Participatory assistance (PA) is a proposed approach for promoting change that involves both the biophysical processes of farms and the management processes of farmers. It integrates external expertise, inputs, and expectations with the unique character of a particular farming system. It focuses on improving the processes of the farm and farmer rather than on the traditional interests of “outsiders” such as disciplinary researchers, industry sales people, government regulators, consumers, or environmental interest groups. As an alternative to transfer of technology, it promotes learning both by the farmer and by specialists from academia, industry, government, and the public. Participatory assistance can promote innovations in the operation of farms, in the conduct of research and education, in the development of products and services, in the formulation of policy, and in the involvement of the public in agriculture. The outcome is not assumed to be the adoption of the “best” technology, but may be found in the emerging properties that result from innovations. Assessing the improvement that follows each innovation will require clear specification of the relevant performance criteria, provision of appropriate technical support, and reinforcement by the appropriate incentives. Reconciling today's farming with water quality protection illustrates the potential of the PA approach.