Regenerative Agriculture: connecting soil health, native bee habitat, and climate resilience through on-farm management strategies

Final report for WRGR19-03

Project Type: Research to Grass Roots
Funds awarded in 2019: $30,886.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Host Institution Award ID: G137-20-W7507
Grant Recipients: Our Family Farms; Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network (OrCAN)
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Elise Higley
Our Family Farms
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Project Information

Abstract:

We will utilize SARE research to illustrate the benefits of strategic management decisions that can have multiple benefits to the environment, the farmer’s budget, and the greater community. This project will focus on and promote agricultural practices relevant to Oregon producers that effectively keep carbon-rich materials in the soil and support native bee nesting habitat, such as reduced tillage, cover cropping, perennial plantings, additions of organic matter, and leaving crop stubble.

We will develop and provide educational materials focused on climate resilience, carbon sequestration and native bee health, and conduct outreach online through our website, facebook and instagram pages, and network of farmer organizations.  And we will host events including on-farm workshops with demonstrations that provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities that connect soil building strategies with those that support native bee habitat, and help create climate resilience for Oregon farmers.   

This project will provide a clear path from research to education and outreach throughout Oregon. By supporting farmers with peer-to-peer learning opportunities, educational events that also demonstrate on-farm practices, and user friendly resources farmers will be better equipped to make informed decisions about how to plan for climate resilience. The goal is to show that by stacking functions, farmers are able to support native bees and other insects, improve soil health, sequester carbon in the soil, and better prepare their farm for weather extremes that may include floods and drought. We plan to promote these practices and associated resources as widely as possible.

Project Objectives:

September 2019 - December 2020    

Collaborate with partners, confirm partner roles, identify timeline and plan educational farm events

Create educational tri-fold handout about managing for climate, soil and pollinators for distribution at events and through farmer networks

January-March 2021

Plan farmer to farmer events, including on-farm demonstrations to share management strategies

Print educational tri-fold handout about managing for climate, soil and pollinators for distribution at events and through farmer networks

Share Oregon native bee field guide, “Common Bee Pollinators of Oregon Crops" (Oregon Dept. Ag.)

Share Oregon State University, Best Management Practices, Soil bulletin, 2016

Share “Cultivating Climate Resilience on Farms and Ranches” (SARE)

 

Mar-Sept 2021

Host 4 peer-to-peer events for farmers that feature demonstrations and educational materials listed above

 

Feb - July2021       

Schedule, coordinate, and host a public education on-farm event to increase basic native bee identification and habitat enhancement skills for farmers and community members. Distribute educational materials. Event is ccheduled for July 18, 2021 with educational activities for community members.

 

July - Sept 2021

Post short demonstration videos to www.ourfamilyfarms.org

Evaluate project and survey participating producers

Contribute data to Oregon Bee Project

 

Objectives:

Plan, coordinate and host          4 farm to farmer workshops including demonstrations

Create                                      2 short video demonstrations from farm workshops to post online

Plan, coordinate and host         1 public education event

Develop and distribute             1 tri-fold brochure focused on farm management practices

Distribute educational materials listed above

Further develop a network of farmers concerned about climate resilience with OrCAN.

Educate farmers and community members across Oregon about the connections between climate resilience, soil building, and native pollinator habitat enhancement.

Develop and track participants and farms interested and engaged in citizen science efforts related to tracking native bee populations on farms. Contribute this data to Oregon Bee Project.

Share information about management strategies that build soil and create habitat for pollinators through partner networks.

Share demonstration videos from farm workshops online and with partner organizations.

Introduction:

When climate change exposes crops to extreme and unpredictable conditions, the productivity of Oregon agriculture is threatened. Severe storms, heat extremes, fires, droughts, and floods lead to decreased crop yields, soil erosion, infrastructure damage, and disease/insect infestation.  “High Quality soil is one of the more effective natural resource-based climate risk management tools available to agricultural producers”  (Lengnick 2015). According to a study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal last year (November 2017), better soil management could boost carbon stored in the top layer of the soil by up to 1.85 gigatonnes each year, about the same as the carbon emissions of transport globally.

Pollination services are essential to most farming systems, and research has shown that European honeybees don’t pollinate during weather events like rain, wind, or extreme heat.  With mounting evidence that weather extremes are the new normal, the risk of reduced pollination from European honeybees is imminent (Roa 2011).  However, a new focus on the role of native bees, that pollinate crops successfully during weather extremes offers hope in a changing climate (Frankie 2018).  However, despite the fact that there are 500 species of bees in Oregon, many farmers are not able to identify them, nor do they know how to enhance their habitat on the farm.

