Final report for NEDSU17-001
Cover Cropping and other soil health management techniques are now being done on a large scale in Delaware and the Eastern shore of Maryland. Most of these cover crops are being planted on large grain farms and processing vegetable farms, but other smaller, diversified farms are starting to also plant cover crops. Farmers and Agricultural Service providers (ASPs) need continual education to be aware of current research and recommendations. Some ASPs and farmers have a high level of knowledge about soil health but have expressed a need for advanced trainings and educational programming aimed at improving how they coach farmers. Others only have a basic understanding of soil health and the benefits of using cover crops. This project improved how both categories of ASPs teach and advise farmers about cover crops and soil health and also taught farmers directly. Additionally, this project had a core team that advised and participated in educational activities. This group met regularly and has strengthened the networks of ASP’s with the creation and continuation of the Delaware Soil Health Partnership and the Delmarva Soil Summit Planning Committee. Both groups, which include staff of Universities, Departments of Agriculture, NRCS, Conservation Districts, and Future Harvest continue to coordinate educational activities indefinitely in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland after the completion of this project. An additional new collaboration was made between the Delaware Center for Horticulture and the Delaware Urban Food and Farm Coalition.
155 unique ASP’s and approximately 300 farmers participated in at least one educational event including on-farm demonstrations, webinars, and 15 workshops. One highlight was the 2-day 2020 Delmarva Soil Summit held in Georgetown, DE February 26-27, which hosted 121 ASPs and 99 farmers. One Delaware Crop Advisor wrote, “As a result of the keynote I have been able to advise hundreds of farmers with a better explanation of how soil biology works and how nutrients are shared between plant species, fungi and bacteria. This has led to an increase in multi-species plantings both in cover crops and cash crops for the growers I advise.”
Over the length of the project, 121 ASPs reported changes in knowledge, skills and/or attitudes as a result of their participation. 167 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation. 97 ASPs intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned through this project in their educational activities and services for farmers. 32 ASP participants used knowledge and skills learned through this project to reach 275 farmers who manage approximately 16,000 acres. Farmer adopted techniques included choosing cover crop species/mixes, planting and termination timing, technique recommendations, transitioning to no-till, reducing tillage, building soil organic matter, reducing compaction, nutrient management, weed suppression with cover crops, herbicide carryover management, and grazing cover crops for soil health with rotational management.
Outreach about SARE was done via four methods. One was as an exhibitor at events such as Delaware’s Ag Week and UMES’ and DSU’s small farm conferences. Second was with short presentations at workshops and other events. Third was via longer grant writing trainings that allowed participants to discuss ideas and ask more in-depth questions and fourth was through individual consultations. Over this three-year project, 252 ASPs and 610 farmer participants received information about SARE grants or learning resources.
12 agricultural service providers (7 members of the Delaware Soil Health Partnership plus 5 additional Ag service providers) will include learned information or techniques about cover cropping and soil health into the education and assistance they provide to 75 farmers who manage 10,000 acres.
Cover Cropping is now being done on a large scale in Delaware, but many farmers are new to cover cropping and are not managing them as effectively as they could be. Most of these cover crops are being planted on large grain farms and processing vegetable farms, but other smaller, diversified farms are starting to also plant cover crops. According to the Delaware Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), 36% (155,466 out of 421,321 acres) of harvested cropland in Delaware had cover crops observed. Farmers and Ag Service providers (ASPs) need continual education to be aware of current research and recommendations. There are also many farmers throughout the state that have not adopted or are seeking to start using cover crops.
Some ASPs have a high level of knowledge about cover crops and soil health, but have expressed a need for educational programming aimed at improving how they coach farmers. Additionally, they need regular updates of research in the region and locally so that they continually improve their farmer assistance. Other ASPs only have a basic understanding of soil health and the benefits of using cover crops. Educational activities in this three-year plan will be designed to meet the need of both audiences. In other words, some events will be advanced and some will beginner.
The interest among ASPs is evident following the Northeast SARE Regional Cover Crops for Soil Health Training that was held in Baltimore in March of 2016. The Delaware and Maryland teams have been very active in coordinating educational programs since then. The Delaware team that attended the training are now members of the Delaware Soil Health Partnership and has expressed the need for continuing SARE cover crop programming. High participation levels at recent educational events have also showed the need for ongoing cover crop programming.
A major focus of this project will be working with The Delaware Soil Health Partnership, which includes DSU, UDEL, NRCS, and Conservation District staff. The group will advise on all SARE educational activities, but will also be participants in professional development trainings to improve how they "coach" farmers.
Educational activities will include annual late summer field days/workshops, winter classroom session, demonstration plots, and summer professional development workshops. This project will also include collaboration with UMES' cover cropping in orchards programming.
Additional general sustainable agriculture activities will also be done including supporting other institution's programming related to beekeeping (Delaware Beekeeper's Association), attracting pollinators (Delaware Department of Agriculture, and hops (UMES).
A major focus of this project will be working with The Delaware Soil Health Partnership, which includes DSU, UDEL, NRCS, and Conservation District staff. The group will advise on all SARE educational activities, but will also be participants in professional development trainings to improve how they “coach” farmers.
Educational activities will include annual late summer field days/workshops, winter classroom session, demonstration plots, and summer professional development workshops. This project will also include collaboration with UMES’ cover cropping in orchards programming.
Additional general sustainable agriculture activities will also be done including supporting other institution’s programing related to beekeeping (Delaware Beekeeper’s Association), attracting pollinators (Delaware Department of Agriculture, and hops (UMES).
