Enhancing professional development opportunities to improve technical capacity of Indiana conservation delivery professionals

Project Overview

ENC18-175
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2018: $74,959.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Mike Smith
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Mike Smith
Conservation Technology Information Center

Commodities

No commodities identified

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

This project will provide professional development opportunities for conservation practitioners in Indiana that will
improve the delivery of conservation information and drive the adoption of beneficial conservation systems on
Indiana cropland. The project will work with the Hoosier Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society to
augment and leverage their successful professional development program to provide focused conservation
outreach to their broad and diverse membership of conservation practitioners. Participants from professional
development events will be surveyed to better understand the effectiveness of the training and the extent to which
training events help improve delivery of conservation information to Indiana farmers and landowners. Also,
participants will be surveyed to better understand how they use the information learned to change landowner
behavior towards adoption of conservation practices on the landscape. Information from these surveys will
improve future professional development events and be presented to the Hoosier Chapter and other conservation
partners in Indiana, so that they can use the recommendations to improve events well into the future.
Also, this project will work to connect conservation practitioners with Extension experts from Purdue so that there
is a better awareness of the resources that each group offers to help drive the application of conservation
practices on Indiana farmland. These expanded relationships will help both sides better understand how they can
help one another to improve delivery of conservation information by improving awareness of one another’s
strengths and awareness of their programs and priorities.

Project objectives from proposal:

There are three main areas where technical service providers and extension specialists will gain in knowledge,
actions and conditions relative to helping improve the adoption of conservation on Indiana cropland.
Conservation practitioners will gain in knowledge relative to priority conservation systems at 4 professional
development opportunities that will be organized by this project. The knowledge and skills presented during the
events will mirror agency and organization priorities and ultimately benefit the participants’ ability to provide
improved and focused outreach and education to landowners around these priorities. With this advanced
knowledge, the practitioners will employ the tools and techniques learned during the training events to enhance
their outreach to farmers and landowners whom they advise. Finally, because of the improved ability to provide
outreach and education to landowners using new skills and technical information learned at the professional
development events, it is expected that conservationists will host more productive consultations with landowners,
which will lead to additional conservation practices and systems being used by farmers and landowners on their
land. These metrics of knowledge gained, knowledge used and the impact of the training sessions on the overall
behavioral change of farmers and landowners towards using more conservation systems will be measured by
surveying attendees from the training opportunities presented. Through these professional development events,it is expected that 300 people will receive information on conservation practices and systems that can be applied
to improving conservation delivery to landowners.
Secondly, through a networking and sharing meeting organized as a part of this project, extension specialists and
conservation practitioners will be brought together to share information relative to one another’s priorities and
skills. As a result, each will be more aware of the other’s priorities and programs and will have a better chance of
working together more often to benefit conservation in Indiana. Awareness of one another’s programs and
priorities leads to greater collaboration on areas where they overlap, which leads to more information and
resources being shared that will benefit the adoption of conservation practices on the landscape in Indiana.
Finally, as a result of the information sharing and networking meeting organized by this project, extension
specialists will be encouraged to share information with conservation practitioners about research that is ongoing
at Purdue relative to soil and water conservation. It is expected that as specialists work with practitioners and
learn from them at the networking meeting, practitioners can share gaps in knowledge and resources that will help
them achieve greater adoption of conservation practices and systems that will benefit soil health and water
quality. As specialists learn the needs and knowledge gaps of Indiana conservation practitioners, they can reach
out to other researchers and specialists to explore the key questions with other researchers and experts and can
share information back to the practitioners. Also, over the longer-term, extension specialists can take the
knowledge learned from practitioners to influence research topics at Purdue to begin filling key knowledge gaps.
However, this is likely a longer-term effort than will be captured during the 27-month duration of this project.

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.