Montana WSARE PDP Grant Proposal 2020

Final report for WSP19-019

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $45,886.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: 4W8433
Grant Recipient: Montana State University Extension - Valley County
Region: Western
State: Montana
State Coordinator:
Patrick Mangan
Montana State University Extension Service
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Project Information


Approximately 85% ($23,000) of the funds Montana receives will be used for a mini-grant program that awards travel funds, scholarships, and small grants to further advance the WSARE mission of professional development that improves sustainable practices in the state.  These grants are usually $2500 or less and may be used to travel to training, hold workshops, tours or events that provide professional development to Extension, NRCS, non-profits organizations (AERO, MOA Etc.), or directly to producers/landowners.  A small portion of the grant will be used for the coordinator to attend the annual meetings ($1234), 11.11% ($2864) for indirect costs, and the remainder is used to promote the face of WSARE through grant-writing workshops, outreach, publications, education and training by the coordinator.

Project Objectives:

The objectives of the project are to increase knowledge, skills and abilities, of professionals to provide relevant and useable guidance on sustainable agriculture, holistic farming, ecosystem preservation and financial stability for ranchers and farmers.   As a result of this, the advisory committee and the coordinator are planning a meeting in 2019 to revise the evaluation criteria and reporting requirements to more accurately reflect the mission of WSARE.

The call for proposals (CFP) will be sent out the first week of January 2020, with applications due by mid-February.  The review committee will review, rank and identify the successful applicants and the coordinator will send letters no later than March 20.  Projects must be completed by October 31, (unless otherwise noted) and a report is due to the coordinator by December 31, 2020.   Reports must include impacts, outcomes and evaluation of the project.  

A final report to WSARE will be submitted by the Coordinator before March 1, 2021. The coordinator will also provide a grant writing workshops at MSU Extensions Annual Conference to help improve the success of applicants, increase awareness of WSARE goals, mission and objectives and to provide outreach to interested parties on sustainable agriculture. 

The review committee and the coordinator plan to meet in 2019 to review the application process, ensure that the goals and objective align with WSARE, and to modify the CFP to more accurately reflect the expected outcomes and evaluation protocols. 


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Wendy Becker - Technical Advisor
  • Robyn Cassel - Technical Advisor
  • Jane Mangold - Technical Advisor
  • Bobbie Roos - Technical Advisor


Educational approach:

The Montana WSARE Professional Development Grant Program strives to offer professional development opportunities to agricultural professionals across the state, including Extension agents, agency representatives, non-profit agricultural advocacy groups, university research scientists, and farmers and ranchers. These professional development opportunities are made possible through a competitive mini-grant program for travel, or the development of a professional development opportunity. Successful mini-grant recipients use grant dollars to fund travel to professional conferences and seminars to learn information that will benefit their constituents. These travel mini-grants allow for a quick spread and dissemination of information from the professional who was awarded the grant through to local area producers and stakeholders through the programming and efforts they design and implement back in their home communities. Other mini-grant recipients organize and deliver field days, local workshops, or other professional development events to producers and other agricultural professionals in their area with the grant funds, to offer information and learning opportunities locally. 

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Western Meat School

To provide professional development through the acquisition of new knowledge to producers and meat processors about the opportunities to process meat products for niche markets and direct marketing opportunities.


Grant funds were used to offer scholarships to livestock producers, meats processors, and agricultural professionals interested in participating in the Western States Meat School, and online module of classes hosted by Oregon State University offered through four states (OR, CO, MT, NM). The eight class series highlighted aspects of producing, processing, and marketing meats products for niche markets and opportunities to market directly to consumers. 

The initiative offered livestock producers the opportunity to learn about the direct marketing of meats products through local processing options in order to gain additional value from their products and create a more sustainable business model for their ranch. 

Classes were held online in November 2020 through January 2021. The fee for the online class series was $120 per registrant. The initiative offered fee reduction scholarships of $60 to producers in the state of Montana to increase access and participation in the training. 

