AFT’s project addresses three barriers to adoption of soil health management systems (SHMS).
First, many farmers demand more quantitative evidence that SHMS do provide the economic and environmental benefits that are touted before they are willing to take the risk to try them.
Second, other farmers who have successfully adopted SHMS on their own land are reluctant to do so on land they rent for a variety of problems, including annual lease agreements and difficulty reaching or talking with their non-operating landowners, or NOLs.
Third, we know that our local agricultural professional partners (e.g., NRCS, SWCDs, crop consultants, cover crop seed retailers, etc.) are looking for more effective education and outreach tools to help them persuade farmers to adopt SHMS practices.
Our project will address all three problems by:
- Producing innovative economic case studies that include quantified soil health, water quality, and greenhouse gas outcomes experienced by farmers who have successfully adopted SHMS,
- Sharing those short, compelling case studies with additional farmers and landowners who are curious about SHMS to determine if they are indeed effective outreach and education tools, and
- Fostering effective dialogue and deeper relationships between NOLs (in particular women NOLs) and their farmers to achieve better sharing of the risks and rewards of SHMS adopted on rented land.
During the project, we will also train our local agricultural partners who want to learn how to quantify economic and environmental outcomes using the same tools we applied in this project (i.e., economic partial budget analysis, NRCS’s Nutrient Tracking Tool, and NRCS’s COMET-Farm Tool).
Finally, we hope that at a portion of the farmers we interact with over the course of this three-year project will decide to adopt SHMS, and with the help of our local partners, we will provide tailored technical and financial assistance to ensure management changes are lasting.
We hope these innovative outreach and education tools will have a long-term positive effect on conservation adoption in the project watersheds but also in the rest of the project states, if not the rest of the country.