Prairie strips research and outreach will expand in 2021 with three new grants.
STRIPS has received a three-year grant from the Bia-Echo Foundation to expand upon its existing engagement, outreach, and professional development program to grow the capacity of partners throughout the Midwest region. The team will engage and equip members of the agricultural community, including underserved members such as women farmland owners, to install prairie strips on farms across the Midwest. New and existing partnerships will be developed to implement this project. The team has also received a two-year grant from the CropLife Foundation to improve conservation supports for prairie strips in Iowa, and especially for non-operator landowners. Partners on the grant include Iowa Wildlife Federation and C.O.nxt. Research and past program evaluations indicate that participants in STRIPS outreach programs become strongly aware of the environmental and economic benefits of prairie strips to farmers and society. Greater awareness and knowledge lead to confidence in recommending prairie strips as part of conservation planning for farmers and landowners. This chain of behaviors facilitates informed and active implementation of prairie strips. These two projects will be directed by Dr. Lisa Schulte Moore and coordinated by Omar de Kok-Mercado.
A third grant, funded by the 11th Hour Project, will investigate the opportunity to include prairie strips as corridors in landscape grazing networks. Prairie strips, cover crops, and livestock grazing can contribute to regenerating soil, protecting water quality, conserving biodiversity, and conferring climate resilience when appropriately managed. This 1-year grant also supports the development of a new cohort-based educational program called Land Stewardship Leadership Academy, which will bring together conservation and agricultural professionals to learn and grow to champion regenerative agriculture and conservation practices that sustain local communities throughout Iowa and the Midwest. Dr. Adam Janke will direct this work. Partners include Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Beef Center, and Practical Farmers of Iowa.
These new grants are an outcome of over a decade of investment by the team in relationship and capacity building. Discussions with Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17) about opportunities to grow relationships between Silicon Valley and midwestern agriculture facilitated grants from the Bia-Echo Foundation and 11th Hour Project. Overall the team will work to foster continuous living cover, resilient farms, and local networks of connected, knowledgeable, and compassionate leaders to help improve conservation outcomes on tens of thousands of acres of farmland across the US Midwest.