For two days in Hannibal, Missouri, 45 participants jumped in to actively explore the question: What’s needed now to engage more farmers and landowners in actively caring about streams and water quality?
This group of committed, curious people did not listen to lectures. They shared their own diverse experiences and knowledge in a series of conversations. As peers they literally leaned in to listen, ask questions, and call on each other for knowledge and perspectives. Then with the help of a clear framework, they articulated real projects and identified next wise steps to achieve them.
Connections will continue one to one when someone needs insight or help working with neighbors, legalities, farm practices, or data. The faces of people who shared stories will rise to inform choices at home. And if the pattern continues, many will come back to continue working conversations at the next workshop, to draw on the insights of peers and build progress over time.
Participants were asked, “In one word, how would you describe the past two days?” They said: wisdom, evolution, inspiration, contacts, knowledge, education, network, potential, perspective, collaboration, conservation, focus, curiosity.
Why did they come? And why does this help? Three participants said:
“The secret key to all of this is getting a few people together, having a conversation and doing something about it. The land is my livelihood. It’s how I make a living. I want to do what I can to protect that, to feed my family and leave this place better than when I received it.”
— John Scherder, Scherder Family Farms, Frankford, Missouri
“People in conservation have expertise in one area. Farmers have expertise in another. We need to connect and learn from each other—we just didn’t know how. The Watershed Leaders Network is helping us learn, connect and work together.”
— Chris Williamson, Missouri Department of Conservation
“Farming with attention to water quality helps protect our land and our livelihood so we can pass the land to our children.”
— TJ Kartes, Saddle Butte AG, Blooming Prairie, Minnesota
If we want farms that support our future and streams that support life, we need to work differently. People who come to these workshops know that, and through dialog find peers who can help them stay with a complex challenge over time. Watershed Leaders Network makes space for that growth, and opens a door to the support of a productive network of peers.
PROGRESS is a series of deliberate steps, and our encouragement to participants is: Ask for what you need. Give what you can.