An Introductory Virtual Training Curriculum for Crop Advisers and Extension Educators Working with Transitioning Organic Grain Crop Producers

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $68,437.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2020
Grant Recipient: American Society of Agronomy
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Christopher Boomsma
American Society of Agronomy

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, no-till, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, varieties and cultivars, water management
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultivation, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, organic certification, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    This project proposes to develop webinar- and podcast-based educational materials and accompanying factsheets for North Central SARE Region agricultural professionals that work with grain crop farmers either transitioning or considering transitioning to organic production. This curriculum will provide the sustainable agronomic guidance these advisers need to help their clients succeed during this three-year period. It will also highlight the unique, sustainable business opportunities both growers and their advisers have during this timeframe. The target audience will be the Certified Crop Adviser (CCA) and Extension agent communities present in the North Central SARE Region that focus on grain crop production, though the modules will also be available to producers, other agricultural professionals, and the general public. The project will leverage the American Society of Agronomy's (ASA) Member and CCA rosters; the project team's collective grower and Extension network connections; ASA's webinar, podcast, marketing, and survey capabilities; and transitioning and organic grain crop production experts to produce and deliver a five-part webinar and podcast series. Each module will cover one of the areas in which CCAs must acquire Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and many Extension agents must be proficient: nutrient management, soil and water management, pest management, and crop management. One webinar and accompanying podcast will focus on the business case for working in transition grain crop production. Key points from webinars and podcasts will be summarized in factsheets and widely distributed. Surveys will be used to assess module quality, overall project and impact, and organic grain crop adoption trends.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Short-term Outcomes (during the project):
    1. Certified Crop Advisers (CCAs), Extension educators, and other agricultural professionals will gain an improved understanding of the opportunities and challenges of sustainable organic grain crop production and will have a sound grasp of whether or not they wish to advise transitioning growers. They will also gain a basic understanding of the sustainable agronomic practices needed for helping growers transition from conventional to organic production in an economically- and environmentally-sustainable manner.
    Outcome target: The number of advisers working in the transitioning and organic grain crop market in the North Central SARE Region will increase by roughly 20% during the course of the project as indicated by pre- and post-project survey results. Roughly 30% of this new cadre of organic advisers will credit the project's educational materials for informing them of this opportunity and giving them critical agronomic advice for starting work with this grower segment.
    2. Conventional, transitioning, and organic growers will have a better understanding of and appreciation for the agronomic complexity and sustainability focus associated with transitioning and organic grain crop production systems.
    Outcome target: Roughly 25 grain crop growers from the North Central SARE Region will register for at least two of this project's webinar-podcast modules and will, via pre-and post-webinar surveys, report that the modules are helpful and impactful.
    3. American Society of Agronomy (ASA), University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), and the organic grain crop production community will create partnerships with each other as they create and promote the project's five modules. These partnerships will enable them to seek funding for follow-on training programs.
    Outcome target: ASA, UW, and other organic community partners will apply for at least three other grants in the next two years that enable them to produce follow-on educational materials targeted at transitioning and organic growers and advisers. These applications will target multiple crop types and SARE Regions.
    4. The project will create five webinars and accompanying podcasts and related factsheets that will serve as permanent resources for agricultural professionals in their work with transitioning and organic grain crop farmers.
    Outcome target: Each of the project's five webinar and podcast modules will receive roughly 1,500 registrations upon initial launch. Each of the modules will be archived in the ASA education system and will be viewed by roughly 300 CCAs per year for three years. Each module will be posted to the UW Organic Grain Resource and Information Network (OGRAIN) website and each will receive roughly 500 views per year for three years.
    Intermediate-term Outcomes (during and after the project):
    1. Information presented in this project's education materials will be routinely used by advisers helping growers make the transition from conventional to organic gain crops. The project's education materials will promote and enable demonstrable, sustainable change in on-farm practices and provide curriculum participants with expanded experiences, business opportunities, and impact in transitioning and organic grain crop consulting.
    Outcome target: Roughly 30% of the advisers that take the pre- and post-project survey will report that this curriculum created new, long-term business opportunities for them in transitioning and organic grain production sector.
    2. The positive impacts of this project's educational materials and the collaborations formed during their creation will hopefully result in follow-on grant funding for this project's creators and their future collaborators to support the creation of expanded organic and sustainability education curriculums that provide agronomic guidance for more crops in the North Central SARE and other SARE Regions.
    Outcome target: ASA, UW, and other organic community partners will be awarded at least one grant that enables them to produce follow-on educational materials targeted at transitioning and organic growers and their advisers.
    Long-term Outcomes (after the project):
    With the support of ASA, Extension educators, and the organic production community, the materials hosted on the ASA and OGRAIN websites will continue to support a robust network of agricultural professionals who provide research-driven, sustainability-focused information to transitioning and organic grain crop farmers. Not only will this increase the success of these grain farmers in the North Central SARE Region, but it will also help insure the sustainability of their farms beyond the transition period.
    Outcome target: The number of transitioning and organic grain crop farmers in the North Central SARE Region will increase by 25% three years after project completion. The farmers will remain in business and focused on organic farming five years after project completion. 

    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.