In 2015, HMI focused on mentoring and supporting the agricultural educators in our program to help them work with agricultural producers. Funded by a grant from Western Sustainable Agriculture and Education, we have 34 active participants in the program.
Our goal was to have 34 agricultural educators training 2-3 agricultural producers each on a course or module for a total of 70 agricultural producers reached. However, we pursued additional funding for 5 more educators who were trained in Whole Farm/Ranch Planning. Of 34, 11 agricultural educators have trained/co-trained152 agricultural producers in various aspects of Whole Farm/Ranch Planning.
The breakdown of courses and/or modules the agricultural educators taught is as follows:
|Number of Agricultural Producers
|Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning Series
|Introduction to Holistic Management
Throughout the year we used Instructure Canvas and Adobe Connect as our mentoring distance learning platform. We made sure that all webinars and mentor meetings were interactive, and anyone who handed in completed work from their agricultural producers received feedback. We recorded all webinars and mentor meetings and archived them for those who couldn’t make the sessions. The recordings allowed our trainer trainees to watch and listen and to be able to email mentors or peers with questions and provide input.
Overall response to surveys shows that there was high satisfaction rate among agricultural producers for these courses and modules ranging from 90-100% satisfaction. Actual behavior change in terms of created plans/drafts varied depending on subject.
Increased knowledge or confidence in developing plans remained high throughout the year as noted below:
|Satisfaction Rating by Participants
|Whole Farm/Ranch Business Planning Series
|Introduction to Whole Farm/Ranch Planning
In 2015, our agricultural educators had the opportunity to train several agricultural producers and in the process they were able to further their own learning. Once tasked with creating plans with agricultural producers, our agricultural educators began to see the different challenges in creating whole farm/ranch plans. We facilitated peer and mentor support through our webinars, on our LMS Instructure Canvas though the discussion forum and through email correspondence. This allowed the agricultural educators to ask questions, share knowledge and learn how they were going to complete their tasks with agricultural producers.
Our agricultural educators are from several different states, see the table below:
|Agricultural Educator States
|Number of People
Our agricultural educators are associated with many different agencies which can be seen in the table below:
|Number of People
We surveyed all the agricultural educators in our program in early 2015. Here are the results:
|% of Participants
|Completed, partially completed, or modified a whole farm/ranch goal (holistic goal) as a result of this program?
|As a result of this program, do you think you have improved your ability to help a producer develop a whole farm/ranch goal (holistic goal)?
|Clearer sense of what your farm/ranch is managing towards
|Better ability to determine resources available to you
|Completed, partially completed, or modified a financial plan as a result of this program?
|As a result of this program, do you think you have improved your ability to help a producer develop a financial plan?
|Have you completed, partially completed, or modified a land plan as a result of this program?
|As a result of this program, do you think you have improved your ability to help a producer develop a land plan?
|Improved ability to incorporate social, environmental, and financial considers in the plan
|Have you completed, partially completed, or modified a grazing plan as a result of this program?
|As a result of this program, do you think you have improved your ability to help a producer develop a grazing plan?
|Improved ability to manage animals
|As a result of this program, do you think you have improved your ability to help a producer assess land health with biological monitoring?
|Improved understanding of your farm/ranch’s ecosystem
|As a result of this training have you forged any relationships that have positively impacted you or your farm/ranch or job as an agricultural professional?
|As a result of this program are you better able to serve the producers you work with?
|As a result of this program have you increased your network of professionals assisting producers in sustainable agriculture?
Here’s what the agricultural educators had to say about the program:
“The program has me seeing all applications of agriculture, and in some cases life in general in a different way. I am constantly analyzing pastures as I drive by for their brittleness, how much rest have they seen, what would I do as a treatment for a problem, etc. The financial aspect of what do you really need, and being able to apply the testing questions and be comfortable with the result is great. Biological monitoring far surpasses any other monitoring that can be done over time on a given landscape in my opinion. As far as land planning I hope to bring that more into play on my own as I transition into the family ranch and have the opportunity to help neighbors with [their] future land goals as well.”
“I understand the holistic process more fully now. It has opened doors to tools and strategies I didn’t have before”
“It has made me look at farm management in a whole new way. Really looking at entire farm and all the components the make it work. Extremely powerful and helpful.”
“It has given me tools I can use to improve my business and help others to think and work more holistically in their businesses.”
“I enjoyed the different teaching methods used (videos, fact sheets, conversations, webinar) and I have used many of the resources with farmers and ranchers.”
“The information covered in the program is so useful to use personally as well as to be as an agriculture and natural resource educator and consultant. I believe this information will be very valuable to share with other producers to help them reach their goals and be more profitable while better managing the resources they have.”
“I find I am observing, thinking, and communicating differently-.this course has changed the way I listen to my producers and I find I was liberated somehow and ask more questions. I feel more confident in planning.”
“I see [things] in a whole new way. It has changed the way decisions are made, there is a process involved now.”
“We need to revise to include ag educators by name and how we are using this format of assistant teaching to deepen the educators experience. Also more detail from your spreadsheet here or from the plans that people have sent.”
“I see HMI as a resource that can help put me in touch with professionals that can help me as well as producers that could demonstrate the concepts to producers with whom I am working. I also met many professionals through the course and will continue to get to know them better while we complete our farm plans.”
“I have been able to work with more producers by understanding better how to communicate with them about their business.”
“I have a whole list of natural resource professionals I didn’t know before AND I learned more about those people that I did know but not as well.”
In 2016, we will survey the participants to see how they have progressed over the last year, and see what opportunities we can provide. Our agricultural educators will continue working with agricultural producers to complete plans. Also in 2016, 9 more agricultural educators have committed to further their learning and train/co-train a minimum of 2 agricultural producers. We will continue our peer and mentor support using our LMS Instructure Canvas though the discussion forum and through email correspondence.