Leopold Center strengthens partnership with Iowa Learning Farms

AMES, Iowa – A statewide program designed to build a "Culture of Conservation" in Iowa will be working closely with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture over the next three years. 

The Leopold Center has strengthened its partnership with the Iowa Learning Farms (ILF), beginning in January and running through December 31, 2014. The Leopold Center is supporting development of educational materials for new audiences, including young people, and resources that can be used at ILF field days, workshops, classrooms and the Conservation Station, the ILF’s mobile learning center.

"The Iowa Learning Farms has been successful in capturing the attention of farmers and generating public awareness about practical ways that we all can improve our water and soil quality," said Mark Honeyman, Leopold Center interim director. "This new aspect of our partnership will get Leopold Center research findings into the hands of farmers and increase the outreach and impact of the Leopold Center."

The Iowa Learning Farms is an outreach and education program that brings together farmer and non-farmer conservationists, educators, and organization and agency personnel. Here’s a snapshot of activities during the past year:

  • Monthly webinars on various topics, including research supported by the Leopold Center

  • Five workshops on cover crops, no-till planters and strip-tillage

  • Creation and distribution of three new how-to videos on adding a cover crop to a corn-soybean operation, using grass waterways and manure management

  • 24 field days attended by over 1,100 people

  • 80 Conservation Station events attended by over 13,000 people

  • Completion of a 43-minute video, "Out to the Lakes," about watersheds and water quality

  • Publication of a new book, Water Quality Matters To Us All, that offers insight on Iowans’ perceptions of water quality and watersheds.

Thanks to the stronger partnership with the Leopold Center, ILF will be able to host additional farmer activities, continue to increase the number of farmer- and non-farmer partners, and conduct evaluation sessions with mixed audiences about ILF programs. New educational materials that look at prairies, wetlands, food systems and the Iowa landscape also will be developed for youth education programs and the Conservation Station.

ILF began as a research and demonstration project in 2005, and was coordinated by Leopold Center Director Jerry DeWitt from 2007 until his retirement in mid-2010.  The program is now led by ISU sociology professor Lois Wright Morton, director; program manager Jacqueline Comito, with the ISU Sociology Department; and administrative manager Matt Helmers, ISU professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering.

ILF funding partners are the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension, Iowa Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (US EPA section 319) and the Leopold Center. Cooperating partners are the Conservation Districts of Iowa and the Iowa Farm Bureau.

For more information about the ILF program, visit the website: www.extension.iastate.edu/ilf.

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