Iowa 2019-20 SARE plan of work

Final report for NCIA19-001

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $130,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2020
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, Christa Hartsook, 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

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, so educating farmer mentors on energy and climate change can be an effective tool. Agriculture educators need to be current on water issues and efforts taking place in their regions.

Activities

Funds will be used to sponsor conferences, workshops, and field days support mini-grant projects and programs:

1. Soil health field days sponsored by soil, water conservation districts, PFI, NRCS and ISU Extension (2019, 2020)

2. Sponsor annual Iowa Water Quality Conference (2019, 2020)

3. Sponsor PFI field day and conference (2019, 2020)

4. Sponsor Soil Health Conference (2019, 2020)

5. Support proceeding publication for Crop Advantage Series statewide meetings (2019, 2020)

Funds will be used to support professional development travel scholarships:

1. 3 educators to attend the Iowa Water Quality Conference (2019, 2020)

2. 2 educators to attend the Iowa Soil Health Conference (2019, 2020)

Expected Outcomes

50 educators (Extension, NRCS, agriculture instructors) will continue to enhance their knowledge about soil quality and health through the use of cover crops and improved nutrient management

– 100 farmers will incorporate new knowledge into their production system

– 10 educators will use this information to answer client questions

– 15 educators will gain insight into communication techniques that motivate action among new, young farmers

– 50 farmers and educators will develop new contacts and partners for work 

– 50 educators will increase their understanding of the watersheds and nutrient management research in their regions

– 150 farmers will learn water and nutrient management skills

– 25 farmers will incorporate new knowledge into their farming systems

– 15 educators will use this information to answer client questions

– 50 educators will learn new production strategies to minimize agricultural inputs and improve nutrient management by attending the Crop Advantage Series meetings

– 250 farmers will make a change on their farm to improve nutrient management and soil health after attending the Crop Advantage Series meetings

Evaluation

Post-event evaluations indicating change in knowledge and intentions to act on new information will be conducted by sponsored organizations/events. Agriculture educators receiving travel scholarships will complete Iowa SARE PDP post-event evaluation tool 1-6 months after workshops to assess short- and intermediate-term outcomes.

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

It has become widely recognized within Iowa’s sustainable agriculture community that interdisciplinary, multi-organizational collaboration and coordination is essential to further the implementation of sustainable practices among diverse audiences in our food and agriculture system. For example, Iowa’s Regional Food Systems Working Group (WFSWG), a network of agriculture Extension educators and their partners, need to collaborate to address issues that strengthen and enhance the local food systems in Iowa. Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and farmer educators need to work together in the careful planning and implementation of management intensive grazing systems in order to maintain profitability in a dynamic market and attract young producers to the industry.

Activities

Funds will be used to support mini-grant projects and programs:

1. Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSWG) leaders quarterly meetings (2019, 2020)

2. Sponsor a continuing education workshop on new grazing and forage research, as well as mentorship best practices, for trainers and farmer-mentors who teach in the Certified Grazier program (2019, 2020)

3. Travel scholarships for agriculture educators to attend the Women, Farming and Agriculture Network Annual Conference (2019, 2020)

4. Increasing opportunities and access to local meat processor planning group (2019, 2020)

5. Maintain communication with stakeholders through the Iowa SARE website (2019, 2020)

Funds will be used to sponsor events/programs at conferences, field days and special events:

1. Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference (2019, 2020)

2. Practical Farmers of Iowa Summer Field Days (2019, 2020)

Expected Outcomes

– 50 local food advocates and educators/yr will increase their leadership and collaborations within their communities

– 25 educators and 20 loan officers will learn how federal and state funding support can be used to increase farmers’ production, profitability, and conservation strategies.

– 45 will develop new contacts and partners for work

– 45 will conduct client consultations or answer client questions

– 10 will incorporate ideas and information into new or existing programming

– 300 certified Grazier educators will update their skills in grazing management, planning, and mentorship

– 200 will use new information to answer mentee questions

– 100 will incorporate new ideas into regular programming or events

– 50 will develop new contacts or partners for work

– 25 educators will increase their knowledge of beginning and transitioning farm management

– 100 non-traditional farmers will incorporate new, sustainable practices into their agri-businesses

– 50 educators and farmers/landowners will develop new contacts and partners for work

– 50 ranchers, Extension staff, RFSWG leaders, meat processors, and institutional buyers will work together to develop a plan to improve relationships between ranchers, processors, and buyers and increase local meat sales through local retailers and institutions.

