Category Archives: Uncategorized

Field Lessons from: Will Valley, SAEA Vice Chair

Embracing Uncertainty in Sustainable Agriculture
and Food Systems Education

We are becoming increasingly aware that contemporary sustainability issues are characterized by complexity and accelerating change. Our students, future professionals within the food system, are inheriting this context of uncertainty, in which they will be expected to deal with challenges that are categorically different than those of previous generations. If we recognize that the nature of these issues has changed, then we must reconsider how we educate future professionals to be able to embrace uncertainty and effectively address complex sustainability issues.

I believe that courses and programs in sustainable agriculture and food systems education (SAFSE) are at the forefront of developing curricula and educational experiences that create conditions in which students can learn to embrace uncertainty. A group of instructors from four SAFSE programs (University of Minnesota, UC Davis, University of Montana, and the University of British Columbia) conducted an analysis of SAFSE literature and the learning outcomes of their programs to better articulate key themes across the curricula1. The themes were then further analyzed through a signature pedagogy learning theory framework. A signature pedagogy is a common form of instruction and learning through which students develop competencies related to professional performance in a particular field or domain. There are three levels within the signature pedagogy framework: surface, deep, and implicit. The surface level describes the contexts in which students learn and the activities they perform. The deep level identifies the knowledge and know-how of the field; and the implicit level categorizes professional values and dispositions. The figure below illustrates the key elements of an emerging SASFE signature pedagogy; elements that are common across the four programs as well as programs described in the literature. 

What I consider significant about SAFSE programs is the way in which their design incorporates high levels of complexity into the learning process as compared to a traditional “lecture hall and lab” educational design. Students are embedded in multiple learning environments and are required to work on collective action projects with diverse stakeholders. Systems thinking competencies are developed to deal with the inherent messiness involved with food-related issues, where balance must be maintained (or restored) amongst interdependent and often competing components. Further, through critical reflection, students develop the ability to recognize the taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs that shape their worldview and the worldview of others, as well as historical and contemporary systems of inequities that permeate current food systems.

In short, SAFSE programs are ambitious, and perhaps excessively so! Yet if we truly believe that better food systems are possible – systems that are ecologically regenerative, economically viable, and socially just – we need to embrace the challenge of inviting complexity into our educational programs. We need to continue to assess, refine, and innovate our curricula and learning approaches to ensure our graduates are capable of dealing with uncertainty and addressing complexity in the food system. From developments reported in the literature and from experiences reported by individuals involved in SAEA, I’m confident that we are making positive gains in our educational programs, which I believe will contribute to positive gains in our food systems.

Steering Council Highlight

Jennifer Blesh: Member Representative

A member of the SAEA since it was founded, Jennifer Blesh is thrilled to be back on the SAEA Steering Council. When she was a graduate student, Jennifer attended the first conference on Facilitating Sustainable Agriculture Education in 2006 in Pacific Grove, CA. Following that conference, she was on the organizing committee that planned the 2nd National Conference on Facilitating Sustainable Agriculture Education at Cornell University, where the SAEA was launched as a professional organization. She served on the SAEA Steering Council from August 2010 to January 2012.

Currently, Jennifer is an Assistant Professor of Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Michigan (UM), in the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Her research integrates ecology and social science focusing on two main themes. The first investigates how to manage plant diversity and ecological interactions in agricultural systems to increase soil carbon storage, bolster internal nutrient cycling capacity, and reduce the environmental costs of agriculture. Her complementary social science research seeks to identify processes that can leverage farm-level transitions to ecological nutrient management, and food systems transformations that conserve natural resources and enhance social equity. Her research takes place on working farms whenever possible—primarily in the U.S. Midwest and in Brazil. She is also collaborating with colleagues in UM’s Sustainable Food Systems Initiative (SFSI) on projects exploring links between smallholder production systems, dietary diversity, and human health.

