Farmlink: Promoting conservation buffers farmer-to-farmer

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Abstract

Farmer-to-farmer outreach was used within a targeted watershed to promote the installation of conservation buffers. In this program called “FarmLink”, four farmers/landowners were employed part-time as “advisors” and trained by University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Natural Resources District personnel. Topics included basic buffer design and benefits, availability of incentive programs, and sales techniques. These individuals then contacted their neighbors to explain the need for and benefits of buffers and other conservation practices. In early 2003, 42 landowners were contacted, leading to contracts for the establishment of 16 separate conservation practices on 24.8 ha (61.3 acres) of farmland. These included just over 8 ha (20 acres) of grassed waterways or similar plantings and 14 ha (35 acres) of streamside buffers. In addition, because of information received in the training sessions, one of the advisors installed 1.7 ha (4.3 acres) of streamside buffers, 0.45 ha (1.1 acres) of grassed waterways, and 2.0 ha (5.0 acres) of grasses and forbs on his own land. During these contacts, it became apparent that: (1) many farmers and landowners were not familiar with the multitude of programs available to assist with the installation and maintenance of conservation practices; and (2) landowners generally appreciated the personal touch of someone coming out to talk directly to them, pointing out specific areas on their land where conservation practices could best be implemented, discussing available compensation programs, and describing management needed to help ensure practice success. Although one-to-one contacts cannot be used in all cases, it was demonstrated to be effective in this watershed.

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