Small Acreage Success: Connecting Natural Resource Professionals with a Non-Traditional Audience

Final Report for LNC10-326

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $95,319.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: South Dakota
Project Coordinator:
Mindy Hubert
South Dakota State University
Co-Coordinators:
Dr. Roger Gates
SDSU Extension
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Project Information

Summary:

Three Host Acreages were accepted in 2011 for a 3-year project. One additional reservation Host Acreage “Wingsprings” was added in early 2012 due to additional funds from another source. An initial site visit was performed by project participants at new host site near Martin, SD, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Annual Workshops were held at three of the four Host Acreages in July (Wingsprings-first workshop) and October of 2012 (Butte Vista Farm and Bad Warrior Acreage-second workshops for both). Forty-seven participants learned about SDSU Extension and other Natural Resource professionals (new collaborator: Oglala Sioux Tribe Parks & Rec Authority). They also learned about various techniques, goals and issues at each site, including: water quality management, wildlife habitat, horse and goat (multi-species) pasture management; noxious weed ID and control; permaculture; meat goat production; reducing hay waste; backyard chicken production; review/update of native food garden, tree plantings and lawn establishment comparing fertilizer types; USDA cost-share opportunities; manure mangement/composting. New in 2012 was a discussion at all locations about drought effects on acreages, due to significant drought conditions in the region. Also new in 2012 was a small acreage expo with >20 educational seminars and 45 vendors, including multiple acreage owners, geared towards small acreage production and product marketing. Butte Vista Farm demonstrated meat goat production, and other workshop participants from 2011 workshops attended. Over 400 people attended the weekend expo. Program promotion for all events included trade-show booths; newspaper and magazine advertisements; mass e-mailings and word-of-mouth by Hose Acreage owners. The SD Small Acreage Facebook page was continually updated and now consists of 166 fans (50% increase). Project news and pictures were reported on Facebook. Quarterly e-Newsletter reached 1400+ respondents. An in-depth 6-month post-workshop survey was conducted in early 2012 to 2013 demonstrated the growth of SARE Host Acreage owners’ knowledge and skills, as well as their confidence in sharing their knowledge with peers. As demonstrated below, over 450 direct contacts with small acreage owners were made in 2013 as a direct result of SARE-funded programming. True impacts of the programming on the Host Sites can be seen through increased economic and environmental benefits. The extension of the knowledge of the Host Acreage owners has begun through the Teach-Coach-Mentor method to their small acreage peers.

Introduction:

Small acreage owners generally have good intentions about landscape managment and care for natural resources.  Many are novices at land management and represent a unique audience.  This project adopted a "show-and-tell" approach to resource management training, utilizing somewhat conventional "classroom presentation" meetings but emphasized "hands-on" events hosted by Host Acreages.

Project Objectives:

Short-term outcomes of this project will be 1) improved management and sustainability of 3 small acreages, 2) increased knowledge and skills of 150 small acreage owners regarding weed identification and control, appropriate stocking rates, manure management, soil/water quality and finances; and 3) 150 small acreage owners will have increased awareness of the technical assistance available to them for sustainable natural resource management information. A one-day workshop will be held on each Host Acreage in each of the three years of this project. In Year 1, participants (we anticipate approximately 20 at each site in Year 1) will be introduced to the Host Acreage where their workshop is being held, including the issues, goals, and management strategies identified by the owners with the help of the SAT. Kit Distribution: Kits contain plant ID and pasture management and monitoring tools, as well as technical resource information Newsletters: We will send electronic newsletters to the Electronic Contact List featuring such topics as “small acreage of the month”, “have you seen this weed?” and “new fencing strategies”, every 3 months. Teach/Coach/Mentor: We will utilize the Teach/Coach/Mentor education philosophy adapted by Patterson et. al (2003). In this method, sustainable natural resource principles and skills will be taught by the SAT to the Host Acreage owners and workshop participants in Year 1; advertising in country print media, direct phone calls and emails, flyers, and radio advertising were the most effective methods, and that Saturdays are the best available day of the week for reaching the small acreage audience.Progress of Host Acreages in meeting their objectives will be evaluated through several different land monitoring techniques (e.g. photo-monitoring, forage availability measurements, species frequency, etc.) through the 4 years of participation in the program

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Dr. Rebecca Bott
  • Dr. Roger Gates
  • adele harty

Research

Materials and methods:

Training was primarily accomplished through "hands on" training events held at Host Acreages.  Some training tools were periodically distributed, particularly 'grazing kits' which provided participants with the ability to estimate and allocate pasture forage for grazing livestock.

Research results and discussion:

Host Acreages developed confidence in both their management skill and their capacity to share reliable information with others.  Conspicuous evidence of the sustainability of this influence is the development of a Black Hill Meat Goat Association, composed almost entirely of small acreage producers.  This organization is now self-sustaining and includes periodic training events in its schedule.  Members of the organization have submitted 2 additional proposals to North Central SARE.  Loss of the SDSU Extension Small Acreage Field Specialist has reduced the frequency of visible communication, particularly activity on the Facebook page.  However, this project has raised the visibility of small acreage producers, particularly in western SD, resulting in ongoing networking through other channels.

Research conclusions:

Enhanced networking among small acreage owners and leadership modeled by Host Acreages will lead to improved land stewardship across large areas because of the aggreate size of small holdings.

Economic Analysis

Perhaps the largest economic impact, which is nearly impossible to quantify, will be the reduction in costs resulting from improved land stewardship by small acreage owners.  Reduced municiple weed control expenditures and water management costs associated with erosion could be significant.

Farmer Adoption

Pasture management skills and weed control awareness were adopted by many small acreage operators who had very limited agricultural background and received training through this program.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

The primary outreach to small acreage owners was through a very active Facebook page which is no longer maintained.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Enhanced 'self-organization' by small acreage operators with common interests could lead to vital learning communities as modeled by the Black Hills Meat Goat Association.  Procedures to facilitate such orginization would be a valuable investigation

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.