Presenting NCR SARE Research Results in the Context of Whole Farm Planning

Final Report for LNC99-145

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $85,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Diane Jensen
The Minnesota Project
John Lamb
The Minnesota Project Inc
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Project Information


“Presenting NCR-SARE Research Results in the Context of Whole Farm Planning” engaged in integrating SARE research findings in a whole farm planning context for farmers and farm service providers to use while they develop whole farm plans. A report was produced and distributed in five states and beyond.


Much SARE research had been conducted prior to 1999, little of it accessible, less of it written in a farmer friendly manner, and none of it with an eye to collecting the best examples of whole farm systems planning and implementation.

“Presenting NCR-SARE Research Results in the Context of Whole Farm Planning” was the first attempt to review and present NCR-SARE research within a systems approach, and cull out some of the best examples on a regionalized basis, with examples for each state.

Project Objectives:

The objective of the project was to take the best of NCR-SARE research through 1999, summarize the projects and results, link the projects to the emerging discipline of whole farm planning, and prepare for anticipated changes in the Farm Bill that would call for this type of knowledge and systems thinking.

Each of five states had a collaborator to assist in writing, editing and distributing the publication to farmers through field days, events, the web and direct mailings.

The project would be deemed a success if the materials that came into farmers’ hands were read, thus stimulating an interest in both whole farm planning and NCR-SARE research, which could be replicated on the land in the participating states. Furthermore, the work called for additional research in areas where projects clearly were not completed, or had subsequent phases, which would yield key points for implementation of whole farm planning.

The project was to distribute 2,000 copies of a publication and post the publication for web access.


Materials and methods:

Researchers traveled to Lincoln to review the bulk of NCR-SARE research from 1992 to 1999, to identify and summarize the best examples of whole farm planning approaches within the completed projects. The research was culled for WFP systems thinking, accessibility to the average farmer to implement, multi-state examples for possible on-site touring, and a diversity of crops, animals and interdependent systems. The researcher chose projects that were successful, and a few that were not -- much like life.

The research was pulled by a single researcher initially, but was reviewed and summarized by the best qualified among the collaborators as to topic. Thus the economist reviewed and summarized the economics section, the water specialist did the water quality and quantity section, and so on. The final drafts were reviewed by SARE staff, and each of the collaborators.

Each of the collaborators received 300 copies of the report for distribution at scheduled field days and events – all copies of the report have been disbursed to farmers and farm educators.

The final report is posted on the Minnesota Project website.

Research results and discussion:

The plan for this publication and its distribution was straight forward. Its implementation was not. After two primary researchers left (one retired, one had family health problems), the project fell behind.

While many good projects were identified and spotlighted, projects that occurred in the post-1999 period were not systematically included. In 1999 this project suggested that SARE research be much more accessible – witness that our researcher needed a week in Lincoln reviewing hard copy. By 2002-3 SARE had moved to summarize SARE research online. The publication is still needed as a way to move farmers to the website, and is very useful to farmers who are unlikely to web browse through the research. Additionally the context of whole farms planning is critical to systems thinking and application on-farm.

Research conclusions:

SARE research was made accessible and placed in the context of whole farm planning. Farmers received the publication in a venue that included only self identified likely users, and gave them access to the SARE website and other resources. Two thousand publications were distributed. To the extent that SARE is successful, the project promoted the work of SARE, the best results of SARE, and sustainable systems thinking.

Economic Analysis

The key to whole farm planning is profitable farms that protect the environment. Each of the research results included an economic section, as well as a section devoted to the needs and methods of economic analysis within the research projects.

Farmer Adoption

Unknown at this time.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

This reference book collects management ideas and experience gleaned from SARE on-farm research and presents the information in a format that makes it easier to consider and select from a range of alternative practices and approaches.

Two thousand copies were distributed in MN, IL, WI, IO, OH, and it is posted on The Minnesota Project website at

Project Outcomes


Areas needing additional study

As the project came to completion, it was clear that NCR-SARE research, while being much more accessible on the web, was still in need of promotion, sorting, and some critical evaluation – especially in light of the passage of the Conservation Security Act, and the need to employ practices that meet sustainable criteria and measurable water quality improvement standards. SARE research could be packaged to promote rewardable practices.

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.