In part due to networking opportunities with the SAEA, Jennifer incorporates many active learning methods into her courses at UM including field trips, games, case studies, debates, and clickers for larger lecture courses. She has co-developed an interdisciplinary Foundations of Sustainable Food Systems course with colleagues in Urban and Regional Planning and the Department of Nutritional Sciences. The class integrates theory and practice through collaborative instruction, and experiential and dialogue-based learning. A new community-academic partnership course that Jennifer is co-facilitating this winter with a community leader from Detroit may be of interest to SAEA members. Called “Food Literacy for All,” the course is structured as a seminar series highlighting high-profile practitioners from across the food system. Together with collaborators, she has developed innovative partnerships to engage community members from Detroit and Ann Arbor in the series, and is using livestreaming and videotaping to extend participation and the reach of the course. The schedule can be found online[1], and video recordings of each talk will be posted by the UM SFSI on YouTube.

Put simply, Jennifer is strongly committed to improving sustainable agriculture and food systems pedagogy. The SAEA has been a tremendous resource for her professional development, and she is eager to contribute to advancing the important goals of this organization.



Field Lessons from: Leelanau Conservancy

Our agricultural landscape is in a time of transition. The average age of established farmers in the United States is 58, and in the next 20 years, 70 percent of privately held agricultural land is going to change hands. The vast majority of farmers, though, don’t have an exit strategy or knowledge of how to develop one as they work towards transitioning out of ownership of their farm property and business. What’s more, land is vulnerable when it changes hands. Property absent an estate or succession plan is liable to be subdivided and developed or sold to a non-farmer. An estate plan determines what will happen to property following a landowner’s death, while a succession plan determines the fate of property during the lifetime of a landowner as they transition out of ownership. We’re left to ask, then, given this impending transition and dearth of long term plans, ‘What’ll happen to all of this land?’

I work as the Farm Programs Manager for the Leelanau Conservancy in Leland, Michigan. The Leelanau Conservancy is a land trust that serves Leelanau County, a small peninsula in the northwestern quarter of Michigan’s lower peninsula. We’re a county of kettle holes and drumlins towards the tip of Michigan’s fruit belt. Cherries are the predominant fruit cultivated here alongside applies, grapes, and a variety of other stone fruits. The county is also a prime example of a landscape in transition, and as someone who interacts with farmers across the county on a regular basis, I’ve found that generational land transfer is a topic at the forefront of the minds of many farmers in our service area.

The focus of my work at the Conservancy is to permanently protect the county’s agricultural land with conservation easements. We’ve come to recognize, though, that conservation easements are not the only tool that we can, or should, rely on to protect our county’s working lands during this time of transition. It’s for this reason that we’re exploring what we can do to encourage and support farmers as they look to prepare succession and estate plans. Educating myself was the first step. I knew next to nothing about long term planning several months ago, but I’m making progress, though still in the nascent stages of my own learning. I’ve spoken with farmers across the county, Michigan State University Extension Agents, and professionals including attorneys, Certified Public Accountants, and financial planners. I’ve read countless articles, brochures, and conference pamphlets about succession and estate planning. What I’ve learned is that these plans take myriad shapes, are unique to each family, and certainly don’t adhere to a timeline. Plans are expensive to make – due to the high cost of services – and many families are hesitant to even start planning because “What’s gonna happen to the farm?” is a fraught question. Moreover, once a family starts the planning process, it is not uncommon for things to move forward in fits and starts, and take many years to complete. Finally, I found that many families simply don’t even know where to begin.

The Conservancy wants to encourage farmers in our service area to take steps towards making long term plans. As a conservation organization, we see a need to not only protect the land, but to also protect the viability of our agricultural community. In the immediate future, I’ll continue to educate myself while working to create opportunities for members of my community to educate themselves on the planning process. In the coming year at the Conservancy, we hope to introduce a pilot program that will provide conditional cost-sharing to cover fees incurred during the planning process to participating farmers with the hopes that a financial subsidy will catalyze some families to take action on their succession and estate plans. We want to do our part to help keep working farmers and their families on the land. As the lionized American Farmland Trust bumper sticker reads, “It’s not farmland without farmers.”

