Western SARE 2020 in Washington State

Final report for WSP20-008

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $45,886.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G203-22-W7905
Grant Recipient: Washington State University
Region: Western
State: Washington
State Coordinator:
Chad Kruger
Washington State University
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Project Information


The SARE PDP in Washington is designed to help Extension, Conservation Districts, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other agricultural professionals increase their ability to respond to the needs of farmers, ranchers, and the public regarding sustainable agriculture concepts and systems.

In Washington State, SARE PDP is housed in WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR), which has joint responsibilities for sustainable agriculture research and extension programming. The goal of our professional development program is to help WSU Extension, CDs, NRCS, and other agency personnel to gain knowledge and skills that will help them serve their constituents in these areas to promote the health of Washington’s people, land, and communities, including accessing available information from WSU researchers as well as the SARE program, and other venues. This is accomplished through mini-grants to attend conferences and workshops; mini-grants to host professional development events; regional and statewide educational events; and the development of webinars and other emerging educational and communication tools.

Project Objectives:
  1. Facilitate knowledge gain for 100 agricultural professionals by providing mini-grants for attending and hosting professional development events. Topics will vary but will include priority areas described above and other sustainable agriculture areas of need. Proposals will be accepted on a rolling basis and events will be completed before the end of the grant period.
  2. Facilitate knowledge gain for 100 agricultural professionals by providing funding to coordinate larger educational events. Events will be completed before the end of the grant period.
  3. Facilitate knowledge gain for 50 agricultural professionals by providing sustainable agriculture presentations via webinar and other emerging technologies. Presentations will be online before the end of the grant period.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Chad Kruger
  • Jim Baird
  • Griffin Berger
  • Kevin Corliss
  • Brenda Book
  • Tim Crosby
  • Laurie Davies
  • Nichole Embertson
  • Joe Gies
  • Maurice Robinette
  • Derek Sandison
  • Anne Schwartz
  • Jill Smith
  • Bill Warren
  • Andy Wilcox
  • Jim Baird
  • Griffin Berger
  • Kevin Corliss
  • Brenda Book
  • Tim Crosby
  • Laurie Davies
  • Nichole Embertson
  • Joe Gies
  • Maurice Robinette
  • Derek Sandison
  • Anne Schwartz
  • Jill Smith
  • Bill Warren
  • Andy Wilcox


Educational approach:

Our proposed strategy for education is through agriculture professional training through a combination of virtual and in-person activities, with a focus on mini-grant sponsored attendance and the hosting of targeted workshops for agriculture professionals.

Education & Outreach Initiatives


To train educators on diversity issues that will help us connect under-represented farmers and communities with support resources for sustainable agriculture.


2020 provided clear evidence that our broader society needs to address diversity issues more deliberately. This is also the case with agriculture and food systems. To be effective in partnering with a more diverse audience, ag educators need training on navigating differences (culture, race, ethnicity, etc.).

Outcomes and impacts:

To date, we have focused on incorporating sessions that address diversity issues into events that have a broad target audience. By merging these sessions into the greater event, we encouraged attendance and maintained engagement with the subject discussions. Specific responses from evaluation data indicating participant satisfaction with the sessions are included below the relevant session. At this stage, impacts include providing a platform for diverse perspectives to be shared and initiating conversations around diversity in practical topics. Participants were extremely receptive to Roylene Comes At Night’s session on tribal ecological knowledge and soil health and were eager to search out more information from that session.

Specific sessions:

  • WSU All Extension Meeting PANEL II – Climate justice, and why everyone must help. Rishi Sugla, Frontline Community Climate Resilience Scientist, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington.
  • SoilCon 2022 Native American Perspectives: Tribal Ecological Knowledge. Roylene Comes At Night, NRCS Washington State Conservationist.
    • Feedback on Native American Perspectives session:
      • “I appreciated the Native American perspectives and hope to learn & incorporate more Tribal Ecological Knowledge into my work”
      • “My perspective is broadened on what to include when discussing soil health and the spectrum of approaches used in "sustainable" agricultural practices”
WSU Extension Action in a Changing Climate

- Participants learn ways to integrate and infuse climate change considerations throughout their programming.
- Participants are motivated and empowered to integrate climate change considerations into their programming and make commitments on how to best do so.
- Participants contribute to the development of a white paper intended to position WSU Extension’s work on climate change for the future while also articulating the existing and additional resources needed to deliver on that vision.


