Co-development with science and farmers

Beef + Lamb New Zealand Land Environment Plan (LEP) workshops – an example of ‘co-development with science and farmers’.

As early as 2005 Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) began the process of developing LEP resources for farmers. The need for such resources was sparked initially by experiences on monitor farms – where 3-4 year programmes were being run on a single farm. These programmes had back-up from the local farmer community group which helped to identify key issues impacting on local production and farm performance
and had facilitation support from a relevant farm consultant.

Subsequent conversations between B+LNZ, farmers, scientists and regional/District Council representatives, led to growing recognition that “Triple Bottom Line” planning (addressing economic, social and environmental outcomes) was essential for whole farm management. At the same time, New Zealand farmers were increasingly being questioned and challenged about their land stewardship. As a result, farm environment planning was going to require an increased focus from the farming community to respond to the need for sustainable farming.

Photograph from an LEP workshop

In 2012, B+LNZ Extension Managers became more heavily involved in the process, and the initial text-based resources were re-worked into a series of farmer-friendly workshops (with accompanying workbooks and resources), facilitated by hand-picked and trained facilitators. These workshops now run across the country, and are supported by a library of online resources, with plans to expand this online offering to meet the growing demands of the farmer community.

To develop and engage their farmer audience in these workshops, B+LNZ have drawn on a ‘co-development with science and farmers’ extension approach, including extension activities such as:

  • developing workshops and facilitator training events in a collaborative way, including input from farmers, scientists, Regional /District Council representatives, industry representatives, farm consultants and B+LNZ extension managers
  • developing key resources for farmers such as the “Menu of Practices to improve Water Quality: Drystock Farms” by water quality scientists and extension staff, and testing and refining prototypes with farmer advice.
  • establishing a specific section on the B+LNZ website that collects all of the LEP toolkit resources together in one place, including workbooks and regional-specific environmental advice, grants and support available to farmers
  • offering a calendar of scheduled LEP Level 1,2 and 3 workshops out to farmers, as well as running them on request for interested groups
  • sharing information, resources and giving ‘taster sessions’ through field days
  • advertising workshop offerings through a mix of eNewsletters (eg. eDiary – Beef + Lamb New Zealand's regional weekly email newsletter), flyers direct to farmers, targeted personalised emails to farmers, local newspaper ads, ads in school newsletters out to local farming communities, and direct phone calls from Farmer Council members. 
  • redevelopment of LEP workshops and resources to accommodate Farm Environment Plan (FEP)/Farm Environment Management Plan (FEMP) requirements from certain Regional Councils
  • committing to ongoing review of existing workshops to incorporate ideas from facilitators and farmer participants, so material remains fresh and relevant

‘Co-development with science and farmers’ as an extension approach works well in this situation because:

  • it stemmed from an opportunity jointly identified by B+LNZ, farmers and scientists in the first place - farmers had some awareness of the need for stronger environmental planning already
  • with participation of farmers in the development process, workshops are fit-for-purpose and in some cases are even tailored for specific regional regulatory pressures (eg. for FEPs in Canterbury or FEMPs in Hawkes Bay)
  • the end goal is for farmers to develop a plan relevant to their situation and that draws on a range of possible farm practices to address environmental issues. Because farmers can choose practices that are most relevant to their needs and farm systems, adoption and successful implementation tends to be increased.