AMES, Iowa— Iowa Learning Farms has released a Field Day Toolkit, a new guide on how to hold an effective field day from planning to evaluation.
“Field days have been at the heart of Iowa Learning Farms since its inception in 2004. We have coordinated over 190 farmer field day/workshops,” stated Iowa Learning Farms program director Jacqueline Comito. “This toolkit shares with the others what has worked best for us through the years.”
The Field Day Toolkit is a template for field day planning in an easy-to-use document. The toolkit includes instruction on coordination, organization and evaluation of a field day or workshop. It includes sample checklists, promotional materials, press releases and evaluation surveys.
While the ILF utilizes many different outreach approaches, the importance of farmer-to-farmer, person-to-person outreach cannot be overstated. Iowa Learning Farms has found that there is a relationship between farmers attending field days, adopting conservation practices and influencing other farmers to use conservation.
“Over the years, we have learned that attendees get more out of field days if they are focused and under two hours,” added Comito. “I have to credit Liz Juchems for really improving ILF field days in her time with our program.”
Juchems took over Iowa Learning Farm field day coordination in 2013. During that time, she built on the existing ILF system that allows her to more efficiently and effectively plan around 30+ farmer events a year.
“With a systematic approach and an early start, it doesn’t have to be a big task to plan a successful field day,” commented Juchems.
The toolkit is designed to break field day planning into smaller steps to make the process less stressful. The toolkit also includes such tips as the importance of partnering with different groups such as local watershed coordinators, Soil and Water Conservation District Offices, county Farm Bureau, local agencies and other conservation groups.
“Partnering with different organizations can have a multiplier effect on y our outreach abilities. It also helps to have some boots on the ground locally that can spread the news and even check out venues for the event,” explained Juchems. What’s the biggest lesson that Juchems has learned during her four years of planning field days with the Iowa Learning Farms?
“Always have a rain location. If you already have a backup rain location listed in the press release and the promotional materials, you’re not scrambling at the last minute to find a new location or postponing your field day and hoping that your speakers are still available if the weather doesn’t cooperate. Some things are just out of your control,” Juchems chuckled. “Count on it raining.”
The toolkit is available on the Iowa Learning Farms website (in PDF format) for download. Go to the “Resources” tab on the ILF website: www.extension.iastate.edu/ilf to find the Field Day Toolkit.
Established in 2004, Iowa Learning Farms is building a Culture of Conservation, encouraging adoption of conservation practices. Farmers, researchers and ILF team members are working together to identify and implement the best management practices that improve water quality and soil health while remaining profitable. Partners of Iowa Learning Farms are the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Natural Resources (USEPA Section 319), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Conservation Districts of Iowa, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Water Center and Practical Farmers of Iowa. For more information about Iowa Learning Farms, visit the website: www.extension.iastate.edu/ilf.