Advancing Knowledge of Soil Health Assessment and Management Through California’s North Coast Soil Hub

Progress report for WPDP22-022

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $78,167.00
Projected End Date: 04/30/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G396-22-W9214
Grant Recipients: Marin Resource Conservation District; Napa Resource Conservation District
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Emilie Winfield
Marin Resource Conservation District
Keith Abeles
Sonoma Resource Conservation District
William Hart
Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District
Erica Lundquist
USDA-NRCS Ukiah Field Office
Sanjai Parikh
University of California Davis
Lucas Patzek
Napa County Resource Conservation District
Dr. Kerri Steenwerth
USDA/University of California Davis
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Project Information


The North Coast Soil Hub (Soil Hub) is a network of agricultural professionals, producers, scientists, nonprofits, industry groups, and other innovators who share a mission of supporting the role of agriculture as a natural climate solution through enhancing soil health - the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans - on agricultural lands. Through field trials, demonstrations, events, and carbon farm planning, the Soil Hub has fostered greater recognition of the role soil health plays in creating and maintaining productive, resilient agroecosystems.

This project provides training for agricultural professionals through an education series on complex topics in soil health. Soil Hub members identified the following 5 topics as areas of greatest need for education in order to advance carbon farming programs and better serve producers: interpreting soil tests, biochar, compost, cover crop mixes, and forage planting. The series addresses these topics by bringing together researchers from UC Davis, producers, experts at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs), and other organizations to explore the latest science and methods for assessing soil health and utilizing amendments and soil cover practices. The Soil Hub is connected to a statewide network of agricultural professionals through the CA Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) and educational products from this project will be promoted beyond the North Coast region.

The 5-part series enhances the ability of agricultural professionals to advise producers on sustainable practices by increasing knowledge and comfort with specific topics to address current knowledge gaps. By bringing in educators from across academia, professional service providers, and producers, participants will develop a richer view of soil conservation work happening on the front lines, connecting their experience and education with current work in the field.

Project Objectives:

Objective 1: Develop an education series to respond to the greatest needs of agricultural professionals related to soil health management and assessment, as determined by the Soil Hub and partners. 

Activity: The PIs and planning committee will organize events to provide training for each of the five topics: interpreting soil test results to assess soil health, compost, biochar, cover crops, and forage planting. Educators will be a mix of researchers, staff from NRCS, UCCE, and RCDs, producers, and experts from partner organizations. 


Objective 2: Register a minimum of 25 participants for each event.

Activity: Perform outreach to agricultural professionals in the North Coast region through the Soil Hub network. Promote educational events broadly through established networks to RCDs, NRCS, UCCE, consultants, nonprofits, and other locations where agricultural professionals are active across California to make the events available to a wide audience. Perform outreach to producers who may be interested in attending, as well as members of the community, researchers, and other stakeholders. 


Objective 3: Increase knowledge and understanding of soil health management and assessment among agricultural professionals.

Activity: Deliver 5 virtual and in-person educational events, focused on diving deep into the following topics:  interpreting soil test results to assess soil health, compost, biochar, cover crops, and forage planting.


Objective 4: Evaluate project outcomes.

Activity: Conduct a post-event assessment survey to determine the quality and effectiveness of the events. Following the series, host an evaluation meeting for the Soil Hub to reflect on what was learned and discuss how to incorporate information from the series into carbon farming and education programs. 


Objective 5: Share education products with agricultural professionals statewide.

Activity: Make recordings of the virtual sessions available to all 95 RCDs in California, NRCS and UCCE staff, and carbon farm planners across the state through relevant networks. 


Practice adoption in agriculture often evolves based on knowledge sharing and learning of trials attempted by other agricultural producers. Agricultural professionals succeed in collaborating with producers when they can address technical questions about site-specific concerns based on knowledge from other implementation stories. This series will support agricultural professionals with in-field knowledge and a better technical understanding of how these practices can be implemented on working lands.


The main inputs are financial and human. The planning committee (see attached list) consists of experts from NRCS, UC Davis, and RCDs, and the educators for each session will be a diverse mix of researchers, professionals, and agricultural producers. Funding from WSARE will provide project coordination, stipends for planning committee members and educators, technical support, and trainee support for North Coast agricultural professionals to attend 5 educational sessions and 1 post-series evaluation meeting. 


At the start of the project, the PIs and planning committee will meet to identify educators for each topic with the goal of representing diverse viewpoints and providing a well-rounded educational experience for each topic that goes beyond basic information. After educators have been identified, educators for each session will meet with the PIs and a member of the planning committee to plan the session in order to deliver a holistic educational experience that builds confidence among agricultural professionals to be teachers and leaders in the field and provide high quality services to farmers and ranchers.


With the help of partner organizations, we will perform diligent outreach. In addition to reaching North Coast agricultural professionals through the Soil Hub network, we will make the training widely available through CARCD, NRCS and UC Cooperative Extension offices statewide. We will also perform outreach to other places where technical assistance providers work, such as the Intertribal Agriculture Council, and organizations who have deep ties to the technical assistance community such as California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN). Although the target audience is agricultural professionals, we will open up registration to emerging young leaders through Point Blue Conservation Science’s Community College Conservation Internship program - a program that equips interns with knowledge and tools to grow as environmental leaders. Our goal is to extend the educational series to a broad and diverse audience who may benefit from the learning opportunity and use the information to serve their communities.

GANTT WSARE PDP 2022 - Soil Hub

Planning Committee - WSARE PDP Soil Hub


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Tony Rolfes - Technical Advisor
  • Kristan Norman - Technical Advisor
  • Karen Lowell - Technical Advisor
  • Simone Albuquerque
  • Jacob Taulbee
  • Seth Myrick
  • Jeffrey Stackhouse - Technical Advisor
  • Kelsey Brewer - Technical Advisor


Educational approach:

The workshop series for agricultural professionals will focus on providing tools and resources to attendees in order to provide high quality services to agricultural producers in the North Coast region and throughout California. The five workshops will focus on soil health assessment and management techniques. Education strategies include experiential learning, demonstrations, and small group peer-to-peer learning.

The five-part educational series was carried out in 2023 and included the following: 1 field day, 1 virtual webinar, 1 virtual workshop, and 2 classroom-based workshops.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Soil health management and assessment

Outreach was conducted separately for each educational workshop, depending on workshop format and attendance goals. We performed outreach to agricultural professionals at NRCS, UCCE, RCDs, nonprofits, and private technical service providers, as well as agricultural producers.

Outcomes and impacts:

Participants gained practical knowledge and understanding related to in-field soil health assessment, soil lab analysis, compost production and application, biochar application, rangeland forage planting, and strategies for cover cropping in perennial systems.

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Webinars / talks / presentations
3 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

10 Extension
10 Researchers
25 Nonprofit
55 Agency
10 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
35 Farmers/ranchers
36 Others

Project Outcomes

12 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

None to report at this stage.

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.