Sam Plotkin- Farm Programs Manager, SAEA Student Representative on Steering Council

Field Lessons from: Keep Growing Detroit

Across the nation and around the world farming and gardening is growing to be a part of the landscape in many urban centers. In Detroit alone there is a community of more than 1,400 gardens and farms that grow food for sustenance, community and generating income.

As Urban Agriculture Education Coordinator at the non-profit Keep Growing Detroit my job is to support growers in deepening their skills. Beginners to become novices, novices to become experienced and experienced to become advanced. As part of this trajectory we create programming to support the needs of urban farmers. In order to compete in the market and have a successful enterprise urban farmers must engage in intensive methods of growing. This necessitates tools such as hoophouses to expand opportunities to cultivate throughout the season. Using season extension tools and techniques requires a paradigm shift for those accustomed to the ‘standard’ growing season. What crops to grow when, what structure makes sense for the project, how to build and maintain hoophouses all are challenges growers face.

In response to this need in collaboration with Ten Hens Farm and the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council, Keep Growing Detroit has facilitated a Seasonal Hightunnel Education Initiative for the past 2 seasons. This series of 7 sessions: drop-in classes, workdays and tours is designed to provide resources for growers looking to extend their growing season. Sessions are drop in and scheduled monthly at one of the 20+ sites that have thriving hoophouse projects in the city. This year topics included:

  • Season Extension Intensive Crop Planning: A discussion of year round growing potential, examples of a variety of options of what is in the tunnel throughout the year and a crop planning activity to stimulate students to engage with the this ‘different’ way of thinking about crop planning.
  • Anatomy of a Hoophouse: There are many hoophouse suppliers and season extension structures (i.e. quickhoops, catapillar tunnels) out there and all having some standard features and each having some unique ones. This session was designed to give the rundown of costs, features, shapes and sizes of all types of season extension structures to assist growers in making educated decisions of what type of structures make sense for their site.
  • Marketing, Pricing, Choosing Crops that are Winners-From last years program we received feedback that hearing from experienced hoophouse growers was very helpful. We invited a handful of panelists from the region and a chef that focuses on local produce to answer questions about their projects.
  • Managing a Fruitful Hoophouse: The focus of this session was to discuss the day to day and on going maintenance for season extension structures. Participants toured a hoophouse and learned methods of hooking up drip irrigation systems, and trellising crops in a hoophouse.
  • Season Extension Fundamentals:This session was designed as an introduction for gardeners and farmers who are unfamiliar with season extension. We reviewed the limiting factors of plant development in ‘off’ growing seasons (light and heat) and methods to use protective structures and crop selection to be able to harvest crops year round.
  • Hoophouse Farm Tour- At farm tours we visited sites that have been growing in season extension structures for a number of seasons. Similar to the panel discussion, tours serve as inspiration to growers just getting started and a chance for experienced growers to talk with peers.
  • 2 Hands-on Educational Hoophouse Builds:Educational builds were designed to give participants hands-on experience with every step in the process. Often instruction manuals that come with these structures are incomplete and difficult to understand. Though each vendors structures are unique there are standard features and building protocal for many steps of the process. Building a structure also is a great ‘barn raising’ community building project.

Classes were structured to address different learning styles with a variety of ways of engaging with the information including: lecture, discussion, question and answer, reading materials, demonstration, hands-on and practical examples. From feedback from last years sessions we learned that participants really appreciated learning from other experienced growers, that hosting at successful sites encourages participants to try new practices and having resources such as crop variety and example planting schedules were useful. Participants also expressed appreciation for the class space to be an environment for them to connect with peers. We see this as a great set of classes that compliments Keep Growing Detroit’s other offerings for beginning farmers.

