Iowa Annual State Report

Final report for NCIA17-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $110,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
State Coordinator:
Christa Hartsook
Iowa State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

Iowa’s state Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) Professional Development Program (PDP) is supported by Extension and research administration at Iowa State University (ISU). The Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program has a history of strong professional development support in organic and traditional agriculture, agriculture educator capacity-building, and local food systems. The program, coordinated by Extension Program Specialist and State Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator, Linda Naeve, works closely and cooperatively with other university entities and related centers, including the Extension Small Farm Sustainability program, Extension Value Added Agriculture Program, Extension Beginning Farmer Center, Extension Women in Agriculture Program, Extension Organic Program, ISU Veterans in Agriculture Program, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Iowa Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSGW), Iowa Water Center and the Iowa Learning Farm. The state program has a long-standing partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (e.g. Women, Food & Agriculture Network and Iowa Farmers’ Union), as well as state agencies, including Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS). 

The Iowa PDP target audience, the primary stakeholders, include a variety of sustainable agriculture outreach educators: ISU Extension specialists and field staff, NRCS, FSA, IDALS, other agency personnel, community college faculty, vocational agriculture instructors, state natural resource educators, and leaders/educators in Iowa’s RFSWGs, non-profits and community-based organizations. This target audience in Iowa is loosely approximated to contain upwards of 600 individuals, of which up to 10% are likely newly employed at any given time. The Iowa program provides both initial sustainable agriculture educational opportunities for new educators and updated and continuing educational opportunities for current employees as mandated in federal legislation. 

The State Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator provides and supports professional development training and shares SARE resources and information at local, state, regional and national conferences, workshops, and field days. 

Project Objectives:

Iowa Initiative 1: Addressing Issues in Soil Health, Water Quality, Energy and Climate 

Iowa Initiative 2: Building Leadership, Communication, and Capacity in Sustainable Agriculture

Iowa Initiative 3: Implementing Diversified Production and Marketing Systems 

Iowa Initiative 4: Scaling Up and Strengthening Local Food Systems 

Advisors

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Chelsea Krist
  • Ray Hansen
  • Rich Wrage
  • Rick Juchems
  • Sherry McGill
  • Sally Worley
  • Paul Quam
  • Lynn Heuss
  • Maury Wills
  • Kate Edwards
  • Karen Howe
  • Rick Bednarek

Education

Educational approach:

2017-SARE-PDP-Tour-Handout
The Iowa SARE PDP program focuses on providing educational opportunities to agriculture educators, agri-business professionals and farmers through professional development programs and events. They included travel scholarships to conferences, mini-grant programs that offer educational programming, SARE resource dissemination, and, in 2017, a one-day bus tour for agriculture educators (Extension, NRCS, FSA, and Rural Business Development) and agribusiness leaders. The objective of the tour was to inform service providers of various USDA grant and loan programs that help farmers grow their business and incorporate sustainable practices on their land and show them examples of how farmers and ranchers utilized those funds effectively. Of the 32 participants from all over Iowa, 19 were Extension staff, 8 were with USDA agencies, 2 were non-profit staff, 2 were K-12 educators, and 1 was an ag-lender. A post-tour survey of participants showed that:

  • 83 percent were going to use the information learned to direct clients to programs that will help them build their farms/businesses
  • 70 percent were better informed on the type and use of USDA programs
  • 26 percent would use the information to grow/improve their own farms/businesses
  • 52 percent said they will use the information to help clients find funding for conservation practices.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Addressing Issues in Soil Health, Water Quality, Energy and Climate
Objective:

Through programs and travel scholarships, provide continuing education and resources to agriculture professionals in critical issues surrounding soil health, water quality, energy in climate

Description:

Education and research on cover crop selection and use to enhance soil quality and crop yield continues to be in the forefront of sustainable agriculture. Farmers learn from other farmers through experience and educational and networking opportunities. Agriculture educators need to be current on sustainable agronomic practices, water issues and efforts taking place in their regions on the state.
Events and activities related to this initiative included:

Eight travel scholarships in 2017:

