Evaluation key to effective field days

You planned your event – lined up the space, speakers, meal – and had a great turnout. Congratulations! You’re done now right?

Not quite…

How do you know if your event was effective in meeting your outreach goals? What could have been done differently to improve the effectiveness? Asking for attendee feedback is a useful evaluation tool that can be used to make decisions on what worked well and what doesn’t. In addition to self-reflection on the event, asking for attendee feedback is one of Iowa Learning Farms’ key tools for planning and holding well attended and effective events.

DSC_1312Through our two-week follow up evaluation we gather feedback on the effectiveness of the field day to help us improve future events. Using a five point scale, attendees are asked to rate the overall quality of the field day, effectiveness of expert presentations (ILF, ISU Extension and Outreach, NRCS, PFI, etc.), and effectiveness of farmer presentations.

All three categories saw improvement over 2016 numbers. The effectiveness of expert presentations saw a 10% increase over last year in the people who considered it excellent and the overall quality of the field day or workshop metric saw an 8% increase over last year in the people who considered it excellent.

Effectiveness

In addition to the information above in our Year End Evaluation Report, we also compiled our Individual Field Day Report. This report breaks out the evaluation responses by event, as well as how far attendees traveled to attend the event to help with field day promotion efforts – see map below.

Summary of 15 16 and 17 Distance Traveled by Crop Dist

An example two-week evaluation is available in our Field Day Marketing Toolkit and we encourage you to modify it and use it for your own event.  We are currently revising the evaluation to add more specific questions aimed at improving program content and format. This will be included in the Toolkit update later this spring.

Stayed tuned for more highlights from our 2017 Evaluation Report and be sure to click subscribe and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Liz Juchems

Now accepting applications for Emerging Farmer Forum

2018-EmergingFarmersForum-PostcardThe Emerging Farmers Forum is an all expenses paid two-day workshop/cabin stay with:

  • Tours of Pinhook Farm, owned and operated by innovative + entrepreneurial farmer Seth Watkins
  • Networking with fellow Emerging Farmers
  • Exchanging ideas for financial planning, marketing, and diversification for the development of a sustainable business plan
  • Hands-on activities and thought-provoking discussions on conservation practices
  • Tips for facilitating crucial conversations with parents and family members as you transition into the farming operation

Who are emerging farmers?
Emerging farmers include anyone who has recently started farming, would like to farm or would like to have a voice in the management of their family’s farm.

To Apply: Application for August 2018 Emerging Farmer Forum

Application Deadline: Wednesday, May 16 – space is limited so apply today!
All applicants will be notified of their application status by June 1, 2018.

For more information click here.

Partners Include: Iowa Learning FarmsSeth WatkinsNathan Anderson, Iowa Beef CenterIowa State University Extension and Outreach Community and Economic DevelopmentBeginning Farmer Center and Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Liz Juchems

 

Gathering everyone together to increase conservation efforts

Landowners have a great opportunity to shape how their land is managed. In Iowa, about 40% of agricultural land is owned by women.  It is crucial to have women represented at field days and workshops so they can make informed decisions in their operations and/or with their tenants. women attendees

For the past two years, 27% of Iowa Learning Farms attendees were women. From the 2017 demographic cards, 17% of all attendees who identified as farmers/operators or landowners were women; 40% of those who identified as “other” were women (government employees, agribusiness, students or educators). Since ILF first started hosting field days in 2004, the number of women attending field days has increased. More women are now serving as Extension Specialists, agronomists, and government employees and this is reflected in our data.

dsc_1789.jpgWomen continue to play an active role in the farming operation with 43% of women attendees describing themselves as active farmers/operators and 64% describe themselves as landowners. Nearly 60% reported owning more than three-quarters of their land. This finding is consistent with the trend of increasing numbers of acres owned by female landowners. It is encouraging to see these women taking an active role in the management of their land as both farmer/operator and/or landowner.

In 2018, ILF will continue to seek new ways to increase female attendance, especially female farmers/operators and landowners, at field days and workshops. Women indicated to us that they would prefer to attend events on Tuesday-Thursday either in the morning (41%) or afternoon (57%). This year we are planning to offer events at these times to see if we can increase the number of women attending our events. We also plan to partner with organizations that focus on women farmers/operators and landowners.

Stayed tuned for more highlights from our 2017 Evaluation Report and be sure to click subscribe and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Liz Juchems

From the Archives: Conservation Chat with Paul and Nancy Ackley

The Conservation Chat podcast is taking a break for the next few months, but I would like to take you back through our archives on a tour of the “Best of the Conservation Chat Podcast.” There are 38 great podcast episodes to choose from – what’s your favorite?

paul-ackleyIn Episode 17 of the Conservation Chat, Paul and Nancy Ackley discuss how their interest in conservation and restoring the health of their farm led to changing how they farmed in Taylor County, Iowa over the past 40 years.  One big driver for the couple was knowing that much of the land in hilly Taylor County was degraded and prone to erosion.

To keep more of that soil in place, Paul and Nancy worked to increase organic matter in the soil through the use of no-till and cover crops. Now that they have several areas of soils with 4% organic matter and continue to plant cover crops, they are seeing a big change between their fields and other fields in their county.