Two Montana based cohorts intended to meet in person and view the broadcasts together as a local group; one in Billings and one in Hamilton. Due to the presence of COVID in these communities, the plans for in person meetings and discussion were put on hold. 

Outcomes and impacts:

Oregon State University and its Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network reported approximately 90 registrants from Montana for the Western Meat School. This PDP award provided discounts/scholarships for 28 of the participants, 30% of Montana registrants.

Participants acquired new knowledge in several topics of the meats processing and marketing industry. Some of the important themes of the class series included: marketing, production of beef and swine for niche processing and marketing, carcass fabrication, labelling, and creating a customer base.

Summative evaluation data from the host university has been difficult to acquire, but some feedback from participants included a desire for additional workshops and meetings covering the following topics: 

  1. Marketing plans and determining target markets
  2. Small scale conventional finishing for beef
  3. Calculating cost of production (COP)

With COVID cancelling the in-person meetings for groups in Billings and Hamilton, tentative plans are underway to hold meetings in 2022. The Montana participants were all invited into a peer-to-peer listserve for continued contacts, with 48 subscribers joining. 

Direct feedback from one participant stated, “Thank you so much for all you did to make it possible for Montanans to take part in the Western Meat School.  It was a great resource for my and my business partners and we are still referencing it as we get started in our business. "

Lamb Carcass Evaluation and Grading

Increase knowledge gained about technologies and techniques available to professionals and producers to measure and assess carcass qualities in lambs.


Montana State University sponsored a lamb Ultrasound certification training at the Ft Ellis Research
Station in Bozeman, MT on September 27-29, 2021. The training was funded through a Western SARE
Professional Development Grant. Ten industry professionals including producers, extension agents,
graduate students and MSU employees attending the training led by Dr. Chris Schauer of the Hettinger
REC. During the three-day training, students learned and discussed technology, lamb carcass traits, the
National Sheep Industry Improvement Program EBVs and the Montana 4-H Certified Lamb Program. 

Outcomes and impacts:

The learning opportunity reached a very diverse group of ten students that included producers, extension agents, extension specialists, graduate students, university professors, industry professionals and experiment
station personnel. Due to health concerns and timing, we were not able to incorporate any carcass
evaluation into this program and focused on ultrasound training and certification.

COVID influenced the full plans for this professional development activity by not allowing the instructors to process lamb carcasses and to gather comparative data through hands on carcass evaluations to compare with ultrasound knowledge and training. The original plan for the evaluations to include hands on carcass evaluation could not be completed. 

At the conclusion of the training all ten students were graded on accuracy of scanning backfat and depth
on twenty lambs and ninety percent met the rigorous standards to become certified lamb ultrasound

Participants have taken this new knowledge back home to constituent counties and regions of Montana to share with producers and the 4-H youth program with a goal of improving flock carcass qualities. 

Bringing Values-based Community Food Systems Leadership to Montana

Increase knowledge gained by professional educators that participate in the training program leading to a certification as a certified trainer of the modules for Montana based instructional opportunities to producers. Three professional agriculturalists will certify as Local Food Leaders, and Community Food Systems programs, both offered through Iowa State University Extension.


Alternative Energy Resources Organization will have three contacts become certified in and bring the two curricula to Montana to teach producers, ag professionals, and community leaders to advocate for values-based community food systems development: (1) The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Local Food Leader (LFL) Certification is an individual skill development program for beginning local food practitioners and local food supporters. LFL teaches several foundational competencies critical to successful involvement in community food systems development. AERO’s goal is to increase capacity for local food practitioners working on food systems programs across Montana. Following certification, AERO will become a trainer, with the goal of building local and regional capacity for values-based food system development.

(2) The ISU Community Food Systems (CFS) certification is intended for intermediate levels of food system practitioners. CFS is a process-based certification that increases capacity for food system practitioners to work within community and develop food systems. “This certification involves visioning techniques, research and community food systems assessments, and strategic development of projects. Participants will gain new skill sets for decision-making, facilitation and team-building techniques, and will learn to bring projects from visioning to implementation for reaching systems-based goals.”

