2021-2022 Nebraska SARE Plan of Work

Project Overview

Project Type: PDP State Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $130,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Nebraska-LIncoln
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
State Coordinators:
Dr. Gary Lesoing
University of Nebraska-LIncoln
Katja Koehler-Cole
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Ben Beckman
University of Nebraska


  • Agronomic: corn, grass (misc. perennial), oats, radish (oilseed, daikon, forage), rapeseed, rye, sorghum sudangrass, soybeans, triticale, vetches, wheat
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beets, cucurbits, tomatoes
  • Animals: bees, bovine, poultry, shellfish
  • Animal Products: dairy, honey, meat


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation, double cropping, intercropping, no-till, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism, community-supported agriculture
  • Natural Resources/Environment: strip cropping
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, dryland farming, integrated crop and livestock systems, organic agriculture, transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    The 2021-2022 Nebraska SARE Plan of Work will include the following initiatives;

    1. Regional Initiative of Beginning Farmer/Rancher Training

    2. Soil Health and Water Quality

    3. Regional Conferences Focusing on Sustainable Agriculture issues

    4. Supporting Local Food Systems

          5.  Emerging Issues 

    Throughout 2021-2022 we will continue to support programs to provide training and resources for Ag Educators that are providing beginning farmer/rancher training as part of the regional initiative for beginning farmers/ranchers. Nebraska SARE will continue to have a strong commitment to soil health and water quality through educational programs; i.e. field days, field trainings, workshops and conferences both virtually and face-to-face.  We will continue to provide support and sponsorship of sustainable ag conferences held in Nebraska. We will provide support and education to assist in the continued development of local food systems in the region. Finally we will address emerging issues, i.e. virtual programming for our clientele.




    Project objectives from proposal:



    1. Regional Initiative of Beginning Farmer/Rancher Training


    For the 2021-2022 NCR-SARE Plan of Work, the Regional Initiative from 2019-2020 was carried over as a  2021-2022 Initiative. We were able to send five Extension Educators to the regional professional development training event organized by NCR-SARE on beginning farmers and ranchers. We also have a group of 3 Extension Educators that are working with beginning ranchers. Although they did not participate in the training in Indianapolis, they will get support from our SARE state funds in developing their training. All these educators are initiating educational programming to beginning farmers and ranchers through workshops, virtual training for beginning farmers and virtual farm tours, along with other educational programs to be developed.   During the two-year plan of work period, we will also offer additional SARE-funded travel scholarships, and where appropriate, mini-grant support to further educational programming that increases the sustainability and success of beginning farmers and ranchers.


    a). Expected Outcomes:

    1). Five Ag Educators will use the knowledge and resources they gained of beginning farmers and rancher training programs by attending the Regional Training Program in the North Central Region.  

    2). Twenty Ag Educators will increase knowledge of strategies they can utilize to better equip beginning farmers and ranchers to become successful in their operations.

    3). Ten Ag Educators will initiate training programs for beginning farmers and ranchers.

    4). Fifty beginning farmers and ranchers will participate in an activity i.e. course, workshop, tour or webinar that will increase their sustainability and success.


    b). Activity:

    In 2021 we plan to continue to develop programming to engage more ag educators in training beginning farmers and ranchers. Ag Educators will continue our relationship with the Farm Beginnings® Collaborative that provides training for facilitation of Farm Beginnings® classes. SARE will provide support as needed to participate in face-to-face training opportunities.   Ag Educators will be conducting workshops to evaluate beginning farmer/rancher operations for their sustainability. We hope to develop a mentoring program with sustainable farmers as well. Initially there will be virtual tours and if available, face-to-face tours of successful sustainable farming operations to educate Ag Educators, farmers and ranchers about the keys to sustainability.  State SARE funds will be used for these programs and to compensate farmers and ranchers for their time.

    c). Evaluation: An evaluation will be developed for these different programs to measure their impact.        

    1. Soil Health and Water Quality


    a). Expected Outcomes:

    1). 50 Ag Educators will increase knowledge of how Soil Health can best be used to maximize water use efficiency and improve quality of ground water in diversified cropping & crop/livestock systems in Nebraska.   

    2). One-hundred Ag Educators will increase knowledge on the use of cover crops in crop and livestock production systems and how they improve soil health.

    3). 15 Ag Educators will initiate training programs and conduct on-farm research activities with cover crops.