50 Service providers (including 15 who have already agreed to participate as core participants) and 400 farmers receive the invitation to attend the first project workshop. (September 2017)
It was decided that this training would be better as a focused group of service providers so the morning session was not advertised to farmers. Invitations for the November workshop were sent to Conservation District, NRCS and Extension staff. The training was described to include beginner level soil training, how to better serve farmers, and time to plan and discuss.
15 Core service providers will meet with the Regional SARE Educator, learn about the three-year program and agree to participate as core participants. (September (2017)
11 core participants plus 2 additional participants (including staff from NRCS, Conservation District, and Cooperative Extension) participated in a meeting/conference call to guide the November workshop to meet the needs of all parties. The three year SARE program was also described and participants agreed to attend trainings.
20 Service providers (including the 15 core participants) will attend a workshop that will combine a soil health 101 session (for ASPs who only need an introductory level of knowledge) with programming aimed at the core participants who will be consistently engaged in the project. The latter audience will learn how to administer an effective farmer education program as well as participate in planning and networking sessions. The core participants will convene at the end of the workshop and confirm their agreement to participate in future activities and commit to assisting a specific number of farmers based on the type of farmer outreach they conduct (e.g. workshops vs. consultations). (November 2017)
This training was attended by UD and DSU extension, NRCS, and Conservation District staff, including 15 core service providers. This workshop taught participants about soil health 101 concepts in the morning, including topics such as nutrient management, effects of tillage and compaction and practices to improve soil quality. It also included a farmer panel with very different operations to give a wide range of cover crop experiences. The afternoon sessions taught participants how to conduct successful farmer education programing with the help of farmer participants. This included strategies to attracting farmers, using farmer input to guide programs, and teaching methods to encourage adoption. The farmers from the panel joined groups to offer advise about addressing farmer needs. It also included time for program planning and discussion. A focus was placed on the core participants from Kent and New Castle County staff during the afternoon sessions.
This program was planned and implemented by the Delaware Soil Health Partnership which includes DSU’s SARE state program, UD, CD, and NRCS.
10 core participants will meet with the project leader in the Winter and again in the Summer to plan and coordinate the project’s cover crop and soil health educational programming and professional development directed towards improved educator effectiveness for the year. Participants will also exchange information about other outreach activities and research occurring in Delaware and exchange successes and challenges with getting farmer adoption. This will guide planning so that activities compliment rather than duplicate each other. This meeting will also help guide planning for the following year’s Maryland activities with UMES. (Summer 2018)
12 core participants have met on 2/21/18 and 3/28/18 8/14/18 and 9/12/18. Conference calls have been held throughout the year with core participants and NRCS and Conservation Disitrict program leaders. Additionally, 2 core participants and the SARE project leader participated on the Delmarva Soil Summit planning committee, which is also impacting future educational activities. The participants discussed current educational activities, demonstrations, research, and farmer trends. The needs and goals of future training were also discussed and preliminary planning was done. The group also discussed how groups were collaborating, such as with demonstration plots. Winter and spring photos of demonstration plots from DSU, UD, and on farms. Plots contained various species, mixes, planting dates, and planting methods.
15 Core Participants, plus 20 additional ASPs, and 50 farmers will receive a resource packet that will be updated each year that may include educational resources, a list of specialists willing to assist in specific areas (e.g. weed management), current research/outreach results, etc. (Winter 2018). The Core participants will also participate in a conference call and/or in person meeting to share successes, challenges, and activities, as well as plan upcoming events. (winter-spring 2018)
11 core participants have received resource packets including educational resources, such as SARE publications, specialist lists, and current research projects, to date in year 1. Participants have shared recent experiences and upcoming plans at Delaware Soil Health Partnership events and at state program workshops. Bulleted lists of available resources were distributed to 83 farmers and service providers at this year's Delaware Ag week in January, via a vendor booth and at a soil health workshop. A newsletter and Fact sheets summarizing research in Delaware and recommended planting dates/seeding rates for different cover crop species were distributed at various events to 65 farmers.
40 Ag service participants and 400 farmers will receive promotional materials for the planned cover crops and soil health educational event(s). (Two months prior to each event 2018)
47 Service providers and 435 farmers received electronic promotional materials prior to workshops plus the University of Delaware's Weekly Crop Update's 868 recipients.
5 Service providers and 30 farmers will attend one or both of two presentations at DSU’s Profiting from a few Acres conference (one beginner-level presentation and one advanced-level). Beginner-level attendees will learn about nutrient management, potential benefits of cover crops, and recommended varieties and management techniques. Advanced-level topics will include long-term cover and cash crop rotations and matching cover crop varieties to your needs. Following presentations, Core ASPs and farmers will be able to participate in a sharing of successes, challenges and problem solving. (March 2018)
Additional farmer-based trainings were held and those results have been added to this milestone.
3 sessions were held at DSU's small farm conference on 3/6/18. 9 service providers and 21 farmers learned about soil health 101 for livestock producers session, 14 service providers and 32 farmers learned about soil health 101 for crop producers session, and 8 service providers and 29 farmers attended a cover crop/cash crop rotation session.
An additional stand alone soil health 101 workshop was held on 3/28/18. 12 service providers and 13 farmers learned from soil infiltration demonstrations, soil health 101 and compaction presentations and a farmer panel.
A professional presentation was given at the NJ Ag Convention on 2/6/18 where 7 Ag service providers and 89 farmers learned about cover crop research in Delaware and soil health principles.
Additionally 7 service providers and 8 farmers met at a field day on 5/3/18 to discuss current cover crop research and recommendations.
