Collaborative Approaches to Increase the Integration of Functional Agricultural Biodiversity in Western Farming Systems

2017 Annual Report for EW15-014

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $67,699.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Oregon State University
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
Gwendolyn Ellen
Agricultural Biodiversity Consulting

Collaborative Approaches to Increase the Integration of Functional Agricultural Biodiversity in Western Farming Systems


The concept of functional agricultural biodiversity (FAB) embraces a variety of living organisms with beneficial roles on farms and adjacent lands, and the habitats supplying resources that support them. FAB management practices sustain the flow of ecosystem services within farming systems.  Teaching farmers FAB practices can help restore important ecological services which include biological crop pest suppression, crop pollination, and increased soil and watershed health.  Implementing FAB practices such as establishing in-field and farm margin insectary plantings and hedgerows can reduce production costs, raise or stabilize yields, increase biological pest management, enable cost-effective compliance with environmental regulations and farm bill conservation programs, and provide access to markets that require biodiversity-friendly production.

Despite these potential advantages, the Western Region FAB Work Group 2012 needs assessment identified the following impediments to FAB implementation by farmers across the western region (ID, OR,WA and CA): a lack of appropriately localized knowledge, poor continuity in programs, and limited flow of information and feedback among diverse institutional and farm stakeholders.

The FAB Work Group, founded in 2007, has developed a collaborative network of professionals to address the impediments to FAB research and adoption of conservation biological pest management practices in Oregon (OR), Idaho (ID), Washington (WA) and California (CA).  Our mission is 1) to foster regionally-relevant communication, FAB research and outreach 2) to preserve and enhance crop pollination by native pollinators, management of pests by predators, parasitoids and pathogens and 3) to promote the interlinking positive aspects of functional agricultural biodiversity in forest, rangeland, and farms.   This is the report of our second year of a SARE PDP project to increase the integration of FAB practices into western farming systems using a highly collaborative, network advocacy approach.  This approach uses local experts and farmers as teachers, working farms as classrooms and established networks and collaborative events as platforms for increasing knowledge and technical skills in the adoption of agricultural conservation practices.

Objectives/Performance Targets

To develop and conduct a summer 2016, on-farm Habitat Establishment Field Course to increase technical skills in establishing on-farm habitat in the chosen pilot state for farmers, extension researchers, crop consultants, sustainable agriculture organizations and conservationists, and to provide training in developing a local FAB network. The Work Group chose an Oregon commercial farm to highlight, crop-specific, local, agricultural conservation practices that promote functional agricultural biodiversity.

To develop a tool to evaluate, analyze and map the geographical and sociological scope of our state and regional networks and their effectiveness in influencing the adoption of FAB practices, and farmers’ perception of FAB. The network survey and analysis involves the FAB Work Group network with its members from Oregon, Washington, California and Idaho as well as the participants of other project activities described below. Data collection will occur throughout the project and a report will be compiled and disseminated in 2018. Qualitative and quantitative post-event, IRB approved, evaluations will also be conducted at the other project activities described below and incorporated into the project on an ongoing basis.

To develop the first ever, Western Functional Agricultural Biodiversity Summit in Portland, Oregon in March 2017 with farmers, conservationists and researchers as co-presenters.  The Summit’s target audience was farmers and those who support farmers (such as NRCS, Soil and Water Conservation District, Resource Conservation District and university extension personnel and industry consultants). Its purpose is to inform participants of current on-the-ground practices and research projects being done throughout the western region, teach implementation of conservation practices and habitat establishment and provide trainings for strengthening local FAB networks and resources. 


Network Survey and Analysis: The first FAB Network Survey was launched August 1, 2016 and ran until December 12, 2016, with numerous reminder emails and phone calls during that period. The survey asked 15 questions about respondent interests, priorities, capacities, and other aspects of their agriculture work related to FAB, and three questions about people that they have either shared information and ideas about FAB with, collaborated with on FAB-related work, or have not worked with before but would like to do FAB-related work with in the coming year. One hundred twenty people in Oregon (n=57), Washington (23), Idaho (27), and California (13) who had participated in FAB events were invited to take the survey and 92 completed it, for a response rate of almost 77%. The 92 respondents named a total of 1,302 connections, including 649 information and idea sharing relationships, 418 past collaborations, and 235 desired future collaborations. In addition to the 120 people who were invited to take the survey, respondents also named another 97 people with whom they interact or would like to interact on FAB topics (see Appendix One for FAB network maps).

