This project is creating ways for farmers to learn from each other about how to implement conservation practices and reap the benefits for both their farms and communities.
Conservation practices, such as cover crops and no-till, are gaining interest among farmers as means to protect soil health, farm legacies, and natural resources. But turning interest into action requires knowing how to make on-farm conservation work and how to plug into larger efforts to support healthy landscapes and profitable agricultural systems.
Who better to teach farmers this knowledge than other farmers who are already engaged?
Through this project, we are connecting farmers from across the Mississippi River Basin who are at various stages in their conservation journey. We are creating opportunities for them to share real-world knowledge and insights about implementing practices on farms and across watersheds, while maintaining farm profitability and practicality.
Our ultimate goal is to help farmers be successful with their on-farm conservation and feel inspired to lead their communities toward a future of thriving farms, healthy landscapes, and clean water.
1. Facilitate Farmer-to-Farmer Learning: Through in-person exchanges, farmers will have the opportunity to network with and learn from each other about how they can implement conservation practices on their farms, as well as work with other farmers in their home communities to do the same.
Our first field day took place in February 2020 in Memphis, Tennessee with visits to nearby farms in Arkansas and Mississippi. Read this story from Delta Farm Press that highlights one of our host farmers.
A second field day will happen in Wisconsin at a to-be-determined time. A culminating summit will take place in 2021.
2. Kickstart Farmer-Led Efforts: Through an annual mini-grant program, farmers will have access to funding to kickstart conservation demonstration efforts and farmer-led organizations in their local watersheds.
3. Enable Basin-Wide Communication: Through an interactive, web-based platform, farmers will be able to get advice, knowledge, and support from other farmers about conservation practices and watershed leadership wherever they are.
4. Learn from the Process: Through water quality monitoring and data-oriented evaluation, the project will produce new insights on how much farmer-led efforts were able to improve water quality and how to best empower farmers to succeed and lead in conservation.
This project is a partnership between Mississippi State University and its Research & Education to Advance Conservation and Habitat (REACH) program, University of Kentucky, University of Illinois, University of Arkansas and its Discovery Farms program, and University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension and UW Discovery Farms program. The project is supported financially by the U.S. EPA under cooperative agreement MX – 00D87719.