20 Ag Service Providers including the 15 core participants will attend a full day Professional Development Workshop for improving farmer coaching and education, and learn updates on current research in the region, how to recommend varieties/mixes based on farmers’ operations and their abilities/experiences related to cover crops, and strategies to help them improve cover crop management. Barriers and challenges to adopting and improving cover cropping and soil health management will be discussed at length along with potential solutions for farmers. ASP’s will improve farmer coaching by learning how to match technical opportunities with individual farm situations, when advising farmers. This training will include case study problem solving and a sharing of successes and challenges. (Late Spring to early Summer 2018)
9-12-18-Workshop-Agenda-PDF Participants learned about Soil Health in Field and Forage crop productions, herbicide considerations for cover crop establishment and termination, the influence of cover crop management on final biomass, and the integration of no-tillage, cover crops, and grazing. The workshop also featured a presentation from a farmer who has become passionate about his successes with switching to no-till. The workshop also featured small group discussions about farmer case studies. The groups debated about opportunities and challenges, made recommendations, and then a discussion was held among the whole group. This helped the service providers develop a process for how to advise farmers in the future, regardless of their situation.
Quotes from participants:
- So much amazing information. Lots of great research and ideas to incorporate into local operations
- Taking this info back to my department and leadership
- I will use info when making recommendations to customers
- I will Inform my growers on the benefits of CC’s and no-till
10 Ag service providers and 30 farmers will participate in a field day/workshop at DSU’s Outreach and Research Center, with the morning geared toward beginner-level practitioners and the afternoon to the advanced-level. Participants will be able to choose to attend the morning and/or afternoon presentations. Participants in the morning will learn about how to improve soil health, such as with improved nutrient management, reducing tillage, and increasing organic matter, and ways to incrementally start cover cropping. Afternoon participants will learn about recommended mixes for increasing yields and alternative establishment and termination techniques such as using an aerial seeder in summer and planting green in the spring. All participants will be able to see both the summer and fall/winter plots, which will show many varieties/mixes using different establishment techniques. Following presentations, Core ASPs and farmers will be able to participate in a sharing of successes, challenges and problem solving. (Late summer/early fall 2018)
This workshop has been delayed and amended for two reasons. First the workload requirement for the SARE Educator to plan the 2018 Fall SARE Fellows Tour made it much more difficult to manage on-farm demonstrations and coordinate the workshop. Second, a similar workshop was held in Dover on September 12 and it was determined that a more useful workshop would be aimed at a different audience in northern Delaware. A workshop is being planned in New Castle County in February.
12 Service Providers including 7 core participants and 15 farmers learned about the intersections of cover crops and weed and slug management. Participants also learned about soil health and compaction principles and management. Discussions on planting green were also held. Surveys found that slug management and herbicide carryover issues were the biggest takeaways with plans to implement changes in operations.
Education at UMES
5 Service providers and 20 farmers will attend: 1) a one hour session at UMES’ Small Farms conference and learn about the benefits of cover cropping, how to incrementally start cover cropping, and an overview of soil health parameters and the management factors that influence them. (November 2017) and 2) a field day held on or near the UMES research farm and learn about maximizing benefits of cover crops in pasture operations, choosing the right varieties and rotation planning. This session will have a minimum of two core service providers and include a sharing of successes and challenges with adoption. (Summer 2018)
9 Ag service providers and 29 farmers learned how to manage cover crops at a session at UMES' small farms conference on 11/4/17. Participants learned about recommended varieties, rotations, planting and termination techniques, and current research updates. 4 ASP's and 11 farmers attended a Soil Health Short Course and field tour, entitled "What is in Your Soil" that was held prior to UMES' Small Farm Conference on 11/2/18. Participants learned about the various components that make up soil, nutrient management, and how to encourage micro and macrobiotic organisms.
20 Service providers and 30 farmers who attended SARE educational events will respond to verification surveys. Surveys will ask farmer participants to report on the adoption of cover cropping or soil health improvement practices in the operations or programs, and service providers will be asked to report on their educational activities and consultations with farmers. Core service providers will be asked via interviews to report on their interactions with farmers and share anecdotal information about successes and challenges. (November-December 2018)
Participants responded to email, phone, and in-person surveys. 14 of 16 (87.5%) service providers reported including learned knowledge in farmer consultations and/or trainings. Respondents reported sharing knowledge learned with 78 farmers. 23 of 24 farmers (96%) reported changing behavior based on learned knowledge. Changes included cover crop species/mixes, planting and termination timing/technique recommendations, transitioning to no-till, reducing tillage, building soil organic matter, reducing compaction, nutrient management, weed suppression with cover crops, herbicide carryover, and grazing cover crops with rotational management.
5 Ag service providers and 20 farmers will attend a session at UMES’ Small Farms conference and learn about nutrient management, potential benefits of cover crops, and recommended varieties and management techniques. (November 2018)
The soil summit was held the day before the conference at UMES so the conference did not have a soil focus. However, Participants did attend a vermiculture session that included the benefits of and management techniques for using vermiculture in farming operations. Participants learned about how to do small scale and larger scale vermiculture production and how to use vermicast to improve soil health and crop productivity.
20 Ag service providers, including at least 5 core participants, and 80 farmers will attend a Delmarva Soil Health Summit. This program is being co-sponsored by CASA/Future Harvest, UMES, and this joint state program project. State program support will include assistance with planning and support for speaker fees and core participant travel. This summit will bring together Ag service providers and farmers from Delaware the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the wider region to learn and share with each other to continue to progress with cover crop and soil health management for all farmers.
Participants will learn about basics of Delmarva soils, how to improve soil health, recommended cover crops and mixes for their operations, as well as more advanced topics including carbon cycling, and current research results such as with planting green. Breakout sessions will allow participants to choose sessions to fit their knowledge level and interests. Discussion time will also be included, such as during a farmer panel. This summit will also advertise future SARE programming and build new collaborations. Following the summit, the core participants who are able to attend will discuss what they learned and how it can be used to adapt programming. These discussion points and video of the sessions will be provided to the other core participants and in depth discussions about how to adapt future programming (Nov 2018).
