From Classroom to the Field: Soil Health Bottom Line: Expanding Adoption of Healthy Soils Practices by Quantifying the Economic and Environmental Benefits to Growers

Project Overview

WPDP19-12
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2021
Host Institution Award ID: G219-20-W7504
Grant Recipient: American Farmland Trust
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Kara Heckert
American Farmland Trust
Co-Investigators:
Anelkis Royce
American Farmland Trust
Anelkis Royce
American Farmland Trust

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops
  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Soil Management: composting, soil quality/health

    Abstract:

    American Farmland Trust (AFT) proposes to deliver ten train the trainer workshops in ten major agricultural regions throughout Washington, Oregon, and California. These training workshops will provide agricultural service providers (crop consultants, agronomists, nutrient management planners), and staff from Conservation Districts, NGOs, and Land Trusts with training on three technical tools created by USDA/NRCS: COMET-Farm Tool, Nutrient Tracking Tool, and Level III T Chart, to assess the economic and environmental benefits of soil health practices. Additionally, case studies will be highlighted by local farmers to outline the benefits of these practices.

    As part of the workshop development, AFT will create a robust outreach plan to reach agricultural service providers throughout each region. A training workshop curriculum will be developed with additional technical speakers from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Washington State University, Oregon State University, California State University, University of California, Cooperative Extensions, and Conservation District staff who are experienced in using COMET-Farm Tool, Nutrient Tracking Tool, and Level III T Charts.

    Select participants in the trainings will also be trained to create a short, two-page “case study” documenting the environmental and economic outcomes of soil health practices with a farmer they work with. These case studies will serve as a critical tool in providing motivation to other growers to adopt soil health practices on their own farm.  Lastly, surveys will be collected from the training participants 6-12 months after the training to evaluate the use of the assessment tools to promote the implementation of soil health practices. By utilizing these assessment tools, agricultural service professionals will be equipped with the skills to assess the potential savings or increased yield that result from healthy soils management systems which will assist in increasing the adoption of soil health practices throughout Washington, Oregon, and California.

    Project objectives:

    The goal is to increase the adoption of healthy soils practices by training ag professionals who work with farmers and growers to quantify the benefits of healthy soils practices. These professionals will be equipped with the tools and skills to assess the potential savings or increased yield that result from healthy soils management systems.

    This will be achieved through a series of ten training workshops in ten major agricultural regions in Washington, Oregon, and California. California regions: the Tulare basin, northern San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento River Valley, north coast, central coast, & south coast/Imperial Valley. Washington: Western and Eastern Washington. Oregon: Eastern Oregon & Willamette Valley.

    November 2019--March 2020: Prepare workshop curriculum and materials, outreach plan and communications to organize and schedule training workshops. Develop 5 case studies of farmers who have adopted soil health practices for use in training workshops.

    April 2020--March 2021: Conduct ten training workshops in major agricultural regions of Washington, Oregon, and California. Training workshops will include hands-on training on soil health assessment methods, working through a case study with a farmer who has adopted soil health practices.

    April 2020--March 2021: Evaluate project outcomes. A post-workshop survey will be conducted immediately after each training workshop to gauge the effectiveness of the training methods and knowledge gained. A follow-up survey (6-9 months) will be conducted to determine the effectiveness of the project; attendees will be asked if they have used outcomes assessment tools with growers they work with, and how many growers have adopted or are considering adopting soil health practices as a result.

    April 2020--March 2021: Work with select participants in the trainings (20 out of 250 participants) to create a two-page “case study” documenting outcomes, which will serve as a critical tool in convincing other growers to adopt soil health practices on their own farm. 

    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.