Outcomes and impacts:

Local Food Leader

Certification Timeline: All 3 of our cohort (2 Extension Agents and I) have completed Local Food Leader Certificate.

Funding breakdown: MT SARE Mini-grant funded two people for the LFL Cert ($375 ea). MSU E Food & Nutrition Specialist funded a third participant.

Train the trainer: Kaleena Miller and Katrin Finch (both MSU Extension) and I are registered to take the LFL train-the-trainer course on Feb 5, 2021. 

Both AERO and MSU Extension are still determining the appropriate target audience and approaches for teaching the LFL Certification. During the year of 2020 plans for in-person trainings with producers were cancelled due to the COVID virus outbreak. 

Funding breakdown. Two participants were funded fully with scholarships ($200 ea) from the host institution ISU Extension. MSU Extension Food & Nutrition Specialist funded the third participant for the train-the-trainer.


Community Food Systems 

Certification Timeline: Two participants also engaged in the CFS certification progam. The synchronous learning portion were completed on March 23. Then we will have some time to complete the online learning modules, ISU Extension trainers will grade the modules, and then we will be certified. 

AERO has already been using many of the CFS class materials for a Montana Food Economy Initiative (MFEI) project which is a community food system assessment in Butte. 

Funding breakdown: MT SARE Mini-grant funded two participants for CFS certification ($600 ea).



Montana Organic Farm Tours – Vilicus Farms

Increase knowledge and skills for producers and ranchers in sustainable practices in agriculture on an integrated farm.


The Montana Organic Association hosted a farm tour for approximately 85 participants at Vilicus Farms,  on June 9th, 2021. The farm is located approximately 45 miles north of Havre, MT. This tour was held in place of the Aspen Island Farm Tour at Lavina, MT, that was awarded a Western SARE DPD Mini-grant in 2020 but was unable to meet the requirements of the grant due to COVID-19 public health concerns.   The farm field day held four sessions, covering topics of composting on site and seed cleaning, integrating livestock into cropping systems, introduction to conservation tillage methods, and a discussion of organic farming practices and their impacts on sustainable agricultural systems. 

The farm tour was supported in part by $2500 in grant funds from Western SARE. The total cost for the farm tour was approximately $6,500.00. For the first time, MOA offered Certified Crop Advisory continuing education units. 

Outcomes and impacts:

The pre-survey indicated that there were some who anticipated attending who had little knowledge or experience with organic farming. 50% of producer respondents indicated they were organic certified or had a split operation, the other 50% indicated that they were not organic certified.

One respondent indicated that they are considering organic certification. Most participants participate with some sort of USDA program like CRP, EQIP, CSP, or FSA and most indicated that it is difficult to find employees for their farm, although one respondent indicated it was “easy.” Most participants do not clean their own seed. Participants were surveyed about integrating livestock into their operation and 25% of the producer-respondents indicated that they already do, 10% indicated that they’re interested in learning more and 5% the producer respondents indicated they’re not interested. The remaining respondents indicated that it did not apply to them. 75% of producer respondents indicated that they are part of or interested in learning more about cooperative marketing.


In general, the tour strengthened the resolve of participants to engage in and support organic farmers and ranchers and to consider incorporating more crop and practice diversity on their operations. Participants were polled about different certifications available including the Real Organic Project prior to the tour. Their post-survey responses demonstrated a mixed opinion from being supportive to dismissing additional certifications like Real Organic Project certified. No one indicated that they were less likely to engage in or support organic agriculture. Among the topics identified for future events are more on transitioning to organic production, composting, weed control, crop rotations, collective bargaining, and pollinators.