9 core service providers along with the other participants attended and learned about soil conditions specific to Delmarva, managing soil health for profit, how to better advise farmers about soil health, carbon sequestration, increasing the depth of soil test analysis, using NRCS' cover crop analysis tool, utilizing mushrooms and microbes for soil health management, and planting green. Four of the participants discussed using learned knowledge in future programming including using compost and vermicompost in future trainings.
At least 10 core participants will meet with the project leader to plan and coordinate the project’s cover crop and soil health educational programming and educator improvement professional development for the year. Participants will also exchange information about other outreach activities and research occurring in Delaware and exchange successes and challenges with getting farmer adoption. This will guide planning so that activities complement each other and not duplicate them. This meeting will also help guide planning for the following year’s Maryland activities with UMES. (Winter 2019)
13 core Ag Service Providers (ASPs) plus 24 additional unique ASPs have met at various meetings and conference calls, including new partnerships with the UMES researchers, Delaware Center for Horticulture, and the Delaware Urban Food and Farm Coalition and additional ASPs from around the region that have joined the 2020 Delmarva Soil Summit Planning Committee. Meetings and conference calls have been held 11/3/18, 1/16/19, 2/19/19, 3/28/19 4/17/19 & 5/1/19.
15 Core Participants, plus 20 additional ASPs, and 50 farmers will receive an updated resource packet that will include educational resources, a list of specialists willing to assist in specific areas (e.g. weed management), current research/outreach results, including demonstration plot results, etc. (Winter 2019)
Packets were distributed at each event and included contacts of Ag professionals in the state and region working with cover crops and soil health, links to resources online, and printed fact sheets and decision guides.
40 Ag service participants and 400 farmers will receive promotional materials for future cover crops and soil health educational event(s). (2 months prior to each event 2019)
5 Service providers and 30 farmers will attend one or both of two presentations at DSU’s Profiting from a few Acres conference (one beginner-level presentation and one advanced-level). Beginner-level attendees will learn how to improve soil health by methods such as reducing tillage and using cover crops to increase soil organic matter and improve soil structure. Advanced-level attendees will learn about incorporating winter and summer cover crops into long-term management plans. Both sessions will also include discussion of the results of demonstration plots and current research projects.(March 2019)
DSU's 2019 Profiting from a few Acres conference was canceled due to unforeseen circumstances outside of the control of project coordinators. Soil focused sessions had been planned with speakers identified. These will be used in a future farmer-focused stand-alone event(s).
With that said, an unplanned workshop was held in New Castle County and reached new service providers and farmers.
13 Service Providers and 15 famers attended a soil health workshop at the New Castle County Conservation District Building. Participants learned about general soil health principles including nutrient management, organic matter, microorganisms, and compaction etc. Participants also learned about managing weeds and slugs within cover crop rotations and planting green and improving pasture rotations.
From surveys, the biggest takeaways were limiting slug damage, the benefits of planting green, herbicide carryover issues, and how to increase soil organic matter. On a scale from 1-5 (5 being the most likely to implement learned behavior), 19 respondents who answered this question averaged 4.2 and noted that they would add new cover crop varieties, increase cover crop usage and coverage, change management practices to reduce slug and/or weed damage, reduce animal pressure to increase cover crop coverage, and one participant specifically mentioned that they would plant tillage reddish to reduce compaction.Agenda Feb 28 2019 Feb 28 Soil Workshop
20 Ag Service Providers, including the 15 core participants will attend a full day Professional Development Workshop with guest speakers where participants will build skills for improving farmer coaching and education, and learn techniques for advising farmers on long-term cash and cover crop rotations and addressing barriers/challenges (such as the timing of cash crop harvesting, cover crop establishment and seed/equipment availability) and opportunities (such as focusing on increasing organic matter or pest control). ASP’s will improve farmer coaching by learning how to match technical opportunities with individual farm situations, when advising farmers. ASP’s will also receive soil testing kits and participants will learn how to best advise farmers based on results. Participants will agree to use the tests on farms and share the results at future meetings. Participants will also be recruited to schedule the use of the overseeder on farms. Following the workshop, core participants will meet to share activities, challenges, and successes, future activities, and the results of demonstration plots and current research projects. (Late Spring to early Summer 2019).
Due to the request of core participants, this event was not held as planned. Schedules and a lack of ability to attend a full day workshop led to a new solution to reach participants at their convenience. Delaware State University coordinated the availability of webinars by Steve Groff. The topics were chosen based on surveys distributed to core participants. These webinars were available December 15, 2019 until January 23, 2020 when there will be a live Q&A with Steve Groff. Conservation District, NRCS, DSU, and all participants from recent workshops were given access to the webinars and are able to join. Core participants agreed to view the webinars and participate in the live webinar. This format was designed so that participants from different counties in Delaware and Maryland, who were unable to travel could have an open discussion together. This time of year was chosen based on participant demand as this is when they indicated that they have the most available time. All participants also received a cover cropping guide including a decision making tree. These webinars were also promoted to our farmer constituents and to participants at in person workshops. Participant feedback was very positive and said the time frame of webinar availability was very helpful. The most common plan to utilize information was based on cover crop decision making.