Kido Pielack- Education Coordinator, Keep Growing Detroit

Teaching Tips and Highlights

One thing we hear consistently at our National Conferences is how much people like learning best practices and creative new ways to invigorate instruction.  In this regular newsletter section and blog post, we reach out to our membership, and leaders in our field (and classrooms!), to share teaching tips and instructional approaches that have worked for them.  Feel free to nominate a teacher that you think is outstanding to share some of their tips and tricks!  Or feel free to volunteer yourself!  Articles may be traditional write-ups, but we would also welcome links to videos or other web-based resources, or any other creative delivery mechanism.  This is just one way we can keep the conversations going between SAEA events and build a community of practitioners engaged in excellence in the teaching and learning of sustainable agriculture.  Please contact Sarah Lovett our outreach coordinator at if you would like to contribute an article or nominate someone to contribute. 

SAEA is Hiring: Outreach Coordinator

SAEA Outreach Coordination Contractor:
The Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA) is looking to contract with someone to help us complete our outreach goals and objectives related to promoting our organization and maintaining already existing relationships and membership. The Outreach Coordinator will serve on the Outreach & Membership Committee; serve as a member on the SAEA Steering Council by participating in monthly conference calls; and will report to the SAEA Chair. The contractor would be responsible for developing, managing, updating, and/or responding to:
* SAEA’s website on WordPress (hosted by Watermelon Web Works)
o Frequent updates to the website include:
§ Brief “profiles” highlighting key leaders in sustainable agriculture education
§ Images and information reflecting new content
§ The Program Listings Database
§ The Curriculum Database (working with the Curriculum Database Committee)
* SAEA’s social media platforms:
o Facebook page and group (as necessary)
o LinkedIn Group (as necessary)
o Facilitation of Twitter communication with our membership
* SAEA’s current contact lists:
o Constant Contact (student member list, member list, and general contact list)
o SAEA Listserv (managed through Google Groups)
o SAEA Steering Council Listserv (managed through Google Groups)
o As well as exploring or investigating other email outreach services
* Requests for information, including phone and email inquiries.
* Occasional outreach events in coordination with partner entities (regional non‐SAEA conferences, marketing opportunities, etc.)
* Outreach materials that will be used at outreach events to promote SAEA.
* Standardization and management of SAEA protocol for institutional alliances, including facilitating Steering Council discussion on submitted applications
Preferred qualifications and experiences include:
* Strong background in the field of sustainable agriculture education
* Having knowledge of and experience with SAEA
* Housed in or familiar with an SAEA aligned organization and institution
* Experience and knowledge of WordPress websites, social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), Microsoft Office, Dropbox, and Constant Contact
* Previous organizing and outreach experience
* The ability to collaborate with others around the country while working remotely
* Attention to detail and ability to manage multiple projects at once
* Ability to be self-directed and accomplish tasks in a timely fashion
Funds available for these services range between $5,760‐7,200 for a 12‐month period. If interested, please submit a CV and a cover letter by October 19, 2014. To apply, or for more information, please contact:

Welcome the new Steering Council Members

Dear SAEA members and friends,

We are pleased to report the results of our recent election for the 2014-2015 Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA) Steering Committee!  The new Steering Committee members will take their positions on August 1st.

Please join us in congratulating our new steering committee for the coming year:

Krista Jacobsen, University of Kentucky — Chair

Julie Cotton,  Michigan State University — Vice Chair *

Kim Niewolny, Virginia Tech — Past Chair  

Megan Fehrman, Rogue Farm Corps — Secretary *

Victoria LeBeaux, University of Kentucky —Treasurer

Kido Pielack, Keep Growing Detroit — Member representative *

Seth Friedman, University of British Columbia — Member representative

Ryan Galt, University of California- Davis — Member representative

Andrew Baskin–  University of California- Davis — Student representative *

Andrew (Andy) Petran– University of Minnesota — Student representative *

Samuel (Sam) Plotkin, University of Montana —  Student representative *

*Newly elected SAEA steering committee members.

Many thanks to those of you who have served on the Council in the past, and to those who participated in the election. We look forward to the upcoming year as a time of growth and new ideas. You can read more about our newest members on our Steering Council page. If you too are inspired to support the work of the SAEA, become a member or join one of our working Committees!


Kind Regards,

Kim Niewolny

Past Chair, SAEA

Share your expertise with SAEA

SAEA membership,

We are now accepting nominations for SAEA Steering Committee positions! These positions help to guide the organization, and insure that we have diverse student and practitioner voices.