One participant noted:

"I thought the Vilicus farm team did a great job in presenting the farm and themselves in what they do on the farm. The workers seemed very knowledgeable in answering people's question whether that be on soils, cattle grazing, or crops. I met one of the employers and they seemed very polite and knowledgeable asking my question after the crop tour. "

A second participant stated: 

"I thought it was awesome how they are protecting the soil and how they are keeping it weed free. I love the idea of adding conservation strips to help prevent dirt devils or wind erosion from happening to the soil. I wish my father could have been there at the tour so he could get a better understanding of the tillage strategies with organic. "


Integrated Pest Management Workshop for Plant Disease and Soil Health

To increase knowledge and understanding of soil health concepts and principals and management strategies for agronomists, Extension agents, and other agricultural professionals.


The Integrated Pest Management workshop with a focus on soil health and plant disease was held in person on September 22 and 23, 2021, in Bozeman, MT. Twenty-one Montana State University Extension agents, crop consultants, agronomists, and farmers attended the workshop. The workshop was composed of 10 sessions of lecture-style presentations, hands-on demonstrations in the meeting room and in the field, and lively discussions centered around soil health and its role in integrated pest management. Workshop sessions were led by nine speakers from Montana State University, the Natural Resource and Conservation Service Montana, and North Dakota State University.

Outcomes and impacts:

During the workshop participants learned about soil health concepts and principles, received training on how to assess soil health, and how to interpret and understand soil health test results. Workshop sessions further addressed causes of and solutions for soil acidity and how soil pH affects herbicide efficacy and persistence, the effect of cover crop mixes and termination strategies on soil microbial communities, the North Dakota Soil Microbiome Project, the effect of organic weed management strategies on field bindweed populations and soil health characteristics, the effect of agronomic practices on root nodulation of pulse crops, and the effect of soilborne pathogens on pulse crops, seed potato, and sugar beets. Participants deemed the workshop “very educational,” “informative” and providing “a good learning environment.” The participants’ knowledge on the above-mentioned subjects was increased through the workshop sessions (Figures 1 and 2). Workshop attendees obtained six Montana Department of Agriculture recertification credits and eight Certified Crop Advisor continued education credits.

All workshop sessions were deemed useful or very useful on average by workshop participants (Figures 3 and 4). The discussions throughout and following workshop sessions were lively and workshop participants were very engaged in the topics presented. Changes in the attitude and understanding of soil health and integrated pest management are apparent from the participants survey responses. Below are some examples:
• “[The workshop] really emphasized the connectivity of systems - weather, above ground vegetations, below ground microbiology, below ground abiotic factors.”
• “I had not considered the decrease in efficacy [of herbicides] with the decrease in soil pH. I need to further evaluate this.”
• “I really liked the focus on soil health as an IPM strategy. I think often we default to chemical instead of looking at the whole system.”
• “[The soil health IPM workshop] definitely gives you a different perspective for anyone in agriculture.”

Based on the survey responses, participants appreciated the workshops’ focus on practical information and hands-on training. Each workshop participant received a soil infiltration test kit to take home and some participants immediately started to use the material and knowledge gained for soil health assessments on their own and stakeholders’/clients’ farms (Figure 6). Indicators for changes in the participants’ behavior and action were also found in the survey responses. Below are some examples:
• What was your biggest take-home message from the sessions during workshop day 1? “Read the [pesticide] label.”
• “[The workshop] provides everyone with lots of ideas for research, problem solving directions and resources to reach out for answers.”
• “There are many applicable topics [covered in the workshop] to be used throughout agriculture.”


Montana AgroClimate Workshop

To host a two day conference in Billings, Montana highlighting information and programming in agricultural and forestry systems to support climate resiliency in the intermountain west.


A nine-member steering committee comprised by the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub (NPCH), USDA NRCS Montana, Montana State University Extension, Montana Association of Conservation Districts, and the Intertribal Agriculture Council Rocky Mountain Region co-developed the agenda for the March 14 - 15, 2023 AgroClimate Workshop for Agricultural & Forestry Professionals and Partners. The two-day workshop attracted 90 attendees from throughout Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, as well as a few guest presenters and attendees from Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. The agenda included a diversity of presenters including, but not limited to: researchers from several universities including from an agricultural experiment station and the Montana Climate Office; USDA NRCS employees; agricultural producers; and native-tribal members.