5 Ag service providers and 15 farmers will participate in a field day held on or near the UMES research farm learn about maximizing benefits of cover crops in orchard operations, choosing the right varieties and pest management considerations. (Summer 2019)
UMES did not plant cover crops this year. Meetings were held with new researchers about planting cover crops for microbial research, but this has not began yet. For logistical reasons for UMES, last year's plots were not planted this year. Plans were made to demonstrate cover crop plots at a field day in spring 2020, but this was cancelled due to the pandemic.
At least 10 core participants will participate in a conference call and/or in person meeting to share successes, challenges, and activities, as well as plan upcoming events. (Summer 2019)
8 meetings were held throughout year 2, with a conference call line open for participants to join remotely. Meetings largely focused on coordinating future events, but decisions were made based on surveys and participant input. Core service providers shared how they have been successful in workshops and at one-on-one technical assistance in getting farmer adoption. Future planning, such as workshop agendas also addressed failures and challenges with getting behavior change. Many of these challenges were centered around specific farming situations, which were addressed in subsequent programming. Another large barrier to farmers adoption was uncertainty, risk avoidance, and a lack of ability to make decisions. This has strongly been addressed in outreach and workshops.
10 Ag service providers and 30 farmers will participate in a field day/workshop at DSU’s Outreach and Research Center, with the morning geared toward beginner-level practitioners and the afternoon to the advanced-level. Participants will be able to choose to attend the morning and/or afternoon presentations. Participants in the morning will learn about matching cover crop varieties to meet goals, and improving establishment and termination. Afternoon participants will learn about alternative methods for establishing cash crops in cover cropped fields, such as planting vegetables in rolled-down cover crops and planting green. All participants will tour the demonstration plots and observe the many cover crop varieties/mixes planted, and the vegetables planted into rolled-down cover crops. Following presentations, Core ASPs and farmers will be able to participate in a sharing of successes, challenges and problem solving. (Late summer/early fall 2019)
This event was altered based on participant input and logistics at DSU's farm. The event was shortened, but the target audience was expanded to reach more Delaware and Eastern Shore farmers and service providers. 4 workshops were held over 2 days (Dec 10-11) featuring the cover crop expert, Steve Groff. Half day workshops were held at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, MD, UMES in Princess Anne, MD, Bridgeville, DE and at Kent County Conservation District's new facility in Dover, DE. Each location held unique groups of participants, who nearly unanimously said that they would not have been willing to travel to a further location if they had not been replicated. December Soil Workshops
Based on previous feedback, the workshops focused largely on the decision making process with cover crops. Steve Groff described the process of "treating your cover crops like your cash crops", went through the elements of his 10% cover crop challenge and a cover crop management plan, and walked through his cover crop decision guide. Steve also presented about how to talk to your neighbors about cover crops and matching mixed cover crop species to achieve your soil health goals. Additionally, Steve Groff answered a significant amount of participant questions, which guided his presentation at each location.
Interestingly, participants in Wye Mills, were nearly all experienced service providers. Participants in Princess Anne were nearly all new and beginning small farmers. Participants in Bridgeville were mostly very experienced large grain farmers along with experienced service providers. And participants in Dover were a diverse group of service providers, small veggie/fruit growers, large grain and pumpkin farmers, Christmas tree growers, and even a congressman, who indicated that he would share knowledge gained with the Delaware Farm Bureau. With the exception of Princess Anne, participants were already very knowledgable about cover crops and the presentation focused more on advanced level topics. This is an example of the agendas. Dec11PM2019Agenda
42 Surveys were completed. 50% (21) reported moderate knowledge gained and the other 50% reported considerable. Zero participants reported that they had no knowledge gained or minimal. 64% (27) reported that they were very likely to implement a learned technique, 31% (13) reported moderate likely and 5% (2) reported somewhat likely. 0 participants reported that they were not likely to implement something that they learned.
20 Service providers and 30 farmers who attended SARE educational events will respond to verification surveys. Surveys will ask farmer participants to report on the adoption of cover cropping or soil health improvement practices in the operations or programs, and service providers will be asked to report on their educational activities and consultations with farmers. Core service providers will be asked via interviews to report on their interactions with farmers and share anecdotal information about successes and challenges. (November-December 2019)
42 service providers received verification requests, 19 replied and 16 reported using knowledge and skills gained at SARE programming in their own educational activities. 65 farmers received verification requests, 22 responded and all 22 reported using learned knowledge and skills on their farms.
5 Ag service providers and 20 farmers will attend a session at UMES' Small Farms conference and learn how to improve soil health by methods such as reducing tillage and using cover crops to increase soil organic matter and improve soil structure. (November 2019)
A session was not held during UMES' Small Farms Conference, but a workshop was held on December 10 at UMES. This information is reported in milestone #21.
At least 10 core participants will meet with the project leader to plan and coordinate the project's cover crop and soil health educational programming and educator improvement professional development for the year. Participants will also exchange the activities and research occurring in Delaware. This will guide planning so that activities complement each other and not duplicate them. This meeting will also help guide planning for Maryland activities with UMES. (Winter 2020)
Meetings were held a minimum of once per month. They largely focused on the 2020 soil summit and then continued to occur for conference wrap-up discussions and the planning of the next summit in 2022. Discussions were also held to plan the two workshops held remotely in August, 2020. Participants were also able to share successes at getting farmer adoption. This often included increasing cover crop average and adopting new varieties. Challenges also were shared, often related to cost and timing barriers.
15 Core Participants, plus 20 additional ASPs, and 50 farmers will receive a resource packet that will be updated each year that may include educational resources, a list of specialists willing to assist in specific areas (e.g. weed management), current research/outreach results, etc. (Winter 2020)
Packets were distributed at each event and included contacts of Ag professionals in the state and region working with cover crops and soil health, links to resources online, and printed fact sheets and decision guides. Core participants and 20 farmers also received two soil health textbooks.
