Key Vision

On-farm, systems oriented research has received increasing attention recently due to both the growing pressure to recognize and manage water quality impacts resulting from agricultural activities and the success of the Discovery Farms® Program. Programs modeled after the Wisconsin program are underway in Arkansas, North Dakota and Minnesota, and several other states are considering adopting the Discovery Farms model.

It is critical that the overall principles of Discovery Farms® programs remain consistent across participating states, in order to maintain research credibility and usefulness and allow common messaging within and across state programs. Frequent, planned communication between states will aid in maintaining these principles.

Foundational Design Concepts

All Discovery Farms® programs revolve around three basic principles:

  1. Farmer Leadership

    Every Discovery Farms program must include farmers in organizational leadership positions throughout the program’s structure. This structure must also provide for the farmer-led group to identify program priorities, participate in the selection of research locations, and participate in data analysis.

  2. Research Design and Implementation

    Every Discovery Farms program must agree to collect water quality data in a manner that allows comparisons with other Discovery Farms sites and programs across the country following agreed-upon quality assurance principles. Additional data including weather, farm management practices, and other factors relevant to the study need to be collected.

  3. Communicating the Results

    Every Discovery Farms program must be committed to the development and delivery of a major education and information program designed to provide information to a wide variety of audiences including the agricultural community, consumers, researchers, agency personnel and policy makers. Communications should incorporate a combination of field days, meetings, factsheets, media outreach and peer reviewed journal articles. Farmers serving as organizational leaders and/or as research site cooperators should play a key role in communication of research results. Communications efforts need to start with the launch of the program and continue throughout the life of the program

    For more information contact Amber Radatz at or call 715.983.5668.

Discovery Farms Programs in Other States