    4). 10 Ag Educators will initiate training programs and conduct on-farm research activities with manure applied as a resource in cropping systems and to improve soil health. 

    b). Activity:

    This is an on-going initiative that is very important to Nebraskans. In 2021-22 UNL Extension and SARE will continue to sponsor training for UNL Extension Educators and Specialists and other Ag Educators to learn about the use of cover crops and manure to improve soil health at programs in Nebraska with some NRCS, representatives from the cover crop seed industry and experienced farmer cover crop practitioners.  Nebraska SARE will also cooperate with NRCS, farmer educators and the cover crop seed industry to provide learning opportunities on the use of cover crops and impact on soil health through field days, tours and workshops throughout Nebraska. Initially these trainings and programs will be made available virtually throughout the year. Depending upon the COVID-19 status, hopefully there will be an opportunity to have some of these events face-to-face. On-farm research will continue to be conducted throughout the state to evaluate and demonstrate how cover crops impact soil health. Some Educators have received SARE Partnership Grants that will be used for education as well. If travel and events occur, travel scholarships will be provided to ag educators that are interested in attending regional soil health/cover crop meetings. If the conferences are held virtually and a registration fee is required, SARE will provide support. Currently many of these conferences are on hold. i.e. 2021 or 2022 Iowa Soil Health Conference, Ames, IA; 2019 Midwest Cover Crop Council Annual Meeting in Canada (hybrid meeting face-to-face and virtual), No-till on the Plains, Wichita, KS  (limited attendance) and Practical Farmers of Iowa, Ames, IA. (Virtual). Hopefully ag educators with a focus area in soil health can participate in some capacity and provide training to ag educators in Nebraska. 

    c.) Evaluation – Evaluations have been developed for these programs to measure impact immediately following the program and others are being developed to measure impact 6-12 months following the program.       


    1. Regional Conferences Focusing on Sustainable Agriculture issues


    a.) Expected Outcomes – A short-term expected outcome is that 20 ag educators that participate in these conferences will develop a specific program area that focuses on a sustainable agriculture issue or practice what they learned at these conferences.  A more intermediate-term outcome is that the 10 ag educators that participated in these conferences will become leaders in a specific focus area of sustainable agriculture education.   The long-term outcome is that the ag educator will develop a change in practices implemented by producers as a result of programming conducted in sustainable agriculture.           


    b.) Activity - This initiative is a continuation of an initiative that began in 2008 and has been our most successful vehicle in professional development in sustainable agriculture for ag educators and farmer educators in Nebraska.  This initiative includes the NSAS Healthy Farms Conference which is held in February.  This conference is made available to ag educators that focus on sustainable agriculture issues.  Travel scholarships are made available to ag educators that want to attend these conferences as well.  From information learned at these conferences, ag educators will have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in working with clientele. 


    c.) Evaluation - Ag educators that participate in these conferences will complete a post-conference survey and also a survey 6-9 months to determine how progress is being made toward the expected outcomes.  In the post-conference survey, participating ag educators will be asked questions, i.e. How many client questions on sustainable ag issues were answered and how many newspaper and newsletter articles were written? How many meetings were conducted? How many people reached? 


    1. Supporting Local Food Systems


    a.)Expected Outcomes

    1) By conducting annual Small Farm Workshops across Nebraska that focus on diversified and sustainable agriculture, including local food production; 10 educators will gain knowledge to answer questions and provide educational programs for clientele.

    2) Thirty educators will participate in five webinars in 2019-20 to increase their knowledge of small scale local food production to be able to assist farmers interested in producing local food.

    3) Forty Educators will participate in Local Food Systems Tours in Nebraska in 2021 and 2022 and become knowledgeable in the development and support of local food systems.

    4) Five educators will become knowledgeable about fruit and vegetable production systems and evaluate different production methods through on-farm research.   


    b.) Activity – This is an on-going initiative developed from a regional initiative in 2010. This is still a very important issue in Nebraska and there is increased interest in the development of regional local food production and the increase of local food production with the sale of food to schools, other institutions and local and regional grocers. This has really become an important issue since the pandemic hit. More ag educators are also realizing the potential and opportunities that exist with local food production in Nebraska.  We plan to continue to conduct on-farm research to evaluate fruit and vegetable production systems.  Extension Ag Educators will gain knowledge by conducting these trials and explaining the results of the trials at workshops.  Ag Educators, including farmer educators will participate in the Small Farming Workshops and in Local Food Systems Tours in the summers of 2021 and 2022 at different locations across Nebraska if they are available to conduct face-to-face. If not, workshops and tours will be developed and made available virtually. SARE funds will be used to support this program.


    Evaluation – A survey of ag educators will determine the knowledge gained and impact Educators have on Supporting Local Food Systems in Nebraska in 2021 and 2022.


    1. Emerging Issues - Web-based Education of Sustainable Agriculture


    a.)Expected Outcomes

    1)  1000 people will become knowledgeable about sustainable agriculture principles through recorded conferences, workshops, Interviews, webinars and other sustainable agricultural resources on our website.   

    2) Ten Ag Educators will develop and initiate sustainable ag programs for clientele in their county and region.

    3) With the use of social media tools we create opportunities for education and professional development for more people in sustainable agriculture.   



    1) Five webinars on sustainable agriculture issues will be presented in 2021 and 2022.  

    2) I have initiated a blog on local food producers and other sustainable agricultural topics.      


    c.)Evaluation - An evaluation of webinars & blogs will be conducted following each presentation.  A follow-up 6 -12 month evaluation will be conducted to determine impact of these resources.

    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.