What difference is the Leopold Center making?
Since 1998, the Leopold Center has awarded more than 500 competitive grants coming from every Iowa county. These awards often act as seed money to leverage other funding for research and demonstration projects, education, or planning and capacity-building efforts, aimed at developing profitable and sustainable farming systems for Iowa. The Center evaluates the outcomes to understand how our funding creates change in agricultural systems. The work of the Leopold Center and our partners is making a difference in Iowa and beyond.
Funding Impact Briefs
These briefs show at-a-glance the impacts of six major investments of the Leopold Center. For every dollar the Leopold Center spent on these projects, an additional $4.60 was leveraged to complement or expand the work. These projects garnered approximately 22 percent of Leopold Center grant funding over 10 years.
- Low-Input-High-Diversity Systems
- Long-Term Agroecological Research
- Hoop Barns for Alternative Hog Production Systems
- Regional Food Systems Working Group
- Bear Creek Riparian Buffer Project
- Practical Farmers of Iowa
Results from these projects, by the numbers:
- The Leopold Center invested $3,873,884 in the six projects. Together, these projects leveraged an additional $17,911,553, or $4.60 for every $1 spent by the Leopold Center.
- 22,500 acres were shifted to more efficient conservation practices and structures such as riparian buffers to reduce nitrate runoff and soil erosion and to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
- 51,277 individuals participated in project-related outreach activities, 12,932 (25 percent) of whom were farmers and agricultural professionals.
- 1,078 farmers either profited or changed their farming practices to implement conservation measures as a result of these projects, accounting for more than 100 farmers per year.
- 121 key public, private and civic sector organization partners were or are still involved in the work of these projects (individual partners were not counted).
- 255 ISU-affiliated individuals were supported by these projects, or 25 per year (132 undergraduates, 55 graduate students, 39 faculty members, and 29 visiting professors).
- Additional details about the evaluation are in this Fall 2013 Leopold Letter article.
Other ways we are making a difference
Marketing and food systems:
- Impacts of nine projects between 2011-2014 [February 2013]
- The Role of Collaborative Community Supported Agriculture: Lessons from Iowa 
Value Chain Partnerships: Phase III, Year 3: Final Project Evaluation 
Sustainable Agricultural Land Tenure (SALT) program with Drake Agricultural Law Center Impact brief [May 2014]
Women, Land and Legacy: Change Agents and Agency Change in Iowa: Evaluation Results 
How do we evaluate our projects?
Evaluation is a professional practice based in the social sciences that relies on scientific methods to systematically collect and analyze information using the following categories:
- Context – Includes the organizational structure of the projects and the relationships between the different partners and groups involved, cultural norms, etc.
- Project activities/Process – What is done and by whom (e.g., what events were held, what research was done, who was involved, etc.)
- Outputs – Publications, websites, research results, meetings, curricula, etc.
- Outcomes – Short and medium term knowledge, skills, and behavior changes
- Impacts – Long-term outcomes or changes in conditions or systems, including those in the natural environment, the political environment, and socio-economic structures
Information is documented in one or more of these categories to understand how related investments are making a difference in the lives of Iowans and on the landscape. Such information can be used by legislators, program administrators, practitioners, project leaders and partners, farmers, and others to make decisions about:
- funding sustainable agriculture efforts;
- changing public and organization or institutional policies to better support sustainable agriculture;
- supporting sustainable agriculture in other ways such as focusing on education, training, and/or outreach; and/or
- changing farming practices.
This type of information can be quantified to foster greater understanding of the breadth of change. For example, evaluation can tell us how many farmers changed their farming practices as a result of a particular grant. The information might also be used to tell compelling stories that speak to the human experience. Engaging in evaluation is a way for the public and professionals to understand the impacts generated by the Leopold Center’s investments in Iowa and how to best target future funding and efforts to optimize our resources.
Learn more about how to do evaluation in your own organization with this publication: RFSWG Data Collection Guide