40 Ag service participants and 400 farmers will receive promotional materials for future cover crops and soil health educational event(s) (2 months prior to each event 2020)
Promotions were completed for the final event in August.
New Milestone 27. 20 Ag service providers, including at least 5 core participants, and 80 farmers will attend a Delmarva Soil Health Summit, which Jason Challandes, the SARE Educator is the Coordinator. This program is being co-sponsored by Sussex County Conservation District, CASA/Future Harvest, this joint state program project, and other collaborators. State program support will include assistance with planning and support for speaker fees and core participant travel. This summit will bring together Ag service providers and farmers from Delaware the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the wider region to learn and share with each other to continue to progress with cover crop and soil health management for all farmers.
This was a full two-day event that 15 core participants attended on both days. Participants were able to attend a Day-1 pre-conference cover crops workshop and afternoon research updates and/or Day-2 plenary and breakout sessions. Delmarva Soil Summit Agenda
79 participants completed surveys. Participants were asked to rate their knowledge gained as none, a little, moderate, a lot or a great deal. 30 of 50 ASPs (60%) selected a lot or a great deal. Only 1 (2%) selected a little and no participants responded none at all. 19 of 29 (66%) farmers rated their knowledge gained as a lot or a great deal and 0 participants selected a little or none. Participants were also asked how likely they were to use knowledge or skills gained on their farms or educational programs. 49 of 50 ASPs (98%) selected very likely or unlikely with 27 (54%) rating very likely. 0 selected unlikely or very unlikely and 1 selected N/A. All 29 farmers responded that they were likely or very likely to adopt a learned method with 21 (72%) selecting very likely. Some intentions included using new cover crop varieties/mixes, rotations, soil amendments, planting methods, and decision making techniques. One ASP wrote, "I plan to use the tools I have learned to help educate my producers and help them make decisions for their farms that better address their goals and needs".
Hundreds of more people (250-350, depending on the presentation) have viewed the videotaped presentations and their PowerPoint slides online at https://delmarvasoilsummit.com.
5 Ag service providers and 30 farmers will attend one or both of two presentations at DSU's Profiting from a few Acres conference (one beginner-level presentation and one advanced-level). Beginner-level attendees will learn about how to develop long-term cash crop and cover crop rotation plans. Advanced-level attendees will learn about using a long-term, whole-farm approach to manage challenges and increase benefits with cover crops. (March 2020)
Due to the COVID pandemic, the in person conference was canceled. Delaware initial lockdown started only two weeks prior to the event, but we were able to pivot quickly and coordinated online sessions. 5 core participants, 3 other Ag Service Providers, 15 farmers, and 5 unknown participants participated in a virtual workshop entitled Soil Health - Lessons learned in New England High Tunnels presented by Katie Campbell-Nelson of Northeast SARE.KCN_High_Tunnel_Powerpoint
Participants learned about general soil health principles and challenges and solutions specific to growing in high tunnels. Specific topics included compaction, irrigation, nutrient management, organic matter and salt management. Via email, participants also received resources including the presentation and a list of local contacts.
Prior to lockdown, a new workshop was held on March 4, 2020 that was not in the plan. 6 ASPs, including 2 core participants (who also attended the virtual workshop described above) and 28 farmers attended an urban soil health workshop. This was based on advisory group input that described a lack of soil health programming in the more populated areas of New Castle County, DE. This workshop also reached a largely underserved audience. The workshop included a general soil health principles presentation by Philip King, the NRCS State Soil Scientist. It also featured a presentation entitled Soil Health Management in a Variety of Urban Growing Conditions by Sam Anderson, the Urban Agriculture Specialist at Cornell University. Participants learned about topics including, soil contaminants, amendments, nutrient management and issues that are specific for intensive in ground growing, and container grower. Lastly there was a presentation by Patrick Eggleston, the Farm Manager of Coverdale Farm Preserve. Participants learned about practical on-farm experiences with identify soil challenges in concentrated growing situations and finding solutions to maximize yield. Based on surveys, the audience was a mix of container and in-ground growers and ratings were very positive that their needs were met. 24 surveys were completed and all 100% rated their level of knowledge gained as considerable (17/71%) or moderate (7/29%). Similarly, all 100% selected that they were very likely (20/83%) or moderately likely (4/17%) to implement a technique learned during the workshop. Some of the response for what participants would do included using soil testing more or changing soil tests to improve management decisions, using new soil amendments/mixes, changing nutrient management practices, and using new ways to reduce compaction.Agenda March 4 2020
20 Ag Service Providers, including the 15 core participants will attend a Professional Development Workshop that will be developed based on guidance from the winter meeting. (Milestone 3 of this year) Following the workshop, core participants will meet to share activities, challenges, and successes. Additionally, this meeting will focus on ensuring successful farmer coaching and programing following the conclusion of the SARE 3-year project. (Late Spring to early Summer 2020)
This in-person event was altered due to the COVID pandemic. It was split into two successful virtual soil health programs that were held in August. 28 ASPs, including 12 core participants and 31 farmers and participated in a virtual farmer panel on August 11, 2020 to discuss soil health issues. Three local farmers and the guest moderator Steve Groff, who himself is a farmer and expert in the field interacted live with participants to share their experiences and demonstrated the need to focus on and improve soil health to sustain profitable farms. Participants learned about practical on-farm experiences with trying to improve soil health. The farmers often talk about failures they experienced, especially with cover crops, but expressed the need to keep working at it and trying new things. All four speakers emphasized the return on investments that farmers will have if they continue to improve soil health management. Some of the specific topics that participants learned were, utilizing different planting techniques, altering seeding and termination dates, improving nutrient management, and planting different cover crop varieties and mixes to achieve different goals. Participants also learned about how to better advise farmers and talk with them about soil health in order for them to want to take on new management techniques and receive the desired outcomes. Farmer Panel Screenshot
