Extending Hedgerow Systems in California Agriculture

Final Report for EW03-007

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2003: $60,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Mark Cady
Community Alliance with Family Farmers
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Project Information

Abstract:

The goal of this project was to expand the use of hedgerows in California agriculture by increasing the knowledge base of agricultural resource professionals and providing them with tools to extend information about the implementation and benefits of hedgerows to farmers. A team of experts was formed to develop resource materials. Four workshops were conducted featuring a PowerPoint presentation, a toolkit entitled Hedgerows for California Agriculture: A Resource Guide, and a brochure to distribute to farmers. Four demonstration hedgerows were planted using funds from a Hedgerow Education Fund. A follow-up survey was conducted of workshop participants.

Project Objectives:

The objectives of this project were to:

1. Increase the knowledge of agricultural professionals (specifically Natural Resource Conservation Service, Resource Conservation District, Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H Advisors, Pest Control Advisors) about hedgerows as a system component that can:

-help reduce pesticide use
-increase on-farm biodiversity and on-farm habitat for beneficial organisms and wildlife
-reduce wind erosion of soil
-reduce water erosion of soil
-beautify the environment
-diversify farm products (incorporating herbs or flowers, for example)

2. Extend the use of hedgerows as conservation and management tools to areas of California where they are not currently common.

3. Create a hedgerow resource kit for farmers and agricultural professionals that can be easily utilized throughout the state.

Introduction:

Modern agriculture impacts natural habitat in several ways. It reduces biodiversity by replacing diverse ecosystems with crops. It reduces water clarity through soil erosion off exposed surfaces. Siltation, turbidity and chemical runoff affect fish reproduction, and negatively affect many aquatic microorganisms at the bottom of the food chain. Farming activities have been blamed for creating the worst air quality in the nation in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Bakersfield and Fresno, both San Joaquin Valley cities, rank second and third on the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2002 report, due, in part, to particulate matter in the air.

There is increasing pressure, from both regulatory and market mechanisms, to develop an agriculture that better conserves our nation’s soil, water, air, wildlife and energy resources. Hedgerows and windbreaks are ecologically based tools that, when intelligently designed and integrated into a farm system, can provide many benefits, including soil conservation (with a concomitant increase in air quality), water conservation and habitat for wildlife. Windbreaks can reduce windspeed at a distance of up to 15 times their height. Reduced wind speed drops soil, decreases winds’ ability to pick up soil particles and decreases soil particle damage to crops. Windbreaks and hedgerows can be used to slow water runoff from farms, as well as clean water when used as filter strips. Wildlife, particularly birds, find food, shelter and nesting habitat in windbreaks. In addition to these benefits, hedgerows can be designed to create habitat for beneficial arthropods that contribute to pest control. This can reduce the need for insecticide applications to the adjacent crop as these insects move outward from hedges to prey upon pests.

With recent implementation of the National Organic Standards, the removal of many chemicals from the grower toolbox by The Food Quality Protection Act, and water and air quality regulations looming from both Environmental Protection Agency and the regional water resources control boards, hedgerows can help farmers address regulatory concerns in a practical and economical manner. Agriculture professionals who have contact with farmers need training in methods for hedgerow establishment and maintenance. This project provided such training.

In this project, Community Alliance with Family Farmers partnered with farmers, resource conservation districts, regional conservationists, native plant nurseries, cooperative extension and others to increase the knowledge of Natural Resource Conservation Service and Cooperative Extension Service personnel about how hedgerows on California farms can meet many management and environmental needs. Education and outreach activities were held in four regions of the state where CAFF is active. Included in all training sessions were visits to hedgerow demonstration sites created by CAFF working in partnership with farmers, at various stages of development. CAFF developed materials for use by participants after training that helped them discuss hedgerow options with farmers, and provided seed money for establishment of four new demonstration hedgerows in areas where hedgerows were initially not common.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

A series of workshops was held around the state focusing on how hedgerows can meet the needs of farmers with respect to environmental concerns and regulations as well as farm management objectives of pesticide reduction and soil loss. NRCS staff, Resource Conservation District personnel, Cooperative Extension employees and Pest Control Advisors were targeted for participation in the workshops, along with agricultural professionals from non-profit organizations and colleges. Resource materials were developed for use in the training sessions, for distribution to agricultural professional “trainees” and ultimately farmers. A portion of the grant was set aside to establish a fund for encouraging trained personnel to utilize the information communicated in the workshops.

A Technical Team of CAFF staff members, NRCS personnel, native plant nursery personnel, RCD personnel and farmers who have installed hedgerows was formed to fully develop the format and materials for the workshops. Teams of regional collaborators were also formed to develop specific focus for workshops in their regions. These regional teams of supporters assisted in outreach and the execution of training sessions.

