In Wisconsin Extension, NRCS, and Land Conservation Departments are the primary agencies providing technical assistance to farmers and the principal audiences targeted by Wisconsin’s SARE professional development program. In addition, staff from the technical college system, NGOs, state agencies, and others involved in agricultural outreach are often included in SARE outreach efforts.
Recent SARE professional development in Wisconsin has focused on soil health and management, as well as perennial agriculture, and supported work in organic agriculture and local food systems. We will continue to support professional development in these areas and will add an initiative on working with beginning farmers.
Extension in Wisconsin has undergone a major reorganization in response to deep budget cuts. Budget cuts have also affected sustainable programming in other state agencies. These budget cuts make the resources offered by SARE even more valuable to agricultural professionals, but they also make it more difficult for educators to explore new programming and have encouraged many experienced educators with sustainable agriculture expertise to leave state employment.
Initiative 1: Cover Crops and Soil Health
Outcomes: (Short term) Increased knowledge among agricultural educators about specifics of cover crops management and managing for soil health. Increased knowledge about the role of soil health and cover crops in maintaining water quality and regulating infiltration and base flow.
(Intermediate) Continued programming by 15 or more educators on soil health and cover crops, with more in-depth information on practices.
(Long term) Increased use of cover crops in the state.
- Solicit mini-grants focused on cover crops and/or soil health.
- Follow up on past cover crops and soil health mini-grants.
- Provide support to the cover crops/soil health working group in UW Extension.
- Deliver a workshop on the relationship between soil health, perennial crops, and water quality and quantity, and how sustainable agriculture can improve resiliency in extreme weather events.
- Deliver a soil health workshop for high school and/or technical college instructors at the WAAE conference, with activities that can be incorporated into existing classes.
- The number of agriculture educators participating in cover crop and healthy soils professional development and responses to end-of-program evaluation
- The number of educators programming in cover crops and soil health, including conducting research or demonstration projects, and where available, the number of farmers reached through this programming
- If the CTIC cover crop surveys continue, the amount of cover crop use in Wisconsin over time
Initiative 2: Agroforestry and Perennial Agriculture
Outcomes: (Short term) At least 30 Wisconsin agricultural educators will increase their understanding of various approaches to maintaining perennial living cover on agricultural land, including managed grazing and agroforestry.
(Intermediate) 20 educators will provide outreach on agroforestry, pollinator habitat, grazing, or other perennial agriculture practices to 60 farmers and educators through field days, workshops, technical assistance, and other methods.
(Long term) Farmers will establish windbreaks, riparian buffers, alleycrops, silvopasture, and prairie “STRIPS”, maintain and increase management of permanent pasture, and incorporate beneficial insect habitat and other perennial crops into the agricultural landscape.
- Continue to build a network of agriculture and forestry professionals and farmers interested in agroforestry.
- Work on rebuilding grazing support system in collaboration with NRCS, Land Conservation, UW, NGOs, and state agencies.
- Provide training in organic grazing management in coordination with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and Organic Valley.
- Organize “intro to grazing” training for Extension and Land Conservation educators.
- Work with NRCS, Extension, and Land Conservation to provide training and outreach on grazing dairy heifers.
- Deliver workshop on the relationship between soil health, perennial crops, and water quality and quantity, and how sustainable agriculture can improve resiliency in extreme weather events.
- Provide SARE scholarships for perennial agriculture events, including Grazing Conference scholarships to high school and tech college instructors.
- The number of agriculture educators and foresters participating in events focused on agroforestry, perennial pollinator habitat, grazing, and other professional development related to perennial agriculture
- The number of farmers and landowners reached by grazing, agroforestry, and other perennial agriculture outreach efforts
Initiative 3: Beginning Farmers
In order to participate in the NCR-SARE regional initiative for 2019-20, one of our initiative focus areas will be on beginning farmers and ranchers.
Outcomes: (Short term) Seven Wisconsin agricultural educators will increase their understanding of strategies for supporting sustainability of beginning farmers.
