Regenerative Land and Livestock Management for Women

Project Overview

LS21-349
Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $49,972.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipients: National Center for Appropriate Technology; Tennessee Tech University
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Principal Investigator:
Linda Coffey
National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT)
Co-Investigators:

Commodities

  • Animals: bovine

Practices

  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, grazing management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: women

    Proposal abstract:

    This project, Regenerative Land and Livestock Management for Women, aims to empower and equip women farmers who are beginning grass-based livestock enterprises to expand their knowledge and practice skills in goal setting, soil health, regenerative grazing, animal handling, health, and direct marketing. These skills are fundamental to both the success of a grass-based livestock business and the long-term health of the land.

    To do this, we will incorporate educational techniques that are regularly and successfully used by NCAT:

    • Create an engaging mix of classroom teaching, discussion, and hands-on training
    • Provide ample time for networking within the group so that a cohort is formed and participants feel safe and supported
    • Provide mechanisms for communication and support before and after the in-person training

    We will also incorporate successful strategies used by other organizations. For example, the Rural Women's Project (SARE ONClS-006) stated, ‘‘we have found that women enjoy learning most from their peers.’’  Similarly, SARE’s ONC16-020 details the use of learning circles, participant farm tours, and ongoing networks to build a cohort of women. Soil Sisters (ONC20-072) are building a toolkit for women farmers anywhere who are interested in establishing a peer-based network, and we will use that toolkit to inform our work and enable participants to build their own local networks. Finally, we will use Annie's Project (www.anniesproject.org/about-us) methodology and principles throughout this project, as these proven techniques are also strategies NCAT uses routinely. These include the core values of:

    • Safe harbor—where all questions or situations are welcome
    • Connection and networking among farm women and speakers
    • Discovery as skills practice
    • Shared experiences as participants contribute their own subject matter expertise (Shultz et al., 2017)

    The objectives of this project are:

    • Survey women farmers to ask about their needs for resources and support.
    • Provide at least 20 hours of instruction on regenerative grazing, whole farm planning, and livestock management topics to 60 women in Arkansas and Tennessee.
    • Develop and disseminate educational resources, including at least two podcasts, four videos, and two resource lists, on regenerative grazing and livestock management topics.
    • Promote and support the development of eight new women farmer networks.
    • Provide ongoing support, networking, and technical assistance to participants.
    • Evaluate this project to inform future work.

    NCAT will hold these trainings at Tennessee Tech University, the University of Arkansas, and local farms in both locations.

     

    There is a robust group of experienced women farmers ready to host the trainings who are eager to see others succeed. Through this project, participants will learn how to care for their soil, pastures, and animals so that all are healthy and productive. Participants will discuss practical tips for the physical management of their farms. They will also learn about direct marketing and goal setting to help them meet the market demand for grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, and poultry, and to sustain a profitable farm into the future. Empowering women farmers in this way can help protect natural resources, provide healthy food for communities, and keep farmland in production for future generations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives of this project are:

    1. Survey women farmers to ask about their needs for resources and support.
    2. Provide at least 20 hours of instruction on regenerative grazing, whole farm planning, and livestock management topics to 60 women in Arkansas and Tennessee.
    3. Develop and disseminate educational resources, including at least two podcasts, four videos, and two resource lists, on regenerative grazing and livestock management topics.
    4. Promote and support the development of eight new women farmer networks.
    5. Provide ongoing support, networking, and technical assistance to participants.
    6. Evaluate this project to inform future work.

     

    Further details:

     

    1. Survey women farmers to ask about their needs for resources and support

    Surveys will be administered in several ways, including an electronic poll released to the NCAT email list and through partners’ networks, and through polls using the same questions during Zoom trainings on livestock topics. Demographic information will be collected so that the polls can be given to all interested parties but sorted so that the women’s responses can be studied separately. The project team will host Zoom livestock trainings through the ATTRA project and will use the responses collected to inform the work of this SARE project.