Evaluation

Post-event evaluations indicating change in knowledge and intentions to act on new information will be conducted. Iowa educators will complete Iowa SARE PDP post-event evaluation tool after workshops or events to assess short- and intermediate-term outcomes.

Iowa Initiative 3: Implementing Diversified Production and Marketing Systems

As input costs continue to rise, beef producers are seeking sustainable ways to feed and market their livestock. Iowa soil stewardship educators continue to request advanced training about production practices in certified organic systems, especially regarding how tillage and soil quality can be compatible. A large percentage of Iowa farms are still “small farms.”

Sustaining these farms requires diversification and innovative marketing systems. Pest management requires a significant amount of input for fruit and vegetable farmers in terms of equipment, supplies and labor.

Activities

Funds will be used to support mini-grant projects and programs:

1. Sponsor guest speaker on Integrating cover crops to reduce feeding costs at Driftless Beef Conference (2019, 2020)

2. Educator training on weed and pest management in horticultural crops workshop (2019, 2020)

3. Speaker sponsor at Iowa Small Farms Conference (2019, 2020)

Funds will be used to support professional development travel scholarships:

1. For three educators/year to attend the Iowa Organic Conference and Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (2019, 2020)

2. Two educators/year to attend the Iowa Small Farms Conference (2019, 2020)

3. Two educators/year to attend the Annual Great Plains Growers’ Conference (2019, 2020)

Expected Outcomes

– 25 educators will enhance their understanding of production

– 5 will develop new contacts or partners for work

– 15 will use new information to answer client questions

– 150 farmers and agri-businesses will increase their knowledge of sustainable beef production systems

– 15 educators will increase their understanding of weed and pest management in fruit and vegetable production systems

– 50 producers will increase their knowledge of weed management strategies in vegetable crops

– 30 fruit producers will improve their knowledge of insects and diseases to incorporate management strategies with reduced inputs.

– 4 educators will gain new technical knowledge on best practices in organic production and tillage, use organic agriculture and incorporate organic information into regular programming

Evaluation

Post-event evaluations will be conducted to determine change in knowledge and intentions of participants to act on new

information. Iowa educators attending events and receiving travel scholarships will complete Iowa SARE PDP post-event evaluation tool 1- 6 months after workshops to assess short- and intermediate-term outcomes.

Iowa Initiative 4: Scaling Up and Strengthening Local Food Systems

An ongoing increase in the demand for local foods in Iowa has prompted questions about how this demand can be met efficiently, profitably, and safely. If Iowa’s agriculture is to consistently provide its citizens with a higher proportion of their diets, obstacles in increasing the production and marketing capacity for local foods through local and regional value chains must be addressed. An increasing number of local food producers are scaling up for larger, wholesale markets and seek to mitigate risks associated with institutional sales. Educators are working to facilitate the aggregation and distribution of local foods through relationships with larger-order buyers, primarily through development of food hubs.

Activities

Funds will be used to support mini-grant projects and programs:

1. Sponsor activities that promote community-based food systems (2019, 2020)

2. PDP for educators and regional food systems coordinators through meetings and workshops (2019, 2020)

3. Support strategic planning for collaboration among ranchers, meat processors, and food services (2019, 2020)

Funds will be used to support professional development travel scholarships:

1. Three educators/year to attend a national or regional local foods conference (2019, 2020)

Expected Outcomes

– 75 educators will be trained in priority local food system development topics

– 50 educators will use new information to answer client questions and address local issues

– 20 educators will incorporate new ideas into ongoing programming to support local food systems

– 50 Food systems leaders and educators in Iowa will increase their knowledge of food hub management

– 2 educators will gain national exposure and leading expertise in the area of food hub management

– 20 educators will develop numerous contacts and partners for work

Evaluation

Post-event evaluations will be conducted to determine change in knowledge and intentions to act on new information. Iowa educators will complete Iowa SARE PDP post-event evaluation tool 1 – 6 months after workshops to assess short- and intermediate-term outcomes.

