On Wednesday, Jacqueline Comito discussed the evolution of Iowa Learning Farms (ILF) over the past 15 years in an Iowa Learning Farms webinar. She talked about how ILF is doing in achieving its mission of creating a “Culture of Conservation”, shared some results on conservation practice adoption and described some of the new goals and challenges that the future holds. Has ILF been successful in building a Culture of Conservation? Yes, in short, but there is still a lot of work to do!
“To build a Culture of Conservation means that conservation will be at the heart of everything we do,” said Comito. Over the years ILF has used field days to help develop this culture and has figured out what methods work to make field days successful. Through evaluation and observation, ILF wrote the book on how to host a successful field day and hopes that this method will be widely adopted by those who host their own field days.
ILF has reached many people through its field days over the years, as can be seen in the above graphic, which doesn’t include 2019 field days/workshops. One key component of ILF field days is the evaluation done, which has allowed ILF to compile years of useful data, including tracking practice adoption. The graphic below shows where the adoption of some conservation practices fall in the “Diffusion of Innovation” model developed by E.M. Rogers. According to ILF estimates, cover crop usage is in the “early adopters” category, with no-till/strip till already reaching in to the “early majority”. Newer edge-of-field practices like bioreactors and saturated buffers haven’t yet made it off the starting line.
In order to help work to meet the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy goals and continue to be successful over the next 5-10 years, ILF is striving to
- Increase the number of ILF field days and workshops in order to:
- Expand the number of early adopters for cover crops
- Increase the number of middle adopters for no-tillage and strip tillage
- Increase the number of innovators for edge-of-field practices
- Nurture relationships with conservation-focused farmers across the state who are willing to host field days
- Rejuvenate the farmer-partner program with new voices
- Focus on the “why” of conservation practice implementation to create a greater sense of urgency behind building soil health and improving water quality
- Advance robust community outreach statewide with the Conservation Station trailers
To learn more about ILF’s successes, growth, impacts and challenges, watch the recorded webinar and check out the “Building a Culture of Conservation – 2004-2019” 15-Year report.
Join us next month, on Wednesday, September 18 at noon, when Emily Heaton, Associate Professor at Iowa State University, will present an Iowa Learning Farms webinar titled “Integrating Perennials into Underperforming Parts of Fields Could Improve the Farm Economy, Water Quality, and Bioenergy Feedstock Production”.