This workshop piloted activities designed to strengthen the effectiveness of farmer-driven watershed groups and the leadership abilities of members. Six groups from five states participated in two, three-day workshops un 2016. The first was hosted at Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center near Lanesboro, Minnesota.
Participating groups included: Boone River Watershed Farmer Advisory Group (Iowa), Jo Daviess County Soil & Water Health Coalition (Illinois), Le Sueur River Watershed Network (Minnesota), Peno Creek Landowner Council (Missouri), Farmers of Mill Creek (Wisconsin), and Valley Stewardship Network (Wisconsin).
On day one we identified challenges of connecting about water issues and barriers that deter neighbors from working together to address them. Opportunities in participating watersheds were noted.
Leaders of watershed groups that had experienced some successes told their stories simply, without slides, in small groups. Each listener followed a listening thread focused on conditions that help create success—catalysts, creativity, collaboration, courageous steps, communication, and synchronicity.
When stories were finished, listeners recounted what they’d heard to storytellers, who saw their work in a new light. After two rounds of stories, participants who followed the same listening thread gathered to compare and summarize what they’d heard. Then they reported conclusions to the large group, which moved into conversation about how what they’d heard and how it applied to their home watersheds.
Stories were recorded, and are linked after the names of tellers: Terry Bachtold and Marcus Maier, Indian Creek Watershed Project (Illinois) Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7; Dick Sloan, Lime Creek Watershed Improvement Association (Iowa); Jeff Pape, Hewitt Creek Watershed Project (Iowa); Karen Galles and Marcus Grubbs, Seven Mile Creek Watershed Project (Minnesota); Mary and Courtney Culler, North Branch Salt River Watershed (Missouri); and Bob Uphoff, Yahara Pride Farms (Wisconsin) Part 2, Part 3.
Time was allowed throughout the workshop to reflect on the question: How does what I’m hearing and learning apply to my situation? On day three each local group identified next wise steps for work at home. Then they received input from peers in two rounds, with ample time to reflect and revise. In the closing circle, every person stood to share their commitments and what they need.
Within two weeks participants had used what they learned, reported here in their own words:
We scheduled a group meeting to discuss what next steps will be in our watershed, and will get more information on water testing.
Our work together has informed farmer-led project meetings held already last week and this week.
We are bringing in other partners like co-ops, seed dealers, etc. to elevate trust in our project.
We are focusing on our 3 project priorities with more clarity.
We are exploring an enhanced farmer led group, more supported practices (split N application), and data collection.