  • Four extension specialists to attend the National Soil Health Conference
  • Two community college educators attended the Soil Health Summit
  • Two Extension specialists attended the National Cover Crop Conference
  • Two Extension educators attended the Iowa Organic Conference

Three travel scholarships in 2018:

  • One Extension Specialist to attend Great Plains Growers Conference
  • One Extension Specialist to attend MOSES Conference
  • One Extension Specialist to the American Society of Horticulture Conference

In 2017, three mini-grants were funded to support professional development opportunities:

1. Soil Health workshop in NW Iowa (143 participants)
2. Grand Rivers Grassland Symposium (71 participants)
3. North Central Iowa Soil Health Workshop (45 participants)

In 2018, one mini-grants was funded to support professional development opportunities:

1. Iowa Watershed Coordinators Academy (45 participants)

Two soil health educational events were sponsored in 2017:
1. Iowa Soil Health Conference (340 participants)
2. Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day on Soil Health

Three soil health and water quality educational events were sponsored in 2018:
1. Iowa Soil Health Conference (340 participants)
2. Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day on Water Quality/Corral System Design
3. Iowa Water Conference (435 participants)

Outcomes and impacts:

Learning and action outcomes from travel scholarships:

  • 90% of travel scholarship recipients said they planned to use the information learned to answer client questions.
  • 80% said they developed new contacts and partner
  • 70% said they will use information in newsletters /blogs/and radio programs
  • 70% said they will incorporate new information into regular programming
  • 60% said they will deliver new programming on the topic

Learning and action outcomes from mini-grants:

  • Workshop participants reported increased acceptance and intent to use cover crops in Northwest Iowa
  • Nine participants in a soil health workshop received their Certified Crop Advisor Continuing Education Units
  • 65% of participants in a soil health workshop increased their knowledge by at least 25%.
Building Leadership, Communication, and Capactiy in Sustainable Agriculture
Objective:

Through programs, sponsorships, and travel scholarships, provide continuing education and resources to agriculture professionals to build their knowledge, leadership capacity and communication skills in sustainable agriculture.

Description:

Interdisciplinary, multi-organization collaboration and coordination are essential to further the acceptance and implementation of sustainable practices among diverse audiences in our food and agriculture system. Extension, NRCS, formal and farmer educators are leaders who benefit from professional development opportunities to build leadership and communication skills in sustainable agriculture.
Events and activities related to this initiative included:

Six travel scholarships in 2017 enabled educators to build leadership capacity:

  • One K-12 educator participated in a workshop to develop curriculum on careers in sustainable agriculture
  • Two Foodcorps educators and one non-profit staff attended the Women, Food and Agriculture Network annual conference
  • One Extension specialist attended the Women in Agriculture Leadership Conference
  • One student leader attended the ACT Professional Development Conference

Seven travel scholarships in 2018 enabled educators to build leadership capacity:

  • Four Extension Specialists and one farmer attended the National SARE Conference
  • One Foodcorp educator and one Extension Specialist attended the Women, Food and Agriculture Network annual conference

In 2017, one Mini-grant was funded to support professional development opportunities:

  • Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) statewide steering committee for soil and water quality issues (24 participants)

In 2018, one conference was sponsored related to these activities:

  • Iowa State University Ag and Natural Resources Professional Development Conference (200 participants)
Outcomes and impacts:

Learning and action outcomes from travel scholarships:

  • 30% of travel scholarship recipients said they planned to use the information learned to answer client questions.
  • 83% said they will use the skills learned to assist with individual consultations.
  • 100% said they developed new contacts and partners as a result of the professional development opportunity
  • 66% said they will use learned skills in the development of newsletters /blogs/and radio programs
  • 100% said they will incorporate new information into regular programming
  • 83% said they will deliver new programming on the topic

Learning and action outcomes from mini-grants:

  • The SWCD statewide meeting provided leadership to employees to better assist communication and promote federal, state, and county agriculture programs.
Implementing Diversified Production and Marketing Systems
Objective:

Through programs, sponsorships, and travel scholarships, provide continuing education and resources to agriculture professionals to build and strengthen their knowledge in sustainable, diversified production and marketing systems.