Early network maps were shared with FAB Workgroup core members through email in fall 2016.  These maps were also posted on the FAB list serve of about 100 members across the west.  The list serve is housed at the National Center for Appropriate Technology Office in Butte, Montana.  Data from the FAB Survey indicating specific areas of interest in FAB was used to design the workshops and panels of the Agricultural Biodiversity on Western Farms; Conservation Practices Working for Farmers Conference at Troutdale Oregon, March 15, 2017. Topics of interest identified included ecosystems services provided by FAB, how to integrate FAB practices in different farming systems and technical information on installing on-farm habitat that increase agricultural biodiversity.  To see how works and panels corresponded to these issues please see the attached conference agenda in Appendix Two.

The purpose of the second FAB collaboration network survey that will be launched May 2017, is to document and quantify changes in the network over the six months since the first survey, during which time the interactive events described in this report have occurred. The data from the second survey will be used to assess the effectiveness of the FAB work group activities during that period and to continue to identify priority interests and needs of FAB participants in order to design future activities that address those needs. A number of new people participated in the winter and spring 2017 meetings and we anticipate inviting over 200 people to take the second survey.

In February 2016, Ken Vance-Borland and Gwendolyn Ellen began conducting capacity/network building meetings In Hailey Idaho, Hermiston and Mosier Oregon and Davis California.  In California and Idaho these meetings were hosted by FAB collaborators; the National Center for Appropriate Technology CA Office and the Idaho Nature Conservancy.  In Mosier and Hermiston the meetings piggy-backed train-the-trainer workshops conducted by members of the FAB network: the Wasco Soil and Water Conservation District, the Underwood Conservation District in Washington and the Farmscaping for Beneficials Project of OSU’s Integrated Plant Protection Center.

The purpose of these meetings were to highlight the importance of the local FAB network collaborations in these areas, to strengthen these collaborations and provide a platform for creating new collaborative projects, to present the FAB network survey data that demonstrates the local networks and their connections to a greater FAB network across California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, to recruit new survey respondents, to advocate participation in the Western Region FAB Work Group and its March conference and introduce the second phase of the FAB network survey set for May 2017.  There were about 60 total participants from the four meetings spanning over 17 Oregon, 3 Washington, 10 Idaho and 13 California counties covering numerous western agro-ecosystems and crops. Participants were impressed to see their local network maps.  Participants commented repeatedly that seeing how their local networks in SE Idaho, central and eastern OR and northern CA connect to the larger network and experiencing the gaps in connections graphically had a positive effect on their interest in the network advocacy format of using local experts and farmers as teachers. Perhaps this positive effect was a bit influenced by seeing their names up in print and part of a grander network or maybe a picture is worth 1000 words!

Western Functional Agricultural Biodiversity Summit: Eighty people participated in the Agricultural Biodiversity on Western Farms: Conservation Practices Working for Farmers, March 15, 2017 at McMenamin’s Edgefield, in Troutdale, OR. Speakers and attendees came from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California. The conference, designed around information obtained from the FAB Network Survey presented two panels.  The morning panel was on the ecosystems services provided by agricultural biodiversity.  Speakers included experts from California’s National Center for Appropriate Technology, University of California Cooperative Extension’s Farm Advisor form Yolo County and Oregon’s own director of pollinator conservation at Xerces.  Topics covered biological pest management, soil fertility building and pollination by native bees.

The afternoon farmers’ panel was composed of two Washington farmers and one conservation manager.  Their farms were large-scale (over 600 aces each) of row crops, seeds and wine grapes. The fourth panelist was an Oregon farm incubator manager.  All are successfully incorporating agricultural biodiversity within their farming systems.  One farm is totally certified organic, the other has some certified organic acres and the farm incubator practices organic techniques.  The Washington growers farm in the Columbia Basin and on the Plateau.  The farm incubator is near Portland.  The farmers and farm managers described their conservation practices, spoke candidly about the difficulties they face installing and conserving on-farm habitat and the importance of the conservations practices to their farming systems.

A wealth of information was presented in six break-out sessions by FAB Work Group collaborators from across the west.  Under the conference’s unique format all participants attended each break-out session by moving through each of three sessions in the morning and the afternoon in three different groups.  This meant that each session’s presenters had to pick their presentations wisely as their time was short and do their presentations three times.  It also demanded precision collaborations from the presenters and their session facilitators as well as the participants themselves who were herded throughout the sessions by volunteer “movers”. The format was successful and judging by the evaluations was greatly appreciated.  Sessions included beneficial insect and native pollinator  identification, native plant selection for on-farm habitat, perennial habitat establishment, annual in-field insectary plantings, building local resources and collaborations and an interactive planning session for integrating conservation practices into farming systems.  For a conference agenda see Appendix Two. To see a video and article about the conference go to  and

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This year the project has significantly increased the exchange of FAB experiential knowledge and research in the western US and demonstrated local practices farmers currently employ and the resources they use to do so through the following project events: a Work Group meeting, four collaboration/network capacity building meetings, a regional FAB Conference and an all-day indoor workshop and an accompanying field course. In total, over 250 project event participants not only have more FAB regional and local information to provide education programs in their states (OR, ID, WA and CA), but they have also been provided direct training and technical support to adopt and teach conservation practices that support agricultural biodiversity in multiple agro-ecosystems. At the same time supportive, local collaborative relationships to help integrate the adoption of FAB practices have been strengthened by an infusion of new contacts, information and opportunities to network.

