Minnesota Annual State Report

Progress report for NCMN17-001 Version 2

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $110,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
State Coordinator:
Kate Seager
Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture
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Project Information

Abstract:

Minnesota’s sustainable agriculture proposed Plan of Work (POW) addresses our state’s diversity of human and natural resources, and engages both rural and urban communities in the work of providing safe, healthy food and water for all Minnesotans. 

Minnesota has a long history of activity in sustainable agriculture on many fronts, from farmers, University of Minnesota research and extension, state, federal and nonprofit partners. In Minnesota, because of an abundance of organizations and activities, the challenge is to stay informed of current work being done by our many partners in sustainable agriculture. 

In 2017 and 2018 we will focus Minnesota SARE PDP resources on four initiatives: 1) Local Food Systems 2) Building Soil Health and Water Quality; 3) Sustainable adaptations for pollinators, pests and climate 4) Sustainable Livestock Systems. We will continue to solicit mini-grants to develop tours, field days, and workshops on the different aspects of the major initiatives. We will also continue to identify training opportunities and encourage travel scholarships in the Initiative areas. 

“Face of SARE” work will also continue. SARE grants will be publicized on sustainable agriculture listservs and on appropriate Extension listservs, and we will continue to work closely with grant applicants, connecting them to people and other resources. We will meet with newly hired Extension Educators to make them aware of SARE opportunities. We will continue to work to increase the 

Project Objectives:

Initiatives for 2017-18 are:

Initiative 1: Sustainable adaptations for pollinators, pests and climate 

Initiative 2: Local Food Systems 

Initiative 3: Building Soil Health and Water Quality 

Initiative 4: Sustainable Livestock Systems 

Advisors

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Jane Jewett
  • Kathy Zeman
  • Liz Stahl
  • Valerie Gamble
  • Tim Arlt
  • Margaret Wagner
  • Greg Schweser
  • Cassie Dahl
  • Michelle Dobrowski
  • Molly Schaus

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Sustainable adaptations for pollinators, pests and climate
Objective:

Provide opportunities for educators to expand their knowledge and programming in sustainable agriculture around the issues of adaptations for pollinators, pests and climates. Opportunities include: minigrants, travel scholarships and sponsorship of local events related to sustainable agriculture.

Description:

This initiative grew out of the regional training on Carbon, Energy and Climate in 2012. Our committee would like to take this work further by focusing on adaptation strategies as they relate to protecting and increasing pollinator habitats, integrated pest management and the effects of climate change on the landscape. Our committee is working to identify appropriate conferences and events to target in 2017 and 2018. We anticipate that at least 40 farm advisor and farmer-educators will participate in these state programs during the time of this initiative, and additional individuals will be reached through webinars or other web-based distribution of information. As an example, we have worked closely with Extension educators and graduate students working on the Forever Green initiative at the U of MN and plan to engage them on these issues using SARE PDP funds. We expect that 75 % of educators attending these events using SARE PDP professional developments funds will return to offer programming or distribute information to other educators and farmers on issues related to adaptation strategies. In addition, we expect that 75% of these educators increase their awareness and knowledge of climate adaptation issues and strategies via attendance at mini-grant events, 50% of educators develop new programming to train fellow educators in an aspect of climate adaptation; 75% of educators incorporate information they acquired from mini-grant program on climate adaptation into programming. We will use NCR-SARE PDP mini-grant post event surveys and travel grant post event surveys to evaluate the outcomes.

Events related to this initiative:

No travel scholarships were awarded for travel in 2017, however we have awarded some for travel in 2018. 

No minigrants were awarded in 2017, however we have awarded funds for two professional development programs in early 2018. 

 

Local Food Systems
Objective:

Provide opportunities for educators to expand their knowledge and programming in sustainable agriculture around the issues of supporting a strong local food system in Minnesota. Opportunities include: minigrants, travel scholarships and sponsorship of local events related to sustainable agriculture.