31 ASP's, including 6 core participants from Maryland's and Delaware’s, Departments of Ag, NRCS, Conservation Districts and Universities participated in a professional development interactive Soil Health Solutions Webinar. Participants first learned about the process of finding soil health solutions on all types of farms from a presentation by Shannon Zezula, a renowned soil expert from Indiana NRCS. Next participants were split into breakout rooms where they were presented with one of three challenging farmer scenarios. 2020-08-17 Planning Scenarios for Soil Health Training Participants received the scenarios prior to the workshop along with cover crop decision making tables. Cover Crop Decision Making TablesThe small groups then discussed the situation at length and developed long lists of potential recommendations, considerations, and questions that they would need to ask the farmers to better assist them. The groups then came back together, shared their discussions with the wider group and then opened it up to all participants and Shannon to further dive into the issues. The biggest takeaway from this event is that the ASP's, especially those newer to the field learned how to go about making soil health recommendations even if they are not extremely knowledgable about a specific farming system. By knowing what questions to ask, ASP's can find ways that producers can make management changes that fit into their rotations. Participants were extremely engaged and the report outs were very thorough, detailed, and robust. Shannon remarked several times about how good the group was and that he was surprised by the thoroughness of the responses. Some examples of solutions that ASP's came up with included reducing tillage within the constraints of the system, planting different cover crop varieties based on the cash crop timing demands, and improving crop rotations to minimize soil disturbance in concentrated ways. The audience was surveyed at the end of the webinar with all 31 ASP's indicating that the experience was valuable in content and format. Agenda August 17 2020
Dozens more people have watched the farmer panel and Shannon Zezula’s presentation, which have been posted here:
August 11 Farmer Panel:
August 17 Soil Health Solutions Webinar:
At least 10 core participants will participate in a final conference call and/or in person meeting to share successes, challenges, and activities, as well as plan upcoming events. This will focus on ensuring successful farmer coaching and programing following the conclusion of the SARE 3-year project. (Summer 2020)
9 Core participants plus three additional ASPs participated over two calls in September and October. The group discussed passed events and experiences with farmers over the last few years, but focused on what the current and future needs were. Participants shared challenges that they have seen farmers have and what can be done to address them. There was also discussions about what trainings and sessions were particularly helpful and how they have used them. The Delaware Soil Health Partnership and Delmarva Soil Summit planning committee with continue to develop effective and robust farmer educational activities long after this SARE project is complete.
20 ASPs and 75 farmers will respond to final verification surveys via email, phone, and in person. (Summer-fall 2020)
31 ASPs responded to final verification at virtual meetings, and via email and phone. 225 farmers provided verification via email or indirectly through other ASP's. This audience included core participants and attendees of the Delmarva Soil Summit, virtual trainings, in person workshops and meetings.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities conducted by the project team:
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Curricula, factsheets or educational tools||3||1||1||5|
|Published press articles, newsletters||1||1||1||3|
|Study circle / focus groups||2||2||2||6|
|Webinars, talks and presentations||3||2||3||8|
|Workshop / field days||9||4||2||15|
Beneficiaries who particpated in the project’s educational activities and events:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total Individuals|
|Service providers (other or unspecified)||9||15||18||22|
|Farmers / ranchers||251||211||198||303|
Participants responded to email, phone, at virtual events, and in-person paper and oral surveys at workshops and events. Changes in knowledge and intent to use knowledge included choosing cover crop species/mixes, planting and termination timing/technique recommendations, transitioning to no-till, reducing tillage, building soil organic matter, reducing compaction, nutrient management, weed suppression with cover crops, herbicide carryover management, and grazing cover crops for soil health with rotational management. Ag service participants at the November 1, 2017, workshop the September 12, 2018, workshop December, 2019, and August, 2020 workshops indicated an increase in the ability to educate farmers.
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
12 agricultural service providers (7 members of the Delaware Soil Health Partnership plus 5 additional Ag service providers) will include learned information or techniques cover cropping and soil health into the education and assistance they provide to 75 farmers who manage 10,000 acres.
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
Service providers reported that they included learned knowledge and skills in educational programming and consultations. This most commonly included an increase in ability and confidence to advise farmers on which cover crop species/mixes to plant to meet the farmers' goals. Other information used included weed and pest management in cover/cash crop rotations, planting green, planting dates, and seeding rates, reducing nitrogen applications, how to reduce tillage, how to advise farmers on actions based on soil testing, and how to advise farmers on the economics of cover crops. Service providers also reported on being better able and more confident in promoting cover crops and no/reduced tillage to new farmers.
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3|
|Activity||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Curricula, factsheets and other educational tools||2||2|
|Study circles / focus groups||1||1|
|Webinars, talks and presentations||290||290|
|Workshops and field days||1||4||5|
Verification was done in person, by email, at virtual workshops, and telephone interviews. Following year 1, 35 service providers received verification requests, 16 responded, and 14 reported using learned information and skills in their farmer educational activities. Following year 2, 42 service providers received verification requests, 19 responded, and 16 reported using learned information and skills in their farmer educational activities. Following year 3, which included the Delmarva Soil Summit, 135 ASPs received verification requests, 31 responded, and 27 reported using learned information and skills in their farmer educational activities. Educational activities included one on one consultations, workshops and field days, webinar presentations and a focus group. Service providers reported on the number of farmers that they shared learned knowledge and skills with and an estimated number of acres those farmers manage.