Positions will start August 1, 2014 and will carry forward for either one or two years. Please see the position descriptions below for the available positions – available positions are described below.

Nominations will open June 2, and close June 16. Nominees will then be asked to submit a short biography to share with the voting membership, due June 30th. Elections will be held online from July 1-July 15. Positions will be announced and terms officially start August 1.

The new SC members will be asked to attend the late July Steering committee conference call as a way to welcome them to the organization and orient them to the committee. We also hope that new Steering Committee members will attend the 2014 SAEA Conference and post-conference Steering Committee meeting on August 6, 2014.


• June 1-June 16 – nominations open

• June 30 – deadline for nominee biographies for election

• July 1-15 – online voting is open

• July 18 – positions are announced

• August 1 – new SC members begin their term

• August 3-6 – SAEA conference and strategic planning meeting in North Carolina

We are soliciting nominations for the following positions:
Vice-Chair (1 opening)
Secretary (1 opening)
Member Representative (1 opening)
Student Representatives (3 openings)

Please email your nominee’s name, contact information, and the position for which you are nominating him or her to Julie Cotton, SAEA Secretary, at cottonj [at]

Self-nominations are welcomed and encouraged!

SAEA Steering Committee Position Descriptions:

Duties: All members of the Steering Council are expected to: attend monthly 1-hour conference calls; serve on one or more subcommittee(s); attend national conferences if possible; represent the Association as appropriate.

Vice-Chair (1-year term, 1 opening)
The vice-chair succeeds to the office of Chair for a term of one year after finishing their term as Vice Chair. As vice chair, they will assume the duties of the Chair in the event of the inability of the Chair to fulfill their duties. As vice chair, they learn to perform the duties of the Chair, who is the presiding officeholder of the Association. Chairs organize steering committee meetings and conference calls, set agendas and decision-making priorities, and delegate appropriate duties to other committee members and subcommittees. The Chair also represents the organization at SAEA conferences and other public events. By nominating a Vice-Chair, you are effectively nominating the next SAEA Chair.

Secretary (2-year term, 1 opening)
The secretary keeps full and accurate records of all business and proceedings of the Steering Council in regular and special meetings, as well as general information related to SAEA activities and bylaws. S/he maintains all records and, upon leaving office, make necessary arrangements for passing on these records to the successor Secretary. The secretary may be responsible for correspondence of the SAEA upon direction of the Steering Council. The secretary prepares and distributes ballots to the voting membership, tabulates and records the votes, and notifies the candidates for office and the Steering Council of the election results.

Member Representatives (1 opening) and Student Representatives (3 openings) (2-year terms)
Member and Student Representatives maintain awareness of the diverse views, goals and objectives of the membership of the SAEA and represent these as appropriate at meetings of the Steering Council. They are required to serve as chairs or members of subcommittees. Nominated Student Representatives must be current students in any institution of higher learning when elected, but may complete their term if they graduate during this time.

The Sustainable Agriculture Education Association promotes and supports the development, application, research and exchange of best teaching and learning practices in sustainable agriculture education and curricula through communication, training, development, and collaborative activities for teachers and learners. The Association is organized exclusively for education purposes within the meaning of Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Taking Sustainable Ag Students on the Road

By: Krista Jacobsen, Assistant Professor, Department of Horticulture, University of Kentucky

Like many students in Sustainable Agriculture degree programs around the country, students in our Sustainable Agriculture Undergraduate Degree Program (SAG) at the University of Kentucky participate in a number of experiential learning activities in their time at UK. They apprentice on our university’s organic farm, intern at farms and community food-centered non-profits, and participate in education abroad courses. The final spring semester of the SAG program is marked by our Capstone course, a course focused on integration of sustainable agriculture principles by incorporating individual concepts learned throughout the program into a system that they are particularly interested in, be it their future farm, a project, or just a topic of interest.

