Monitoring Rangeland Health as a Means to Sustain the Rural Family Enterprise
Dan Anderson (project leader), Ryan Beer (NRCS Rangeland Specialist), Drew Anderson (U.S.F.S Rangeland Specialist) and Terry Hall (Tatanka Resource Conservation & Development Coordinator) announced the upcoming Land EKG workshop through Grand River Grazing Association monthly meeting, South Dakota Grassland Coalition monthly meeting, Regional newspapers (#12) covering South/ North Dakota and Montana, Regional radio announcements and various newsletter announcements (NRCS eNotes), and flyers at local businesses throughout the region..
Planning meetings were held to coordinate three training locations (day 1- classroom at Lemmon VFD building; day 2-3 at two different sites on the Grand River National Grassland), lodging accommodations for participants, handling of registration, working with presenter on coordinating date, field day site requirements, and necessary field equipment.
Eighteen people participated in the 3-day workshop. Twelve producers were awarded 73% cost-share towards registration (12 @ $400 = $4,800) with the remaining six participants (agency personnel) paying full tuition ($550).
Nine participants purchased Rangeland Monitoring Kits ($1587.50) which will be cost-shared 50% (8 @ 187.50 and 1 @ 87.50) when second payment of 35% received from SARE office.
One-third (6) of the participants have expressed interest in having our rangeland specialists assist them in setting up monitoring stations on their individual ranches. We anticipate the number could rise in spring 2008.
During the three day course several participants expressed gratitude at having the chance to participate in the workshop. They also expressed gratitude towards SARE in providing funding to hold the workshop – some people would not have been there without this assistance. Participants were fully satisfied with the knowledge of the presenter and his ability to explain the material. In this part of the country, word-of-mouth from peers is an influential way of educating ranchers who were unable to attend, but are interested in this method and likely to come forward with questions of their own or would participate in the one-day follow-up workshop we will hold in July 2008.
Participants have learned that monitoring doesn’t have to be complicated and that science-based measurements can improve management decisions which in turn can improve economic conditions on the family farm. They also learned that technical assistance is available to them. Contacts between participants and agency personnel were made and ranchers now feel more comfortable knowing someone is available to answer their questions if needed.
WORK PLAN FOR 2008
The grant was written to support 20 ranchers – twelve ranchers received support for registration and monitoring kit ($4,800) leaving $4,800 to work with. We will have Charlie Orchard (Land EKG) return to the area in July 2008 for a one-day follow up session. We anticipate that this follow-up session may include Professor Sandy Smart from SDSU to speak on sustainable grazing practices. Ryan Beer (NRCS) and Dan Anderson (project leader) will give a testimonial regarding their experience with implementing rangeland monitoring techniques. Speakers will also educate participants on plant identification using the guidebook ‘Grassland Plants of South Dakota’.
We will invite back those who participated in this year’s course and try to draw other ranchers in to listen to the presenter in hopes of peaking their interest to develop a sustainable monitoring scheme on their individual ranches. We would also like to purchase 50 (50 @ $18 ea = $900 ) books entitled “Grassland Plants of South Dakota and the Northern Great Plains (published by SD Agricultural Experiment Station) which will greatly aid ranchers in learning to identify and understand the plants that produce the forage, provide the cover, protect the soil, and enrich our lives in many ways.
With the photographs that have and will be taken over the next 9 months we will create a poster board display showing the monitoring steps and will hang the poster in USDA Service Center hallway where many producers come to do business.
Eighteen people participated in the three-day workshop.
Newspaper articles (enclosed) describing the event was printed in the Dickinson Press, Bison Courier, and the Lemmon Leader (September-November 2007). Several photographs were taken during the event and will be used in 2008 to create a poster board display.
When Charlie Orchard (Land EKG) returns in July 2008 for the one-day follow-up session ($1250) we will invite the eighteen participants back, advertise the event in regional newspapers, radio ads and have conservation partners (County Conservation District offices, NRCS Service Centers, SD Cooperative Extension) post flyers at businesses throughout six counties and make announcements at their monthly meetings.