Additional Project Outcomes
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
The SARE coordinators organized and held a week-long SARE Fellows tour October 8-12, 2018 with 15 service provider participants. The tour included a presentation by the Delaware Secretary of Ag, a Reading the Farm (RTF) activity for a farmers' food grade soybean co-op, an agri-entertainment farm, a winery, University of Delaware research plots, a Perdue agri-recycle plant, a poultry farm and mortality freezer business, a shellfish aquaculture facility, mushroom farms, and Longwood Gardens, a leader in IPM techniques for ornamental plants. A post tour RTF presentation was given at the Co-op's Annual Meeting in January and members developed a plan to move forward with recommendations. AgendaPdf
A new collaboration with Future Harvest, part of the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, became more solidified and advanced. The collaboration is now beyond just the SARE soil Health project and now includes DSU's Small Farm Conference.
A new collaboration with The Delaware Center for Horticulture and the Delaware Urban Food and Farm Coalition has been farmed to address soil health needs for farmers with condensed growing scenarios. An urban soil health workshop was held on March 4, 2020 in Wilmington, DE in collaboration with these groups.
Quotes in response to SARE and Delaware Soil Health Programs:
"These events are always useful. When I hear of an event, I don't think about if I would like to go, I just make plans to go because I always get something to try on my farm" Sussex County, Delaware Farmer
"This was such a great way to do a training. Having the breakout rooms allowed our small group to have a really interesting discussion. And getting to think about the farm situation and talk about ways that we would advise farmers was great. I have thought about this and other workshops and the Soil Summit sessions I attended when I work with farmers. I am more confidant to help farmers." - Maryland Conservation Planner
Quotes in response to the 2020 Delmarva Soil Summit:
"As a result of the keynote I have been able to advise hundreds of farmers with a better explanation of how soil biology works and how nutrients are shared between plant species, fungi and bacteria. This has led to an increase in multi-species plantings both in cover crops and cash crops for the growers I advise." Delaware Crop Adviser
"I only have a couple of acres in cut flowers, but I found the soil summit very helpful. I planted cover crops recommended in a session--phacelia in the summer and forage radishes this fall. I have started using no-till methods and cover crops have been an important element." Delaware Small Farmer
Collaborations with organizations outside Universities were absolutely critical and allowed for projects such as larger events like the Delmarva Soil Summit and smaller, targeted events like the Urban Soil Health Workshop.
In the final year of the project, the Covid pandemic hit and pivoting was necessary to achieve further outcomes. Delaware started lock down only two weeks prior to our annual small farms conference and we were still able to hold virtual sessions, which included a soil health presentation. Also, holding the virtual farmer panel with a farmer moderator proved to be very effective. Lastly, adapting an in person meeting that was supposed to have small group discussions into Zoom breakout rooms was very successful.
SARE outreach is done via four methods. One is as a vendor at events such as Delaware's Ag week and UMES' and DSU's small farm conferences. Second is with short presentations at workshops and other events. Third is via stand-alone grant writing workshops that allow participants to discuss ideas and ask more in-depth questions and fourth is individual consultations. Participants are shown in parenthesis as (#Service providers/#farmers).
-11/1/17 Presentation and vendor at Soil Health Leadership Workshop (37/2)
-11/3 - 11/4/17 Vendor at UMES' Small Farm Conference (12/41)
-11/4/17 Presentation at soil health session at UMES conference (5/33)
-12/12/17 Presentation at Soil Health Workshop (17/32)
-1/10/18 Ag Week Vendor (8/42)
-1/10/18 Presentation at Soil Health Session (12/66)
-2/6/18 Presentation at Soil Health Session during NJ Fruit & Veggie conf. (10/86)
-3/6/18 Vendor and presentations at DSU's small farm conference (19/89)
-5/3/18 Presentation at Soil Health Field Day (8/8)
-7/23/18 Vendor at DE state fair (5/18)
-9/12/18 Presentation and vendor at Soil Health Workshop (19/12)
-9/13/18 SARE Grant Workshop (11/0)
-Individual Consultations [Year 1] (15/24)
-11/1/18-11/3/18 Vendor at UMES Small Farm Conference and Delmarva Soil Summit (87/102)
- Jan 2019 Grant opportunities for on-farm research presentation at Ag week (16/25)
- Jan 2019 Vendor at DE Ag Week (25/109)
-2/28/19 Grant Presentation at NCC Soil Workshop (12/15)
-3/28/19 Research Planning Meeting with UMES and DSU (9/0)
-4/17/19 Delaware Center for Horticulture Meeting (16/4)
-June, 2019 DE State Fair (12/31)
-8/20 Conservation District Field Day (10/45)
-10/2/19 Regional Agriculture Networking Forum (42/3)
-10/16/19 Delaware Cooperative Extension Annual Meeting (12/0)
-Individual Consultations [Year 2] (21/18)
- Grant and SARE Education Resources Presentation at Steve Groff Cover Crop Workshops
12/10/19 - (24/10)
12/10/19 - (4/12)
12/11/19 - (14/66)
12/11/19 - (6/15)
-1/15/20 DE Ag week Vendor (22/105)
-2/26/20 Introduction at Delmarva Soil Summit (56/44)
-3/4/20 Urban Soil Health Workshop (6/28)
-3/31/20 Introduction for High Tunnel Soil Health Webinar (8/15)
-Individual Consultations [Year 3] (16/11)
Recieved information about SARE grant programs and information resouces:
|Audience||Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Total|
- Soil Health Solutions Webinar Presentation (Conference/Presentation Material, Multimedia, Webinar, Website)
- August 11, 2020 Virtual Farmer Panel with Steve Groff (Multimedia, Webinar, Website)