Land Management Training
|Photo by Melissa Fery,Oregon State UniversityExtension Service|
In recent decades, the United Stateshas seen a new migration—fromurban centers to cities’ verdant fringes. Modern-day homesteaders aresettling on relatively small plots carved from larger-acreage farms andranches—a trend borne out by the 2007 Census of Agriculture, whichshowed that from 1997 to 2007 the amount of land occupied by farms ofless than 50 acres grew an impressive 46 percent.
But owning land does not always mean knowing theland—and howto manage it properly. That is where Living on the Land comes in. TheSARE-funded curriculum, one of the most comprehensive and adaptabletools of its kind, is being used across the country to train naturalresource professionals to, in turn, teach new stewards of the land howto care for their soil, air and water while maximizing the land’s value.
The curriculum has proven highly effective: For example,ofthe 240 landowners in Oregon’s Willamette River Basin who have takenLiving on the Land classes since 2006, 91 percent went on to implementat least one new land management practice, 61 percent at least threepractices, and 89 percent shared how-to information with neighbors.Practices included protecting riparian buffers, testing soil to avoidover-applying fertilizer, managing invasive weeds and compostinglivestock manure.
To date, natural resource educators in 42 states haverequested more than 2,000 copies of the curriculum. “Educators arehungry for the materials. They really want to know how to use thisstuff successfully,” says University of Nevada water quality specialistSusan Donaldson, who produced the curriculum.
|Homeowners conduct a property inventory exercise during a Living on the Land site visit in Bozeman, Montana, in 2006.|
Photo by Sue Donaldson, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension
Donaldson, who has done small-acreage programming forNevadaextension since 1994, saw a growing need: The “exurban” demographic wason the rise with few resources to guide its stewardship of the land. In1999, she and natural resources professionals from eight western statesused a SARE grant to create Living on the Land and accompanyingworkshops.
Along with a teacher’s manual, online resources andothermaterials, Living on the Land now includes 23 lessons on eight topicsthat relate to goal-setting, soil and water quality, managing pasturesand protecting wildlife. A 2006 SARE grant was used to add lessons onwildfire control and entrepreneurship, and to expand outreach.
The entire curriculum is 2,400 pages long, but accordingtoits users, it remains a flexible tool. The teacher’s manual encourageseducators to choose locale-specific lessons, insert their ownphotographs and statistics, and list local resources.
Melissa Fery, the Oregon State University ExtensionServiceagent who organizes the Willamette River Basin classes, has gotten herresults using only about half the curriculum. “A great thing about itis that you can take bits and pieces that make sense for your areawithout feeling obligated to complete the whole thing,” she says.
For more information,go to www.sare.org/projectsand searchfor EW99-003 and EW06-001.