The Discovery Farms Model: The Impact of Helping Farmers Take Control of Water Quality Management

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Many states conduct water quality monitoring projects and within the past decade, sub-watershed and whole farm water quality monitoring has gained more traction as a preferred method to understand runoff and nutrient loading behavior.  The one aspect of these projects that has evolved is the level of partnering.  Partnering not just with technical and academic groups but fully partnering and involving the landowner or resource manager.  The Discovery Farms model is a great example of a fully partnered, adaptive management water quality monitoring project that began in Wisconsin and has grown to formally include North Dakota, Minnesota and Arkansas.  The main objective of the Discovery Farms projects is to fully engage producers in the identification and if necessary the reduction of nutrient and sediment losses from a variety of agriculture farming systems by collecting runoff data from real, working farms.  The program is founded on the belief that farmers who are engaged, educated and empowered with actual on-farm information will use the data to address water quality concerns.  The concept has demonstrated successes and is gaining interest around the country from producers and their commodity organizations.

This workshop will share experiences, successes, the principals of operation and key tasks needed to develop and implement Discovery Farms programs.  Among the four states; edge of field, tile drainage and feedlot monitoring is being conducted for a diverse set of agricultural production systems.  The purpose of the workshop is two-fold: 1) to provide guidance and advice to help other States develop plans and partnerships with stakeholder groups to build Discovery Farms programs in their respective States, and 2) allow participating farmers the opportunity to share what they have learned from the monitoring done on their farms and how they have reacted to that new knowledge.


Ron Wiederholt, North Dakota State University

Mike Daniels, Univ of Arkansas, Andrew Sharpley, Univ of Arkansas, Dennis Frame, Univ of WI-Madison, Warren Formo, Minnesota Discovery Farms


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A recording is not available of Doyla Johannes (a North Dakota farmer) who is an active participant in the North Dakota Discovery Farms program, but his slides are below: