for their locality and would also start the process of identifying a demonstration farm in each local area that had the most potential for showcasing improvements identified in the local action plan. NRCS and extension would work as an integrated team in implementing the local action plan on this demonstration farm as well as other farms. Adoption of practices at the farm-level would be the ultimate evaluation criteria of the success of this program.
The main objectives of the project include:
1) Increased knowledge about how livestock production impacts the environment.
2) Increased knowledge of connection on soil health, water quality impacts, and nutrient recycling.
3) Increased knowledge of how production practices affect farm profitability.
4) Identify key current operational practices at the farm-level in their geographic area that if changes, have the most potential to reduce environmental impacts and improve profitability.
5) Increase capacity and confidence to help farmer’s correct identified problems.
6) Facilitate improved cooperation and networking between agricultural extension agents and NRCS field personnel.
7) Creation of demonstration farms in each local area to serve as a model for improved soil health and water quality.
8) State-level specialists will gain knowledge about soil health in livestock operations.
Regional and more localized meetings throughout Kentucky and Tennessee will incorporate lecture-style presentations and interactive group work, followed by field work to enhance the subject matter for extension and NRCS personnel. The meetings will also facilitate the collaboration between both agencies.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Increased knowledge of connection on soil health, water quality impacts, and nutrient recycling.
Facilitate improved cooperation and networking between agricultural extension agents and NRCS field personnel.
Extension and NRCS personnel attended a soil health training in which NC State University agents covered the importance of soil testing, understanding the limitations and potential of soil productivity, important environmental issues related to livestock production, and methods of protecting the soil. The NCSU agents also shared their experience with multi-agency workshops to help streamline the development of the meetings intended to facilitate improved connections between Ky and TN cooperative extension and NRCS practitioners.
Identifying key livestock production practices that impact soil health and productivity, as well as methods for implementing changes that would reduce the environmental impact while increasing profitability.
Facilitating cooperation and collaboration between extension and NRCS agents.
Kentucky and Tennessee will each host 2-3 regional meetings held in the fall of 2018. They will be located on or near demonstration farms that provide access to classroom settings and fields that allow participants to visualize the affects of the livestock production practices addressed. The agenda will cover topics including environmentally harmful production practices, soil health, and sustainability (including profitability), followed by a field demonstration. Cooperative extension and NRCS will work together to plan and organize more localized meetings to be held in 2019 to initiate the implementation of local action plans on demonstration farms and others.