Packaging, Testing, and Disseminating a Set of Indicators for Ecological, Financial, and Social Monitoring on Farms
The Monitoring Team included 25 people from ecology, rural sociology, hydrogeology, soil science, fish and wildlife and agricultural economics. It combined the perspectives of farmers, agency officials, researchers, consultants and non-profit staff. The project focused on farms in transition to Management Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG).
In 1997, the team prepared materials for dissemination and conducted educational activities. The team developed a prototype version of the Monitoring Tool Box, a set of indicators that farmers can use to see if they are making progress toward their goals.
The prototype Tool Box was reviewed by farmers and other professionals. The team established working relationships with four interdisciplinary groups to help promote the use of a team process for on-farm monitoring:
1) Chippewa River Stewardship Partnership — four farms including a 1,300-acre row crop operation with an 80-acre wetland restoration project.
2) Coalition for Holistic Agricultural and Resource Management in northeastern Iowa — five mixed crop and livestock farms.
3) Blue Earth River Basin Initiative — five farms with mostly row crops.
4) A group of four farmers in south central Minnesota with mixed crop and livestock enterprises. Mentors from our team assisted these groups. Eighteen farmers who were part of these groups reviewed the Tool Box.
After further editing, The Monitoring Tool Box was released in a first edition in June 1998. It is a practical, easy-to-use 115-page guide for those interested in monitoring the impact of management decisions on their land, finances and family. The team also produced a video called Close to the Ground that shows team interaction and makes suggestions for how to form teams to monitor on farms. As of January 1999, 300 copies of the Tool Box and 300 copies of the video have been sold or distributed.
In addition, team members gave more than 55 formal presentations reaching in-state and national audiences. We held a total of 12 workshops or field days reaching local, state, regional and national audiences totaling 560 people. The publication Monitoring Sustainable Agriculture with Conventional Financial Data, by Dick Levins, was distributed to 700 people. Alison Meares’ article on quality of life was published in the Winter 1997 issue of Rural Sociology. Laurie Sovell produced a Master’s Thesis entitled Impacts of Rotational Grazing and Riparian Buffer Strip on the Physiochemical Characteristics and Biological Communities of Southeastern Minnesota Streams. In addition, articles about the project appeared in Successful Farming, Sierra, and The Minnesota Volunteer, as well as a variety of newspapers.
For more information:
Land Stewardship Project
2200 Fourth Street
White Bear Lake, MN 55110