HMI completed our fourth online course as part of our Whole Farm/Ranch Planning Program for Agricultural Educators funded by The Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (WSARE) Professional Development Program. The Biological Monitoring course began in July 2014 with 28 participants from 9 different states. The instructor for the WSARE Biological Monitoring course was Holistic Management Certified Educator Phil Metzger. Phil Metzger is a natural resources development consultant having recently retired from a 32-year career as a resource conservationist for the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
This course provided key biological monitoring principles and practices to help facilitate conversations with producers about soil fertility and how production practices are influencing that fertility. Monitoring techniques for rangelands, pastures, and croplands were discussed. Participants mastered a simple approach to natural resource issue diagnosis based on monitoring data, past production practices, and potential new production practices that will address the resource issue profitably. The purpose of the course was to help agricultural educators and producers have a viable way to collect data and analyze their land. The participants learned to recognize the impact of prior decisions on the land and to observe and use ecosystem functions to increase land performance.
After surveying the participants in the WSARE Biological Monitoring course, a high number of participants experienced knowledge and behavior changes as noted below.
HMI thanks WSARE for their funding of this program.
Knowledge/Confidence Increase % Increase Indicators of a healthy farm ecosystem 89% Your ability to monitor your farm’s ecosystem health 89% Your understanding of ecosystem processes on your farm 89% Behavior Change % of Participants Increased confidence in ability to monitor your farm's ecosystem health 100% Increased confidence in ability to improve the ecosystem health on your farm 100% Increased confidence in how to build organic matter in your soils 89% Do you intend to conduct biological monitoring as a result of today's session? 89% Do you intend to change any management practices as a result of this session? 89% Overall Satisfaction of the course (good to excellent) 100%
What the Participants Said:
“I am able to better organize strategies for implementing a more thorough monitoring system on the farm.”
“I loved the hands-on monitoring and want to learn more about monitoring and to practice it more!”
“Overall the course was excellent, very interactive with participants really participating. The feedback on assignments from Phil was very useful, and in some instances inspired me to “re-do”, or at least go take another look.”
“I think this [knowledge] will be very useful when I am working with producers and even just small acreage land owners that are looking to have better land stewardship practices.”
“[Most useful thing I learned was] how to monitor ecosystem processes, and the importance of observing the soil surface.”
“The monitoring is something that I have never learned about before. I think this will be very useful when I am working with producers and even just small acreage land owners that are looking to have better land stewardship practices.”
“I liked the actual methods for monitoring.”
“I really liked that the holistic process was tied into the monitoring; helped to reinforcing the subject matter.”
“Biological Monitoring is a huge subject and I thought this was very well-presented and succinct.”
“I commented to Phil that I could not do 100 points of the Range Monitoring and he congratulated me for sticking it out to 50 as he usually only does 25! It’s actually quite a relief to learn that it’s o.k. that I don’t collect tons of data- I can use my experience and judgment to determine if more points will garner a wider variety of information. Also, I like the range monitoring sheet and looking at insect and rodent activity on a ‘micro’ scale. What happens on the micro level may tell me more about the condition of the ecological processes than looking at the range on the macro level.”