- Additional Plants: native plants
- Education and Training: workshop
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows, wildlife
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture
Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species. Despite this, the essential service of pollination is at risk. Habitat loss, alteration, and fragmentation, as well as pesticide use, have all contributed to recent pollinator declines. In response, the 2008 Farm Bill offers specific support for pollinators in all USDA conservation programs. To implement these new Farm Bill initiatives, this project will make in-depth pollinator conservation training available to NRCS conservationists, Soil and Water Conservation District farm planners, Cooperative Extension personnel, state departments of agriculture and natural resources, crop consultants, growers of bee pollinated crops, and non-governmental conservation organizations.
Performance targets from proposal:
Performance Target The Pollinator Conservation Planning Short Courses will enable 240 farm educators and conservation agency staff to directly support at least 484 farmers in adapting farm practices for pollinator conservation on 24,000 acres of land and to assist at least 60 of those farmers with enrollment in NRCS administered Farm Bill conservation programs. Verification Process We will evaluate our success by administering brief pre- and post-questionnaires that help us better understand what knowledge agricultural professionals bring to each Course and what they take away. Among the specific factors we measure are teaching effectiveness and topic area relevance. At each phase this feedback is incorporated into our teaching methodology, and curriculum is continuously fine-tuned as a result. Specifically, the pre- and post-questionnaires gauge the following participant knowledge: • Honey bee and native pollinator population trends • Basic bee identification skills • Native bee biology and ecology • Local bee-pollinated crop systems • Local native plants that support pollinators • Native plant restoration practices • Familiarity with Farm Bill conservation programs like EQIP, WHIP, and CSP In addition to measuring participant knowledge, pre- and post-questionnaires measure participant background, skills and intentions, such as: • Occupational specialty • Specific intentions for providing pollinator-related guidance to farmers • Ability to assist farmers with enrolling in Farm Bill conservation programs • Expectations for the Short Course, and whether those expectations were fulfilled. For this project we will determine our longer-term success by polling our participants one year later to see how they have incorporated what we teach into on-the-ground practices. In follow-up (mail-in) surveys we ask farm educators if they have consulted on pollinator conservation practices with their constituents. We ask them if they have made specific recommendations on farm management practices and what those recommendations were. And we ask them if they have provided guidance on NRCS conservation programs. Included in these surveys are queries about farm size and primary crops. Note that due to USDA confidentiality rules, specific information on producers enrolled in Farm Bill conservation programs (such as names, addresses, and economic information) is restricted. We are not allowed to ask for this information, and the NRCS is prohibited from providing it. In addition to gauging the intentions and knowledge increase among farm educators and conservation agency staff, the pre-, post, and one year follow-up questionnaires include separate metrics targeting farmer participants. These questions provide documentation of what specific measures were taken by those farmers, and capture information on farm size and primary crop system. Through this evaluation process we can effectively measure both the performance target itself and broad regional changes that benefit pollinators such as improved crop security through pollinator diversification, habitat restoration efforts, and enhancement of rural communities through the adoption of new land stewardship approaches.