2021-2022 Nebraska SARE Plan of Work

Final report for WNC20-108

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $130,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Nebraska-LIncoln
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
State Coordinators:
Dr. Gary Lesoing
University of Nebraska-LIncoln
Katja Koehler-Cole
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Ben Beckman
University of Nebraska
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Project Information


The 2021-2022 Nebraska SARE Plan of Work will include the following initiatives;

  1. Regional Initiative of Beginning Farmer/Rancher Training

  2. Soil Health and Water Quality

  3. Regional Conferences Focusing on Sustainable Agriculture issues

  4. Supporting Local Food Systems

      5.  Emerging Issues 

Throughout 2021-2022 we will continue to support programs to provide training and resources for Ag Educators that are providing beginning farmer/rancher training as part of the regional initiative for beginning farmers/ranchers. Nebraska SARE will continue to have a strong commitment to soil health and water quality through educational programs; i.e. field days, field trainings, workshops and conferences both virtually and face-to-face.  We will continue to provide support and sponsorship of sustainable ag conferences held in Nebraska. We will provide support and education to assist in the continued development of local food systems in the region. Finally we will address emerging issues, i.e. virtual programming for our clientele.




Project Objectives:



  1. Regional Initiative of Beginning Farmer/Rancher Training


For the 2021-2022 NCR-SARE Plan of Work, the Regional Initiative from 2019-2020 was carried over as a  2021-2022 Initiative. We were able to send five Extension Educators to the regional professional development training event organized by NCR-SARE on beginning farmers and ranchers. We also have a group of 3 Extension Educators that are working with beginning ranchers. Although they did not participate in the training in Indianapolis, they will get support from our SARE state funds in developing their training. All these educators are initiating educational programming to beginning farmers and ranchers through workshops, virtual training for beginning farmers and virtual farm tours, along with other educational programs to be developed.   During the two-year plan of work period, we will also offer additional SARE-funded travel scholarships, and where appropriate, mini-grant support to further educational programming that increases the sustainability and success of beginning farmers and ranchers.


a). Expected Outcomes:

1). Five Ag Educators will use the knowledge and resources they gained of beginning farmers and rancher training programs by attending the Regional Training Program in the North Central Region.  

2). Twenty Ag Educators will increase knowledge of strategies they can utilize to better equip beginning farmers and ranchers to become successful in their operations.

3). Ten Ag Educators will initiate training programs for beginning farmers and ranchers.

4). Fifty beginning farmers and ranchers will participate in an activity i.e. course, workshop, tour or webinar that will increase their sustainability and success.


b). Activity:

In 2021 we plan to continue to develop programming to engage more ag educators in training beginning farmers and ranchers. Ag Educators will continue our relationship with the Farm Beginnings® Collaborative that provides training for facilitation of Farm Beginnings® classes. SARE will provide support as needed to participate in face-to-face training opportunities.   Ag Educators will be conducting workshops to evaluate beginning farmer/rancher operations for their sustainability. We hope to develop a mentoring program with sustainable farmers as well. Initially there will be virtual tours and if available, face-to-face tours of successful sustainable farming operations to educate Ag Educators, farmers and ranchers about the keys to sustainability.  State SARE funds will be used for these programs and to compensate farmers and ranchers for their time.

c). Evaluation: An evaluation will be developed for these different programs to measure their impact.        

  1. Soil Health and Water Quality


a). Expected Outcomes:

1). 50 Ag Educators will increase knowledge of how Soil Health can best be used to maximize water use efficiency and improve quality of ground water in diversified cropping & crop/livestock systems in Nebraska.   

2). One-hundred Ag Educators will increase knowledge on the use of cover crops in crop and livestock production systems and how they improve soil health.

3). 15 Ag Educators will initiate training programs and conduct on-farm research activities with cover crops.

4). 10 Ag Educators will initiate training programs and conduct on-farm research activities with manure applied as a resource in cropping systems and to improve soil health. 

b). Activity:

