Nebraska Ag IMPACT Project
The Nebraska Ag IMPACT Project supports local groups of beginning and established farmers in demonstrating and learning about sustainable farming systems. Three key agriculture organizations (University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society and Center for Rural Affairs) collaborate to provide group organization support, design of on-farm projects and networking linkages to other farmer groups and organizations.
The IMPACT Project recruits farmers and ranchers to form local sustainable farming IMPACT groups, which include nonfarm community members and local Extension Educators. Local groups foster rural community support for and increased adoption of sustainable farming systems. Groups receive staff support and cost-share funding for projects of their choosing and participate in a statewide network of IMPACT groups.
IMPACT supported 13 groups across Nebraska in 1996 and 18 groups in 1997, including more than 130 group members who controlled over 80,000 acres of farm and ranch land. Public demonstrations of projects attracted more than 125 additional farmers and community members each year. Group projects have included legume cover crops, cooperative meat marketing, building stronger communities, improved grass management, consumer education, farming without chemicals and other agronomic, marketing and community development ideas.
Group members have credited the group process with encouraging them to try or adopt new farming practices. Over half reported adopting new practices within three years and 30 percent saw profit improvement in that time. Half the participants expected improved water quality from their IMPACT activities, 40 percent saw decreased soil erosion, 60 percent increased their farm diversification (more grazing land and cattle, additional legumes and cover crops and less tillage) and 50 percent reported improved wildlife habitat. Extension advisors have enthusiastically supported IMPACT group projects and have encouraged others to form their own groups. Most of the groups have plans to continue their activities in coming years. North Central Region SARE 1997 Annual Report.