Continuous Living Cover 101 - Building a Foundation for Early Career Conservation Professionals

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $89,982.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Green Lands Blue Waters/MISA/UM
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Erin Meier
Green Lands Blue Waters/MISA/UM


Not commodity specific


  • Animal Production: feed/forage, free-range, grazing management, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, pasture fertility, rangeland/pasture management, winter forage
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, alley cropping, cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, double cropping, forest farming, intercropping, multiple cropping, no-till, nutrient management, relay cropping, silvopasture
  • Education and Training: decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, technical assistance
  • Energy: bioenergy and biofuels, biofuel feedstocks, renewable energy
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, financial management, marketing management, new enterprise development, risk management, whole farm planning
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, carbon sequestration, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization, wetlands, wildlife, Soil health indicators, ground/surface water protection, resilience to changing weather patterns
  • Pest Management: Pest management through diverse/perennial cropping systems
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, integrated crop and livestock systems, Continuous Living Cover crops and cropping systems, including perennial crops
  • Soil Management: green manures, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, quality of life, social capital, social networks, social psychological indicators, values-based supply chains

    Proposal abstract:

    This project will design accessible introductory Continuous Living Cover (CLC) training materials that meet current professional development needs of early career conservation and technical advisors. This self-paced, online training will explain CLC strategies and benefits and how they integrate with NRCS soil health principles. Learners will gain confidence communicating CLC practices to farmers and identifying CLC resources. Trainings will be hosted on an accessible platform, such as the Green Lands Blue Waters (GLBW) website and the Regenerative Ag Idea Network (REGAIN) platform, and will be compatible with the NRCS AgLearn Learning Management System, a potential future host to maximize availability to key audiences. During the project 24-40 advisors will pilot the training; delivery partners will identify plans to train at least 100 additional the following year; and the training will be promoted to reach several hundred more.

    GLBW will partner with University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Extension's Conservation Professional Training Program (CPTP) to design curriculum; seek review feedback from subject matter experts and delivery channel partners; produce a series of video modules; assist with pilots; make the training available online; and promote it widely through extensive networks. Outputs include the CLC 101 training, a CLC Resources Toolkit and Champions List, a robust promotions plan, commitments from delivery channel partners for future training, and plans for hosting the training on AgLearn in the future. Ultimately, this training will help new advisors encourage and support farmers in the adoption of CLC practices, resulting in positive environmental, social, and economic outcomes.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Output 1: CLC 101 self-paced training developed. The first output will be a self-paced, online training with video modules and companion resources designed to introduce advisors to the basic terminology and concepts of Continuous Living Cover. Training will frame CLC as a broad, flexible approach to agriculture that protects soil and water health and also provides economic opportunity to farmers and benefits to farming communities. 

    Proposed training content outline:

    1. Understand what Continuous Living Cover is and why it’s important
    2. CLC and the four principles for maintaining and improving soil health
      • Key basic research-based supporting material for each principle
      • Success stories of how farmers have integrated practices into row crop systems
    3. What CLC looks like on farm
      • Cover crops and rotations - cover crops, small grains, diverse rotations, winter annuals
      • Buffers, prairie strips, and wind breaks
      • Incorporating perennials - grains, forage, biomass
      • Agroforestry and silvopasture
      • Integrating livestock
    4. Sources of information to support conversations with farmers
      • Economics
      • Practices
      • Troubleshooting issues
      • Sources of further information

    Output 2: CLC Resources Toolkit

    The toolkit will summarize all resources mentioned in the training, organized for easy reference. It will also be shared as a stand-alone resource.

    Output 3: CLC Champions Network resource developed

    The CLC Champions Network resource will list CLC farmer and practitioner experts across the Upper Midwest who have volunteered to be identified as resources for ongoing CLC presentations, training, or on-farm visits. 

    Output 4: Easily accessible hosting platform for CLC 101 training

    An online platform will be developed for all curriculum and supplemental resources.

    Output 5: Four pilot trainings completed; 24-40 early career conservation professionals trained in CLC

    Each delivery partner will engage a cohort of 6-10 early career staff members to pilot the training and provide feedback prior to broad public outreach of the new CLC 101 curriculum. The training will provide staff with a new way of thinking about land use with many examples, as well as the technical and training resources to support them in learning more and helping farmers to implement these practices. 

    Output 6: Pilot phase evaluation summary 

    Summary will include improvement suggestions and information on interest in future CLC-related training.

    Output 7: Broad public CLC 101 curriculum outreach and promotions plan developed and implemented

    GLBW promotions will include a press release shared via Morning Ag Clips in six states and other platforms that GLBW frequently uses, as well as CPTP’s email contact list of over 1,000 conservation professionals including agency staff and private sector consultants; promotions via GLBW newsletter [1,300 subscribers] and social media [16K+ Facebook, 270K Twitter impressions annually]; and direct outreach to our partner cohort working on increasing CLC training for advisors [50+ key leaders representing nonprofits, researchers, agency staff].

    Output 8: Scoping done for incorporation of the CLC 101 training on NRCS AgLearn Learning Management System
    Introductory conversations with NRCS Soil Health Division to develop a project plan and budget for incorporating the training on their national AgLearn Learning Management System. A plan for seeking additional funding to implement in AgLearn will be drafted.

    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.