(Intermediate) 5 educators will provide outreach to at least 40 beginning farmers and educators through field days, workshops, technical assistance, publications, and other methods.
- Send 5 to 7 educators to a regional training event organized by NCR-SARE on beginning farmers and ranchers in 2019. Educators who travel to this regional training will be asked to provide educational programming to other educators and/or beginning farmers and ranchers
- Develop and compile fact sheets, videos, and curriculum on basics of sustainable poultry and pig production
- Update compilation of beginning farmer resources.
- Reach out to LCO, Menominee, Oneida, IAC, Bad River, Red Cliff, Ho Chunk to ask what resources, if any, they would like from WI SARE for beginning farmer support.
Initiative 4: Extending Sustainable Agriculture Knowledge and Practice
Background: SARE needs to continue to support professional development and educator action for a wide range of sustainable agriculture practices and approaches that SARE helped initiate in Wisconsin, including organic agriculture, climate and energy, and local foods. In addition, the state SARE professional development program needs to be able to respond to emerging opportunities in sustainable agriculture.
Outcomes: (Short-term) 30 educators will increase their knowledge of sustainable practices and approaches such as local food systems, organic agriculture, composting, working with underserved farmers, and responding to climate change.
(Intermediate) 10 educators will provide information and programming on grazing, organic agriculture, local food systems and other sustainable agriculture topics to 100 farmers and others involved in agriculture.
(Long-term) More farmers will adopt sustainable practices from grazing to managing for diversity, and farmers will improve their management of sustainable approaches.
- Offer SARE scholarships to conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities in sustainable agriculture.
- Administer SARE mini-grant program.
- Assist agricultural educators with organizing, providing, and funding professional development in sustainable agriculture.
- Number of SARE scholarship recipients and types of outreach resulting from SARE scholarships. Scholarship recipients will be sent a questionnaire 6 to 12 months after the event asking them how the scholarship influenced their work.
- Number of educators involved in mini-grants, and types of outreach resulting from mini-grants. Mini-grant recipients will submit reports on their projects.
- Number of agricultural educators participating in events co-sponsored by SARE. Evaluation of workshops will be developed in cooperation with planning partners and will include the number of people attending as well as how they intend to apply the information gained.
Wisconsin relies on a mix of strategies in its sustainable agriculture professional development. At the core of our efforts is support for self-directed professional development through scholarships and mini-grants. We also offer occasional workshops for educators on topics within our core initiatives. Finally, we provide one-on-one technical support to educators seeking to expand their sustainable agriculture programming.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
Increase the ability of agricultural educators to provide support to farmers seeking to improve soil health while maintaining economic viability.
Provide support to educators to increase their capacity to support use of cover crops and other practices to support soil health through mini-grants, scholarships for professional development, and workshops.
(Short term) 24 high school and technical college instructors increased knowledge about soil health and cover crops at a soil health session at their annual in-service. 3 agricultural educators increased their knowledge of cover crops through scholarships to the WI cover crops conference.
(Intermediate) 16 of 17 instructors who filled out end of workshop evaluations said they would be able to apply what they learned in their classes (the 17th said maybe). 3 educators who had received SARE scholarships hosted cover crops field days that drew 39 agricultural educators, 11 crop advisors, and 90 farmers. WI Extension educators held at least 7 additional cover crops events in 2019, as well as the state cover crops conference that attracted about 400 attendees (about 300 farmers and 100 educators).
Increase the ability of agricultural educators to help farmers introduce and manage perennial cropping systems, including agroforestry practices.
Help educators increase their capacity to support perennial cropping systems through mini-grants, scholarships for professional development, and workshops.
(Short term) 32 Wisconsin agricultural educators participated in the initial meeting of the revived “G-team”, a network of Wisconsin’s grazing educators. This initial meeting was supported by a SARE mini-grant and resulted in the decision to continue networking for grazing educators. A follow-up meeting in November (supported by a regional PDP grant) had more than 40 attendees.
3 Wisconsin educators received SARE scholarships to participate in grazing professional development. SARE supported two workshops for educators on organic pasture management that drew a total of 48 attendees.