Description:

Continuing education for educators and farmers is essential to understanding sustainable diversified production and marketing systems in a variable agriculture economy. Understanding and remaining current in input costs, including soil health and pest management, is necessary for agriculture educators.
Events and activities related to this initiative included:

One professional travel scholarships was offered in 2017 to support this initiative:

  • One extension specialist attended the Iowa Small Farms Conference

One professional travel scholarships was offered in 2018 to support this initiative:

  • One K-12 educator attended the Iowa Small Farms Conference

In 2018, two Mini-grants were funded to support professional development opportunities:

  • Agritourism Risk Management Strategies (45 participants)
  • Beginning Farmer Retreat for Practical Farmers of Iowa

Five educational conferences were sponsored in 2017:

  1. Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference (893 participants)
  2. Crop Advantage Series (2,057 participants)
  3. Driftless Beef Conference (164 participants)
  4. Iowa Small Farms Conference (103 participants)
  5. Iowa Organic Conference (206 participants)

Four educational conferences were sponsored in 2018:

  1. Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference (1,000 participants)
  2. Crop Advantage Series (2,000 participants)
  3. Iowa Small Farms Conference (100 participants)
  4. Iowa Organic Conference (150 participants)
Outcomes and impacts:

2017-Driftless-beef-proceedings

2017-Crop-Advantage-proceedings

2018-Crop-Advantage-Series

Learning and action outcomes from travel scholarships:

The travel scholarship recipient reported increasing his knowledge in small diversified farming systems and will use the information gained to answer extension clients' questions and will incorporate new information into regular extension programming.

Learning and action outcomes from sponsored conferences:

A specific action outcomes from the Driftless Beef conference was seen in the post-conference survey. With the information learned from the conference, participants estimated the increase in profits for their cattle grazing operation (percentage of participants responding):
17% - less than $10/head
64% - $10-50/head
17% - $50-100/head
2% - over $100/head

Crop Advantage series outcomes included credits and certifications; 18% of participants received Certified Crop Advisor credits and 39% received private pesticide applicator recertification. A learning outcome from the series was farmers who participated in the session on Palmer Amaranth stated in a survey that they increased their ability to develop an effective management program to control this weed.

Scaling up and Strengthening Local Food Systems
Objective:

Through programs, sponsorships, and travel scholarships, provide continuing education and resources to agriculture professionals to build and strengthen their knowledge in sustainable local food systems.

Description:

An increase in the demand for local foods in Iowa has prompted questions about how this demand can be met efficiently, profitably, and safely. As an in increasing number of local food producers are considering scaling up for larger markets, educators are working to help them increase production and profitability. Local food system coordinators are boots on the ground to assist with identifying markets and production risks. This requires a high level of both technical knowledge and stakeholder collaboration.
Events and activities related to this initiative included:

Four Travel scholarships in 2017:

  • Three travel scholarships enabled local food coordinators to participate in the Iowa Regional Food Systems Working Group quarterly meetings.
  • One travel scholarship enabled a graduate student to attend and speak at the Great Plains Growers Conference.

Four Travel scholarships in 2018:

  • One local food coordinator to attend the Farm to Cafeteria conference
  • One Extension Specialist to attend the Farm to School conference
  • One local food coordinator to attend the National Direct Agricultural Marketing Summit
  • One Extension Specialist to attend the Great Plains Growers Conference

Two mini-grants in 2017:

  1. A regional food systems group began a dialog between livestock producers and meat buyers in the region, called North Iowa Local Meat Focus Group.
  2. Iowa Regional Food System Working Group held four quarterly professional development meetings for local food coordinators, Extension staff and local food advocates in Iowa.

Four mini-grants in 2018:

  1. An online vegetable course was developed by Iowa State University Specialist Ajay Nair
  2. Health Harvest of North Iowa expanded their local food business leadership trainings
  3. Iowa Valley RC&D took staff to the Incubator Farm and Consultation Services in New York.
  4. Iowa State University Food Science staff evaluated their efforts on in-the-field safe food practices pilot training.