Our Family farms is a state-wide, Oregon 501-C(3) whose mission is to educate, and inspire farmers and the community at large to support regenerative agriculture.  Regenerative Agriculture is a holistic management approach that incorporates biodiversity, soil health, watersheds, and supports other ecosystem services. Our Family Farms and Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network are uniquely positioned to utilize previously funded SARE research in order to create and disseminate educational materials that provide a tool kit for farmers that connect climate, soil, and native pollinator health.  We will utilize and promote results from the following completed SARE research projects. 

SW 03-040      “Assessing Soil Quality in Intensive Organic Management Systems

SW 13-017“Integrating Research and practice in systems management of organic vegetable farms

SW 11-122 “Incorporating Cover Crops ad Green Manure in High-Desert Organic and Conventional Farming Systems”

SW 04-072  “Managing Cover Crop and Conservation Tillage Systems To Enhance Vegetable Crop Yields, Economic Returns and Environmental Quality”    

FW17-039  “Saving Water and Improving Soil Health Through LESA, Cover Crops, No-Till, and Management Intensive Grazing,”

SW 14-011      “Farming for Native Bees”

SW 08-056      “Enhancement of pollination by native bees in blueberries and cranberries”

ONE 09-107    “Native Bee habitat Rehabilitation; Encouraging greater adoption of sustainable pollination practices”

The soil management research projects listed above have studied effective ways for assessing and improving soil quality through management strategies such as reduced tillage, cover crops, incorporating crop residues, compost applications and other methods for incorporating carbon into the soil.

The native pollinator research projects listed above identified the socio-economic importance of native pollinators, their role in pollination services even in extreme weather, as well as strategies to support their habitat.  Although each of these projects contributed important research for farmers, the actual tips for implementing these strategies were lacking. More education and outreach is needed to connect soil building strategies that also create native bee nesting habitat.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Megan Kemple (Educator)
  • Elise Higley (Educator)

Education

Educational approach:

Develop and print educational tri-fold handout about managing for climate, soil and pollinators for distribution at events and through farmer networks.

Distribute educational materials on our website: Oregon native bee field guide, “Common Bee Pollinators of Oregon Crops" (Oregon Dept. Ag.), Oregon State University, Best Management Practices, Soil bulletin, 2016, and “Cultivating Climate Resilience on Farms and Ranches”.

Host 4 peer to peer learning events for farmers including demonstrations to share management strategies.

Host a public education on-farm event to increase basic native bee identification and habitat enhancement skills for farmers and community members.

Create 2 short videos from the farmer to farmer events to distribute on our website and share on social media.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Climate resilience for Farmers
Objective:

Increase producers’ awareness of climate smart agricultural practices relevant to Oregon. Promote agricultural practices relevant to Oregon producers that effectively keep carbon-rich materials in the soil.

Description:

Develop educational tri-fold handout about managing for climate, soil and pollinators for distribution at events and through farmer networks.

Print and distribute Oregon State University, Best Management Practices, Soil bulletin, 2016 and “Cultivating Climate Resilience on Farms and Ranches” (SARE).

Host peer to peer events for farmers with demonstrations that provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities that connect soil building strategies with those that support native bee habitat, and help create climate resilience for Oregon farmers. Soil building strategies include reduced tillage, cover cropping, perennial plantings, additions of organic matter, and leaving crop stubble for pollinators.

Outcomes and impacts:

Support farmers with educational materials and peer-to-peer learning opportunities at educational events that demonstrate on-farm practices, and user friendly resources, so farmers will be better equipped to make informed decisions about how to plan for climate resilience. The goal is to show that by stacking functions, farmers are able to support native bees and other insects, improve soil health, sequester carbon in the soil, and better prepare their farm for weather extremes that may include floods and drought.

Farmers who plan for climate resilience are more likely to adapt to the changing needs of their land, shifting planting times, variations for irrigation needs, and other adaptions necessary to be prepared for weather extremes. This integrated planning goes a long way in helping farms continue to meet their financial needs and can enhance the viability of rural communities.

Native bees
Objective:

Increase basic native bee identification and habitat enhancement skills

Description:

Share Oregon native bee field guide, “Common Bee Pollinators of Oregon Crops" (Oregon Dept. Ag.)

Host peer to peer learning events for farmers with demonstrations that provide peer-to-peer learning opportunities that connect soil building strategies with those that support native bee habitat. Strategies include reduced tillage, cover cropping, perennial plantings, additions of organic matter, and leaving crop stubble for pollinators.