Description:

This initiative includes such categories as building small and beginning farms, urban agriculture, as well as distribution and processing issues. Much of this is supporting the many organizations and individuals already contributing to local foods efforts in Minnesota.  We plan to work with educators in multiple regions in Minnesota on a mini-grant on expanding access to local food in those regions. We will also work closely with the SARE grant recipients in MN on their projects; helping to link them to Extension and NRCS staff working on these topics. We anticipate that at least 75 farm advisor and farmer-educators will participate in these state programs during the time of this initiative, and additional individuals will be reached through webinars or other web-based distribution of information We plan to send educators and farmer-educators to the following local and regional events in 2017 and 2018: MN Organic Conference, MOSES conference, Sustainable Farming Conference, Immigrant and Minority Farming Conference as well as outreach events at the U of MN Research and Outreach Centers. We expect that 75 % of educators attending these events using SARE PDP professional developments funds will return to offer programming or distribute information to other educators and farmers on issues related to local food. In addition, we expect that 75% of these educators increase their awareness and knowledge of local food system issues via attendance at mini-grant events, 50% of educators develop new programming to train fellow educators in an aspect of local food systems; 75% of educators incorporate information they acquired from mini-grant program on local food systems into programming. We will use NCR-SARE PDP mini-grant post event surveys and travel grant post event surveys to evaluate the outcomes.

Events and activities related to this initiative included:

4 Travel scholarships were awarded to support professional development

  • A nutrition educator attended the Health Meets Food conference
  • A graduate student attended the Great Lakes Hop Working Group Meeting
  • A graduate student attended the MOSES conference
  • An educator working a local NGO attended the National Incubator Farm Training Initiative: Field School

1 minigrant was funded to provide professional development

  • Learning from Experience: Interviews with Commercial Horticulture Operators
Outcomes and impacts:

Learning outcomes from travel scholarships:

  • 100% said they will use information to answer client questions
  • 75% said they will develop new programming
  • 100% said they will incorporate new ideas and information into regular programming
  • 50% develop new contacts and partners for work
  • 75% use in newsletters and/or newspaper articles/radio shows

Learning outcomes from minigrant:

Small Farms Team: We expect this audience to be more informed about some of the farm business management issues that commercial vegetable growers face and use the content to reach out to operators in their region to begin an engagement with Extension. In time, we would like to impact the ability of Extension to be a credible convener and trainer with this audience of commercial vegetable operators. Commercial Vegetable Growers: We expect this audience to contact Extension as a resource.

Building Soil Health and Water Quality
Objective:

Provide opportunities for educators to expand their knowledge and programming in sustainable agriculture around the issues of soil health and water quality. Opportunities include: minigrants, travel scholarships and sponsorship of local events related to sustainable agriculture.

Description:

Minnesota will participate in the NCR-SARE 2017-18 regional initiative on soil health and water by supporting the involvement of selected agriculture educators in one or more soil health-related professional development events during the two-year time frame.  For example, we expect to send 5 or more educators to the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health (November 2017 in Indianapolis) and 2 or more educators to the upcoming Midwest Cover Crops Council meeting in Grand Rapids, MI (March 2017).  We also will plan to have 3 or more educators from our state participate in the Soil Health Nexus extension program being developed by the NCR Water Network and the NCR-SARE program.  Based on these professional development experiences, we expect the educators we have sponsored to come back and offer training events and programs for other farm advisors and producers in our state during the 2017-2018 time frame.  We anticipate that at least 40 farm advisor and farmer-educators will participate in these state programs during the time of the regional initiative, and additional individuals will be reached through webinars or other web-based distribution of information.  For outcomes we expect that at least 75% of the individuals trained will distribute information on soil health management practices, including those pertaining to water quality/quantity issues, and that at least 50% of the producers impacted will adopt one or more practices to improve their soil health management. We will use NCR-SARE PDP mini-grant post event surveys and travel grant post event surveys to evaluate the outcomes.

Events and activities related to this initiative included:

5 travel scholarship to support professional development

  • One educator with the MN Board of Water and Soil resources attended the National Conference on Cover Crops and Soil Health. 
  • 4 educators (U of MN, NGO) attended the Green Lands, Blue Waters Conference

3 minigrants were funded to provide professional development

  • Cover Crop Learning Tour: Intergrating Cover Crops into Corn and Soybean Systems (Worthington, MN)
  • Strengthening Soil Health and Communities with Cover Crops (Olivia, MN)
  • Visualizing Profitable Conservation: Changing how bankers see the financial value of diverse crop rotations and managed rotational grazing (Funded but not yet completed)

 

Outcomes and impacts:

Learning outcomes from travel scholarships:

  • 100% said they will use information to answer client questions
  • 50 % said they will develop new programming
  • 100% said they will incorporate new ideas and information into regular programming
  • 50% develop new contacts and partners for work
  • 50% use in newsletters and/or newspaper articles/radio shows

Learning outcomes from minigrants

  • Most farmers want to reduce economic and production risks. By attending this program, we expect attendees to make better informed decisions that will reduce the risks involved with adding cover crops to a corn/soybean system. By being more knowledgeable about the impacts of interseeding timing on various cover crop species, potential cash crop impacts, and weed management interactions, cover crop establishment success rates will increase and more farmers will be willing to plant cover crops.
  • We expect the audience will acquire knowledge to address the challenges of implementing cover crops to decrease their apprehension of using this practice. We hope farmers increase their implementation of cover crops and encourage other farmers to as well; we hope crop advisers increase their recommendation of using cover crops to their clients. We expect the attendees will share their knowledge of cover crop benefits by engaging and building their networks, contacts, and relationships.
  • LSP’s Cropping System Calculator (CSC) helps to compare costs and returns for different rotations using a farmer’s actual numbers. This powerful tool will build bankers’ understanding of soil health, crop diversity, and grazing livestock’s contribution to farm profit and provide opportunity for farmers to get financial support for better practices by showing cost savings or income gains compared to traditional corn/soy only. The CSC was developed with sound scientific modeling and actual production/cost numbers in the Chippewa River watershed, through partnerships with ag agencies, sustainable farming advocates and UMn researchers. It will advance understanding of sustainable agriculture as a credible discipline that should be at the ag finance decision-making table.Built into the downloading of the CSC is the ability to track who downloads the calculator and their contact information. We will be able to track exactly how many banks download the CSC and then will follow up with a phone survey of participants in the summer of 2017 to ask about use of the calculator, general attitude towards different cropping systems, and whether or not they used the tools with farmer clients.
Sustainable Livestock Systems
Objective:

Provide opportunities for educators to expand their knowledge and programming in sustainable agriculture around the issues of supporting sustainable livestock systems. Opportunities include: minigrants, travel scholarships and sponsorship of local events related to sustainable agriculture.

Description:

Minnesota continues to be a major livestock producer, ranking #1 in turkeys, #3 in pigs, and with large numbers of cattle, mainly consisting of cow-calf herds. Most of the turkeys and pigs are raised in large scale confinement systems, but there is greater interest now than in the past, in exploring alternative methods of production. Farmers are raising poultry (broilers, layers, and turkeys) on pasture, heritage breeds of pigs used for charcuterie, other pig breeds for larger commercial operations, wool sheep for the garment industry, and meat and dairy goats for the newer immigrant communities that favor goat products. Our intent is to encourage the community of producers engaging in alternative livestock production and marketing to apply for SARE grants, in order to answer questions they may have about how to improve profitability, production efficiency, or marketing acumen. We will work with UMN Extension Educators, Campus Faculty, and NRCS and DNR Specialists to create a greater awareness how sustainable livestock systems can benefit farmers of all production sizes. We’ll attend all of the major conferences, workshops and field days to let participants know about SARE grants and resources as well as how to apply for SARE funds.  We plan to send educators and farmer-educators to the local and regional events in 2017 and 2018 focusing on sustainable livestock systems. We anticipate that at least 50 farm advisor and farmer-educators will participate in these state programs during the time of this initiative, and additional individuals will be reached through webinars or other web-based distribution of information. We expect that 75 % of educators attending these events using SARE PDP professional developments funds will return to offer programming or distribute information to other educators and farmers on issues related to sustainable livestock systems. In addition, we expect that 75% of these educators increase their awareness and knowledge of sustainable livestock systems via attendance at mini-grant events, 50% of educators develop new programming to train fellow educators in an aspect of sustainable livestock systems; 75% of educators incorporate information they acquired from mini-grant program on sustainable livestock systems into programming. We will use NCR-SARE PDP mini-grant post event surveys and travel grant post event surveys to evaluate the outcomes.

Events and activities related to this initiative included:

No travel scholarships were awarded for travel in 2017, however we have awarded some for travel in 2018. 

