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Outreach Program

Iowa NRCS Outreach Program

Outreach is defined as reaching out to people who are not our traditional customers. Emphasis is placed on reaching specific groups because we know that they have been historically underserved.  Our traditional approaches in providing assistance have not been successful, so we need to try new and innovative methods.

Effective outreach requires flexible approaches; listening first and then matching your message to the listener. It means communicating in new ways to new audiences to get our message to customers who are culturally and racially diverse, urban and rural. Success is determined by the relationships that are developed, not necessarily the widgets that are produced.

Outreach Definitions

Beginning Farmer- A Beginning Farmer is one who:

  1. has not operated a farm or ranch, or who has operated a farm or ranch for not more than 10 consecutive years.  This requirement applies to all members of an entity.
  2. will materially and substantially participate in the operation of the farm or ranch.

Community Based Organizations (CBO)- Recognized groups concerned with improving the quality of life for residents within local communities. These organizations can initiate and manage projects, and provide an avenue to reach underserved audiences. These groups include non-profit, non-government organizations. For example, faith-based organizations, women's groups, environmental groups, farm or woodlands groups, trade and professional associations, educational associations and schools.

Indian Tribe- Indian Tribe means any Indian Tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community, including any Alaska Native village or regional or village corporation as defined in or established pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (43 U.S. C 1601 et seq.) that is Federally recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.

Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher is one:

  1. with direct or indirect gross farm sales not more than the current indexed value in each of the previous two years, and
  2. who has a total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50 percent of the county median household income for each of the previous two years.

An entity or joint operation can be a Limited Resource Farmer or Rancher if all individual members independently qualify.

Outreach- Conducting business to ensure that NRCS programs and services are made accessible to all customers, with emphasis on the underserved. Applies to all programs, and all customers.

Socially Disadvantaged- A Socially Disadvantaged group is a group whose members have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group, without regard to their individual qualities. These groups consist of the following:

  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders
  • Hispanic

Gender alone is not a covered group for the purposes of NRCS conservation programs. A Socially Disadvantaged applicant is an individual or entity who is a member of a Socially Disadvantaged group. For an entity, at least 50% ownership in the farm or ranch must be held by Socially Disadvantaged individuals.

Underserved- Individuals or groups who have not participated in, or have received limited benefits from, USDA or NRCS programs.  Historically, the underserved include tribes, minorities, women, the disabled, limited resource farmers/ranchers and small-scale farmers.

Resources for Iowa NRCS Employees

Limited Resource Farmer/Rancher Home Page

Census Maps

Maps depict information from the 2007 Iowa Census of Agriculture, prepared by USDA National Agriculture Statistics Service. The Iowa Agricultural Statistics is located at

  • Number of American Indian/Alaska Native Operated Farms in Iowa Counties
  • Number of Asian Operated Farms in Iowa Counties
  • Number of African American Operated Farms in Iowa Counties
  • Number of Female Operated Farms in Iowa Counties
  • Number of Hispanic Operated Farms in Iowa Counties
  • Number of Hawaiian/Pacific Island Operated Farms in Iowa Counties

Publications of Interest from the NRCS Social Sciences Institute

Iowa Outreach Success Stories

Des Moines' Greenwood Elementary Installs Rain Garden

Jan Berg Kruse with a Greenwood Elementary student planting native plants.For years, storm water runoff from Des Moines' Greenwood Elementary parking lot washed away student's playtime fun. Neighbor and avid gardener Jan Berg Kruse felt something finally must be done. 

Greenwood Elementary Installs Rain Garden (PDF, 369 KB)

Inner City Residents Learn Conservation Practices They Can Use

Backyard GardeningTwenty-three inner city Des Moines residents traveled to rural Adams County to tour gardens and yards and learn conservation techniques they can use on their own. Sponsored by 1000 Friends of Iowa, the Adams County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Adams County Backyard Conservation Team, and USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, the residents learned about proven farm conservation practices and how those practices can be used to improve their own yards and gardens.

Adams County, located 90 miles southwest from Des Moines, was chosen for the tour because of its very active team of backyard conservation volunteers and their public information programs. Sheila O'Riley, state secretary and Richard Spraugue, District Conservationist of the Adams County Soil and Water Conservation Service, arranged the tour and picnic for their Des Moines guests.

The Des Moines residents saw conservation practices farmers use to preserve soil and water quality, learned of the benefits of applying conservation practices and discussed the benefits of the Backyard Conservation program. At their Adams County stops, visitors saw those same land conservation practices applied on a small scale to yards and gardens. Favorites included a container garden on a concrete driveway, a strip garden along a back fence loaded with strawberries and herbs, and backyard with a small wetland.

The Urban Rural Conservation Tour was the first of a four-step, yearlong program to help this Des Moines inner city area improve their yards and gardens. It was designed to introduce the urban landowners to proven farm conservation techniques, show what is possible to do in small yards and gardens, and demonstrate how they can be successfully applied in urban areas.

Additional steps include planning, planting, care, and enjoyment of their yards and gardens.

The Des Moines and Adams County gardeners will use practices and help from the USDA-NRCS Backyard Conservation Program.

More Resource Links

Social Sciences References: 

Laura Crowell, Outreach Coordinator, 515-284-4262