Building Farmer Peer Learning Networks

February 22, 2021

THE ISSUE: How to best leverage farmers’ most trusted and preferred way of learning to increase conservation?

Research consistently demonstrates that farmers learn best from other farmers, whether the subject is inputs for row crops, thoughts on winter-calving, or whether or not to trial new conservation agriculture techniques. Trust in Food research reveals that most farmers surveyed report they are most likely to trust other farmers.

Core to all conservation outreach campaigns is communication of, and more importantly, internalizing of, the information by the intended audience. While this is true of any marketing or communications campaign, this process of conversion becomes increasingly difficult when working with complex issues conservation agriculture.

If farmers learn best from other farmers, but the majority of organizations driving the adoption of conservation agriculture are not farmers, is this an impossible problem? 

Trust In Food doesn’t think so. 

OUR SOLUTION: Leverage Farm Journal’s trust to find and coach farmer champions who develop and accelerate peer to peer learning networks

While farmers learn best from other farmers, Farm Journal is consistently rated as a top trusted source of information by farmers. Farm Journal has been a constant companion and trusted source of information to farmers for 145 years, and today’s farmers have memories of their grandparents awaiting their magazine in the mail. Harnessing this relationship, Trust In Food recruits a small number of farmers (which we call Conservation Stewards) that have significant social capital in the community, and experience with different forms and levels of conservation agriculture. 

By partnering with the on the ground Conservation Steward farmers and other local organizations, Trust In Food can help build a community of producers who collectively learn and share insights from their conservation agriculture trials and interventions. By giving these innovators and early adopters a venue to share frustrations, successes, and next steps, we can nurture an environment that helps farmers learn from the source that they learn best from-other farmers.

We’re currently at work in 5 watersheds doing this through America’s Conservation Ag Movement, a public private partnership helping connect the dots for large scale conservation agriculture adoption.

WHAT’S NEXT?: Using our 5 ACAM peer to peer learning network pilots and applying the learnings to other communities

With support from the Morgan Family Foundation and together with other partners, we’re expanding our work into new communities.  Every new place brings its own set of unique opportunities and challenges, but the fundamental building blocks remain the same:      

  • Conduct baseline research into the sustainability practices, perceptions and readiness for change among dairy producers in the region.
  • Solicit insights from dairy producers, local conservationists, processors and other experts to understand regional needs including but not limited to sustainability, resource stewardship and on-farm economics.
  • Recruit local farmers as Conservation Stewards, business leaders with high social capital who are dedicated to the sustainability success of their peers.
  • Develop and facilitate a farmer-to-farmer learning community, including digital, social and, when possible, in-person events and activities.

Amplify with Farm Journal’s database, reach and content the stories of sustainability activities in the local area. Measure results on an ongoing basis and share impact learnings.

Additional Projects

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May 7, 2021

Our new report in collaboration with The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) provides actionable insights on the complex relationship among farmers,…

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February 22, 2021

“Without water there is no food.” – Nebraska farmer Of those top five risks facing humanity, water challenges are…

New Case for Animal ID

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February 22, 2021

An education and outreach program for  cattle producers on why traceability matters for sustainability and what they can do…

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— Your Trust in Food Team