Improved sustainable agriculture outreach through behavior-change focused outreach toolkit

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $86,391.00
Projected End Date: 03/30/2023
Grant Recipient: National Wildlife Federation
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Adam Reimer
National Wildlife Federation

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, no-till, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: extension, workshop

    Proposal abstract:

    The proposed project will continue efforts to improve sustainable agriculture outreach through a social science approach and an understanding of behavior change. Traditional outreach efforts have been based on spreading technical information about sustainable agriculture practices with the hope of convincing farmers to adopt them in their operations. This information-deficit model ignores key social and psychological aspects of decision making, limiting the effectiveness of outreach. The National Wildlife Federation has developed programs that provide training and support for conservation professionals to incorporate the social-psychological components of behavior change into outreach approaches. These programs, the Cover Crop Champions and Grow More, provide in-person and online trainings to leading farmers and natural resource professionals actively engaged in conservation outreach. Our approach has successfully changed outreach behavior, with the majority of training participants incorporating new outreach or messaging strategies within three months of participation. Building off the success of these programs, this proposal seeks to deepen the effectiveness of our in-person trainings by developing a conservation outreach toolkit that strengthens use of social science principles in outreach efforts. The toolkit, hosted online, will include multimedia tutorials, video testimonials, webinars, as well as planning tools that provide guidance on incorporating behavior change strategies into strategic planning, communication design, event development and implementation, and ongoing evaluation. These resources will build off the in-person training approach to both reinforce key lessons (supporting changes in outreach behavior of the outreach professionals themselves) and support new outreach strategies to help participants reach new audiences of farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The outreach toolkit developed through this project will encompass the following products:

    • 10 to 12 short (3-5 minute) multimedia tutorials on key aspects of behavior change, effective communication strategies, event planning, strategic outreach planning, and outreach evaluation. These videos will be stand-alone modules that allow for quick engagement by conservation professionals seeking further information provided during in-person training workshops. Tutorials will provide more detailed explanation of key concepts and concrete outreach strategies through quick, focused videos that use graphics, visuals, music and dialogue. Videos will be designed to provide information that can stand apart from the trainings, but will also reinforce and strengthen key lessons for individuals who participated in the workshops.
    • 3 to 5 testimonial videos (3-5 minutes in length) that demonstrate examples of effective outreach from conservation professionals and farmers. These videos will highlight successes and personal experiences implementing outreach strategies presented in trainings and this toolkit. Videos will be documentary style with high quality interviews, creative b-roll footage, graphics, narration, dialogue and music. For example, videos will highlight conservation outreach strategies that leverage motivations for middle adopter farmers, such as preservation of farming legacy or stewardship values.
    • An online database of effective outreach communications and advertisements, with annotation outlining the specific ways in which these examples achieve behavior change goals.
    • Planning and evaluation tools and templates for use by outreach professionals. These will include worksheets to guide professionals in developing strategic outreach plans, identifying audiences and their underlying motivations, communications planning, event planning, and ongoing evaluation. We will produce 30-35 of these, including 4-5 planning templates and guides; 6-8 evaluation tools and templates; 10 communication examples; and 10-12 event planning guides and templates.
    • Other written materials, including fact sheets and whitepapers, that provide the underlying strategy and scientific grounding of the behavior change approach. We will develop at 3-5 of these supporting documents.


    The outreach toolkit will be used in at least three Grow More trainings, with 10-15 participants in each training, for a total of 30-45 outreach professionals. These trainings will be held in at least two different states to ensure we incorporate perspectives from across the North Central region. In addition, we will utilize the toolkit as part of the 2021 and 2022 Cover Crop Champions programs, each with an estimated 80 participants. Through follow-up surveys we anticipate use of the toolkit by 250 outreach professionals, including past and current Grow More workshop participants, and past and current Cover Crop Champions. Pilot testing of materials in our existing training programs will allow us to assess what elements work, which need revision, and how toolkit materials can enhance existing trainings. Google Analytics and YouTube statistics will be used to triangulate usage.

    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.