Conservation Connections: New Program Supports Underserved Farmers

With a goal of supporting historically underserved farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, a new project led by Renewing the Countryside and the Sustainable Farming Association builds connections between these farmers and resource support. Conservation Connections: Linking New & Underserved Farmers with Conservation Resources uniquely utilizes a “boots in the field” team of twelve Connectors to assist these farmers to tap into information and opportunities that support conservation and soil health, to create a more successful farm business. 

“Conservation Connections will provide support to historically underserved farmer groups including African Americans, Asian, Latino, Indigenous, veterans and beginning farmers,” shares Jan Joannides, executive director of Renewing the Countryside and lead on this project. “Look for a variety of field days, workshops and outreach over the next two years that aim to expand awareness of programs and resources available through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that foster more successful farm businesses and at the same time steward the land.”

Cultivating Connections kicks off in January with an online free webinar specifically focused on connecting new and beginning farmers in Wisconsin to NRCS programs: A Beginning Farmers Guide to Conservation Support, Funding & Resources. Area farmers will share their NRCS program experience along with next steps to connect with resources in your state. 

The Wisconsin webinar will be on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 1 pm CST.  Beginning farmers outside of Wisconsin are welcome to join. Note there is a parallel webinar on Wednesday, January 13, 2021 for Minnesota. While the general information is applicable nationally, case studies and questions will focus on these two states.  The webinar will be recorded with a link sent to those registered. 

Additionally, this new project will host an informational session at the Emerging Farmers Conference featuring personal farmer stories and advice on tapping in to NRCS resources. The virtual conference offers a variety of workshops January 27 through January 30 with this Conservation Connections session on Wednesday, January 27 at 5 pm. The full conference is free for farmers to attend.

“I’m excited to serve as a Farmer Connector on this new venture and share my experiences working with various conservation programs through NRCS, including funding opportunities such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP),” adds Mariann Holm of Holm Girls Dairy in Elk Mound, Wisconsin. “On the January 14 webinar, I’ll be sharing how  the EQIP program provided cost sharing for perimeter fencing and lane work for grazing our organic dairy cows while also maintaining woodlands and a corridor for wildlife to pass naturally through our farm.”

Renewing the Countryside is a nonprofit organization that works to strengthen rural areas by championing and supporting rural communities, farmers, artists, entrepreneurs, educators, activists and other people who are renewing the countryside through sustainable and innovative initiatives, businesses, and projects. The Sustainable Farming Association advances environmental stewardship, economic resilience and strong, diverse communities through farmer-to-farmer networking, education, demonstration and research. This project is made possible with funding support from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).