Expanding and Diversifying Farmer-Educator Capacity through Ambassador Academies

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $89,789.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Practical Farmers of Iowa
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Sally Worley
Practical Farmers of Iowa


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    At Practical Farmers of Iowa, our theory of change is simple. We are farmer-led. We know from our 30+ years working alongside farmers that they most want to learn from each other and we provide the opportunity for farmers to implement changes on their landscapes by learning from the successes and failures of their peers.

    To increase the shared learning opportunities and impact of our farmer voices, this project will develop 60 PFI ambassadors who are trained for effective communication on key content areas and conservation in the agricultural sector. This project will help support the addition of a PFI farmer outreach coordinator who will coordinate 6 training academies based on the success of our small grains boot camp funded in a previous PDP project. In addition, the farmer outreach coordinator will consult with 25 of the trained ambassadors with one-on-one follow up sessions to further enhance their skills. Developing these ambassadors will create a pool of farmer-educators who are trained in finding and presenting relevant research, confident, and willing to educate other farmers.

    The farmer outreach coordinator will integrate the ambassadors into a variety of PFI events and work with our agricultural partners to identify speaking opportunities to broaden our reach, ranging from presentation at meetings with key groups to interviews with local, regional and national media outlets, to being featured in podcasts and online videos. The farmer outreach coordinator will track speaking events, giving us the data necessary to increase our presence throughout Iowa and the Midwest.


    Project objectives from proposal:

    • One-day intensive workshop for PFI staff on presentation and coaching skills: 24 staff will participate in this training to improve their presentation and coaching skills using the coaching toolkit created in the previous SARE PDP. The additional training will provide experienced staff an opportunity to build on skills previously acquired and for new staff (approximately 10 new staff since initial training in 2017) to receive the appropriate training for coaching our farmer-leaders moving forward.
    • 6 in-person “ambassador academies” will train 60 farmer-educators on presentation skills focused on the following topics: Field Crops, Fruit/Vegetable, Livestock/Regenerative Grazing, Farm Transfer, Beginning Farmer, Conservation. These farmer-educators will be identified by PFI program staff who work closely with the members in each content area listed above. In addition, we will target members who indicated they were interested in being an active PFI leader based on our latest membership survey. 
    • One-on-one training for 25 of the ambassadors to expand their skills and comfort in public speaking and farmer education
    • The farmer-educators we train through  the ambassador academies will speak at 50 events annually(conference sessions, workshops, other meetings) on a diversity of topic areas. The farmer outreach coordinator will assist in identifying speaking opportunities and tracking results.
    • The farmer-educators we train through  the ambassador academies will be featured in 60 media pieces annually. The farmer outreach coordinator will assist in identifying and creating media pieces that feature our PFI ambassadors.
    • Content development for farmer presentations/interviews:
      • PPT templates
      • message/story banks
      • photos
      • videos
      • animations
    • Certificate of Completion for academy participants. All participants who complete the academy will receive a certificate to reflect their expertise in this area. Additional levels of certification will be offered based on number of events they participate in. 


    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.