Two educational conferences were sponsored in 2017: 

  1. Great Plains Growers Conference
  2. Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference

Three educational conferences were sponsored in 2018: 

  1. Great Plains Growers Conference (200 participants)
  2. Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference (120 participants)
  3. The Gathering at North Iowa Fresh (40 participants)
Outcomes and impacts:

Healthy-Harvest-SARE-Mini-grant-proposal-Local-Meat-Focus-Group-Project-Final-Report

Action and learning outcomes from mini-grants:

A follow up survey for the North Iowa Local Meat Focus group showed an action outcome from the activity with 67% of respondents contacting at least one buyer, with 71% of those contacts leading to sales.

A learning outcome of the focus group showed 88% of producers had an increased knowledge and more strongly valued the work of their regional food system working group.

The regional food system working group quarterly meetings were attended by 45 Local Food coordinators who developed stronger working relationships, made new partnerships and gained a better understanding of grant opportunities and grant writing.

 

Educational & Outreach Activities

50 Consultations
7 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
13 Minigrants
2 On-farm demonstrations
6 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Study circle/focus groups
1 Tours
28 Travel Scholarships
4 Webinars / talks / presentations
32 Workshop field days
1 Other educational activities: state website

Participation Summary:

220 Extension
45 NRCS
23 Nonprofit
33 Agency
66 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
6365 Farmers/ranchers
5 Others

Learning Outcomes

2568 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
314 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

375 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
3234 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Success stories:

Healthy-Harvest-SARE-Mini-grant-proposal-Local-Meat-Focus-Group-Project-Final-Report 

Mini-grant support of the North Iowa Local Meat Focus group resulted in dynamic group discussions with producers and buyers mingling and sharing information as well as new market opportunities. Five growers responded to the question "Did this project influence your future decisions regarding the production of meats for the local market?" They said yes because it encouraged them to develop plans to increase their production and space it out to ensure year-round availability of beef. However, it also warned them to be cautious and not overproduce because there isn't a large demand at this time.

The direct result of the funded project were:

  1. Improved understanding of factors limiting local meat sales in north central Iowa, such as market supply versus demand, certified processing limitations, and lack of  awareness/understanding of meat buyers, producers and customers
  2. Increased communication/relationships between producers and buyers leading to sales and future market opportunities such as farmers markets, restaurant sales, and potential retail opportunities.
  3. Improved ability for Healthy Harvest of North Iowa to help existing and new meat producers access local markets as a result of improved relationships, trust, and understanding of local meat needs and issues.

 

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

The Iowa Face of SARE consists of electronic and print media and sponsorships with booth/displays. The electronic media includes an Iowa-specific website (www.iowasare.org) maintained by the state SARE coordinator. This allows information to be disseminated specific to Iowa, such as sustainable agriculture events in Iowa, SARE grant recipient updates, and forms for travel scholarships and mini-grant applications. Face of SARE in Iowa also included two podcasts on SARE grant programs for the Iowa Small Farms Sustainability program (400 listeners) and emails to Extension staff, research faculty and NGO listserves on RFP announcements for relevant SARE grants. The Face of SARE also included conference, workshop, and field day sponsorships. Below are the events that Iowa SARE sponsored. Asterisks designate a SARE booth/display at events; number of participants in parenthesis.
1. Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference* (2017 and 2018) (893 & 1,000)
2. Iowa Soil Health Conference (2017) (340)
3. Great Plains Growers Conference* (2017 and 2018) (447 and 260)
4. Iowa Grassland and Forage Conference* (2017 and 2018) (91 and 105)
5. Crop Advantage Series (2017 and 2018) (2,057 and 2,000)
6. Driftless Beef Conference (2017) (164)
7. Iowa Small Farms Conference* (2017 and 2018) (103 and 120)
8. Iowa Organic Conference* (2017 and 2018) (206 and 150)
9. Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association* (2017 and 2018) (159 and 120)
10. Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day* (2017 and 2018) (105)
11. The Iowa Water Conference* (2018) (435)
12. FEAST!* (2018) (54)
13. Agritourism Risk Management Education* (2018) (45)

450 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
66 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources

Information Products

  • 2017 Crop Advantage Series Proceedings (Conference Proceeding)
  • Iowa SARE Professional Development Tour (Conference/Presentation Material)
  • 2018 Crop Advantage Series Proceedings (Conference Proceeding)
  • 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.