Training for Effective Delivery of Science-Based Soil Health Information – It’s about More than Just Content, It’s About Messaging Skills

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $89,817.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2023
Grant Recipient: NDSU
Region: North Central
State: North Dakota
Project Coordinator:

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: display, extension, networking, technical assistance, workshop, communication skills
  • Soil Management: soil health

    Proposal abstract:

    Cover crop and grazing train-the-trainer programs have been offered through NDSU using SARE funding to compliment research and Extension programs.  We are seeing increased understanding of science-based concepts by those attending; however, we are being limited by effective, independent delivery of content by attendees after the training (“delivery bottleneck”).  Skillsets (in radio and television interviews, writing articles, social media interactions, informal communication etc.) and confidence to deliver challenging and specified soil health content is lacking, especially at the county level.  As a result, programs are still not being delivered locally by attendees, increasing pressure on state- and regional-level scientists and Extension specialists to deliver soil health information.

    Approaches outlined in this proposal will address the “delivery bottleneck” by providing network-based training and mentoring on communication, along with continued understanding of science-based content and practice delivering programs.  Our target audience will be NDSU Extension agents and partnering organizations such as the NRCS and SCD employees.  Additionally, farmers and consultants who are “on the front lines” of sharing soil health practices on-farm (cooperators on research and demonstration plots) will be invited to participate.  We will evaluate the success of educator/cooperating farmer/consultant training (approx. 80 individuals over two years) and adoption of soil health practices by surveying attendees of the DIRT Workshop, Café Talk and field programs where newly trained educators participate (over 1,000 individuals over two years).  Our goal is to effectively increase independent delivery of science-based and practical information to increase adoption of soil health practices on-farm.    

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The outputs of the project include:

    • A network of skilled individuals who can serve as partners and mentors to each other.
    • Radio interviews, podcast episodes and social media posts demonstrating learned skillsets from the “How To” workshop.
    • Folders of information presented to attendees during the “How To” workshop and additional information to be distributed during field days and Café Talks.
    • At least 50 Extension agents and other educators and 30 cooperating farmers and consultants will be trained on how to effectively share information about soil health both with face-to-face and web-based meeting formats.
    • Evaluation of both effectiveness of training approach (survey educators and cooperating farmers) and adoption of soil health practices as a result of programs offered (survey DIRT Workshop, Café Talk, and Field Day attendees).
    • We anticipate training approximately 80 educators, cooperating farmers, and consultants with the “How To” and “In-Action” programs. We have the potential to influence 500 individuals at the DIRT Workshops, 360 who attend Café Talks and another 360 who attend field days offered by the trained Extension agents.  Over 1,000 individuals could be influenced directly by this SARE PDP program over two years, in addition to the many others who interact with those who participate in the training. 
    • A nationally recognized program that can be the model for soil health network development in other regions.


    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.