     

        2. Provide at least 20 hours of instruction on regenerative grazing, whole farm planning, and livestock management topics to 60 women in Arkansas and Tennessee.

    Experienced women livestock producers, including NCAT staff, will lead the trainings and provide both online instruction and a two-day, in-person workshop in each state (Arkansas and Tennessee) that offers demonstration and practice time for skills related to caring for soil, pastures, and animals. Online instruction using Zoom allows us to collect information, build trust, customize upcoming trainings, and create anticipation for the hands-on training coming later. Building trust is essential to learning (Bell and McAllister, 2012) and is especially needed before asking participants to attempt new skills in the hands-on portion of the training.

     

    We will also deliver the six-module SARE funded course, Taking Your Farm to the Next Level, offering coaching as requested by individuals to increase the business skills of the participants, leading to better financial decisions and helping farm survival.

     

    We will give all students a baseline understanding of grazing management by providing and encouraging completion of ATTRA’s Managed Grazing Tutorial, found at https://attra.ncat.org/tutorials/.   This course features eight modules that are narrated presentations and include quizzes to check for understanding. Completing this tutorial will increase their confidence prior to the in-person workshop. The hands-on practice will cement the learning and reinforce the vital concepts covered in the Managed Grazing Tutorial.

     

    The two-day in-person workshops will be exciting and impactful opportunities for hands-on learning, interactive discussion, customized experiences through breakouts, and networking between experienced and novice livestock producers.

     

    Graduate support will be provided through additional online meetings (at least two) following the in-person trainings and through interaction and coaching via the listserv, Facebook page, and ATTRA technical assistance.

     

        3. Develop and disseminate educational resources, including at least two podcasts, four videos, and two resource lists, on regenerative grazing and livestock management topics.

    We will produce at least two podcasts, four videos, and two resource lists to provide education for the participants. These will be useful after the project to many other farmers. NCAT is very experienced at creating farmer-friendly resources, and we have many ways to provide them to our audience. We will use the ATTRA website (www.attra.ncat.org), NCAT/ATTRA YouTube channel, Voices from the Field podcast, and social media, including Facebook pages for NCAT Southeast, NCAT Gulf States, and NCAT Southwest regional offices (AR, MS, and TX). We will also publicize through the Weekly Harvest newsletter and our partner networks, to reach a diverse audience.

     

        4. Promote and support the development of at least eight new women farmer networks.

    Women farmer networks have been shown to be very valuable in providing social support (Kivirist, 2016) and have become very popular in the Midwest and Northeast regions. This project will expand this work throughout the Southeast by forming cohorts in Arkansas and Tennessee. We will also provide each of the participants with the SARE-funded Soil Sisters Toolkit, available in 2021, and encourage each to begin new women farmer networks at home. We anticipate four new networks will be started by the participants in result of the Arkansas and Tennessee classes.

     

        5. Provide ongoing support, networking, and technical assistance to participants.

    NCAT will build a listserv and a Facebook page for the participants of this project to facilitate communication and networking beyond the range of this project. NCAT technical staff are available to participants through the ATTRA helpline, 800-346-9140, and through email and Facebook pages for the Southeast and Gulf States offices. NCAT technical staff are women livestock farmers, themselves, and bring a practical and empathetic manner to the work. Participants will find staff approachable and knowledgeable.

     

        6. Evaluate this project to inform future work.

    Evaluation happens throughout this project, as we know that understanding participant needs and knowing what is working is key in offering excellent, impactful trainings. NCAT strives to be responsive and adaptable and is continuously working to improve our services to our clients. NCAT will incorporate surveys after each of the trainings, online and in-person, and conduct a follow-up survey six months after the in-person trainings. Fuller details are given in the Evaluation section of this proposal.

    NCAT’s project team will use their extensive experience developing and conducting other successful training programs and their own experience as farmers to create and deliver this program.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.