Three workshops were held in the first year and one in the second. Workshops were held in King City, Fresno, Lockeford and Santa Rosa. The workshops consisted of an indoor training session with a slideshow of work already done in California and photo demonstrations of how hedgerows are designed and installed. Trainers included staff of Community Alliance with Family Farmers, NRCS personnel and members of Regional Conservation Districts, consultants and other professionals, as well as farmers who have implemented hedgerows on their farms. A PowerPoint presentation was shown and then distributed for trainees to use in the field. Participants were given the opportunity to select from a list of plants and design a hypothetical hedgerow in the classroom. These were assessed by trainers upon completion. After the classroom portion of the session, members traveled to a nearby hedgerow in the process of being planted and had the opportunity to plant a portion of the hedge. Then participants viewed an established hedgerow for comparison. The trainers discussed the steps necessary to achieve the well-established hedge. When time allowed, a third hedgerow was visited to show the progression of growth and diversity.

For use in the workshops and for distribution to participants, CAFF developed two pamphlets, each addressing a different aspect of hedgerows. A resource kit was developed to help farmers identify plants and their associated beneficial insects. Descriptions of plants, with color photos and the insects attracted by each plants at different stages of growth, were made available both in hard copy and online. A list of native plant nurseries statewide was included in the resource kits along with steps to building and maintaining a successful hedgerow. All of these resources were made available on the CAFF website, on a new page devoted to farmscaping

The Hedgerow Education Fund was established to support personnel trained at the workshops either to initiate a hedgerow project in their region or to educate their constituents about hedgerows. Trainees were able to submit a request for funds ranging up to $1,000 per project to help them execute some of the techniques they learned.
All workshops, activities and available resources were highly publicized. News releases and press packets were prepared to promote each workshop. Upon completion of events, media write-ups were prepared and released with photographs of the event. In this way, CAFF both maximized the number of participants and conveyed information to people who were not able to attend. It also served the purpose of interesting people in future events by keeping organizational activities in the news.

Outreach and Publications

Outreach

Four high quality workshops entitled “Extending Hedgerows in California” were held in four different regions of the state, in King City, Fresno, Lockeford and Santa Rosa. The workshops provided 80 participants with the information and training materials necessary to train farmers, farm managers, farm workers, youth in 4-H and Future Farmers of America and other members of the farming community on the benefits and implementation of on-farm habitat using native plant hedgerows. Attendees saw a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Hedgerows for California: A Resource Guide,” and received copies of the manual of the same name.

Workshop participants also received 50-100 copies of the hedgerow brochure to distribute to farmers. The professionals attending the workshops are in daily contact with farmers and having these resources on hand is extremely beneficial.

The availability of the resource guide was announced in CAFF’s monthly publication Farmer to Farmer, which has a circulation of 1,500. The resource guide can be downloaded from the CAFF website making it readily accessible to anyone interested in learning more about these practices.

Publications

Hedgerows: Benefits to Farmers, Benefits to Wildlife. 8 pg color brochure. Available from CAFF.

Hedgerows for California: A Resource Guide. 62 pp manual, plus appendices. Downloadable at: http://www.caff.org/programs/farmscaping/hedgerowman.shtml

Outcomes and impacts:

This project has created an extensive network of agricultural resource professionals with expertise in extending information about hedgerows in California agriculture. The formation of the statewide technical team brought together experts throughout the state to share the information they have collected and the experience they have gained throughout their careers and resulted in the creation of a comprehensive guide to hedgerows titled Hedgerows for California Agriculture: A Resource Guide. The availability of the resource guide was announced in CAFF’s monthly publication Farmer to Farmer that has a circulation of 1,500. The resource guide can be downloaded from the CAFF website, making it readily accessible to anyone interested in learning more about these practices. Teams were also formed in each region, and input from all the teams was considered in developing additional resources and materials, selecting speakers and developing the format for the workshops. This resulted in the implementation of four high quality workshops, each with its own regional focus. The workshops provided 80 participants with the information and training materials necessary to train farmers, farm managers, farm workers, youth in 4-H and Future Farmers of America and other members of the farming community on the benefits and implementation of on-farm habitat using native plant hedgerows. Workshop participants also received 50-100 copies of the hedgerow brochure to distribute to farmers. The professionals attending the workshops are in daily contact with farmers and having these resources on hand is extremely beneficial.

The project has also resulted in the development of four hedgerow demonstration projects in areas where hedgerows are not currently common, via our establishment of the Hedgerow Education Fund. Through this fund, four mini-grants were approved and distributed to the following entities.