The class (10-15 students) and their instructor, Dr. Mark Williams, essentially create the course syllabus together. The students discuss their career goals, interests, and identify concepts they would like to explore in a deeper way before they leave our program. Working with Mark, the students create a course schedule filled with weekly afternoon workshops around Central Kentucky, including visits to farms and community food non-profits, as well as skill-building workshops (see Capstone Workshop List below). However, with the broad interest of students in our program, there is only so much the students can see and do in an afternoon in their own backyard.

High tunnels at Crystal Organic Farm GA
In addition to the afternoon workshops, the students work with Mark and other supporting faculty across the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and the Environment to design a “Capstone Study Tour.” This Study Tour is a spring break trip focused on a particular region (Northeast, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic) and create an action-packed 5-6 day study tour where they explore everything from homesteading to urban agriculture, from rotational grazing to aquaponics.

This year the Capstone students headed south on a whirlwind tour of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina. The Study Tour focus was “sustainable living and farming at different scales.” The group visited homesteaders, intentional communities with subsistence farms, upscale green developments, and all manners of farms. They visited with herbal medicine-makers, grist mill operators, permaculture devotees, high tunnel growers producing for major metropolitan markets, and pastured livestock producers. Each day included 3-5 tours, a little downtime (like trampoline jumping (!) or a walk around a new city), and an evening meal at a locally-owned or local foods-oriented restaurant.
2014 capstone Jubilee farms GA
“What surprised me about the capstone trip was the amount of diversity. Every place had a different view yet they were all honing one goal: to be more sustainable,” said graduating senior Erica Indiano. Erica was one student who became more focused on her future farming and career goals after the Study Tour. Her family is aspiring to buy land, but after seeing some sheep operations in Kentucky and North Carolina, Erica and her sister, a sustainable fashion major, are working on a business plan with their family to develop a “fiber CSA” and local fashion-focused farm.

The goal of the Capstone Study Tour is for students to see real-world folks making a living doing what the students aspire to do, to learn about their challenges and successes, and to process these learning experiences as a team with their faculty. The students reflect on these experiences in multiple ways, on van rides between stops, at dinner, and late night hotel room chats, as well as through a formal report capturing what they learned on the study tour.

After this year’s tour, several students have found apprenticeships that build on farming systems they were exposed to on the tour, including sheep farms, dairies, and permaculture-oriented farms. Other will continue their studies, or work for a few years while they save money to begin their own farming operations. For more information about the UK SAG program and to see some photo highlights from experiential learning activities in the program, visit the UK SAG website or email Mark Williams (mark.williams [at] or Krista Jacobsen (krista.jacobsen [at] See below for this year’s student-selected topics.

rotational grazing in blueberries jubilee farms GA

Student-Selected Topics for 2014 SAG Capstone Class

1.       Permaculture

2.       Carpentry for farm buildings and structures

3.       Homesteading/Self-sufficient living: creating closed systems, i.e. recycling farm wastes for fuel, building materials, etc.

4.       Foraging for wild edibles and medicinals

5.       Goats: Goat care and cheese making

6.       Planning and economics of starting a CSA

7.       How to care for egg chickens

8.       Nut production

9.       Added value products and other on-farm processing

10.   Farm-to-table

11.   Economics of starting a farm

12.   Livestock production, particularly integrated systems

13.   Cheese making

14.   Meat processing

15.   Agroforestry, alleycropping

16.   Agrotourism

17.   Edible landscapes

18.   Hemp production

19.   Mushroom production

20.   Intentional communities

21.   Electrical work

22.   Organic agriculture

23.   Season extension and tunnel production and construction

24.   Tillage and soil conservation

25.   Cover cropping

26.   Agro-energy

27.   Aquaponics

Training the Next Generation

By: Megan Fehrman, SAEA Outreach Coordinator

For some in the agricultural world, winter is the time for resting, recuperating and planning for the next season. It can also be full of meetings, travel, and probably means attending a farming conference or two. This winter, the USDA released the preliminary data from the 2012 Agricultural Census. As sustainable agriculture educators, how do we take this new information and incorporate it into our work, both for 2014 season, and beyond?

