Organic Conservation Training for Western Region Conservation Professionals

2013 Annual Report for EW12-031

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2012: $98,288.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Sarah Brown
Oregon Tilth

Organic Conservation Training for Western Region Conservation Professionals


This is a collaborative project to build the capacity of conservation professionals to assist organic and transitional farmers in planning and implementing conservation practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Organic Initiative (EQIP OI). Oregon Tilth will partner with other regional nonprofit and public agencies to deliver a series of intensive trainings designed to increase conservation planners’ knowledge of organic management practices and ability to integrate conservation planning with these practices and organic certification requirements. The project will build on an established relationship with NRCS through Oregon Tilth’s Organic Conservation Program and previous Western SARE-funded training on the conservation/organic interface.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The project targets natural resource professionals in Oregon, Idaho, California, and Nevada who directly assist producers with conservation planning. Sessions will be conducted as follows, based on requests from NRCS leaders: four two-day field trainings in Oregon (expected 30 attendees/training =120 total); four two-day trainings in California (expected 30 attendees/training=120 total); one two-day training in Nevada (expected 25 attendees) ; and three two-day field trainings in Idaho (expected 25 attendees/training=75 total). In addition, 60 professionals representing conservation districts, technical assistance providers, and others are expected. At least two Extension personnel will attend each training, for a total of 24 participants. A minimum of two organic farmers will be recruited to share their experiences at listening sessions and farm visits in association with each training.

Project products will include: five organic job specification templates, training curricula that will be replicable in other regions or future training sessions, field tour schedules and proposed instruction, web-based resources including links from appropriate agencies and relevant information for students, a recorded webinar that is publicly available for future playback, and an updated resource CD and handouts of relevant conservation and organic materials (updated from information developed in previous WSARE grants).


Technical Documents

The type and structure of the technical documents developed through this project has shifted based on NRCS changes in conservation planning implementation. Job specifications have evolved into ‘implementation requirements’. NRCS leadership advised Oregon Tilth to develop associated implementation guides and resources rather than attempt to incorporate organic technical guidance and considerations into the implementation requirements themselves. Based on this guidance and the initial assessment survey sent out to conservation planners the following five documents are being developed:

  • Nutrient Management Plan (590) for Organic Systems: Western State Implementation Guide (Authors: Rex Dufour (National Center for Appropriate Technology-NCAT), Sarah Brown (Oregon Tilth), and Denise Troxell (NRCS). Contributors and reviewers: Dan Sullivan (Oregon State University), Ben Bowell and Carrie Sendak (Oregon Tilth), Jennifer Miller (Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides-NCAP), Giulio Ferruzzi , Rich Fasching, and Dennis Chessman (NRCS))

    Cover Crops (340) for Organic Systems: Western State Implementation Guide (Authors: Rex Dufour (NCAT); Sarah Brown, Ben Bowell and Carrie Sendak (Oregon Tilth); Mace Vaughan and Eric Mader (Xerces Society). Contributors and reviewers: Nick Andrews and Stephen Machado (Oregon State University); Eric Brennan (USDA Agricultural Research Service); Doug Collins, Steve Fransen, and David Granatstein (Washington State University); Christi Falen and Lauren Hunter (University of Idaho); Giulio Ferruzzi, Karen Lowell, Angie Quintana-Jones, Mary Beth Smith, and Denise Troxell (NRCS); Jennifer Miller (NCAP))

    Conservation Buffers in Organic Systems: Western State Implementation Guide (Authors: Rex Dufour (NCAT); Sarah Brown, Ben Bowell and Carrie Sendak (Oregon Tilth); Jennifer Miller (NCAP); Mace Vaughan, Eric Mader, Jessa Guisse, Jolie Goldenetz Dollar, and Brianna Borders (Xerces Society). Contributors and reviewers: Giulio Ferruzzi, Thad Heater, Dean P. Moberg, Albert Mulder, and Loren St. John (NRCS); Gwendolyn Ellen (Oregon State University); Jennifer Reische (Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District); Richard Straight (USDA National Agroforestry Center))

    Resources for Conservation Planning on Organic and Transitioning-to-Organic Operations (Authors: Sarah Brown, Ben Bowell and Carrie Sendak (Oregon Tilth). Contributors and reviewers: Jennifer Miller (NCAP); Rex Dufour (NCAT); Denise Troxell (NRCS))

    Common NRCS Practices Related to Pest Management on Organic Farms (Authors: Sarah Brown (Oregon Tilth) and Giulio Ferruzzi (NRCS). Contributors and reviewers Derek Tilley, Dee Carlson, Denise Troxell, and Adam Reed (NRCS); Rex Dufour (NCAT); Ben Bowell (Oregon Tilth))


The proposed training timeline and locations have been modified to meet changes in NRCS budgets. Idaho had severe cuts in their training/travel budget and so those trainings have been cancelled. Virtual trainings have been explored as an option but preference has been given to western states interested in in-person trainings. In lieu of the three Idaho trainings, trainings are planned for August 20 in Olympia, WA and October 29-31 in Wyoming. An intensive spring 2014 training is being discussed with WA and ID. We also have a tentative invitation to provide a half-day intensive at the 2013 California Rural Conservation District Annual Conference. Replacement trainings will be prioritized by need, timeline, and budget.

As proposed, trainings are planned September 9-10 in Indio, CA, Sept. 12-13 in Hanford, CA, October 8-9 in Fallon, NV, Jan. 7-8 in Salem, OR, Jan. 23-24 in Medford, OR, Jan. 27-28 in Pendleton, OR, and Jan. 30-31 in Redmond , OR. The initial proposal listed one webinar but we will be providing at least two webinars on ‘Common NRCS Practices Related to Pest Management on Organic Farms’.

