Scaling Regenerative Agriculture in California through NRCS and RCD Conservation Planner Training

Project Overview

WPDP22-003
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $99,917.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2024
Host Institution Award ID: G104-23-W9214
Grant Recipients: San Mateo Resource Conservation District; California Association of Resource Conservation Districts
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Adria Arko
San Mateo Resource Conservation District
Co-Investigators:
Jim Howard
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Kevin Watt
TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation / Left Coast Grass-Fed

Commodities

No commodities identified

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

Regenerative agriculture (RA) is increasingly recognized as a necessary tool for mitigating and adapting to climate change. Multiple international, federal, state, and local efforts acknowledge the need to scale RA for its climate benefits to build a more resilient food system. For many farmers and ranchers, transitioning to RA will require evaluating their property and management practices in a new way. Agricultural producers need access to trusted, reliable, and relevant technical assistance to make this transition.  In California, Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) and the US Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are widely respected and trusted by producers to offer high-quality technical assistance and funding services to support farmers and ranchers adopting conservation practices. As a result, these entities are well poised to provide RA technical assistance.

NRCS and many RCDs develop conservation plans with producers to evaluate, plan and develop a path towards implementing agricultural conservation practices. These property-scale plans, which integrate natural resource protection with agricultural production. This already established conservation planning process offers a significant opportunity to scale the adoption of RA.

This project aims to ensure that agricultural producers from across California have access to skilled and knowledgeable technical assistance providers to help them incorporate regenerative agricultural principles into their operations. This project will increase RA competency amongst RCD and NRCS professionals across California through 1) a Conservation Planning for Regenerative Agriculture course for 40 staff at TomKat Ranch, 2) a "Technical Assistance for Regenerative Agriculture" webinar for 50 staff, and 3) RA educational material disseminated to at least 200 NRCS and RCD staff. As a result of this project, farmers and ranchers will have greater technical support available as RA scales across the state.

Project objectives from proposal:

This project aims to ensure that agricultural producers from across California have access to skilled and knowledgeable technical assistance providers to help them incorporate regenerative agriculture into their operations. This project will increase regenerative agricultural competency amongst CARCD and NRCS professionals by 1) building a new cohort of conservation planners who are knowledgeable about regenerative agriculture through a Conservation Planning for Regenerative Agriculture course, and 2) increasing the number of RCD and NRCS professionals’ understanding of regenerative agriculture principles and practices through a webinar and the development of educational products focused on RA for technical assistance providers. 

The objectives of this project are:

Objective 1: NRCS will have a curriculum for a Conservation Planning for Regenerative Agriculture course which will increase the number of RA knowledgeable technical assistance providers.

Objective 2: 40 RCD and NRCS employees from across California will have an increased ability to help agricultural producers adopt regenerative practices through their participation in the Conservation Planning for Regenerative Agriculture training led by NRCS, TKREF, and SMRCD.

Objective 3: RCD and NRCS employees from across California will have an increased understanding of regenerative agriculture through at least one educational product developed and disseminated to 200+ NRCS and RCD employees and through a webinar reaching 50+ NRCS and RCD employees.

Objective 4: Reduce the barrier of RCDs participating in conservation planner courses by increasing access and reducing financial burdens with stipends to 25 RCDs to participate in the Conservation Planning for Regenerative Agriculture course, increasing RCD conservation planners and organizational capacity statewide.

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.