This is an on-going initiative that is very important to Nebraskans. In 2021-22 UNL Extension and SARE will continue to sponsor training for UNL Extension Educators and Specialists and other Ag Educators to learn about the use of cover crops and manure to improve soil health at programs in Nebraska with some NRCS, representatives from the cover crop seed industry and experienced farmer cover crop practitioners.  Nebraska SARE will also cooperate with NRCS, farmer educators and the cover crop seed industry to provide learning opportunities on the use of cover crops and impact on soil health through field days, tours and workshops throughout Nebraska. Initially these trainings and programs will be made available virtually throughout the year. Depending upon the COVID-19 status, hopefully there will be an opportunity to have some of these events face-to-face. On-farm research will continue to be conducted throughout the state to evaluate and demonstrate how cover crops impact soil health. Some Educators have received SARE Partnership Grants that will be used for education as well. If travel and events occur, travel scholarships will be provided to ag educators that are interested in attending regional soil health/cover crop meetings. If the conferences are held virtually and a registration fee is required, SARE will provide support. Currently many of these conferences are on hold. i.e. 2021 or 2022 Iowa Soil Health Conference, Ames, IA; 2019 Midwest Cover Crop Council Annual Meeting in Canada (hybrid meeting face-to-face and virtual), No-till on the Plains, Wichita, KS  (limited attendance) and Practical Farmers of Iowa, Ames, IA. (Virtual). Hopefully ag educators with a focus area in soil health can participate in some capacity and provide training to ag educators in Nebraska. 

c.) Evaluation – Evaluations have been developed for these programs to measure impact immediately following the program and others are being developed to measure impact 6-12 months following the program.       


  1. Regional Conferences Focusing on Sustainable Agriculture issues


a.) Expected Outcomes – A short-term expected outcome is that 20 ag educators that participate in these conferences will develop a specific program area that focuses on a sustainable agriculture issue or practice what they learned at these conferences.  A more intermediate-term outcome is that the 10 ag educators that participated in these conferences will become leaders in a specific focus area of sustainable agriculture education.   The long-term outcome is that the ag educator will develop a change in practices implemented by producers as a result of programming conducted in sustainable agriculture.           


b.) Activity - This initiative is a continuation of an initiative that began in 2008 and has been our most successful vehicle in professional development in sustainable agriculture for ag educators and farmer educators in Nebraska.  This initiative includes the NSAS Healthy Farms Conference which is held in February.  This conference is made available to ag educators that focus on sustainable agriculture issues.  Travel scholarships are made available to ag educators that want to attend these conferences as well.  From information learned at these conferences, ag educators will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in working with clientele. 


c.) Evaluation - Ag educators that participate in these conferences will complete a post-conference survey and also a survey 6-9 months to determine how progress is being made toward the expected outcomes.  In the post-conference survey, participating ag educators will be asked questions, i.e. How many client questions on sustainable ag issues were answered and how many newspaper and newsletter articles were written? How many meetings were conducted? How many people reached? 


  1. Supporting Local Food Systems


a.)Expected Outcomes

1) By conducting annual Small Farm Workshops across Nebraska that focus on diversified and sustainable agriculture, including local food production; 10 educators will gain knowledge to answer questions and provide educational programs for clientele.

2) Thirty educators will participate in five webinars in 2019-20 to increase their knowledge of small scale local food production to be able to assist farmers interested in producing local food.

3) Forty Educators will participate in Local Food Systems Tours in Nebraska in 2021 and 2022 and become knowledgeable in the development and support of local food systems.

4) Five educators will become knowledgeable about fruit and vegetable production systems and evaluate different production methods through on-farm research.   


b.) Activity – This is an on-going initiative developed from a regional initiative in 2010. This is still a very important issue in Nebraska and there is increased interest in the development of regional local food production and the increase of local food production with the sale of food to schools, other institutions and local and regional grocers. This has really become an important issue since the pandemic hit. More ag educators are also realizing the potential and opportunities that exist with local food production in Nebraska.  We plan to continue to conduct on-farm research to evaluate fruit and vegetable production systems.  Extension Ag Educators will gain knowledge by conducting these trials and explaining the results of the trials at workshops.  Ag Educators, including farmer educators will participate in the Small Farming Workshops and in Local Food Systems Tours in the summers of 2021 and 2022 at different locations across Nebraska if they are available to conduct face-to-face. If not, workshops and tours will be developed and made available virtually. SARE funds will be used to support this program.


Evaluation – A survey of ag educators will determine the knowledge gained and impact Educators have on Supporting Local Food Systems in Nebraska in 2021 and 2022.


  1. Emerging Issues - Web-based Education of Sustainable Agriculture


a.)Expected Outcomes

1)  1000 people will become knowledgeable about sustainable agriculture principles through recorded conferences, workshops, Interviews, webinars and other sustainable agricultural resources on our website.   

2) Ten Ag Educators will develop and initiate sustainable ag programs for clientele in their county and region.

3) With the use of social media tools we create opportunities for education and professional development for more people in sustainable agriculture.   



1) Five webinars on sustainable agriculture issues will be presented in 2021 and 2022.  