“One thing for me that’s always resonated . . . when you drive down the road, and we have terraces standing full of water and there’s all green rye above it, and you go by [another] place, they’ve done full-blown tillage and it looks like chocolate malt ran down the hill.  Pretty soon, it begins to click in your mind.”

The Ackleys talk about the mindset that many farmers have about tilling, and how some farmers find it hard to get past their desire to see the dark soil and smell the overturned earth after tilling. The Ackleys, however, don’t like to see the dark soil in their ditches.

Listen to the podcast!

Julie Winter

Webinar Recap: Engaging More Landowners in Conservation Decisions

How do we better engage landowners in conservation decisions if they are not the operator? Our March webinar featured Stan Buman and Amy Dreith of Agren, Inc. Agren has piloted a project called “Conservation Connect” since 2011 in the Raccoon River watershed in Calhoun, Carroll, Sac and Buena Vista counties in Iowa. The outreach campaign featured the “Your Land Report Card.”

“Perhaps the most important product of our recent outreach campaign was the implementation of the ‘Your Land Report Card.’ Just like a report card to gauge performance in school, landowners who requested an assessment received a report card with a letter grade for their property.”       -Amy Drieth, Agren, Inc.

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The project used an “AIDA” pyramid approach – awareness, interest, desire and then action. The stages of AIDA are like rungs of a ladder. The project worked to first build awareness about a potential issue before an action step could be considered.

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Agren initially contacted 2,375 landowners using mailings and phone calls; 7% of those landowners contacted had interest in attending a public meeting, talking over the phone or having a windshield assessment completed for their land. After this step, interested parties had in-person contact with a landowner advisor and then installed or improved a practice.

Watch the webinar to learn more about the Conservation Connect project and how you can get a “conservation check-up” for your land or how you can adapt this project for your own watershed. This model could easily be adapted to work in other watersheds.

To learn more about the project, visit www.absenteelandowners.org. To request an Excel sheet that can be used to generate a “Your Land Report Card” contact Amy Drieth, Agren Marketing  Manager, at amy@agreninc.com.

Watch the webinar here!

Julie Winter

Building A Culture of Conservation Since 2004

Iowa Learning Farms continues to build a Culture of Conservation as we bring together farmers, landowners, agribusiness, researchers and state and federal agency partners.

2017 ILF Evaluation Report top banner

In 2017, Iowa Learning Farms delivered or participated in 92 outreach events that reached a total of 7,372 people. Our staff, trailer fleet and partners across the state helped us reach new communities and participants as we continue to build a Culture of Conservation.

One of Iowa Learning Farms many strengths is our approach to evaluation. The process is five-fold to help us plan and deliver effective conservation education and outreach.

Here is a glimpse behind the curtain at our evaluation process:

  • Event Evaluations – completed by our team immediately following every event. These forms help us to understand the audience’s level of engagement, document the questions that were asked by participants and help us to improve future outreach activities by noting what went well and what could be improved.

The remaining evaluation process is specific for farmer outreach activities that we host:

  • Comment Cards – filled out by all participants in order to gain a better understanding of who they are and why they are there.
  • Demographic Cards – filled out by all participants and provide a snapshot of attendees in terms of their age, gender, role in agriculture and information about their farming operation. The cards also capture preferences on timing and topics of interest for future outreach events.
  • Follow-up Evaluations – mailed within three weeks of the event to participants (for those that happened before November 7). The questions focused on the clarity and accessibility of the information received and inquired whether participants planned to make any changes in their land management as a result of the event. The individual field day report is now available online.
  • January Evaluations – mailed to only farmers/operators and landowners. These questionnaires were sent in January 2018 to see if the participants had made the changes they said they were going to make in earlier evaluations.

Over the course of the next few weeks we will be highlighting findings from our 2017 Evaluation Report, so be sure to subscribe and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Liz Juchems

2017 ILF Evaluation Report bottom banner

Learn More About Non-Operator Landowner Roles in Conservation: ILF Webinar on March 21

Webinar3

Conservation Connect, managed by Agren, has initiated direct marketing campaigns to non-operator landowners to build awareness and encourage implementation of conservation practices. Tom Buman, Chief Executive Officer of Agren, and Amy Dreith, Marketing Manager, will co-present about outreach strategies that Agren has used to engage non-operator landowners in natural resources conservation. Part of their outreach to landowners includes the “Your Land Report Card” assessment.

“Report cards are a great tool to use with non-operator landowners who want a check-up, but don’t have the understanding or ability to understand all the detailed metrics,” said Amy Dreith, Marketing Manager for Agren. “It is imperative to demonstrate that there is a problem before there’s interest in a solution.”

DATE: Wednesday, March 21, 2018
TIME: 12:00 p.m.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Log on as a guest shortly before 12:00 p.m.:
https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/ilf/

More information about this webinar is available at our website. If you can’t watch the webinar live, an archived version will be available on our website: https://www.iowalearningfarms.org/page/webinars.

Julie Winter