The WSARE PDP funds supported Washington State University Extension’s system-wide annual meeting, titled Extension Action in a Changing Climate, which occurred at the WSU Tri-Cities Campus in Richland, Washington on July 11-14, 2022.

The impetus for this topic arose from conversations within the recently convened WSU Climate Education and Extension Team, and a subset of this team formed the event’s planning committee. Members of this committee shared that this is the first time WSU Extension had offered a single-topic conference to all its faculty and staff. The selection of the focus on climate change, as well as the articulation of the conference goals, reflects a recognition of the pervasive nature of climate change impacts and that the risks posed by these climatic changes can function as multipliers to a range of other risks and impacts that variably affect Extension’s clientele. As such, there was interest and support from Extension leadership for a forum to articulate support for Extension action on climate change, and for sharing information on the topic, as well as providing a space for everyone participating to articulate a vision for Extension’s role in addressing climate change and its impacts across Washington State.

The event included almost a full day of keynote talks, presentations and panel discussions which included the science of climate change impacts and mitigation opportunities, national level action in this sphere, perspectives from young people, discussions of climate justice and inclusivity (supported by the Assistant Dean of Inclusive Excellence at CAHNRS), and examples of Extension programs currently addressing climate change related challenges. The event also included a series of learning workshops on climate communication, climate anxiety, and mind-set change. And finally, the event included a full day of working sessions where participants self-organized around different climate adaptation and mitigation topics and began articulating elements of a WSU Extension position on the topic, discussing and striving to answer the following questions:

Background: Key Questions

  • How is WSU Extension responding?
  • What difference is WSU Extension making?
  • What could WSU Extension do with additional resources and partnerships?
Outcomes and impacts:

The WSARE PDP funds supported efforts to invite presenters from across Washington State University – many of whom would not have otherwise attended this Extension-targeted conference – and across the country, namely:

  • Kris Johnson, Professor, Animal Sciences Department, WSU – PANEL V – WSU applied climate research
  • Anne Pisor, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, WSU – PANEL V – WSU applied climate research
  • Hannah Goodspeed, WSU student – KEYNOTE I – Young voices on climate change: WSU Undergraduates
  • Hugo Vasconcelos, WSU student – KEYNOTE I – Young voices on climate change: WSU Undergraduates
  • Emily Boatright, WSU student – KEYNOTE I – Young voices on climate change: WSU Undergraduates
  • Rishi Sugla, Frontline Community Climate Resilience Scientist, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington – PANEL II – Climate justice, and why everyone must help
  • Crystal Raymond, Climate Adaptation Specialist, Climate Impacts Group, University of Washington – PANEL I – WA State climate disturbances: Human, environmental, and economic impacts
  • Paul Loikith, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Portland State University – PANEL I – WA State climate disturbances: Human, environmental, and economic impacts
  • Jenifer Wightman, Senior Extension Associate, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University – KEYNOTE II – Mitigation strategies for farms and forests
  • Paul LaChapelle, Professor, Department of Political Science, Montana State University – PANEL III – Cool examples of climate change Extension and outreach programs

PANEL IV – Increasing adaptive capacity and community resilience

  • Mike Peronto, WSU Master Gardener, Pierce County
  • Sonia Hall, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, WSU – Planning Committee member and facilitator for White Paper Working Group sessions

WSU Extension fielded an evaluation survey after the conclusion of the conference. They received 29 responses, representing 19% of registrants.

Overall, 75% of respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with the conference. That percentage rose to 84% when responding specifically to the speakers at the conference, and to 88% when focused specifically on the presentations given.

59% of respondents stated that climate change was already included in their existing programming, research and/or services before the conference. However, 41% stated the identified new ways to integrate climate change into their existing programming, research or services, with an additional 38% responding “maybe” to this question. Similarly, when asked whether they had identified now programming, research or services that they could implement to integrate climate change into their activities, 21% responded “yes” and an additional 32% responded “maybe.”