2) I have initiated a blog on local food producers and other sustainable agricultural topics.      


c.)Evaluation - An evaluation of webinars & blogs will be conducted following each presentation.  A follow-up 6 -12 month evaluation will be conducted to determine impact of these resources.


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Educational approach:

The Nebraska SARE Programs utilizes several different approaches to education. The most common approach is train-the-trainer or else train educators so they can past the knowledge they learned to others. Our first initiative is aimed at training ag educators about beginning farmer programs so they can train others in this very important area. We also utilize hands on programs that provide outreach to Ag Extension Educators, NRCS technicians, NRD staff, NGOs, Ag Advisors and Farmers. This is a major way of providing education through conferences, field days, trainings and tours. We provide support for conferences in Nebraska and regionally that address sustainable agricultural issues and also provide travel scholarships to Ag Extension Educators, Farmer Educators and others from NGOs to attend these conferences. Each year we support a Sustainable Agriculture Tour where educators, i.e. Master Gardeners, Ag Extension Educators and others are able to learn about local food systems in Nebraska and the surrounding states. Tour participants are made aware of the challenges and skill involved in local food production systems. A final method of providing education to others is through social media. We have used webinars on various sustainable ag topics, a blog, Twitter, a webpage, articles on our webpage and traditional print media to educate others on the sustainability components of SARE; economically viable, environmentally sound and socially acceptable.    

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Regional Initiative of Beginning Farmer Training

To provide support for Extension Educators and educators from NGOs; i.e. Center for Rural Affairs to provide education to beginning farmers. These educators will initiate educational programming to beginning farmers and ranchers through workshops, virtual training for beginning farmers and virtual farm tours, along with other educational programs to be developed. During the two-year plan of work period, we also offer additional SARE-funded travel scholarships, and where appropriate, mini-grant support to further educational programming that increases the sustainability and success of beginning farmers and ranchers.


The pandemic provided challenges this past year to provide face-to-face training opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers. With resources from SARE, three Extension Educators have produced training videos in regard to ranch practices for Beginning Ranchers. this project was initiated in 2020, but much of the work was completed in 2021. These educators visited several ranges throughout Nebraska and interviewed ranchers which provided practical information for inexperienced and beginning ranchers throughout Nebraska.  These videos have been made available on YouTube and through other organizations to assist beginning ranchers.  Here is the link to the YouTube Videos already created:



Outcomes and impacts:
Image showing a correct method to pull a calf
Correct way to pull a calf

The development of the 2021 Ranch Handbook being made available on YouTube showed the benefit of using this virtual platform to reach a worldwide audience and provide education for millions of beginning ranchers. The 2021 Ranch Handbook had:

2.5 million total views   United States had 24,030 views, 1053.6 watch time hours

Total of 85.8K watch time hours, Over 7.5K subscribers   age and gender 18-44 years =  81.8% of audience          75% Male and 25% Female     



Soil Health and Water Quality

In 2021 UNL Extension and SARE sponsored a field day for UNL Extension Educators, Specialists and farmer educators to learn about the use of cover crops to improve soil health at programs in Nebraska with NRCS representatives and experienced farmer cover crop practitioners. On-farm research will be conducted throughout the state to evaluate and demonstrate how cover crops impact soil health. Travel scholarships were provided to ag educators that were interested in attending regional soil health/cover crop meetings; although many of them very virtual in 2021.


Fernanda Souza Krupek discusses impact of cover crops on soil health at Cover Crop/Soil Health Field Day in SE NebraskaThe pandemic really made face-to-face programming challenging in 2021. We did support a face to face field day in the fall of 2021 at a long-term on-farm research project that compared winter-hardy and winter-terminated cover crops effect on subsequent crop yields and the impact on soil health. We also were able to show various cover crop mixes at this field day, feature a farmer panel and demonstrate the benefits of cover crops in increasing water infiltration rates. 

We also sponsored the inaugural Eastern Nebraska Cover Crop Grazing Workshop and participated in the trade show, providing SARE resources to the participants. 

We also participated in the Nebraska Cover Crop & Soil Health Conference in 2021. This conference was a hybrid conference, with 7 satellite locations across Nebraska, where individuals could participate face-to-face. or virtually from their homes. 

The biggest face-to-face event SARE supported and provided resources on cover crops and soil health was Husker Harvest Days in 2021. A table-top rainfall simulator demonstrated how cover crops improved water infiltration and cover crops grown in root boxes showed how roots were growing underground. 


In 2022, SARE sponsored several field day and outreach events. The Eastern Nebraska Soil Health conference was held in David City, NE on Feb. 2, 2022 and focused on several topics in soil health: cover crops, insurance, lifestock and soil health demonstrations.

