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Cover Crop Champions Seek Innovative Outreach Methods

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By Jessica Espenshade, agricultural program coordinator, National Wildlife Federation

District program coordinators across the country have noticed a trend – agricultural outreach is relying on traditional field days to bridge the knowledge and action gap in the farming community, and attendance is increasingly a challenge. Outreach specialists need to think outside of the box to convince farmers to make soil health a priority and cover crops a common sight.

In 2013, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) created a peer-to-peer outreach program called Cover Crop Champions. This program, similar to NACD’s Soil Health Champions Network, selects leaders to provide region-specific information and knowledge regarding cover crops to farmers and crop advisors. Champions receive grants to cover their expenses as they share their expertise and passion for cover crops with producers in their regions.

Although cover crops have dramatically gained popularity over the last decade, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Farmers need to understand the benefits of implementing cover crops and have the information to make the change.

NWF’s Cover Crop Champions program is specifically designed for local staff and farmers who believe there are better and more innovative outreach methods for improving soil health. The Cover Crop Champions program is not like other agricultural grants and programs, as it provides communications and outreach training in addition to financial assistance. The program’s staff leaders are experienced in the field of social behavior changes and have developed the program to better reach hesitant and change-resistant farmers. The Cover Crop Champions program seeks to identify new outreach and education strategies that deviate from the traditional field day format, including podcasts, individualized meeting circles, media campaigns, etc.

The NWF Cover Crop Champions program is searching for new champions to participate from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. Producers and conservation professionals who have experience with cover crops and are interested in pursuing innovative ways to increase adoption of cover crop practices should apply. Please visit www.nwf.org/covercrops for more information and to download the request for proposals. Applications are due Nov. 16, 2018.

Jessica Espenshade is a coordinator for the national agriculture program at National Wildlife Federation. She runs the Cover Crop Champions program, which is a farmer peer to peer outreach program and can be contacted at espenshadej@nwf.org or 734-887-7114.

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