Organic Conservation Training for Western Region Conservation Professionals

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $98,288.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Sarah Brown
Oregon Tilth

Annual Reports

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: extension, mentoring, networking, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, physical control, prevention
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, composting, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    This is a collaborative project to build the capacity of NRCS to assist organic and transitional farmers in planning and implementing conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative (EQIP OI). Funding and technical assistance to organic producers through the EQIP OI has been challenged by a lack of technical expertise, limited resource materials, and inadequate coordination among NRCS and other agencies that can help recruit producers for the program. In California, Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada, less than 20 percent of organic growers have participated in the EQIP OI since it began and nationally, less than half of available funds have been utilized. Oregon Tilth will partner with other regional nonprofit and public agencies to deliver a series of intensive trainings designed to increase conservation planners’ knowledge of organic management practices and ability to integrate conservation planning with these practices and organic certification requirements. The project will build on an established relationship with NRCS through Oregon Tilth’s Organic Conservation Program and previous WSARE-funded training on the conservation/organic interface. The proposed training will focus on developing organic job specifications, the key documents that guide conservation practice implementation through EQIP. In conjunction with the training, five organic job specification templates will be developed for planners’ use, addressing 1) nutrient management, 2) integrated pest management, 3)on-farm composting, 4) cover cropping, and 5) crop rotation. Twelve two-day workshops will be held to introduce planners to the templates and train them how to adapt them for local use. Sessions will include instruction, discussion, field visits/demonstrations with producers, and hands-on practice. A total of 424 participants (from NRCS, University Extension, Resource Conservation Districts, and other agricultural professionals) are expected to attend. Project partners include NRCS, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Soil and Water Conservation Districts, the Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP), Oregon State University, and the University of Idaho. Each agency will contribute curriculum development, technical expertise, and/or participant recruitment and financial support as appropriate. In addition to the templates and training sessions, the project also includes one-on-one technical assistance for conservation leaders and networking/information sharing opportunities to better inform and integrate inter-agency support for the program. In particular, the project will engage state Extension professionals to help them better understand the EQIP OI and be able to direct producers to this resource.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Audience. The project targets natural resource professionals in Oregon, Idaho, California,

    and Nevada who directly assist producers with conservation planning. Sessions will be conducted as follows, based on requests from NRCS leaders: four two-day field trainings in Oregon (expected 30 attendees/training =120 total); four two-day trainings in California (expected 30 attendees/training=120 total); one two-day training in Nevada (expected 25 attendees) ; and three two-day field trainings in Idaho (expected 25 attendees/training=75 total). In addition, an additional 60 professionals representing conservation districts, technical assistance providers, and others are expected. At least two Extension personnel will attend each training, for a total of 24 participants. A minimum of two organic farmers will be recruited to share their experiences at listening sessions and farm visits in association with each training.

    2. Activities and Methods. Key project activities include:
    a. Development of guidance and organic job specification templates related to nutrient management, cover crops, integrated pest management, crop rotation, and on-farm composting. Topics were prioritized based on information gathered from training evaluations and data collected by the OCP. NCAT will lead the project team in developing these organic job specification templates, with input from a workgroup of farmers, natural resource professionals, and University Extension representatives.
    b. Training sessions for natural resource professionals on how to use and tailor the organic job specification templates, as described above. NRCS participants will receive continuing education credits. Sessions will include in-class training, listening sessions, and field components, covering the following content: 1) scope of conservation programs and practices and their relationship to NOP regulations and conservation programs ; 2) use of organic job specifications templates, addressing common challenges associated with NOP prohibited inputs, diversified livestock and crop operations, specialty crops, and small-scale producers; 3) Organic Fertilizer & Cover Crop Calculator for use in developing organic nutrient budgets ; 4) field demonstrations to share farmers’ first-hand experience and perspectives; and 5) guided hands-on exercise to practice developing job specifications. (In Nevada, training will also cover organic certification basics as requested.)
    c. One-on-one coaching for each NRCS State Office for adapting organic job specification templates for local needs and conditions.
    d. Webinar to provide training to individuals unable to attend the on-site training session. This will be posted online for future public access.
    e. Networking and facilitation of information-sharing systems to strengthen collaboration among natural resource professionals, university researchers focused on organic systems, nonprofit service providers, and producers.

    3. Products. Project products will include: five organic job specification templates, training curricula that will be replicable in other regions or future training sessions, field tour schedules and proposed instruction, web-based resources including links from appropriate agencies and relevant information for students, a recorded webinar that is publicly available for future playback, and an updated resource CD and handouts of relevant conservation and organic materials (updated from information developed in previous WSARE grants).
    These outputs will help the project to meet its objectives by providing participants with the knowledge and skills needed to complete organic job specifications, tools for assisting producers, and opportunities to learn directly from producers’ direct experience. It will also facilitate coordination of information and services across conservation and organic agencies and programs and enhance understanding of how they can best work together.

    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.