- Education and Training: extension
In Wisconsin Extension, NRCS, and Land Conservation Departments are the primary agencies providing technical assistance to farmers and the principal audiences targeted by Wisconsin’s SARE professional development program. In addition, staff from the technical college system, NGOs, state agencies, and others involved in agricultural outreach are often included in SARE outreach efforts.
Recent SARE professional development in Wisconsin has focused on soil health and management, as well as perennial agriculture, and supported work in organic agriculture and local food systems. We will continue to support professional development in these areas and will add an initiative on working with beginning farmers.
Extension in Wisconsin has undergone a major reorganization in response to deep budget cuts. Budget cuts have also affected sustainable programming in other state agencies. These budget cuts make the resources offered by SARE even more valuable to agricultural professionals, but they also make it more difficult for educators to explore new programming and have encouraged many experienced educators with sustainable agriculture expertise to leave state employment. In 2020 the COVID-19 pandemic also greatly affected programming.
Initiative 1: Cover Crops and Soil Health
Outcomes: (Short term) Increased knowledge among agricultural educators about specifics of cover crops management and managing for soil health. Increased knowledge about the role of soil health and cover crops in maintaining water quality and regulating infiltration and base flow.
(Intermediate) Continued programming by 15 or more educators on soil health and cover crops, with more in-depth information on practices.
(Long term) Increased use of cover crops in the state.
- Solicit mini-grants focused on cover crops and/or soil health.
- Follow up on past cover crops and soil health mini-grants.
- Provide support to the cover crops/soil health working group in UW Extension.
- Deliver a workshop on the relationship between soil health, perennial crops, and water quality and quantity, and how sustainable agriculture can improve resiliency in extreme weather events.
- Deliver a soil health workshop for high school and/or technical college instructors at the WAAE conference, with activities that can be incorporated into existing classes.
- The number of agriculture educators participating in cover crop and healthy soils professional development and responses to end-of-program evaluation
- The number of educators programming in cover crops and soil health, including conducting research or demonstration projects, and where available, the number of farmers reached through this programming
- If the CTIC cover crop surveys continue, the amount of cover crop use in Wisconsin over time
Initiative 2: Agroforestry and Perennial Agriculture
Outcomes: (Short term) At least 30 Wisconsin agricultural educators will increase their understanding of various approaches to maintaining perennial living cover on agricultural land, including managed grazing and agroforestry.
(Intermediate) 20 educators will provide outreach on agroforestry, pollinator habitat, grazing, or other perennial agriculture practices to 60 farmers and educators through field days, workshops, technical assistance, and other methods.
(Long term) Farmers will establish windbreaks, riparian buffers, alleycrops, silvopasture, and prairie “STRIPS”, maintain and increase management of permanent pasture, and incorporate beneficial insect habitat and other perennial crops into the agricultural landscape.
- Continue to build a network of agriculture and forestry professionals and farmers interested in agroforestry.
- Work on rebuilding grazing support system in collaboration with NRCS, Land Conservation, UW, NGOs, and state agencies.
- Provide training in organic grazing management in coordination with the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems and Organic Valley.
- Organize “intro to grazing” training for Extension and Land Conservation educators.
- Work with NRCS, Extension, and Land Conservation to provide training and outreach on grazing dairy heifers.
- Deliver workshop on the relationship between soil health, perennial crops, and water quality and quantity, and how sustainable agriculture can improve resiliency in extreme weather events.
- Provide SARE scholarships for perennial agriculture events, including Grazing Conference scholarships to high school and tech college instructors.
- The number of agriculture educators and foresters participating in events focused on agroforestry, perennial pollinator habitat, grazing, and other professional development related to perennial agriculture
- The number of farmers and landowners reached by grazing, agroforestry, and other perennial agriculture outreach efforts
Initiative 3: Beginning Farmers
In order to participate in the NCR-SARE regional initiative for 2019-20, one of our initiative focus areas will be on beginning farmers and ranchers.
Outcomes: (Short term) Seven Wisconsin agricultural educators will increase their understanding of strategies for supporting sustainability of beginning farmers.
(Intermediate) 5 educators will provide outreach to at least 40 beginning farmers and educators through field days, workshops, technical assistance, publications, and other methods.
- Send 5 to 7 educators to a regional training event organized by NCR-SARE on beginning farmers and ranchers in 2019. Educators who travel to this regional training will be asked to provide educational programming to other educators and/or beginning farmers and ranchers
- Develop and compile fact sheets, videos, and curriculum on basics of sustainable poultry and pig production
- Update compilation of beginning farmer resources.
- Reach out to LCO, Menominee, Oneida, IAC, Bad River, Red Cliff, Ho Chunk to ask what resources, if any, they would like from WI SARE for beginning farmer support.
Initiative 4: Extending Sustainable Agriculture Knowledge and Practice
Background: SARE needs to continue to support professional development and educator action for a wide range of sustainable agriculture practices and approaches that SARE helped initiate in Wisconsin, including organic agriculture, climate and energy, and local foods. In addition, the state SARE professional development program needs to be able to respond to emerging opportunities in sustainable agriculture.
Outcomes: (Short-term) 30 educators will increase their knowledge of sustainable practices and approaches such as local food systems, organic agriculture, composting, working with underserved farmers, and responding to climate change.
(Intermediate) 10 educators will provide information and programming on grazing, organic agriculture, local food systems and other sustainable agriculture topics to 100 farmers and others involved in agriculture.
(Long-term) More farmers will adopt sustainable practices from grazing to managing for diversity, and farmers will improve their management of sustainable approaches.
- Offer SARE scholarships to conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities in sustainable agriculture.
- Administer SARE mini-grant program.
- Assist agricultural educators with organizing, providing, and funding professional development in sustainable agriculture.
- Number of SARE scholarship recipients and types of outreach resulting from SARE scholarships. Scholarship recipients will be sent a questionnaire 6 to 12 months after the event asking them how the scholarship influenced their work.
- Number of educators involved in mini-grants, and types of outreach resulting from mini-grants. Mini-grant recipients will submit reports on their projects.
- Number of agricultural educators participating in events co-sponsored by SARE. Evaluation of workshops will be developed in cooperation with planning partners and will include the number of people attending as well as how they intend to apply the information gained.