The survey also explored perspectives on confidence addressing climate change related topics. 36% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they had adequate institutions support from WSU to move forward in climate change work, and 50% agreed or strongly agreed that they felt more confident communicating about climate change because of the conference.

Tilth Conference Sessions

- Explore principles of biofumigation and practical implementations to increase farm sustainability.
- Highlight challenges that organic fruit growers face and explore practical solutions.
- Introduce the Washington State Soil Health Initiative and main priorities through the coming years.


Through a partnership with Tilth Alliance, we were able to support three sessions at the 2022 Tilth Conference. These sessions included BioFumigation: Sustaining the Future of Agriculture, Unique Food Safety Challenges for Organic Fruit Growers in Washington State and Introducing the Washington State Soil Health Initiative: Panel Discussion and Listening Session.

Outcomes and impacts:

These sessions provided multiple perspectives into challenges and sustainable solutions to pressing issues in current agricultural production. Attendance was primarily producers and consultants, with the Washington State Soil Health Initiative (WaSHI) panel being the best attended with 20 people. Through the WaSHI panel, 95% of survey respondents stated they learned new information through this session, though 32% stated that they would implement practices from this session. It was noted on multiple occasions that the information was useful in understanding soil health metrics and new policy but was a more conceptual rather than practical session. Participants expressed gratitude for the openness and practicality of the presenters and stated they would be “looking forward to participating in the future”.

The Biofumigation and Food Safety Challenges sessions had 15 and 8 participants, respectively. Through the Biofumigation session, 100% of survey respondents stated that they learned new information and 92% stated they would be implementing techniques learned through this session. They noted that this session provided “useful” and “deep” breadth of knowledge. The Food Safety session reported that 40% of survey respondents learned new information and 40% would implement new techniques. Due to the lower attendance and response rate, responses were heavily influenced by profession. Respondents noted that while the session was relevant and interesting, they were not likely to use the information unless they were a farmer.

Sustainable Agriculture Mini-Grants

Facilitate knowledge gain for 100 agricultural professionals by providing mini-grants for attending and hosting professional development events. Topics will vary but will include priority areas described above and other sustainable agriculture areas of need.


The goal of our PDP is to help WSU Extension, NRCS, Conservation Districts and other agency personnel gain knowledge and skills that will help them serve their constituents to promote the health of Washington’s people, animals, land, and communities. Therefore, we allocate mini-grants to individuals so that they can take advantage of educational events put on by professional organizations or regional/national events, and host educational sessions at regional conferences and symposiums.

Outcomes and impacts:

Northwest Cider Symposium: Climate Change Implications, Opportunities, and Planning for Uncertainty Session (Hosted)

The Northwest Cider Symposium brings together cider industry professionals, including apple growers, researchers, consultants, and cidermakers. This session “Climate Change Implications, Opportunities, and Planning for Uncertainty” was hosted by Katie Doonan of CSANR and Marcus Robert, President of Tieton Cider Works. The session outlined the state of research on climate change risks and adaptation within the tree fruit industry and impacts and successful sustainability measures seen in the industry. Intended behavior change objectives included seeking latest information on climate impacts for their operation and increasing flexibility in management decisions based on actual conditions rather than historical practices.

64 people attended the session. Evaluation data was gathered through an online survey directly following the session. 18 survey responses were collected, with 94% reporting knowledge gain due to this session and 94% reported an intent for behavior change in their practices due to this session. Highlighted comments included “Your work is extremely important and also inspiring for me to learn more about future sustainability and food science. Thank you so much!” and “Fascinating info! Whether we use it to project how our orchard is developed, I don’t know! But thank you”.

Washington State Farmers Market Association Symposium: What Does Climate Change Mean for Washington Farmers? Session (Hosted)

The Washington State Farmers Market Association Symposium partners farmers, Extension, researchers, farmers market professionals, and agricultural professionals for educational sessions across production, sustainability, and future farm and farmers market resiliency. Key considerations in farm and farmers market management include wildfire smoke, heat domes, cold domes, and flooding. CSANR’s Sonia Hall and Chad Kruger, leaders in the intersection of climate and agriculture, provided insight to help attendees understand what the natural scientists are discovering about changes afoot for farmers – and where we are heading under climate change.