On-Farm Habitat Establishment Field Course: Recruitment for the 2017 field course went out in July 2016. Ellen was able to expand the field course into a one-day indoor course and a field course by partnering with the Oregon’s Soil and Water Conservation Society, the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (BSWCD), the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), Oregon State University’s Integrated Plant Protection Center (IPPC) and the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Corvallis Plant Materials Center (PMC).  The courses were held August 23rd and 24th. They were reported on in the 2016 Annual Report for this project. There were five co-teachers, including the two farmer hosts and the course was paired with an indoor workshop at the Corvallis Plant Materials Center. Twenty eight participants spanning 5 Oregon and 1 WA county attended the indoor and a few less attending the field course. Farmers represented 1,788 acres of vegetables, hay, Christmas trees, grain, fruit, hops and native plant crops.  Evaluations with over a 90% response rate showed a large learning curve and a high probability of participants adopting practices they learned in the course.

The course is mentioned here to highlight the impacts that have occurred from the courses since the last 2016 Report.  Developing the courses strengthened the lucrative collaborative relationships among Ellen and the Benton Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the USDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Materials Center in Corvallis.   The collaboration sparked another collaboration with the Benton SWCD and Ellen providing a two-day OR Integrated Biological Pest Management (IBPM) Train-the-Trainer course.   The Director of the Corvallis PMC presented as a local expert and teacher in the course as well as the FAB March Conference.  The IBPM Train-the-Trainer course funded by USDA’s Risk Management Program, has trained 18 conservationist, extension personnel and agricultural educators across the state of Oregon.  Each of these 18 participants are conducting their own 2 day workshops through July 2017.  Their workshops, each having anywhere from 15 – 35 farmers and conservationists, represent Oregon crops such as cranberries, wine grapes, stone fruits, apples and pears, vegetable and row crops. These courses have significantly increased the impact of this project’s goals, especially in Oregon and Washington.

In addition to meeting a target goal of this project, the field course specifically gave the indoor workshop participants an opportunity to increase skills in identifying native pollinators, insect predators and parasites and native plants used in farm habitats, It also increased their appreciation of FAB practices for specific cropping systems by seeing them in action and discussing their establishment with the farmers themselves. The field course served as an immediate feed-back loop for participants of the indoor course. Research shows us that this quality of technical assistance through experiential learning from the farmer/practitioners themselves can add to increased adoption of conservation practices.  In our event evaluations we will measure the participants’ intent to adopt such practices on their farms and in their programs with farmer clients.

Network Capacity Building Meetings: There were numerous outcomes and impacts from the collaboration/network capacity building meetings.  Besides giving us multiple platforms to present the FAB Network data maps the following paragraphs describe a few other notable impacts and outcomes from each meeting. About a dozen conservationists, agency personnel and farmers attended the Hailey Idaho meeting in the middle of a snow storm. Highlights of six-years of collaboration with the FAB network was presented. Dayna Gross from The Nature Conservancy Idaho hosted the meeting.  Dayna constructed and presented a network map of her own program.  The participants were impressed by the Idaho FAB Network map and its connections across the western US. Three Idaho meeting participants agreed to attend the FAB March conference in Portland, two as speakers. One speaker was Dayna from the Nature Conservancy ID and the other from the ID Fish and Game.  Both speakers are well-versed in establishing habitat in SE Idaho’s high shrub steppe habitat making them sterling additions to the FAB conference. At least one SE Idaho farm walk highlighting conservation practices for area farmers was set in the works for 2017. The Idaho Farmscaping Resource List was revised with new information on local resources from this meeting (see Appendix Three).

From the Mosier, Oregon meeting two participants came to the FAB March Conference.  Our meeting piggy-backed onto a workshop produced by three previous Integrated Biological Pest Management 2016 train-the-trainer course attendees described in the previous paragraphs. Their field course is set for May 19th in the Dalles, OR. Piggy-backing onto this course enabled us to reach about 30 farmers representing vegetables, wine grapes, stone fruit, apple and pear orchards grown in Oregon and Washington’s unique Columbia plateau region.