Iowa Initiative 5: Strengthening the Success and Sustainability of Beginning Farmers

The North Central SARE Region adopted this regional initiative directed at supporting those working with beginning farmers. Within Iowa, this initiative was adopted by the advisory committee to directly support those already working in this space, including Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Beginning Farmer Center and the peer mentoring networks established by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach located throughout the state.

Activities

Funds will be used to support mini-grant projects and programs:

1. Sponsor activities that promote beginning farmer networks, peer networks and regional workshops (2019, 2020)

2. PDP for educators of beginning farmers through meetings and workshops (2019, 2020)

Funds will be used to support professional development travel scholarships:

2. Three educators/year to attend a national or regional beginning farmer conference (2019, 2020)

Expected Outcomes

– 25 educators will be trained in beginning farmer development topics

– 20 educators will use new information to answer client questions and address local issues

– 20 educators and farmers will develop new contacts and partners for work

Evaluation

Post-event evaluations will be conducted to determine change in knowledge and intentions to act on new information.

Advisors

Click linked name(s) to expand

Education

Educational approach:
  • Information on Iowa SARE was included in Ag and Natural Resources Extension and Outreach programming in-service days for teams.
  • Information on applying for Farmer Rancher grants was developed through a podcast and a video describing Rosecommon Farm’s project, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8Y72awCby4 .

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 and climate.

Description:

Education and research on issues such as water quality practices, cover crop selection and use, renewable energy practices and climate mitigation 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 of the state.

Events and Activities Related to this Initiative Included:

Two travel scholarships in 2019:

  • One Soil and Water Conservation District educator to attend the Iowa Conservation Education Coalition Winter Workshop for continuing education
  • One Extension educator to attend the Soil Health Nexus Workshop

Three sponsorships in 2019:

  • Iowa Soil Health Conference (300 participants)
  • Iowa Water Conference (400 participants)
  • Iowa Forage & Grasslands Conference (70 participants)

Two mini-grant projects in 2019:

  • Natural Resources Conservation Professional Development Day (60 participants)
  • Iowa Watershed Academy (66 participants)

One mini-grant project in 2020:

  • Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Agronomy Edge of the Field Conservation Practices (10 participants)
Outcomes and impacts:

Learning and action outcomes from mini-grants:

  • Participants in the Natural Resources Conservation Professional Development Day indicated increase knowledge and awareness of natural resource conservation efforts and issues in Iowa.
  • Participants in the Iowa Watershed Academy indicated increased knowledge in all training areas – nutrient loss, nutrient management, conservation practices, outreach methods, project management and more.

Learning outcomes from travel scholarships:

  • 100% said they developed new contacts and partnerships
  • 100% said they would incorporate new information into regular programming
Building Leadership, Communication and Capacity 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:

Five travel scholarships in 2019 enabled educators to build leadership capacity:

  • One non-profit educator attended the Student Organic Seed Symposium.
  • One non-profit educator attended the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance Seed School.
  • One non-profit educator attended the Upper Midwest Seed Summit.
  • One Extension educator and one non-profit educator attended the National Farm Viability Conference.

In 2019, two mini-grants were funded to support professional development opportunities:

  • One mini-grant supported in-depth facilitation training for two Extension educators in Michigan.
  • One mini-grant supported the Seed Savers Exchange Annual Seed School. (26 participants)

One travel scholarship in 2020:

  • Two non-profit educators in sustainable food production attended a conference in Boston
Outcomes and impacts:

Learning and action outcomes from mini-grants:

  • Participants completed a survey following the Seed School. The average seed saving knowledge before Seed School was 2.8 out of 5 while knowledge after Seed School was 4.2 out of 5. One of the requirements for Seed School admission was to provide a plan for how they would be leading seed education in their own communities after Seed School.