2 minigrants were funded to provide professional development

  • 2017 Silvopasture camp: intended audience was landowners raising livestock in the woods, livestock producers and natural resource professionals working with these landowners.
  • Dirt Rich: Soil Health and Livestock field days (this was in conjunction with a current SARE PDP grant project)
Outcomes and impacts:

Outcomes related to minigrants:

  • SFA’s “Dirt Rich – Soil Health and Livestock Field Days” are two hands-on educational sessions and field tours in Faribault (August 8-9) and Blue Earth (August 10-11), led by leading soil health and researcher Dr. Allen Williams, and SFA’s Livestock and Grazing Specialist Kent Solberg. Roughly 50+% of attendees are educators, the rest producers or ag business people. All of the professionals who have attended SFA’s Soil Health Summit are being specifically invited and are mainly educators from Extension, NRCS, NGOs including the Minnesota Dairy Institute (2 seats per district, 8 districts). Scholarship recipients are to work with SFA to conduct a workshop, field day or educational meeting in their community (about 25 attendees). MDI coordinators take information on soil health and livestock back to their regional dairy teams (~8). SFA has a presentation availablefor this (useable also by Cattlemen’s). Incorporating sustainable livestock systems is expected to be useful to all participants, and ag professionals are expected to promote soil health in their busiensses.
  • As a beneficial alternative to unmanaged woodland grazing, silvopasture, an agroforestry practice, can be employed, which intentionally manages trees, forage and livestock as a single management unit to increase forage and maintain tree and livestock health to improve the environment. We will offer a Silvopasture Camp to bring researchers, extension educators, producers, landowners and natural resource professionals to the table to share experiences and challenges of silvopasture adoption and discuss how to address those challenges. Following the camp educators: Shared lessons learned with peers; Natural Resource Professionals comfortable answering clients with questions about silvopasture; developed special programming this issue; increased adoption of silvopasture among livestock producers.

Educational & Outreach Activities

50 Consultations
5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
6 Minigrants
3 On-farm demonstrations
4 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Tours
5 Travel Scholarships
20 Webinars / talks / presentations
5 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

150 Extension
50 NRCS
200 Nonprofit
100 Agency
1000 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

250 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
500 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

We continue to use our minigrant and travel grant programs as an opportunity to connect with educators in Minnesota. In 2017 we received 16 minigrant applications and 20 travel grant applications. While we are not able to fund all of these, we use it as an opportunity to provide SARE resources for these events and often attend them to speak about SARE grants and publications. We anticipate receiving as many, or more, requests for these programs in 2018. It is one of the most successful ways we’ve been able to connect educators in Minnesota with SARE resources. The demand for this program continually exceeds available funds. 

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

We raised awareness of NCR-SARE grant opportunities and assisted applicants as well as solicited applications from traditionally underserved communities. We publicized field days and other outreach events that shared or demonstrated SARE grant results and publicized SARE grant results on the website, in newsletter articles and suggested grantees as speakers for programs.

We attended Minnesota conferences with SARE display and information and made presentations as requested. We attended the following meetings with the display and made presentations about SARE:

  • MN Organic Conference
  • Fond du Lac Tribal College
  • Gichi Manidoo Giizis Workshop and Traditional Pow Wow
  • Sustainable Farming Association Annual Conference
  • Immigrant and Minority Farming Conference
  • U of MN Research and Outreach Center Field Days (ongoing summer 2017/2018)
  • NRCS County Field Days (ongoing)
  • U of MN Soil Health Partnership events (ongoing)
  • U of MN Production Ag Symposium
  • College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources annual resource fair for faculty, staff, students

Our SARE Advisory Committee agreed that each member will receive a kit with SARE publications so they can attend events on behalf of MN SARE in their geographical area.

We worked closely with groups awarded SARE competitive PDP grants in Minnesota by helping them plan programs and connect them to organizations doing similar work, encouraging educator attendance at workshops and events, and providing travel grants to educators for their events.

MN SARE also hosted the SARE administrative council in July and the NCR Staff. We arranged for tours of current and former SARE grant projects.

We continue to use our minigrant and travel grant programs as an opportunity to connect with educators in Minnesota. In 2017 we received 16 minigrant applications and 20 travel grant applications. While we are not able to fund all of these, we use it as an opportunity to provide SARE resources for these events and often attend them to speak about SARE grants and publications. The demand for this program continually exceeds available funds. 

500 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
500 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.