SARE supported the Small Grains conference held in Lincoln on March 1, 2022 by Practical Farmers of Iowa

The Panhandle Soil Health Conference was held in Bridgeport in person on March 2, covering various soil health topics.

SARE contributed to the Silage for Beef Cattle Conference: Focus on Small Grain Silage held on March 17 at the ENREEC in person and online.

The Haskell Ag Lab Field day on August 3 was also supported by SARE and included talks on beekeeping, forage, crop diseases, and landscaping.

The WCREEC Water & Crops field day was held in North Platte on August 25. SARE sponsored a Soil Health session. It included a plot tour of four different cover crop studies and demos. Indoors we held a farmer panel that was also recorded and is available on the Soil Health Nexus website.

The Southeast Nebraska Alfalfa and Wheat Expo was held September 1 in Crete. Several speakers presented on wheat varieties and diseases, red clover, diverse rotations and cost share programs.

SARE sponsored the Cover Crop Booth at Husker Harvest Days from Sept. 13 to 15 and handed out MCCC field guides, had the slake test demo and answered attendants questions.

The Cover Crop Grazing conference on Nov 1 at ENREEC brought together corn growers and beef producers with topics on strip grazing, rotational grazing, annual forages and cover crops as forages.



Outcomes and impacts:

56 farmers, Extension Educators, & NRCS Staff participated in this field day in southeast Nebraska.  Yield results were provided from the on-farm research project, the impact of the cover crops on soil health was summarized from several on-farm research projects in Nebraska. Farmers also told how they use cover crops in their farming operations and what they have learned.

There were 28 participants in the Grazing Cover Crops Workshop. Participants learned how cover crops can be used for grazing for different classes of livestock. They also learned how different species of cover crops can be used successfully in different times of the year.  Different Cover Crop mixes were also available for viewing and biomass and forage quality data was also shared. 

The Nebraska Cover Crop & Soil Health Conference attracted 331 participants, 290 viewing the conference virtually, with 41 attending the conference in person across the different sites. A survey following the conference indicated an estimated value of knowledge gained was $9.15/ac with n=99. There were was significant to very significant knowledge gained from all speakers. Jerry Hatfield, retired director of the Soil Tilth Lab in Ames, IA was the keynote speaker. Seventy-nine percent indicated that the information gained from his presentation on using cover crops to create healthy and resilient soil to achieve optimum productivity and environmental quality n=100, will assist them in achieving this change. Videos of all the presentations are available on Media Hub at UNL. Here is the link to Jerry Hatfield's presentation:

2021 Nebraska Cover Crop and Soil Health Conference - Jerry Hatfield | MediaHub | University of Nebraska-Lincoln (unl.edu)

Probably 500 people visited Cover Crop & Soil Health booth and booth that emphasized Using Manure as a Resource at Husker Harvest Days near Grand Island, NE in 2021. Visitors to the Cover Crop Display commented, ) 1. learned a lot about cover crops, and how to hold in moisture, 2) cover crop information very interesting and 3) healthy soil handle flooding.

The 2022 Eastern Nebraska Soil Health conference was held in-person and streamed online. Forty-nine people attended in person and 95 attended via Zoom, from a range of states (NE, KS, TX, IA, OH, IN, CA, MO, MN). CCA credits were available. 71% of participants that attended last year's conference implemented a cover crops. Participants managed or influenced 337,218 acres and valued the knowledge gained in program at about $15.58 per acre. Recordings are available here:


The PFI Small Grains conference was a well attended conference (numbering several hundred) with a regional audience. Several concurrent sessions were held. More information is available online.


The Soil Health session at the WCREEC Water & Crops fiel day attracted about 150 attendees, about half of which selected the cover crop plot tour and about 40 attended the farmer panel of three producers from central and western NE. The panelists shared their experiences in practicing soil health in conventional and organic systems which included corn, soybean and various other crops, both under irrigation and dryland.


The Southeast Wheat and Alfalfa Expo had 68 attendants.

We engaged with approximately 500 people over three days at Husker Harvest Days in the Cover Crop booth. We answered questions on how to get started with cover crops and connected several attendees with local Extension Educators to support their soil health requests.

Regional Conferences Focusing on Sustainable Agricultural Issues

Nebraska SARE will provide opportunities for Extension Educators to attend conferences. We will also provide resources to support these conferences locally.


