Demystifying Regenerative Grazing and Soil Health

Progress report for ES20-154

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $79,866.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: National Center for Appropriate Technology
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
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Project Information

Abstract:

Interest is growing in practices that utilize grazing management to rebuild the health of degraded soils. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will host four two-day workshops for educators and mentor farmers in Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi to provide information and hands-on training on regenerative grazing, soil health, and monitoring. NCAT will collaborate with partners at NRCS, extension service, conservation districts, and local farmers to create curriculum and a compilation of resources for participants, which will also be shared on-line.

The target audience includes NRCS, conservation district, and non-governmental organization employees; extension agents; and mentor farmers. We will equip participants with the tools and information needed to confidently help producers understand soil health and regenerative grazing management. There remains lack of clarity among our target audience surrounding the definitions of terms “regenerative grazing” and “soil health”, and what they look like in practice. How is “regenerative” different from “sustainable” or “organic”? Through conversations NCAT has had with key collaborators and farmers across the region, we have observed a lack of understanding of key principles surrounding this topic.

Using research-based information and farmer examples, we will clarify what regenerative grazing means and its impacts on soil health, productivity, and profitability. Teaching soil and pasture health monitoring techniques is also a critical part of this project. Regenerative grazing is an area of study where location-specific research is scarce; on-farm monitoring is an important way producers get quantitative information that can inform their management.

Project Objectives:

We will equip our target audience with the tools and information needed to confidently help producers understand the principles of soil health and master holistic, regenerative grazing management practices. We will achieve this by completing these objectives:

1) Train 120 professionals and mentor farmers on principles of regenerative grazing, soil health, and soil and pasture health monitoring

2) Develop at least five videos explaining regenerative grazing, soil health, and monitoring practices

3) Create educational materials to be shared with participants and other educators across the nation through jump drives and NCAT’s ATTRA website

4) Create and distribute resources to support the formation of local farmer-led grazing groups

As a result we expect participants to:

  1. a) understand and be able to articulate the impacts of regenerative grazing on soil health,

pasture health, water management, and livestock health and productivity;

  1. b) understand potential economic benefits of regenerative management strategies;
  2. c) gain hands-on experience in monitoring methods to quantify the impacts of regenerative grazing;
  3. d) be equipped to assist in developing local grazing groups; and
  4. e) share information gained from these workshops with producers in their region through field days, newsletters, one-on-one technical assistance, and/or on-line distribution of educational materials, exponentially increasing the reach of this project beyond the 120 workshop attendees.

This project will build a network of educators and mentor farmers who will be able to provide information and trainings to producers about regenerative grazing, soil health, and monitoring. We estimate this network of workshop participants will reach over 5,000 farmers directly, with even more producers accessing educational materials on-line. The NCAT Project Team will provide continued technical assistance and support to educators and farmers beyond the life of this project through NCAT’s ATTRA program.

Cooperators

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  • Megan Clayton (Educator)
  • Rick Crunkleton - Producer
  • Jeremy Huff (Educator)
  • Walter Jackson (Educator)
  • John Jennings (Educator)
  • Mandy Krause - Producer
  • Rocky Lemus (Educator)
  • Elizabeth Myles (Educator)
  • Jeremy Prater - Producer
  • Dr. Allen Williams - Producer

Education

Educational approach:

We have not been able to follow the original schedule of project work that we created prior to the pandemic, but we have been able to continue making progress on some project work. We have had several meetings with project collaborators to alter plans for in-person workshops. We have also made significant progress in the production and editing of the video content outlined in the project. While work has been delayed, we still anticipate completing all project deliverables before the closing date of the project. 

After conversations with collaborators, we have decided to adapt our original plan of two-day in-person on-farm workshops. We will now be taking a hybrid approach of a one-day virtual and one-day in-person, with the in-person on-farm events being filmed for people to view who cannot attend, due to COVID concerns. We are excited about the possibility of being able to potentially reach even more people than originally planned with this approach. 

No educational events/activities have taken place yet due to the pandemic. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Regenerative Grazing and Soil Health
Objective:

In-Person and Virtual Workshops

Description:

We have held three in-person workshops and two virtual workshops. We partnered with Dr. Allen Williams for our first virtual workshop on 8/24/2021. This workshop had 43 attendees in the live workshop. It was recorded and posted on our NCATATTRA YouTube channel and the ATTRA website, and has to date had over 2,860 views. This virtual workshop was paired with an in-person workshop at BDA Farms in Alabama. This farm is co-owned by Allen Williams. We had 25 total participants in this on-farm workshop, with 3 veterans present. 

In Arkansas, we held one virtual workshop on 10/7/2021, with 40 people attending the live workshop. The recording has not yet been posted online. Following the virtual workshop, we had two on-farm workshops in Arkansas. The first was on 10/12/2021 at Windset Ranch in Cedarville, Arkansas. Twelve people attended. The second workshop was held on 10/14/2021 at Crunkleton Farms in Everton, Arkansas. Eight people attended this workshop. Educational materials were distributed to all in-person workshop participants. 

Outcomes and impacts:

We will be evaluating the learning and action outcomes in a follow-up evaluation. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Online trainings
3 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

2 Extension
4 NRCS
1 Researchers
4 Nonprofit
3 Agency
7 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
19 Farmers/ranchers
5 Others

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Have not completed project outcomes yet due to the pandemic making in-person workshops unsafe. 

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.