Completed trainings are listed here:

  • July 9, 2013: ‘Common NRCS P Practices Related to Pest Management on Organic Farms’ was presented as a live webinar for the California attendees. This enabled us to focus the in-person training sessions on the more complicated documents and topics. The webinar was recorded and will be presented again live for attendees from other states. (23 attendees)
    July 15-16, 2013: Salinas, CA Training Session: 23 attendees total: 15 NRCS and 8 Resource Conservation District (RCD) personnel.Farm Tour at Javier Zamora’s farm.Trainers: Ben Bowell (Oregon Tilth), Rex Dufour (NCAT), and Nick Andrews (Oregon State University)
    July 18-19, 2013: Colusa, CA Training Session: 14 attendees total: 9 NRCS, 3 RCD, 1 Chilean Agriculture Counselor, and an agriculture air quality advisor. Farm Tour at Benden Farm. Trainers: Ben Bowell (Oregon Tilth), Rex Dufour (NCAT), and Nick Andrews (Oregon State University)
    In-Person Training Summary To-Date:24 NRCS, 11 RCD, 3 other agricultural professionals, 3 farmers: 41 Total Participants

One of the primary purposes of this project was to increase awareness among agricultural professionals about the services that NRCS has to offer organic producers. As part of this project, Oregon Tilth and project partners have made significant efforts to reach the larger agricultural service provider network.

NCAP wrote an article for an extension newsletter about the grant project and trainings. It went out to county faculty, specialists and administrators. Additionally, NCAP sent an email announcement about the EQIP OI funding, including at least 20 University of Idaho extension members who work with organic growers. NCAP also secured media coverage of the funding in the Capital Press (“Grant funding for organic producers unused”, Nov 2, 2016).

Oregon Tilth presented information about the EQIP Organic Initiative at the Oregon State University Small Farm Conference, the Organicology Conference, and through their newsletter (reaching ~1,100). Flyers for the California trainings were distributed to the UC Small Farm Advisors, Oregon Tilth’s network of inspector/reviewers, CCOF, California-based TSPs and consultants, and the CA Association of Resource Conservation Districts.

Remaining Deliverables

Web-based resources- Once the technical documents are finalized we will be creating a web page at to post them and provide project background, materials, etc. NRCS state agronomists are anxious to get the documents posted to their electronic Field Office Technical Guides (eFOTG). Once the state-specific documents are completed they will get posted for widespread use by NRCS and partners.

Webinar- The initial proposal stated that we would record one webinar for future use. Limited travel budgets for NRCS have significantly increased the agency’s interest in webinars as a valuable training tool. It is likely that as a result of this project we will record a national webinar for each of the technical documents created. This will be decided based on remaining personnel funds after in-person trainings have been finalized.

Updated resource CD – Rather than create CDs we opted to develop resource lists linking training participants to the relevant resources online. Binders are created for all training participants that include the technical documents. In the final post-survey that participants receive, they will be notified of the final URL for the project materials and final documents.

State-specific technical documents- Once the regional documents are finalized, Oregon Tilth will continue working with NRCS state specialists to develop state-specific documents that can be tailored to meet their specific needs.

Evaluations- As stated in the proposal, two post-tests will be administered for each training. Additionally, Oregon Tilth will work with NRCS to analyze changes in EQIP OI funding usage as a result of this project and to assess what future needs exist related to organic conservation planning.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

At the first two trainings, 34 pre-training evaluations were gathered. An online (survey monkey) post-training evaluation was sent to participants the week of July 29. The pre-evaluation showed that 74% had viewed the pre-training webinar on pest management; 88% of those who viewed the webinar responded that it increased their knowledge about utilizing NRCS practices to provide IPM support to organic producers. Participants also rated their pre-training skills and knowledge on 8 topics covered in the training (cover crops, buffers, nutrient management, EQIP OI, etc). This information will be compared to responses in the post-training evaluation.

As a result of this project, university faculty and NRCS leadership in WI and IA are investigating the possibility of creating a regionally adapted version of the ‘Nutrient Management Plan (590) for Organic Systems: Western State Implementation Guide’. Additionally, NRCS national leadership is currently working with Oregon Tilth to review these documents for national adoption into the NRCS Organic Guidebook. The development of the national guidebook and facilitation of the Upper Midwest group is being led by Sarah Brown, Organic Conservation Program Manager, Oregon Tilth.

Oregon Tilth and partners have increased their engagement with NRCS state offices and other conservation organizations to provide continued and expanded organic related assistance. Oregon NRCS is working with Oregon Tilth on a number of other related projects to support future growth of the EQIP OI and conservation on organic farms. Parallel to a similar national conversation, Oregon NRCS is investigating ways to reduce redundancy between NRCS conservation plans and Organic System Plans. Additionally, Idaho NRCS has expressed interest in incorporating an organic component into their soil health initiatives.


Nick Andrews

[email protected]
Metro Area Small Farms Extension Agent: Horticulture Crops
Oregon State University
15210 NE Miley Rd.
Aurora, OR 97002
Office Phone: 5039139410
Rex Dufour

[email protected]
National Center for Appropriate Technology
36355 Russell Blvd
Davis, CA 95616
Office Phone: 5307927338
Jennifer Miller

[email protected]
Sustainable Agriculture Program Coordinator
Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
PO Box 1393
Eugene, OR 97440
Office Phone: 2084331827