Promoting grazing as a sustainable farming method to agency staff in Wisconsin

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2017: $74,610.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2019
Grant Recipient: GrassWorks, Inc.
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Jill Hapner
GrassWorks, Inc.


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Animals: bovine, goats, poultry, rabbits, sheep, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy, eggs, meat


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, feed management, free-range, grazing management, grazing - continuous, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, manure management, pasture renovation, pasture fertility, rangeland/pasture management, watering systems, winter forage
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, cover crops, no-till, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, pollinator habitat, silvopasture
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, technical assistance, workshop
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, renewable energy, solar energy
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, farm-to-restaurant, farmers' markets/farm stands, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, grass waterways, habitat enhancement, riparian buffers, riverbank protection, soil stabilization, wetlands, wildlife
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, organic certification, permaculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: green manures, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships, public participation, quality of life, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    This project works at statewide and local levels for grazing network coordinators and livestock farmers to educate agency staff on effective ways to promote grazing to other farmers and to develop county programs to do so.

    GrassWorks is a statewide farmer organization that has established soil health education programming and a pasture walk toolkit. This project will work with partnerships established through previous programs. The project is coordinated at a state level to develop the programing; content is delivered to local agency staff through 3 of Wisconsin’s Resource Conservation and Development Councils (RC&Ds) (covering 39 of our 72 counties) that sponsor grazing networks. It provides support for networks to engage local, Land Conservation (LCD), Extension and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) staff over two years in a learning project promoting grazing as a sustainable farming method. This project will tap into LCD, NRCS, Extension, farmer and financial planner’s expertise to share successful methods of converting financially and environmentally successful grazing farms while providing on farm experience to the agency staff.  Outcomes include: 1) teaching local agency staff how to promote grazing as a sustainable farming method to farmers and committee members, 2) teaching local agency staff the operational details of managed grazing 3) developing county grazing initiatives. Activities will include training agency staff on effective ways to promote grazing, on-farm workshops for agency staff, and assistance in working with agency committees to include grazing in their conservation objectives. The project will further the conversion of well managed grazing farms.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Short term learning outcomes: County LCD staff will gain awareness of managed grazing as a conservation solution and will understand how investing in supporting a local grazing network is a cost-effective means of addressing soil erosion, preventing surface and ground water contamination, and enhancing local economies.

    Intermediate term outcomes: Thirty County LCD offices will prioritize managed grazing and will provide support for a local grazing network (or start a new one). Local agency staff will gain experience and knowledge and will be able to provide technical assistance on managed grazing to local farmers.

    Long-term outcomes: More acres will be under perennial cover in Thirty nine counties. Livestock and dairy farmers will receive high quality technical assistance on incorporating pasture into their systems and financial cost share to do so. Managed grazing will be incorporated into more county land conservation plans.

    Educating NRCS staff who have capacity to cost share grazing practices will further the goals of their conservation mission. Educating Extension staff on the intricate details of managing productive pastures will enable them to host excellent pasture walks in their counties. Educating LCD staff on the details as well as how to implement county grazing programs will forward grazing across WI.  Ultimately, this effort will result in increased acreage of well-managed pasture delivering positive environmental and local economic outcomes.

    Our three target agencies (Extension, NRCS, and LCDs) have different objectives and areas of expertise, but all three need on-farm training, positive engagement with their local graziers to deliver their 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.