Questions explored:

  • What do we know about where food may be grown and when it will be brought to market in the future?
  • How can we engage and where can we find more resources on this topic?

40 people attended this session across a range of agricultural professions. 81% indicated they gained knowledge through this session and 57% noted an intention to incorporate material into their practices. Highlighted feedback includes: “Fascinating to put all this research into context. Thank you for all distilling it to this level.”, “Great sharing of resources and balance of concern and opportunities that may arise with climate change.” “Not helpful for the season, but insightful for long-term planning, recruitment, etc.”

Science Talk (Attendance)

Science Talk is a conference focused on applying principles of science communication across a range of disciplines, especially to increase outreach and education toward intended audiences. Two participants were funded to attend Science Talk, where sessions included topics such as reducing jargon in public communication, increasing conservation efforts through messaging, and engaging with audiences of multiple languages, cultures, and beliefs. Participants noted that they learned how to be more inclusive of diverse audiences while developing engaging content to educate and inspire action from intended audiences.

Knowledge gained through participation in this session will be shared through CSANR faculty development meetings and through the WSU project management working group.

Howard Wyman Sheep Leadership School (Attendance)

26 participants from 14 states came together in Columbus, OH for the Howard Wyman Leadership School. Participants included sheep producers, processors, industry experts and extension staff to network and learn from university and private sectors on how to raise, market and process sheep products.  Participants took lambs from farm to table to see all aspects of the sheep industry and familiarize themselves with areas they may lack expertise in. The funded attendee noted that they learned producers are prioritizing raising healthy sheep while providing a safe, economical, and sustainable food and fiber products for the public. This was apparent across the US, regardless of region, and Extension professionals are a valuable resource for progressing these priorities in sustainable livestock management.

As part of the regional small farms Extension team, the funded participant will use and share this knowledge while on farm visits and at regional “Dirt Talks”- Extension sponsored farm walks for the public. Their target audience is local landowners either currently in sheep production or those with an interest in learning to raise sheep on their properties. Programming is expected to reach 25-50 people annually.

PNDSA Annual Cropping Systems Conference (Attendance)

The PNDSA Annual Cropping Systems Conference is a producer-focused continuing education event for the applied aspects of soil health, cropping system diversification, and this year was very focused on ‘Regenerative Ag.’ The keynotes and sessions covered many topics including a global context of production ag, soil testing for biology, roller crimping cover crops, industrial hemp production, the implications of climate change and the carbon market for ag, and the regenerative agriculture headliner for the special session John Kempf.

This conference discussed reduced dependency on synthetic fertilizers, promoting soil biology for nutrient cycling and pathogen suppression. Also of current interest is foliar feeding-particularly micro-nutrients, and that growers focused on soil health in the iPNW continue to be interested in mixed species cover crops and particularly in grazing them when they are in rotation. Leveraged benefits of this experience will be two-fold – through informing the development of outreach programming, and by reinforcing and building attendee’s professional network.  The funded attendee is creating videos about microbially mitigated nutrient cycling and other key biological systems in the soil.

Wetland Training Institute’s Basic Wetland Delineation (Attendance)

The Wetland Training Institute’s Basic Wetland Delineation course offered both a self-paced online lecture series and two-day field practicum in the Marysville/Arlington area. Participants learned the technical guidelines for wetland delineations, including field indicators of hydrophytic vegetation, hydric soils, and wetland hydrology, as well as methods for making jurisdictional determinations and methods for applying to difficult situations.

Whidbey Island Conservation District partners with staff from Washington State University Extension Island County Farm and Food Systems Program on a regular basis through the “Whidbey Island Growers Association” – an informal group of farmers on the island who’ve been meeting regularly since 2015 with WICD and WSU as the coordinators of this group. “WIGA” as it is called is in the process of looking to the future of how and what they’d like to learn about as farmers. It seems like the group is trending toward wanting to have another series of educational speakers come to potlucks and teach them about “hot topics” and attendee is prepared to conduct the “Rural Property Prep” workshop at a future WIGA potluck with emphasis on HEL/WC information and wetlands management in the coming year. Through this partnership with WSU staff, they will also learn and glean this information to relay to their audiences.

