Training Agricultural Professionals on Innovative Online Tools for Conservation Planning and Implementation

Project Overview

ENC19-182
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $68,058.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Erica Rogers
Michigan State University Extension

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Animal Production: manure management
  • Crop Production: drainage systems, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension

    Abstract:

    This project will provide professional development opportunities for agricultural professionals to learn about and use three online conservation tools that facilitate the stewardship of Michigan’s land and water resources. The Sensitive Areas Identification System, Michigan EnviroImpact, and the Computer-Assisted Nutrient Management Planning Program are available across Michigan and support conservation planning and implementation. Our project is designed for professionals that work with Michigan producers to support a thriving and sustainable agriculture sector, including conservation district technicians, NRCS technicians, Michigan State University Extension educators, and watershed technicians. Project activities include: hosting conference sessions at events like the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts Fall Conference or the Michigan Water Environment Association Watershed Summit; hosting four interactive training workshops across Michigan; offering a three-part webinar training series; and developing updated outreach materials including short tutorial videos. In addition, we will promote these free online tools at popular events such as AgroExpo. By providing training to 100 agricultural professionals and introducing the tools to an additional 250 professionals and 340 farmers in Michigan, we will not only increase awareness of the tools, but aim in the longer-term for these to become commonplace resources that are routinely used in conservation offices to help farmers plan and implement sustainable farming practices. In turn, this project will make certain conservation activities easier and more efficient, while improving soil health and water quality. We will also advance understanding of how professionals and farmers perceive agricultural support tools and what barriers exist to adoption through a program evaluation.

    Project objectives:

    Through this project, we anticipate introducing the online tools to 250 professionals and 340 farmers based in Michigan and reach at least 80 professionals in the greater North Central Region. We will also provide in-depth training to 100 professionals.


    Products

    Our professional development program will result in the development of several training and outreach materials. These include creating a common webpage that describes and links to each online conservation tool, a common factsheet that provides information on all three tools, tabletop displays for SAIS and CANMaPP that can be utilized at exhibits and events, and two short-tutorial videos for SAIS and CANMaPP that help new users get started with these tools. In addition, we will develop a common slidedeck that will be tailored as appropriate for presentations and trainings. The common webpage is critical to making the various outreach and promotional products easily accessible to professionals, even after the project ends. We will track and report page visits, file downloads and video views on the project webpage.

    We will also write one MSUE article on the project overall and three articles for each tool highlighted in this project. We anticipate reaching 300 members of the MSUE listserv through these articles (this is approximately 10% of the membership list). Finally, we will write a final report on the results on the project, including evaluation data. The report and links to the MSUE articles will be posted the project’s webpage.


    Events

    We will hold five special conference sessions throughout the project. Our intended venues with agricultural and conservation professionals include the MACD Summer and Fall Conference, the MSUE Fall Conference and the MWEA Watershed Summit. We estimate that we will introduce the three conservation tools to approximately 160 professionals at these events, with roughly 40 attendees at each session. More specifically, we intend to reach 80 professionals with NRCS, MAEAP, or conservation district affiliations at the MACD events, 40 Extension educators at the MSUE Fall Conference and 40 professionals affiliated with watershed groups, land conservancies and environmental nonprofits at the MWEA Summit. We will also hold a session at the Michigan Farm Bureau Annual Meeting, and we anticipate reaching 40 farmers at this event.

    We will also hold four interactive, half-day training workshops around the state with conservation professionals, focusing on NRCS, MAEAP and conservation district employees. We anticipate 25 participants per training, resulting in 100 professionals trained on the three conservation tools.

    We will offer a three-part webinar series that highlights each tool. The three recorded webinars will be posted on the common webpage for the tools. We anticipate introducing the tools to 90 total agricultural and conservation professionals, with 30 participants per webinar. We will offer an additional webinar to the NCRWN, reaching at least 80 professionals that work in other North Central Region states.

    We will exhibit and present at the 2020 and 2021 AgroExpo event. Over this two-day event, we expect to introduce the tools to 150 farmers, totaling 300 farmers for the project overall. 

    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.