Outcomes and impacts:

The workshop included three, strategically scheduled interactive Small Group Dialogues that built on one-another, which were: (1) Scenario Planning; (2) Communicating about climate on the ground; and (3) Putting tools to work. Through these dialogues, participants provided a wealth of information including needs and opportunities such as:

· Create a website dashboard (i.e., one-stop) linking to relevant (e.g., Grass-Cast, Montana’s Mesonet, the US Drought Monitor);

· Adding virtual fencing as an approved USDA NRCS conservation practice;

· Annual or semi-annual agroclimate workshops to bring more awareness of the topics and to increase knowledge.

A pre – post workshop evaluation was provided to participants. Of the participants who completed and returned their (47% response rate) evaluation they reported an increase in:

· Connection to colleagues who share an interest in climate-related challenges on working lands;

· Confidence to use weather and climate resources; and

· Confidence to discuss climate with stakeholders when it comes up in a conversation.

Next steps. The lead workshop organizers are in the final phase of processing information collected during the Small Group Dialogues. Once the information is fully processed, then the event website will be updated (late spring, early summer 2024) to provide participants and other interested stakeholders to workshop outputs and additional resources.

Extension Agent Professional Development at the Chad Reid Western District AMPIC Conference

The Montana delegation to the Chad Reid Memorial Western AMPIC increased knowledge in agricultural and horticultural practices in desert regions of the interior west through their participation in workshops and field tours.


The Chad Reid Memorial Western AMPIC professional development experience occurs in the fall of each year and is hosted by one of the Extension Agent professional associations in their home state. In October of 2023, the Utah Association hosted a two-day workshop and field day experience for Extension professionals from around the west in St George, Utah. Three members of the Montana Association received a travel grant to attend this event.

The two-day workshop highlighted sustainable agriculture practices in southern Utah’s desert climate and the production of potential specialty crops that can thrive in the region’s conditions while managing limited resources like irrigation water. The workshop combined presentations about research and professional development projects in the region with field site visits to learn more about sustainable agriculture in the area.

Field experiences and trips included a trip to a large cow dairy and forages operation, a peach orchard, and agritourism destination farm, a local vineyard and winery, and a waterwise community horticulture and education garden.

Outcomes and impacts:

Touring Waterwise gardens in St. George, UT
Touring Waterwise gardens in St. George, UT
Group in a peach orchard
Participants learning about growing peaches in southern Utah.

One Montana representative enjoyed the focus on high value specialty crops in the region, and the opportunity to grow specialty crops for a local market on smaller farms in an ever increasingly urbanized landscape where development pressure for housing is a significant issue. The climate offers options for woody perennial crops that can’t be successfully grown in Montana. Producers were able to share insights into climate and working with irrigation systems to maximize efficiency in an arid environment. The participant took home several ideas for implementation on the orchards and vineyards in the region of western Montana where he works.

Another participant enjoyed the visit to the municipal waterwise botanical gardens. This garden, designed and maintained by the local water district and conversation district highlighted landscaping methods and native plant choices that were adapted to the arid and hot conditions of the desert. The garden was filled with educational displays and signage promoting choices in home gardens that will have aesthetic value while conserving water.

The final participant found merit in the diversification of a third-generation dairy to include forage production, beef production, and legal counsel. The children of the owners each manage a separate branch of the ranch and share in the burdens as well as the profits. The diversification has allowed the ranch to remain economically viable while ensuring environmental sustainability. The ranch also fought hard to have the state of Utah re-evaluate the water usage laws in the region

because a loophole in the law had created a shift in agronomics that resulted in overuse of water and a severe draw down on the aquifer that feeds the valley. The changes in the law have reduced true water usage and brought crop diversity back to the area.