1) The Miller Moth Ranch, Southern Monterey County near San Miguel. Mini-grant funds were used to establish hedgerows, grassed filter strips and shrubs adjacent to wildlife water troughs and along farm roads. The rancher, Mitch Roth, is working in partnership with the Upper Salinas RCD to build and install wildlife troughs on 5,000 acres of ranchland. Hedgerows, protected from feral pigs by fencing, were planted around the troughs and will provide food, shade and shelter for wild animals. Additionally, a grassed drainage and basin adjacent to a farm road was planted with creeping wild rye. These sites will be used as demonstration areas at field day conferences and other public events held at the Miller Moth Ranch.

2) The Summerfield Waldorf School and Farm, Santa Rosa. Funds were used to plant a 1,300-foot-long hedgerow along the western border of the school’s 14-acre certified biodynamic vegetable and grain farm, which serves over two hundred families, as well as to construct a shade structure/nursery for the propagation of native plants. The project was conducted by students. Planting stock was increased by donations from a local nursery. This site will be utilized for demonstration tours and field days.

3) The Lodi High School Agriculture Department, Lodi. As part of a curriculum on relationships between farming and the environment, students in the Agriculture Department have planted three different hedgerow types on the school farm and are monitoring their survival weekly. The Center for Land-Based Learning’s SLEWS program is a partner in this project, involving students in planning, planting and creation of educational materials. The Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Commission is another partner, and will conduct field tours of the site for its members.

4) T&D Willey Farms, Madera. The T&D Willey farm is an organic farm, producing over thirty different food crops for local and wholesale markets. Funds were used to plant two 600-foot-long beds of perennial shrubs along the edge of the farm fields. The local NRCS office is collaborating on the project, and some of the plants were grown by the NRCS Lockeford Plant Materials Center. The farm hosts many public events, and will serve as a demonstration area for Central Valley farmers and agricultural professionals.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

1. Formed a statewide team of experts that assisted in the development of educational materials, determined format for workshops and served as speakers and evaluators. (APPENDIX A)

2. Formed regional teams in four regions: North Coast, Central Coast, Northern San Joaquin Valley and Southern San Joaquin Valley, which assisted in review of materials, local development, promotion and implementation of training sessions.

3. Developed a comprehensive manual for use by workshop participants in extending information to farmers, entitled Hedgerows for California Agriculture: A Resource Guide. (APPENDIX B)

4. Developed workshop materials including a brochure to distribute to farmers that provides general information about hedgerows (APPENDIX C) and a PowerPoint presentation for distribution. (APPENDIX D)

5. Held workshops and tours in four regions: North Coast, Central Coast, Northern San Joaquin Valley and Southern San Joaquin Valley. Developed and distributed workshop announcements (APPENDIX E). Collected contact information from workshop participants (APPENDIX F). Prepared a workshop evaluation form (APPENDIX G). Prepared a summary of the evaluation results (APPENDIX H).

6. Distributed information and application forms for the Hedgerow Education Fund (APPENDIX I).

7. Posted information about the project and a downloadable pdf of Hedgerows for California Agriculture: A Resource Guide on the CAFF Web site (APPENDIX J). Contacted the media and published articles concerning farmscaping workshops and tours. (APPENDIX K) Assembled photographs of events. (APPENDIX L)

8. Established Hedgerow Education Fund for planting demonstration hedgerows in areas where they are not common. Distributed funds for four hedgerows, which were planted in Mendocino County, Monterey County, Tulare County and San Joaquin County, and assembled photos of hedgerow plantings (APPENDIX M).

9. Conducted follow-up survey of workshop participants six months after workshop, to determine their use of the materials presented in the workshops. Assembled survey results (APPENDIX N).

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

The hedgerow resource manual and the brochure created by this project are available on the web, and over 300 paper copies of the manual and 10,000 copies of the brochure have been or are being distributed to professionals working with growers. The knowledge in these materials will continue to have an impact on agriculture many years into the future.

In addition, two of the mini-grants funded by this project were distributed to school agriculture programs. Students in these programs will come away from them with knowledge of hedgerows that they will take into their future lives as citizens, consumers, and, for some, farmers. Some of them may share their knowledge with parents who are farmers, and impact their practices. Dispersing knowledge through school programs can reach untold numbers of students for an untold number of years, reaching far into the future.

Future Recommendations

The mini-grant program leveraged dollars, skills and knowledge, and activated people in four different regions of the state. We recommend that this type of effort be expanded; i.e. that organizations like CAFF go into diverse regions and use mini-grants to develop demonstration projects. This was, and will continue to be, an extremely effective method for disseminating knowledge and making real change on the ground.

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.