In Hermiston, participants added numerous local resources to the development of an Eastern Oregon Farmscaping Resource List as well as adding E OR resources to three lists of local experts used to help develop local FAB courses and farm tours (see Appendix Four). Since this was a train-the-trainer course of Ellen’s Farmscaping for Beneficials Program most of the 7 participants will produce their own workshops on FAB/integrated biological pest management.  Trainers represented over 8 Oregon counties in east to central Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and multiple agro-ecosystems. All trainees were extension personnel except one from the Tribal gardens and one independent consultant working to install habitat within Washington prisons and farms.  At least one of the extension personnel from this course will attend a trainee’s field course in the Willamette Valley. The extension personnel who have health and community programs as part of their responsibilities found the network advocacy approach especially relevant to that area of their work as well as their work with farmers. This course really broadened local and regional FAB network resources to include Umatilla Native Plant Nursery, local area gardens, a local experienced habitat installer, new area native plant experts and an apps for identifying native plants made by a Hermiston botanist who was a local expert at the course.  One participant attended the FAB March Conference.  One local expert from the Tribal Native Nursery presented at the FAB March Conference.

The Davis meeting was unique in that instead of farmers attending activists and NRCS conservationists, from southern, coastal and northern CA attended.  Non-profit personnel from the National Center for Appropriate Technology CA, CA Audubon, Hedgerows Unlimited and a UCCE Farm Advisor for Yolo County rounded out this very dynamic group of attendees. CA has perhaps the most active conservationists in the FAB arena.  There was a broad span of CA counties and agro-ecosystems represented at the meeting. The discussion was dynamic and program work very inspiring.  What we did learn is that these movers and shakers rarely sit down as we had to talk about their programs with each other.  They were delighted to learn who was doing what and what was working and not working in their programs.  The presentation of the network survey and the dynamic meeting content itself inspired participants to strive to plan at least one such network meeting a year in the future.  Three other participants met with Ellen individually to discuss further steps they could do to fund raise and strengthen their network. At the individual meetings a SARE Research and Education proposal for Audubon CA was reviewed and revised to include more farmer participation in the project.   It was also decided that CA could do much more to tap into the western region FAB workgroup by hosting future FAB meetings and events in the state. A plan of future FAB action is in the works.

Western Functional Agricultural Biodiversity Summit: This was the first conference in the Pacific Northwest on Functional Agricultural Biodiversity. It provided valuable information on specific projects, research, programs and practices that support FAB in various agro-ecosystems from the fertile valley and Oakland savannah remnants of the Willamette Valley to the dry, cold, short-seasoned high dessert prairies and sage brush steppe of SE Idaho.  Attendees and presenters came from the non-profit, tribal, agency, industrial, educational and conservation realms of agriculture. In addition to increasing valuable FAB regional and state/agro-ecosystem information and resources to farmers and those who support farmers in developing conservation practices the conference also provided the first-ever platform of its scale for participants to connect directly with regional, local and farmer experts in the field of FAB. Documentation of increases in interaction strength, awareness of FAB, creation of new connections and networks and adoption of conservation practices will be quantitatively documented in this event’s evaluation summary as well as though Phase II of network analysis. In the meantime here are some evaluation comments from participants:” Loved the frank talk about maintenance {of habitats}.”; “Thank you for having rotating stations and getting people up and moving around.”; “The term biodiversity was the draw. Mind Blown. Biodiversity is not giving up something. It is a tool to harness to sustainable agriculture.”; “Very good conference. Great to hear the experiences from different practitioners. Great networking!”; “Lots of great beneficial insectary planting information. Lots of great networking! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”; “Yes {my expectations were met}, hearing from folks that have done and are doing this was very helpful’;” Great work getting so many folks together from so far away-Epic and a long term dream come true.”; ”I really enjoyed the farmers that presented on projects they have implemented on their farms.”; “This would be a great annual event…if there is funding and time to organize….”.Appendix-Three-ID-Resource-List-Appendix-Four-E-OR-Resource-Lists


Dr. Rachael Long
Farm Advisor, Yolo County
Unversity of California Cooperative Extension
70 Cottonwood St.
Woodland, CA 95695
Office Phone: 5307927338
Ken Vance-Borland
Conservation Planning Institute
8285 NW Wynoochee Dr.
Corvallis, OR 97330
Office Phone: 5412317949
Rex Dufour
Western Region Office Director
National Center for Appropriate Technology
PO Box 2218
Davis, CA 95617-0363
Office Phone: 5307927338