All three Montana participants enjoyed the educational trip to southern Utah and increased their knowledge about agricultural issues and practices in the southern interior desert plateau of southern Utah.

Attendance at the Mountain Meat Summit

Increase awareness and acquire new knowledge in developing, owning, and operating a meats industry business in the meat supply chain. Increase knowledge for cattle producers, meats processing center operators, and product marketers about accessing the niche meats products markets.


The primary use of this award was to support travel to the Mountain Meat Summit1, in Denver and Fort Collins, CO, January 10-12, 2023. (T. Bass covered his own travel from other funds). For attendees, the summit introduced market opportunities, built connections, and supported skills development and learning across segments and scales2 of the Mountain Region’s meat supply chain(s).

The summit did this by: a) Providing education and technical assistance to various segments of the meat industry, driving innovation and solution development; b) fostering networking and collaboration among rural and urban stakeholders, thus supporting new market opportunities and enhanced understanding of the realities of ranching and processing; and, c) leveraging land-grant University and partner resources, expertise, and assets to support diverse scales and models across the meat supply chain.

As the Meat Summit is based around collaborative learning, innovation, and problem-solving , project partner attendees brought back new ideas and knowledge to apply to their businesses, share with peers, or formally deliver in the course of Extension work and economic development and business consulting. Sample tracks attended include: labor recruitment, retention, and training; marketing and market pivots during disruption (climate, pandemic, socio-political events…), growing for your market, cost of production, peer-to-peer workshops, and more.

Outcomes and impacts:

The project core team committed to hosting two local events, preferably one in Central Montana and one in Eastern Montana, between March and October 2023.  

  • Event 1: FADC – Local Meat Systems Needs and Updates (webinar - statewide), March 2023  
  • Event 2: Local Meat Systems 101 for Indigenous Communities (live – Billings), May 2023 

Acquisition of new knowledge and skills reported by participants: 

  • How to use CattleFax and understand broader markets 
  • Processing demonstrations 
  • Humane handling (behavior and facilities) 
  • School and institutional procurement 
  • Culinary perspectives on local/regional meat  


Changes in ag professionals’ attitudes or understanding reported by participants: 

  • Local/regional meat systems are complex and require any business in the supply chain to engage across/throughout the supply chain. 
  • Local/regional meat systems are imbedded and influenced by continental and global supply chains. 
  • Local regional meat systems can be nimble and resilient, but also fragile.  


Changes in ag professionals’ behavior and action (projected/suggested): 

  • Getting more information on possible expansion (processor) 
  • Education activity:  learn more about retail innovations (niche meat company) 
  • Educate clients on the different labels and certifications they can leverage (Extension educator) 
  • Understand and seek USDA funding, e.g. processor grants (all attendees) 
  • Biosecurity and FAD planning (producer) 
  • Prospecting new relationships (business) 
  • Share information on composting at processing plants (processor) 
  • Figuring out a more accurate cost of production for meat business/ Utilizing Cornell Meat Calculator (niche meat business) 
  • New branding of products (niche meat business) 
  • Follow up with specifics speakers and instructors to see about sharing their expertise with our audience (Extension educator, FADC) 
  • Investigate mobile processing unit (producer) 
  • Improve record keeping in the meat lab (teacher)
    Participant group at Mountain Meats Summit
    Montana Delegation to the Mountain Meat Summit
Pest Friends Simulation Training for Montana Extension Educators

Montana Extension Educators will receive training and a copy of the Pest Friends Integrated Pest Management simulation game for use in local counties and Reservations in Montana. This tool will increase understanding about IPM practices with local producers who participate in the program when offered locally.


The Pest Friends Integrated Pest Management (IPM) simulation is a WSARE funded project developed to teach producers about IPM strategies for management through a fun and interactive simulation game. 