Silvopasture outreach at conferences and through a webinar reached an estimated 30 to 40 educators.
(Intermediate) Scholarship recipients used what they learned to answer client questions, assist with farm plans, and enhance their regular programming. Grazing programming by scholarship recipients reached 30 farmers.
Extension educators who attended the G-Team meetings held at least 8 grazing events in 2019, with attendance ranging from 27 to 85 farmers.
(Long term) As a result of an ongoing mini-grant awarded to the Savanna Institute, WI NRCS has started working with the Savanna Institute and SARE on revising EQIP standards to be more supportive of agroforestry practices.
Increase the ability of agricultural educators to help beginning farmers succeed.
Increase educator ability to help beginning farmers with business planning, production questions, access to resources, and social and environmental sustainability. Assemble a team to attend regional training and work on beginning farmer support at least through 2020.
(Short term) Nine Wisconsin agricultural educators and one graduate student attended regional Beginning Farmer Training.
(Intermediate) Work has begun on an updated Extension website of resources for beginning farmers. A list serve of 30 educators interested in working with beginning farmers has been established, and has resulted in potential collaboration on a Beginning Farmer or Rancher Development grant proposal.
Agricultural educators will acquire the knowledge they need to help farmers transition to organic, respond to climate change, increase food sovereignty, and adopt other sustainable practices.
SARE continues to support professional development and educator action for a wide range of sustainable agriculture practices and approaches that SARE helped initiate in Wisconsin, including organic agriculture, climate and energy, and local foods. In addition, the state SARE professional development program needs to be able to respond to emerging opportunities in sustainable agriculture. Offer PD scholarships and mini-grants and support for sustainable agriculture programming.
(Short-term) 5 educators received scholarships to attend the Organic Farming Conference, the Indigenous Farming Conference, and the Carolina Meats Conference (focused on local markets for sustainably raised meat). Presentations and work groups on agriculture and climate change reached 5 to 10 educators. One mini-grant on industrial hemp production resulted in increased knowledge for 11 Extension educators and 1 technical college educator. More outreach to educators is planned for February.
(Intermediate) Scholarship recipients used what they learned to answer client questions, make new contacts, assist with farm plans, enhance their regular programming, and develop new programming, reaching 17 farmers, 6 educators, and 5 crop advisors. The hemp mini-grant resulted in outreach to 195 farmers to date.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Sample comments from educators who received scholarships:
Attending this conference was very useful and relevant to my work. I was able to apply what I learned in the rotational grazing and organic grain sessions when working directly with producers. These topics were and will continue to be, particularly relevant for public agency folks who are working with farmers given the down farm economy, as many farmers search for alternative crops and markets. I also attended some policy sessions, which were useful to help put into context some of the details of the Farm Bill programs that I work with very frequently.
This Scholarship was the main reason I was able to attend the state cover crops conference. In the end, this conference was perhaps the most valued. I learned new concepts, met all kinds of practitioners, and innovators and was able to connect with like-minded colleagues and producers. This conference was a big motivator and catalyst to holding two educational events back in my counties related to cover crops and soil health. It also gave me more confidence in this up and coming practice of helping farmers look at new ways of doing things.
Face of SARE
Outreach to educators: I had one-on-one phone conversations or meetings with 8 newly hired Extension educators about SARE. In addition I gave a brief presentation about SARE grants and resources at one of our monthly web meetings, which reached 45 educators.
Outreach to farmers: Two workshops on grants for farmers (30 farmers and 5 educators), a brief summary of SARE grants and resources at the Perennial Farm Gathering (200 farmers and 50 educators), an article about Farmer-Rancher grants in Wisconsin Farmer.
Brought the SARE display to the WI Grazing Conference, WI Cover Crops Conference, WI Aquaculture Conference,
World Dairy Expo, and Perennial Gathering (attendance at these conferences ranged from 200 to over 1000)
The estimate below of farmers reached does not include those who may have seen the display or read the article.