June 25, 2020 01:04 PM

Guide aims to help farmer-led watershed groups take steps toward success

The information below has been supplied by dairy marketers and other industry organizations. It has not been edited, verified or endorsed by Hoard’s Dairyman.

A new resource is available to guide farmers and their partners in conservation on the road to success with the launch of the Producer-Led Group Roadmap: Finding Success in Farmer-Led Watershed Organizations.

The document is the result of a collaboration between the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance (DSSA) and The Nature Conservancy.

“Farmers are always working to improve in every area of their farm, and we are seeing a growing interest in new conservation practices and the farmer-led watershed group model,” said Lauren Brey, DSSA’s director of strategic partnerships and sustainability. “We want to help farmers and partners understand the key components to creating and maintaining an effective organization. This is another way for farmers to learn from each other and to see positive results.”

This roadmap is intended for groups that are either funded through DATCP’s Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant program or for those that are functioning without the state funding. These farmer-led organizations foster innovation and shared learning among members to bring about continuous measurable improvements in areas such as water quality and soil health by exploring innovative on-farm conservation practices.

The roadmap guides groups through all of the necessary steps, including setting goals, membership requirements, securing DATCP and outside funding, tracking outcomes, documenting progress, establishing communications, developing work plans and reporting.

“We are excited to partner with the DSSA and The Nature Conservancy to offer this guide as a resource to producer-led groups. The Producer-Led Roadmap will help new and established groups be successful over the long term, create mechanisms for groups to measure their success, and ultimately strengthen our Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant program,” said Sara Walling, division administrator of the Agricultural Resource Management Division at DATCP.

Steve Richter, director of agricultural strategies with The Nature Conservancy, said the guide will be an important resource.

“Producer-led groups have been very successful at helping farmers learn which conservation practices are working for each other and how to implement them on their farms to build soil health and protect clean water,” Richter said. “We’re excited to be a partner in the creation of this new guide, which we hope will help more Wisconsin farmers work together and learn from each other,” Richter said.

The roadmap is available on the DATCP website.

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About the Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance:

The Dairy Strong Sustainability Alliance is a collaborative, industry supported effort to promote and support farmer-led solutions to today’s environmental challenges, taking into account business viability and community engagement. The alliance was established in 2016 and driven primarily by the Dairy Business Association, Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative and The Nature Conservancy. Learn more at dairystrong.org/sustainability.