Environmental stewardship, at its core, requires systems-based solutions and practices to address the complex challenges we are experiencing today in the agricultural industry. Land use alteration is occurring at a quick pace in our Pacific Northwest region, brought on by residential and commercial development on thousands of acres of historic farm and forest land. Combined with the precipitation shifts and more extreme weather events - a result of climate change - our farmers are at a crossroads. Gone are the days of easily bending the landscape to suit their needs. The way many producers have farmed for decades no longer works as well on the properties they own, requiring a shift in both thinking and doing. Instead of adapting the land to us, what our region is experiencing is asking us to adapt ourselves and our farming practices to the land. Conventional, and even sustainable, agriculture movements have traditionally followed the premise that we can indefinitely adapt our landscapes to suit our needs and grow the crops we want. With the emergence of regenerative agriculture in popular culture today, consumers are asking for farmers to demonstrate not just how well they are producing their food, but also how they are contributing to greater ecological integrity through soil building, water quality improvements, and carbon sequestration.

Climate Conversations (Attending)

Climate Conversations is a 5-session online class that focuses on effectively and authentically engaging others in discussing climate change. The program will result in tangible communication skills, with the opportunity to practice how to talk about climate science in a variety of settings, including conversations with colleagues, clients, and family.

Kalispel Reservation, Clark, Island, and Snohomish Counties are implementing a pilot program titled Integrating Climate Change Education Mitigation, and Adaptation throughout WSU Extension Programs. This training will be an essential tool in how to communicate issues of climate change with staff, university, and community. The goal, with this pilot program, is to do the following:

  • Discover how the current work in three county WSU Extension offices, and one tribal program is addressing issues of climate change through adaptation, mitigation, or education along the continuum of local growers from farm to table including county services and transportation networks relative to food systems.
  • Research how Extension offices can develop and implement internal environmental and system changes that shift every day sustainable agriculture, business, and programmatic practices.
  • Research how other universities and Extension programs communicate similar work.
  • How are Extension’s impacts communicated? We are interested in crafting public value statements around the impact of Extension programming in relation to climate change.

This training will inform how others are engaged through these goals and help develop content for the program. The participants present these findings through the monthly WSU Extension Climate Change Action Working Group meetings.

SoilCon (2022 and 2023)

- Increase the knowledge of soil health principles and practices by agricultural professionals and producers. More specifically, knowledge increases will relate to definitions of soil health, factors that positively and negatively impact soil health, the current state of scientific understanding of soil health, and methods to assess soil health.
- Increase awareness of soil health in agricultural professionals, producers, environmental constituents, and the public.


Objectives will be accomplished through annual development and presentation of SoilCon, a conference specifically combining research, professional, and industry interests and perspectives. SoilCon will provide context around why soil health is important, what soil health consists of, and how to create or maintain soil health in various production systems and regions.

Outcomes and impacts:

SoilCon will address the latest research to help people put those production topics into practice for regional systems. SoilCon will explain what metrics are used when assessing soil health, how these may change by production system and region, and management practices to support a resilient soil system. The topics are relevant to agriculture or natural resource professionals, producers, consultants, university faculty and students, and interested members of the public.

We expect healthy soils to be resilient against disturbances such as flooding, drought, or high winds; to support crop production with suitable nutrient, moisture, and physical conditions; to support beneficial biological activity that decomposes crop residues, cycles nutrients, forms soil structure, and helps fight disease; to contribute to environmental sustainability by filtering pollutants and reducing run-off; and to be, for the most part, self-maintaining as a living system with continuous nutrient cycling and soil regeneration. These standards, and surrounding awareness, benefit both production system sustainability and reduce negative externalities on the surrounding ecosystem. Like in the adage “what gets measured gets managed,” an increased awareness of soil health principles leads to the adoption and implementation of practices.

In 2022, we received 970 registrants, of which 596 attended the conference. The 2022 survey responses indicated 73% of respondents stated that they learned new information throughout the conference sessions. 73% of respondents also stated that they would implement techniques learned from SoilCon.

