Integrating Continuous Living Cover (CLC) into Farming Systems through Professional Development

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2013: $74,658.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Richard Warner
Green Lands Blue Waters

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, soybeans, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Nuts: hazelnuts
  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Animal Production: grazing - rotational, stockpiled forages, winter forage, feed/forage
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, crop rotation, continuous cropping, cover crops, double cropping, forestry, intercropping, multiple cropping, application rate management, relay cropping, strip tillage, contour farming
  • Education and Training: extension, networking, workshop
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels
  • Natural Resources/Environment: grass waterways, riparian buffers
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, permaculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development

    Proposal abstract:

    Continuous Living Cover (CLC) is a variety of practices that improves environmental performance of agriculture by increasing vegetation cover of farmlands. The CLC tool box includes cover crops, perennial forages, and agroforestry practices that can take any farmer from their current cropping system toward improved stewardship of their land and water resources. Farming with deep-rooted perennial crops and cover crops can improve soil health, water quality, and habitat, while maintain long-term farm profitability. A solid base of research and on-farm experience exists for the agronomic management, siting, and benefits of CLC crops. Green Lands Blue Waters (GLBW) is a partnership that functions through a regional organizational structure and connections with CLC Working Groups to provide the training, networking, and support for farm advisors that will be needed to expand CLC crops to many more acres. We propose creation of a CLC Manual that will address integration of CLC practices into existing cropping systems and optimized placement of perennial crops on the landscape; and training in selected locations to build communities of advisors who are equipped and empowered to recommend CLC to farmers and landowners, and provide ongoing support. As a result of this project, 90 farm advisors in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin will gain improved understanding and confidence in CLC practices, integration into cropping systems, and placement on the landscape. Reaching further, 50% of these farm advisors will subsequently recommend CLC practices to farmers and landowners, and/or offer CLC training to those audiences.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Release of the Integrated CLC Manual print & online versions (print version provided to training participants). The Manual will include components on agronomic information on CLC production systems, integrating CLC into cropping systems; proper placement of CLC practices on the landscape for maximum farm and environmental benefits; and farmer case studies illustrating CLC practices.
    2. CLC Workshops held in 2014 and 2015, training 6 cohorts of professionals; minimum of 90 total trained individuals from 4 states.
    3. Provision of CEU credits to training participants
    4. Professional contacts and linkages established among participants within local cohorts; between cohorts of trained individuals; and between cohorts, established local watershed groups and/or CLC Working Groups, and CLC subject matter experts
    5. Online Manual, video recording of training sessions, photos of on-farm visits, contact information for participants and presenters, additional online tools or services requested by participants.
    Outcomes: The main outcomes of the proposed project will be evidenced by increases in CLC outreach and education, increases in collaborative work among local farm advisors and CLC-oriented or watershed-based organizations, and increases in CLC acres in regions with trained cohorts of farm advisors; as well as export of models and stories of successes of those locales to a broader audience.
    Short-Term Outcomes:Cohorts of professional farm and farmland advisors trained in CLC will be established in six locales in the 4-state area of MN, WI, IA, and IL: three in corn & soybean-dominant areas, and three in the Driftless Area. The individuals in these cohorts will be equipped and empowered to recommend and implement CLC on farm acreage in their area, through understanding of the subject matter presented in project workshops and through professional supporting connections with each other, with local organizations, and with regional and national subject matter experts.
    • 90 farm advisors in the 4-state area will be trained in CLC practices, integration into cropping systems, and placement on the landscape.
    • 90% of trainees will gain increased knowledge of and comfort level with CLC practices.
    • 90% of trainees will gain improved understanding of integration of CLC practices into cropping systems.
    • 90% of trainees will gain improved understanding of placement of CLC practices on the landscape for maximum environmental benefits.
    • 90% of trainees will gain a minimum of two new professional contacts with members of CLC Working Groups, watershed organizers, or other CLC-oriented organizations.
    • 90% of trainees will receive CEU credits that help them incorporate CLC work into their professional careersIntermediate
    Outcomes:Farm advisors trained in these CLC courses will offer CLC education to farmers and non-farming landowners in their own areas and will work collaboratively with local organizations to deliver CLC information. As a result of concentrated efforts and new professional and collaborative linkages formed within locales, connections with farmers will be effective and increases in CLC acreage will be seen on the ground in those locales within two years of the training.
    • 50% of farm advisors who participate will thereafter recommend CLC practices and/or assist with implementation of CLC practices on the land of the farmers and landowners they advise.
    • 50% of farm advisors who participate in a CLC training will offer subsequent training in CLC to farmers in their locale.
    • 10% of farm advisors who participate in a CLC training will offer subsequent training in CLC to non-farming landowners in their locale.
    • 40% of farm advisors who participate in a CLC training will incorporate CLC information into a row crop-oriented field day or workshop.
    • 40% of farm advisors who participate in a CLC training will be involved in a collaborative effort with a GLBW Working Group, a local watershed organization, or a local CLC-oriented organization within two years of completing the training.
    • Among farmers who receive subsequent CLC training, 50% will adopt at least one CLC practice within 2 years.
    • Among non-farming landowners who receive subsequent CLC training, 25% will sign leases that encourage CLC practices on their properties within 2 years.
    Long-term Outcomes:Professional connections developed through the training sessions between local farm advisors and regional and national organizations and individuals will result in wider exposure for successes seen in the training locales, thus contributing to broader adoption of CLC and increases in CLC acreage both within and outside of the training locales. Expansion of well-integrated and properly placed CLC practices throughout the US Midwest leads to measurable positive changes in soil health and water quality in many watersheds. A critical mass of farmers practicing CLC develops, and CLC becomes a standard, accepted feature of farms in the North Central Region.

    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.