Kansas NRCS Organic Training Program

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2009: $54,074.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Mary Fund
Kansas Rural Center

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: parasite control, grazing management, manure management, pasture fertility, preventive practices, grazing - rotational, watering systems
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: extension, mentoring, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, cooperatives, budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, wildlife
  • Pest Management: biological control, botanical pesticides, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, physical control, prevention, sanitation, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, composting, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    The Kansas NRCS office is responsible for implementing the Organic provision of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) under the 2008 Farm Bill, but they have limited understanding or knowledge of organic farming and certification. The Kansas Rural Center (KRC), in partnership with others, will organize six trainings sessions including classroom activities and farm tours over two years; develop training materials, and develop a network of organic farmers as teachers, mentors and resources. The primary audience is Kansas Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff with a secondary audience of County Extension Agents.

    NRCS staff will gain confidence in helping farmers with organic transition questions and the new EQIP program; they will develop an understanding of organic farming practices and the certification process and how standard conservation practices can help organic farms. KRC will identify a network of organic farmers as educators, mentors and resources. Intermediate outcomes include NRCS enrolling more Kansas farmers in the new EQIP program, and Extension being able to answer client questions on organic farming and the new EQIP program. Long-term outcomes include NRCS and Extension staff having internal experts on organic farming, the land grant university undertaking organic farming research and organic outreach, and KRC facilitating a formal network of organic farmers as Technical Service Providers with NRCS, or as independent mentors/ resources. Pre- and post-evaluation surveys will be conducted on all training participants. Verbal evaluation wrap-up sessions will conclude each training. Enrollment in EQIP Organic Initiatives Program will be monitored.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    A. KRC will organize six workshops (3 per year).
    In year one, three regional workshops will target NRCS staff reaching 90 participants. In year two, three workshops will be tailored to cover additional needs identified in year one’s workshops, but will also target a broader audience of NRCS and Extension with basic organic information, and with a goal of 15 participants per workshop or a total of 45 participants. Workshop format will include classroom presentations, farmer panels, and materials, and a farm tour (see B. below).

    B. Six organic farm tours will be conducted in conjunction with the above six workshops, providing the field experience for the training.

    C. KRC will develop and compile a training notebook, updating these on an ongoing basis during the two years. The notebook will include information on organic farming basics, organic certification process, the organic system plan, crop rotation planning guide, and a list of miscellaneous resources.

    D. KRC will develop and maintain a base network of organic farmers as teachers, mentors, and resources who may become official technical service providers for NRCS, or serve as independent mentors and teachers.

    E. KRC will provide presentations to extension and other resource professionals on organic farming and the EQIP Organic Initiatives Program so that they can promote the program and help farmers enroll. KRC’s Clean Water Farm Project works within 18 watersheds in the state, and has opportunities to include these presentations in the routine course of its staff contacts.

    F. KRC will update its crop rotation planning guide and collaborate with KSU to update and revise its Organic Certification Bulletin for distribution.

    Activities narrative: Over a two-year period, KRC will organize six training workshops in close collaboration with NRCS and Extension. The workshops will be organized into three regional workshops per year, paralleling the environmental and agronomic differences across the state, and thus the differences in organic practices used across the state. Evaluations from the pilot training in August 2009 indicated a strong preference for regional or local trainings and for the format described below.

    Workshops will range from one-day to one and-a-half days in length, with classroom presentations and a tour of an area organic farm. The training will cover:
    * Overview of Organic Agriculture (a summary of what is organic agriculture, why farmers choose organic, special markets, available resources, and organic farming basics such as legume crop rotations, weed and pest control, fertility and nutrient management, and cover crops)
    * Organic Certification Process, National Organic Program and Organic Standards;
    * Organic Farmer Panel presentations on their organic system plans and transition strategies;
    * EQIP Organic Initiatives Program- Technical Overview by NRCS;
    * and a field tour of a local organic farm.

    Organic farmers, representatives from certifying organizations, Kansas State University faculty/extension staff, KRC, and KOP staff will offer the presentations. NRCS will cover the technical reviews of the EQIP Organic Program. Organic farmer speakers/trainers will be identified on a regional basis, and KRC will help them develop power point presentations and virtual tours of their farms for use in the trainings. KRC will compile materials for a training notebook for each participant. NRCS will prepare the notebooks, providing printing and materials cost for those notebooks used for their staff. KRC will prepare notebooks for Extensin and other participants. KSU staff will offer presentations at some trainings on topics such as soil fertility, nutrient management, and cover crops.

    KRC will work with several organic farmers and NRCS to become registered as technical service providers with NRCS, so that Kansas develops at least 4 to 6 people across the state that NRCS can rely on to assist farmers with transition and certification questions and development of their organic system plans. If farmers choose to not register as TSP’s, KRC will work with them to offer mentoring services to transitioning farmers. KRC staff will also seek out additional opportunities to take organic agriculture information to Extension, other resource agencies and professionals, and to farmers. This effort will be stepped up in the second year of the grant.

    KRC currently administers the Clean Water Farm-River Friendly Farm Project that works within twenty watersheds around the state, doing environmental assessments and whole farm planning. In this work, KRC currently partners with Extension, conservation district and watershed staff.
    KRC will offer “mini-versions” or presentations of the above training within this framework.

    4) Outputs
    A.) Thirty participants per workshop for the three regional NRCS training workshops or 90 total will receive the training in year one. County Extension agents from the counties surrounding the site of the NRCS trainings will also be invited to participate in these trainings.

    B.) In year two, County Extension agents will be targeted for three workshops with 15 participants for each workshop for a total of 45, although these workshops will also be open to NRCS as follow-up training.

    C.) Four to six farmer trainers across the state will be identified to register as official Technical Service Providers (TSP) under NRCS, or as informal mentors to work with other farmers through NRCS/Extension referrals.

    D.) A training notebook including basics on organic production practices, organic certification and organic system plan development, crop rotation planning, and resource lists will be developed and distributed at all of the workshops. The training curriculum will be available for other trainings or workshops. An estimated 135 notebooks will be distributed.

    E.) Educational materials will be revised and updated for distribution. These include KRC’s Crop rotation planning guide, and KSU’s Organic Certification Bulletin.

    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.