- Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial)
- Animal Production: feed/forage, grazing - continuous, grazing - multispecies, grazing - rotational, grazing management, rangeland/pasture management
- Education and Training: mentoring, networking, technical assistance
Problem or Opportunity and Justification
Adoption of well-managed grazing includes technical knowledge, interfamily and agricultural service provider dynamics, economic indicators, and changing regulations. Well-managed grazing systems are organic, evolving ecological structures that require both an understanding of when to apply techniques and why particular tools are appropriate. The techniques and tools for new systems are often called into question by seasoned practitioners who have relied on traditional techniques for decades, which can often be a significant barrier for service providers.
Sustained effort is needed on a farmer-by-farmer basis to reach and support their goal of securely expanding their current reach to more compliant, well-managed pastures. Additionally, technical assistance professionals in Vermont and New Hampshire lack mentorship, opportunities for professional development, and are in high demand, resulting in limited availability and diminished capacity. The lack of an organized network to share best practices has resulted in mixed messaging, conflicting advice, and few opportunities for professional growth.
Regional surveying and data collection allows this project to address a demonstrated need for a foundational education program that will allow all technical service providers to acquire fundamental knowledge about agronomic principles of hayland and pastures, and a professional development cohort to expand upon that knowledge, retain experts in the field, and create a support system for new and incoming professionals.
Solution and Approach:
Our project aims to improve the professional abilities of forage-related service providers in Vermont and New Hampshire, thereby increasing the acreage of highly productive, well-managed, homegrown forages in the Northeast. We seek to support and retain active grazing professionals, enhance the grazing acumen of the lesser experienced TA providers, and foster a supportive environment to encourage a new wave of professionals in the Northeast.
Part One of our project is the Agronomic Principles for Hayland and Pasture Management Education Program, where service professionals will receive expert, localized education for successful and sustainable forage systems which comply with efforts to improve the quality of soil and waterways in the Northeast. Part Two of our project, the Grazing TA Professional Development Cohort, will bring together regional service providers to generate more effective communication, sharing of resources, and new opportunities for on-going professional development.
Our project will result in new tools, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and awareness that will benefit service providers by reducing the discrepancies in advice and education being provided to farmers from partner organizations working in similar spaces. We believe our project will create a future of knowledgeable service providers who can assist farmers in achieving the beneficial impacts of these systems due to the rigorous and thorough complexity of content within our education program combined with a well-structured and supported professional development cohort.
Performance targets from proposal:
30 technical assistance service providers in Vermont and New Hampshire, including soil conservationists, conservation district staff, and Extension professionals will participate in an Agronomic Principles for Hayland and Pasture Management Education Program and Grazing TA Professional Development Cohort to enhance their capacity to provide professional expertise to farmers interested in increasing their ability to implement successful and sustainable forage systems.
Sustained effort is needed on a farmer-by-farmer basis to reach and support goals of securely expanding their current reach to more compliant, well-managed pastures. The service providers in this cohort will use their existing and newly developed skills and knowledge to help bring farm operations to a demonstrable level of grazing management to comply with State and Federal efforts to improve the quality of soil and waterways in Vermont, while increasing farm profitability.
As a result, we expect 10 service providers each year over three years to impact 5 farms each. We anticipate approximately 150 farmers will adopt an improved understanding and adoption of agronomic principles for hayland and pasture management that will increase their ability to develop a sustainable forage system on 7,500 acres between Vermont and New Hampshire. Implementation and understanding will be tracked during service provider evaluations.