In 2023, SoilCon garnered 1018 registrants, with 546 attendees that joined lived across the two-day conference. From survey responses, 44% of participants reported a gain in knowledge while 31% reported they had an increase in ability to implement soil health practices across their programming or farm. 2023 SoilCon attendees represented a reported 5,462,730 acres across the world.

Understanding the Carbon Footprint of Tree Fruit Workshop

Facilitate understanding of carbon monitoring in tree fruit and provide next steps for the industry.


The tree fruit industry is getting a lot of questions about the carbon footprint of fruit production systems. Washington tree fruit growers are seeking resources to assess and report, and methods to improve carbon credits in their farms.

This educational forum brings in global, national, and regional expertise to describe existing efforts to develop and present information on tree fruit carbon footprints and facilitates a dialogue on how the PNW tree fruit industry can take critical next steps to address this need.

Outcomes and impacts:

Sessions included:

  • The state of the science on measuring carbon footprints of tree fruit systems
    • Carbon Budgeting: Resources and case studies in tree fruit – Eduardo Arellano, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.
    • Measuring carbon fluxes in orchard systems – Andrew Bierer, USDA ARS
  • Research panel discussion
  • Carbon models for organic soil amendments – Kirsten Ball, WSU CSANR (by Zoom)
  • Apple Life-Cycle Assessment effort – David Epstein, NHC
  • Industry Panel
    • Brandon Lewis, Sustainability Manager, Manulife.
    • Erick Smith, R&D Taggares.
    • Jonathan Cox, R&D Double Diamond Fruit

This workshop was attended by 100 participants both in-person and remotely. 92% of survey respondents stated that this workshop was relevant to their work, and 75% learned new information through the workshop. 100% of respondents stated that they would use this information in their work, and that it was especially timely subject matter.

Roots of Resilience Grazing Conference

- Share techniques for enhancing ranch profitability
- Teach low-stress livestock handling
- Provide hands-on experience with soil health assessment techniques for cropland and rangeland


This conference is a two-part experience, guided by speakers Dave Pratt and Nicole Masters. Dave Pratt shares his experience as a farmer and rancher, and insights he has come to through his years as a Range and Livestock Advisor with UCANR and teaching his Ranching for Profit School. The Nicole Masters workshop explores the soil biome and the role of microbes, the interrelationship between the living soil (the physical, chemical, and biological) and plants, and how all these interrelationships create a healthy ecosystem that supports a healthy society. The second half is focused on practical skills to assess the health of soils, and ultimately answer these questions:  What is the condition of my soils? What impact is my management having on soil health? What steps do I need to take to enhance soil and plant health? Is it possible to reduce inputs and maintain or improve productivity?

Outcomes and impacts:

This conference brought industry professionals, farmers, and ranchers together to talk about pressing issues in the regenerative agriculture realm. Approximately 110 attendees participated in the two-day event in Pendleton, OR that discussed ranching profitability, low stress livestock handing, and principles of regenerative soil health in the PNW. From this event, 83% of survey respondents stated that they learned new information, and 71% stated they would act on these new techniques in their own operations. From evaluation, the conference information was “content that we need and can use”. From one of the conference presenters: “What an inspiring day in Pendleton with Dave Pratt, then out in the field for the Roots of Resilience Conference. We had a great turn out with over 100 ranchers, farmers, students and teachers. Change on the ground is happening!”

Aggregation 2023: A Soil Health Intensive

Increase technical expertise on building resilient soils and build an understanding of the opportunities for climate-friendly practices to build soil health and community resilience.


Aggregation 2023: A Soil Health Intensive was a multi-day workshop focused on the role of agriculture in climate mitigation strategies, building resilient soils, and fostering community.  The event brought together soil scientists, farmers, technical advisors, and innovators working to explore the interface between scientific understanding of soil carbon and on farm sequestration strategies. Participants learned skills for assessing soil health and soil carbon and shared current research, on farm practices and other questions. 