At base level, the census numbers do not look promising. While the number of large farms has grown, the number of mid-sized farms continues to decline. It appears that small farms held steady, which is somewhat hopeful from a sustainability perspective, but these small farms do not necessarily bring in enough income to support the people living there.

The average age of the American farmer is now nearly 58, an increase of 1.2 years since 2007 alone, with about a third of our farming population over the age of 65. On the other hand, the number of farmers between the ages of 25 and 34 increased slightly to 6%. But with a decrease in the 35 to 44 range, it is unclear if young farmers are sticking with it.

I recently returned from the Oregon Small Farms Conference where the need to train the next generation of farmers was underscored repeatedly by the keynote speaker, Michael Ableman of Foxglove Farm. Farm profitability and sustainability were also topics of conversation, both on stage by presenters and in the casual conversations in the halls during the breaks. At EcoFarm earlier this winter, land transfer and succession planning were discussed again and again. If we are able to get people into the field, which is a big job in and of itself, how do we help them succeed?

After EcoFarm, I met people addressing these issues as I toured the UC Santa Cruz Student farm and the UC Davis Student Farm. Over the past 5 years, many new farmer-training programs have sprouted up, but these two date back to 1967 and 1977 respectively. They offer a couple of different approaches to sustainable agriculture education, and provide models for many others.

The Center for Agroecology and Food Systems at UCSC runs their apprenticeship program in conjunction with UCSC Extension. The Apprenticeship course carries 20 units of Extension credit for the approximately 300 hours of classroom instruction and 700 hours of in-field training and hands-on experience in the greenhouses, gardens, orchards, and fields. During the six-month program, topics such as soil management, composting, pest control, crop planning, irrigation, farm equipment, marketing techniques, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) are covered. Graduates of the program go on to run their own farms, host educational programs, and manage many different projects concerning food and farming.

The Student Farm at UC Davis is 20-acres of certified organic teaching and research fields- offering internships, formal courses, research opportunities, and visits from the general public. Student interns can work in the Ecological Garden or the Market Garden, a four-acre section dedicated to hands-on learning about small scale, organic vegetable production and marketing. Students help to sell their produce through a CSA, to a coffee house on campus, and other venues. Courses at the Student Farm include Organic Crop Production Practices, Intro to Sustainable Agriculture, Seminar on Alternatives in Agriculture, and Field Work in Ag and Environmental Education where students work with Kids in the Garden.

Currently, I am the Education Director for the Rogue Farm Corps, a non-profit that works with a network of commercial growers in agricultural communities in Oregon to provide hands-on training. Though we have only been at this for ten years, we are working with the on-farm internship model that has been happening in the world of sustainable agriculture for decades- while providing a legal, safe, and educational experience for all involved. We have learned a lot from UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz, as we work to establish valid educational programming outside the realm of Academia. And, we have a lot to share with them. Our relationships with these institutions, and others, have been crucial to our development.

Clearly, these three programs, and many, many more across the country (as shown in our Academic Program Listings and the Student Farm/Garden Listings), are doing their part to get that number of farmers in the 25-34 age bracket above six percent. These programs are networking and exchanging information through organizations like the SAEA. They are coming up with curriculum, not only teach the art of sustainable agriculture, but also to teach marketing, bookkeeping, and technological skills necessary to run a profitable farm business. And, they are forming partnerships and working relationships with others within the food system to help build the movement.

In one of his writings, Michael Abelman says, “We prepare ground for planting, providing everything we can to insure that the conditions are right. We place tiny seeds, and plants, and trees in that ground, in rows, and lines, and blocks, on raised beds, in trenches, in holes, we wait and watch and cover and protect, always knowing that in the end we are not in control.” The same applies to new farmers. As agricultural educators, we are responsible for creating the best of conditions for these young people- so that they may thrive.

For more reading on this topic, please see this article by Kim Niewolny, the President of SAEA’s Steering Council: Expanding the Boundaries of Beginning Farmer Training and Program Development: A Review of Contemporary Initiatives To Cultivate a New Generation of American Farmers