North Central Region Water Network (NCRWN), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and partners will educate Extension educators, agricultural lending institutions, and conservation professionals about the financial implications of agricultural conservation practices for farming operations to enhance farmer and lender knowledge and abilities to invest in conservation profitably and achieve soil health and water quality improvements. Our train-the-trainer approach will target educators who can play a powerful role in closing the financial information gaps: 1) educators from land grant university Extension and technical colleges who focus on farm financial management; 2) educators at agricultural lending institutions; and 3) conservation professionals who support farmers, including those in local government and conservation-focused Extension educators. We seek to increase their knowledge about the financial impacts of conservation practices and how to best support farmers’ investments in them. We also seek to improve our audiences’ knowledge about good practices for financial data gathering related to conservation production systems that can help lenders and farmers assess investments. Our activities will include 1) collecting and synthesizing existing resources about the financial impacts of conservation practices and making them available in an online hub, 2) developing and distributing methodologies to enable better financial data gathering on conservation production systems, and 3) developing replicable trainings that empower our educator audiences to share this knowledge with lenders and farmers. These short-term outcomes will lead to more accurate understanding of the financial impacts of conservation practices, more lenders collaborating with farmers to invest in these practices, and more farmers practicing conservation profitably.
Project objectives from proposal:
The project will deliver an accessible collection of educational resources, trainings, and crop budget data gathering methodologies.
Online resource collection about conservation practice profitability. The project will publish an online collection of resources in conservation finance tailored to ag lending institution educators, farm finance educators, and conservation educators to help them support farmers in financing conservation practices. We will organize this collection into a centralized online location that leverages the project partners’ existing visibility in the region and ensures traffic from our target audiences. We will also produce 5-10 original educational materials, such as fact sheets and budgeting spreadsheets, based on learnings from our activities to contribute to the resource library.
Trainings and training materials for farm finance educators, conservation educators, and ag lending educators. We will deliver sets of training curricula and related resources tailored for 1) farm finance educators, 2) conservation educators, and 3) ag lending educators. These materials will help these audience groups educate farmers and lenders on the financial impacts of conservation practices, best practices for budgeting and financing these practices, and available tools to support their conservation investment decisions. With in-person and online components, the trainings will be designed for replicability by others, to ensure their use and impact beyond this project. In the project, the trainings will reach at least 40 farm finance educators, 40 conservation educators, and 40 ag lending educators, with the potential to reach many more beyond the project. Moreover, we will deliver at least one peer learning opportunity that brings together all three of our target audiences in conversation to learn from each other about how they each can support farmers better and build stronger connections between these groups. For this opportunity, we aim to reach at least 30 total participants.
State conservation production system crop budgets. The project will deliver at least two state crop budgets, one for conservation tillage/cover crop production systems and one for grazing systems, in collaboration with Extension economists. These state crop budgets will ultimately be used by farmers and lenders for budgeting purposes. Extension educators and others will also use them to educate farmers on the expected costs and cost savings associated with conservation production systems and provide state-specific benchmarks.
Stronger cross-sector collaboration potential between Extension, conservation NGOs, and farm financial institutions. We will enhance cross-sector collaboration between Extension, conservation NGOs, and farm financial institutions by exemplifying the value of cross-sector collaborations for advancing conservation agriculture solutions. We will produce at least one communications product and one educational event, such as a webinar, to share what we learned from our partnership to inspire subsequent partnerships.