In the spring of 2023 the University of Idaho Extension Educators who developed the simulation travelled to Miles City, Montana to attend the Montana State University Extension Agriculture, Horticulture, and Natural Resources Programs spring update, and offer a training about how to facilitate the simulation locally to constituents. Montana PDP funds were utilized to buy 30 copies of the simulation game and distribute one to each field faculty who went through the training. 

Outcomes and impacts:

At the end of the four hour training the Montana Extension field faculty had been trained to successfully offer and administer the IPM simulation Pest Friends locally in their counties or communities to teach principles of IPM management in a new and innovative way. 

Thirty County and Reservation based field faculty received copies of the simulation for use in their own programming efforts. These simulations will continue to create opportunities for producers across Montana to acquire a deeper understanding of IPM practices by engaging in a fun and engaging learning environment. 

Extension Agents reported 66% learned something new and valuable by going through the training.  77% intended to offer at least one local Pest Friends simulation event in 2023, and 70% agreed they would like to see more trainings like the one offered in the future. MSU Extension Professionals playing the Pest Friends Simulation

Agricultural Conflict Mediation and Resolution Professional Development Training

A staff member from the Community Food and Agriculture Coalition attended a professional development workshop to gain new skills in mediating conflicts in agricultural situations, to better serve lease holders and land owners when conflicts in the lease arise.


Through this grant opportunity, one CFAC staff member, Mary Ellis, was able to attend a 40 hr Conflict Mediation Training through Chicago’s Center for Conflict Resolution. This training is well known across the country as being one of most intensive and holistic trainings, and provided a great learning experience. Mary was able to learn brand new skills in conflict mediation and spent time during the training practicing these skills through instructor led scenarios.

Outcomes and impacts:

After attending the training in the winter of 2023, CFAC then developed a new service and program. This program is our new Land Lease Mediation Program. We created a landing page on our website where interested producers and landowners can go to learn more: . We also created a facilitated lease guide, evaluations, and the step-by-step process for mediations done by CFAC staff.

After attending the training and developing the new program, CFAC was then able to start offering Land Lease Mediation services to producers and landowners. CFAC provided 13 technical assistance sessions with landowners and producers. These ranged from one-on-one discussions with producers or landowners, to reviewing leases and helping preparing both parties for discussions.

Because of the professional development opportunity provided by this grant, CFAC staff member Mary Ellis was able to develop and learn a whole new skill to bring to the CFAC Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program team. Because of this CFAC was able to develop a new program that will continue to serve beginning farmers, ranchers, and landowners well after the conclusion of this grant.

Through the training Mary gained skills in mediating high stress conversations and how to pinpoint the needs and values of each party. This will play a big role in being able to navigate lease discussions and negotiations. Since leasing is the main way for beginning farmers and ranchers to access land right now, this will be essential program in CFAC’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program.

Through the technical assistance provided by CFAC, producers were able to learn about essential pieces of a lease, and how to approach hard conversations and negotiations. They were also given tools to help them in this process, like what topics to cover in their conversations and how to continue good communication throughout the lease.

Unintended Outcomes

We knew mediation services were needed and wanted in the farming community in Montana, but we did not expect the response from other service providers when we told them about the new service we are offering. Many of them spoke about how needed the service is, and many were excited to see how it would impact the producers they work with.

Another unexpected outcome was how many producers wanted to do pre-lease mediation instead of conflict resolution. This involved discussing all the different aspects of a lease and preparing for discussions with their landowner about lease terms, or us helping the landowner prepare for discussions with the lessee. We believe this is a great way to reduce conflicts down the road, as they are discussing and negotiating many of the potential issues ahead of time. This was the primary topic of many of the Technical Assistance sessions, as well as navigating the lease process.

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
13 Minigrants
3 On-farm demonstrations
1 Online trainings
1 Study circle/focus groups
2 Tours
7 Travel Scholarships
5 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

40 Extension
90 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

292 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
50 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
3 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
200 Farmers reached through participant's programs

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

Outreach and promotion to Extension staff and professionals, as well as to non-profit agricultural boards and organizations. 

100 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
75 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.