There is a need for hands-on training to prepare producers and ag professionals for assessing and documenting soil carbon storage, interacting with carbon markets, and adopting soil health metrics in their management and decision-making. The event targeted agricultural professionals from Conservation Districts, NRCS, WSDA, and NGOs working at the interface of agriculture and climate change mitigation. Strategies to enhance soil resilience and provide a realistic assessment of the role of soils in climate change mitigation were covered, as well as opportunities for farmers to be compensated through climate-friendly practices.

Outcomes and impacts:

The event was evaluated with a post-event paper evaluation.  Evaluations (n=21) indicated that the largest knowledge gains were around understanding of soil health indicators and metrics (73% increased knowledge) and in implementing conservation strategies (73% increased knowledge). Large knowledge gains (68% increased knowledge) were also reported for incentives for soil conservation, practical hands-on soil measurement, and developing on-farm trials.  Ninety-five (19/20) respondents indicated that they planned to make a change based on the event. Nearly half planned to implement new soil conservation practices.

Many respondents (14/21) indicated that they particularly enjoyed the networking and community-building aspect of the event.  The lightening talks were also highly favored (11/21).

To improve the event, several attendees suggested that more diversity of farmers and farm types be included. Also, more time for small group discussions. Though the lightening talks were mostly favored, one attendee thought there were too many.

Educational & Outreach Activities

8 Minigrants
1 On-farm demonstrations
3 Online trainings
1 Tours
3 Travel Scholarships
53 Webinars / talks / presentations
5 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

242 Extension
415 Researchers
383 Agency
600 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)
317 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

1,340 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
1,095 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

1,640 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
317 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Additional Outcomes:

Outcomes are noted in relation to each educational activity.

Success stories:


Conservation district staff supporting regional small-farms and natural resource management: “My hope still continues to be that if more conservation planners like myself seek out advance career training and development like what has been provided to me through this course and professional training scholarship, we can then more effectively work together with each other to support our Pacific Northwest farmers, and they, in turn, can more efficiently manage the resources on their land, for the fields of agriculture - and for the common good of the environment.”


SoilCon has built on annual success, generating an audience with both returning and new participants. The conference has brought together over 65 speakers from across the world and provided insight into topics such as soil health indicators, long-term soil health research, and the current status of soil health in the PNW and U.S. Registrants’ self-reported significant knowledge gain, and a greater likelihood to make informed decisions regarding soil health management in the future.

Positive comments included:

  • Thank you for helping bring academic perspectives to those of us without that edu background. I would love to hear more from Tribes.
  • This Soil Con was excellent. The level was good for non-academic attendees. The info provided could be understood by easily without losing significance.
  • Well done. Addressed many practices that could be practically used, philosophically and financially, while addressing climate management/issues.

Positive quotes in response to the question “Has this conference inspired you to make any changes in your actions or recommendations for approaching soil health?” Include:

  • Reinforced my idea that rehabilitating the soil is vitally important, that there's no one size fits all approach, and that we are still in the infancy of understanding soil health  
  • I appreciated the Native American perspectives and hope to learn & incorporate more Tribal Ecological Knowledge into my work  
  • Overall, much good information but specifically I will encourage soil testing with more gusto!   
  • My perspective is broadened on what to include when discussing soil health and the spectrum of approaches used in "sustainable" agricultural practices  
  • Always add a reminder about soil and soil health each time I consult with a farmer/rancher 

Moving forward in future programming efforts, there is a recognized need for a variety of delivery methods and topics. Noted evaluations include the need for further Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion topics, trainings, and perspectives. By partnering with ongoing efforts and hosting larger events, we are able to meet people where they are and work with established groups in key topics like soil health and climate change. Individual mini-grants and travel scholarships help support the diversification of topics and generate personal responsibility in moving the dial in sustainability efforts.

Face of SARE

Face of SARE:

SARE support was acknowledged in all conference promotion materials, within newsletter and social promotion, and verbally within the hosted events. All mini-grant recipients are asked to acknowledge SARE in their event materials. We focused our efforts on "hosted" events that were focused on building capacity of extension and partnering ag professionals who will be developing activities and products for farmers or who oversee issues impacting ag sustainability and viability.

317 Farmers received information about SARE grant programs and information resources
1,381 Ag professionals received information about SARE grant programs and information resources

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.