Outcomes and impacts:

Connect areas of farm life that optimize resources and integrate biological cycles through the management of crop stubble and carbon-rich material in-the-field. Native pollinators that utilize crop stubble are key biological agents for pollination and resulting fruit set. By emphasizing the management strategies that build soil, support climate resilience, and provide habitat, there is less need for chemical inputs, and perhaps more investment from farmers to optimize these strategies that stack beneficial functions.

Educational & Outreach Activities

3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
4 Online trainings
2 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

4 Nonprofit
123 Farmers/ranchers
252 Others
Education/outreach description:

Developed 1 tri-fold brochure for farmers focused on farm management practices for climate resilience with Oregon Climate and Agriculture Network and Pollinator Project Rogue Valley. The brochure provides information about healthy soil and the importance of native pollinators on the farm.

Hosted educational Series of 4 farmer to farmer online events focused on farmers sharing their soil health and climate resilience management strategies and learning from each other. The series provided tangible how-to suggestions for farms to manage for healthy soils, pollinator habitat and how to become more climate resilient. Farmers were encouraged to share successes and challenges they’ve had with the best practices in the SARE research we are drawing upon.

Hosted Pollinators and Climate Resilience virtual workshop on 7/13/21 from 6-7 pm with Facilitator Elise Higley. 28 people registered for the event. The event was recorded and made available on our website.

Hosted Climate resilience virtual workshop on 6/13/21 from 6-7 pm with facilitator Elise Higley and cohost Ashley Rood with OrCAN. 11 people registered for the event.

Hosted “Dry Farming” virtual workshop on 9/3/21 from 7-8 pm with facilitator Andrew Schwarz of Ridgeline Meadows Farm. 46 people registered for the event. The event was recorded and made available on our website.

Hosted "Soil Health Learning Circle" virtual workshop on 09/27/21 from Noon-1pm with cohost OrCAN and Facilitator Zach Menchini of Campfire Farms. 38 people registered for the event. The event was recorded and made available on our website.

Created a pollinator information sheet and activity sheet that was used at farms on the Rogue Valley Farm Tour on 7/18/21 to inform participants about native pollinators and encourage them to look for pollinators at the farms they visited.

Hosted one community event on 7/18/21 from 10 am - 3pm at Oshala Farm as part of the Rogue Valley Farm Tour. Over 250 people participated in the event. The pollinator activity sheet and climate resilient farming brochure were distributed.

Created a website page (​​https://www.ourfamilyfarms.org/resilient_farming) for farmers with climate resilient farming brochure information and links to additional information, including completed SARE research projects.

Created and distributed educational calendars to 260 farmers and community members highlighting the climate resilient farming brochure and pollinator information.

Developed a mailing list for participating farmers to share information and resources about climate resilient farm management strategies that build soil and create habitat for pollinators in the future.

Learning Outcomes

377 Service providers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of project outreach
38 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
4 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

The project activities:

  1. Increased farmers and ranchers awareness of climate smart farm management practices. The educational brochure and farmer to farmer learning sessions better equipped participants to make informed decisions about how to plan for climate resilience on their land, including improving soil health, sequestering carbon in the soil, and supporting native bees and other insects. Farmers learned about the benefits of reduced tillage, cover cropping, perennial plantings, additions of organic matter, and leaving crop stubble for pollinators.
  2. Increased farmers and ranchers knowledge of soil health by emphasizing a holistic approach, including keeping the soil covered, minimizing soil disturbance and inputs, maximizing biodiversity, maintaining living roots, and integrating animals.
  3. Increased basic native bee identification and habitat enhancement skills for farmers and the community. The pollinator information and activity sheet increased knowledge about native pollinators in Oregon and offered suggestions for creating pollinator habitat. Farmers were encouraged to connect areas of farm life that optimize resources and integrate biological cycles through the management of crop stubble and carbon-rich material in-the-field.
  4. Informed and better prepared farmers for weather extremes from climate change by emphasizing the management strategies that build soil, support climate resilience, and provide habitat for pollinators.
  5. The website page and demonstration videos from the online workshops are available online and we will continue to share information about management strategies that build soil health and create habitat for pollinators through Our Family Farms mailing list and through partner networks.
Success stories:
  1. At our first listening session, farmers Dakota and Anna of Leaping Lamb Farm, Talent OR were connected with other local farmers to borrow a no till drill.

     

  2. Relationship formed with OrCAN through the project lead to a statewide working group that led to the approval of $1.3 million in funds for a Disaster Relief Fund (in 2022) for Oregon small farmers affected by the drought.

Information Products

    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.