The Nebraska Sustainable Agricultural Conference was held virtually in 2021. Nebraska SARE provided support to this virtual conference as it has for several years. SARE provided honorariums for several of the speakers and also funds to translate the presentations to other languages. There were several presentations from entrepreneurs and local producers in Nebraska which gave presentations for the participants. 

Outcomes and impacts:

There were 68 people that participated in this virtual program. 

Scaling Up Local Food Systems

Provide Resources to farmers that hosted tours on local food production


We held two tours in 2021. One tour was in southwestern Nebraska near McCook, NE and the other tour was near Lincoln, NE  They were both held on the same day. Several entrepreneurial local producers were featured on these these tours. They were both held on the same day. We visited an aquaponics operation in Lincoln and a grass-fed beef and pasture poultry operation in the country near Lincoln. We traveled to Crete, NE and visited a producer that grows shitake mushrooms and sells quail eggs, along with several other fruits and vegetables. The tour was completed at a stop east of Lincoln where a new orchard with several varieties of apples and berries were growing at the orchard where you could pick your own  or purchase already picked fruit. There were twenty-five participants in this tour throughout the day. 

There was a tour in SW Nebraska with 12 participants. This tour visited an operation that focused on flower production, a shrimp farm, and a greenhouse and nursery. All the participants agreed or strongly agreed tat they gained knowledge by attending this tour. They hope to have more opportunities to visit local farmers in the region. 


Outcomes and impacts:

grass-fed beef
Moving cattle to a different paddock in a grass-fed beef operation near Lincoln, NE on a local food systems tour
shitake mushrooms
Grower produces shitake mushrooms and sells at area Farmers Markets. We visited this urban farm on the local food systems tour in Crete, NE

Web-Based Education

People will become knowledgeable about Sustainable Ag Issues


In 2021 with the pandemic, we made available a number of videos of various presentations on Soil Health, Cover Crops, interviews with farmers using cover crops and other topics related to sustainable agriculture. 

Outcomes and impacts:

In 2o21, videos from the cover crop conferences, a previous organic conference and interviews with farmers that use cover crops had 821 views. The SARE Website had 1909 new visitors in 2021 with users from 34 countries including the United States. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

300 Consultations
5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
13 Minigrants
50 On-farm demonstrations
2 Online trainings
75 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Study circle/focus groups
2 Tours
15 Travel Scholarships
25 Webinars / talks / presentations
13 Workshop field days
2 Other educational activities: At Husker Harvest Days engaged farmers, participants and youth about cover crops, manure and soil health. Provided SARE Resources on the benefits of cover crops and demonstrated a table top rainfall simulator of cover crops/no-till soil vs tilled soil to 500 people in 2021. In 2022, we engaged about 500 people at HHD and did slake test and cover crop species demonstrations.

Participation Summary:

200 Extension
150 NRCS
50 Researchers
50 Nonprofit
40 Agency
80 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
800 Farmers/ranchers
100 Others
500 Farmers participated

Learning Outcomes

1,200 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

2 Grants received that built upon this project
4 New working collaborations
50 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
2,000 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

Each year I participate through sponsorship with a number of sustainable agriculture programs and attended workshops and conferences with the Nebraska SARE display, showing and providing several of the SARE bulletins to participants and displaying a number of books available through SARE. I also answer questions about the grant programs through NCR-SARE and also the mini-grant and travel scholarship program Nebraska SARE provides to the people of Nebraska. In 2021 I participated in the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Health Farms Conference, which was held virtually, and was a major sponsor. Nebraska SARE participated  in and sponsored the inaugural Alfalfa and Wheat Expo in southeast Nebraska, It was a major sponsor  of the Southeast Nebraska Cover Crop and Soil Health Field Day held in Nemaha County, NE. We also sponsored and participated in the inaugural Nebraska Grazing Cover Crops Workshop held at ENREC, (Eastern Nebraska Research and Extension Center) . Nebraska SARE provided an extensive number of resources for the Cover Crop and Soil Health Team at Husker Harvest Days, one of Nebraska's premier events to demonstrate Extension's work in Agriculture.  SARE continues to be a major force in assisting with sustainable agriculture education in Nebraska.

In 2022, the Nebraska SARE display was at the Nebraska Local Food & Farm conference, the Eastern Nebraska Cover Crop and Soil Health conference, the Small Grains conference, the Silage for Beef cattle conference, West Central Research and Extension Center Field Day, the Alfalfa&Wheat Expo, Husker Harvest Days, the Nebraska cover crop grazing conference, and the Urban Soil Health conference (Omaha). We handed out several hundred SARE bulletins, several hundred MCCC field guides and a few dozen SARE books.

300 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
300 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.