Learning outcomes from travel scholarships:

  • 100% said they developed new contacts and partnerships
  • 100% said they would incorporate new information into regular programming
  • 100% said they will deliver new information on this topic
Implimenting 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 scholarship was offered in 2019 to support this initiative:

  • One extension specialist attended the Organic Agronomy Training Series workshop (OATS)

Four educational conferences were sponsored in 2019:

  • Driftless Beef Conference (158 participants)
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference (893 participants)
  • Crop Advantage Series (1,500 participants)
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day (90 participants)

Four conferences sponsored in 2020:

  • Driftless Beef Region Conference (160 participants)
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference (858 participants)
  • Crop Advantage Series (1,100 participants)
  • Iowa Organic Conference (158 participants)
Outcomes and impacts:

Learning outcomes from travel scholarships:

  • 100% said they developed new contacts and partnerships
  • 100% said they would incorporate new information into regular programming
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:

Five Travel scholarships in 2019:

  • One travel scholarship enabled an Extension educator to attend and speak at the Great Plains Growers Conference.
  • One travel scholarship for a graduate student to attend the Community Food Systems conference.
  • Two travel scholarships for local food professionals to attend the Community Food Systems conference.
  • One travel scholarship for a graduate student to attend the Ending Global Hunger summit.

In 2019, one mini-grants was funded to support professional development opportunities:

  • This project had two main components: a Spring Farmers Market workshop and a pilot of Farmers Market Coalition’s Market Metrics program in North Iowa. First, the workshop allowed the opportunity to provide education and resources to local area farmers market leaders and vendors to support a successful 2019 season. (29 attendees at market)

In 2019, two conferences were sponsored:

  • Great Plains Growers Conference (160 attendees)
  • Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Conference (120 participants)

In 2020, one travel scholarship was awarded:

  • One non-profit educator attended a sustainable farm school for after-school youth programming

In 2020, two conferences were sponsored:

  • Great Plains Growers Conference (120 attendees)
  • Iowa Specialty Producers Conference (220 participants)

 

Outcomes and impacts:

Learning outcomes from the mini-grant:

  • 100% of the Farmers Market Workshop participants agreed or strongly agreed that “the workshop was beneficial to my organization/business”.

Learning outcomes from the travel scholarships:

  • 100% said they developed new contacts and partnerships
  • 100% said they would incorporate new information into regular programming
Strengthening the Success and Sustainability of Beginning Farmers
Objective:

Through programs, sponsorships, and travel scholarships, provide continuing education and resources to agriculture professionals to build and strengthen beginning farmer work.

Description:

Three travel scholarships were awarded in 2019:

  • Two extension educators attended the Beginning Farmer Training in Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • One technical service provider to attend the Beginning Farmer Training in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Outcomes and impacts:

Learning outcomes from the travel scholarships:

  • 100% said they developed new contacts and partnerships
  • 100% said they would incorporate new information into regular programming

Educational & Outreach Activities

40 Consultations
6 Minigrants
1 On-farm demonstrations
5 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Tours
18 Travel Scholarships
9 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

200 Extension
50 NRCS
20 Researchers
20 Nonprofit
10 Agency
25 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
100 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

2140 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
285 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

7 New working collaborations
220 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
2800 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

SARE was displayed at the following:

  • Great Plains Growers Conference – January 10-12, 2019 – 160 attendees
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference – January 17-19, 2019 – 1,000 attendees
  • Iowa Fruit & Vegetable Growers Conference – January 24, 2019 – 120 attendees
  • Iowa Soil Health Conference – February 4-5, 2019 – 300 attendees
  • Community Food Systems Annual Event – April 4, 2019 – 100 attendees
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa Summer Field Day – July 10, 2019 – 90 attendees
  • Iowa Organic Conference – November 25, 2019 – 250 attendees
  • Crop Advantage – January 3-30, 2020 – 1,000 attendees
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa Annual Conference – January 17-18, 2020 –  739 attendees
  • Iowa Specialty Producers Conference – January 24, 2020 – 220 attendees
  • Iowa Organic Conference – November 23, 2020- 139 attendees

 

100 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
50 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
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.