Development and Implementation of the Agriculture Community Education (ACE) On-line Learning Modules for Northeast Texas Limited Resource Producers

Progress report for EDS22-38

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2022: $35,667.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Northeast Texas Community College
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Rene' McCracken
Northeast Texas Community College
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Project Information


The purpose of this education grant proposal is to seek the funding to pay instructors, assistants, and tech advisors to create, build and implement online training modules termed - Agriculture Community Education or "ACE" from existing face to face courses conducted and Northeast Texas Community college's Sustainable Market Farm.  There are 5 planned modules in the following topics: Healthy Soils, Backyard Poultry, Goat Production, Greenhouse Production, and Vegetable Gardening.  The sustainable degree option courses have currently been offered and demonstrated at NTCC since their approval by the Texas State Higher Education Board in 2011. They have proven to be effective in providing instruction to our students on sustainable best practices. However, this subject matter is not easily nor readily accessed by rural farmers within the region primarily due to limited time constraints and lack of financial means to do so.  Online options with on-demand learning would allow working farmers to access education modules on their time schedules and proceed at their own pace - while offering the "lab" component at the sustainable market farm.  For disadvantaged and limited resource producers identified by Farm Service Agency and AgriLife Extension, scholarships provided through outside donations will remove expense obstacles and increase impact of courses. The retrospective post-then-Pre design of assessment will be utilized to assess farmer’s self-reported changes in knowledge, awareness, skills, confidence, attitudes and behaviors. Outside peer review and cooperating farmers will help to refine and measure impact of project and to determine success measures and improve course development.  Total project budget for 2 years is $35,667. Breakdown includes: supplies: $6,425, Outreach: $2,800; Personnel: $23,200; NTCC indirect costs $3,242.

Project Objectives:

The primary goal of the ACE project is to improve the overall sustainability of small farmers in the Northeast Texas region through completion of continuing education modules. The student learning objectives in each topic area will be evaluated for adoption and if best practice skills improved. This will be evaluated in the following measurable objectives:

  1. Improve the soil health of students completing the modules. Soil Samples pre and post.
  2. Improved flock health of backyard layer flocks. Measured in egg production pre and post.
  3. Reduced parasites and increase weight gain in meat goat production. Fecal Samples pre and post.
  4. Integrated pest management in greenhouse production vegetables. Germination rates pre and post.
  5. Improved production with cover crops and companion planting for vegetable production. Improved yields pre and post.

Additional skills may be measured for each topical area.  With each skill/behavior, the participant will be asked if they believed that by taking the course that they improved their overall budget by either reducing inputs or increasing profit.



Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Lisa Dupree - Technical Advisor - Producer
  • Claire McCracken - Technical Advisor
  • Callie Zoeller - Technical Advisor
  • Elizabeth Lively
  • Bradley Lofton - Technical Advisor - Producer


Educational approach:

The educational approach of the ACE Online Learning Lessons require first, the development of curriculum content built and demonstrated on our Sustainable Market Farm. Next, they are edited and published in our learning management system; Blackboard Ultra.  These effective online courses are designed to contain practical, hands-on learning experiences that allow the producers to view content in blackboard ultra.

To achieve our goal of effective online farming courses, each of the five lesson modules are constructed to contain: Power points, how-to demonstration videos, discussion questions, fact sheets and assessments.  The five lesson modules are: Healthy Soils, Meat Goat Management, Vegetable Gardening, Greenhouse Production, and Backyard Poultry Management.  The lessons are contained in the HALT 2321 Small Farming local needs WECM course designed at Northeast Texas Community College for the Sustainable Agriculture certificate and applied science associates degree pathways.

Lesson content will be written, demonstrated and recorded during the first year of the project March 1, 2022 - April 1, 2023.  Outreach events present content to area farmer and gardeners and feedback from participants are used to provide edit suggestions for lessons.  ACE lesson modules content added and is used to supplement the learning in the HALT 2321 college course that is offered in classroom Spring 2023. 

ACE Lessons Project Timeline

Year 1:

Spring 2022: Staff job descriptions created, established, and filled with best applicants.

Summer 2022: Supplies purchased as needed to build hands-on demonstrations to document on video.

HALT 2321 offered in Spring 2023.

March into Agfest: Outreach Event, March 31-April 1, 2023

May 1, 2023 Year 1 project report to SARE 


Educational & Outreach Activities

20 Consultations
124 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
25 On-farm demonstrations
2 Published press articles, newsletters
4 Tours
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days
15 Other educational activities: Social Media Blog Posts: Utilized the NTCC Ag Department Facebook page to post "blog" videos, pictures and link to other sustainable techniques to reach and engage our audience. Questions provided feedback from farmers and producers that was used to create "Frequently Asked Questions" sections in each topical area.

Participation Summary:

115 Farmers participated
2 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

The ACE online lesson modules activities can be described as:

  1. Content Creation: Staff researched topical content to create scripts, PowerPoints, visual aids and videos for each of the 5 topics.  The staff was made up of: Rene' McCracken, Lisa Dupree, Bradley Lofton, Claire McCracken, Elizabeth Lively and summer student workers.  Administrative staff were also utilized to help hire, train staff members as needed.  Additional staff members completed purchase orders, picked up supplies, etc.
  2. Instructional Design: Developed content is then organized, edited and structured in a way that is easy to understand and follow.  Final edits for each lesson will be made in year two after feedback from students is considered and applied.
  3. Demonstrations utilizing grant funded supplies on NTCC Sustainable Market Farm provide content for "Case Study" assignments. Instructors use case studies to illustrate key concepts and allow learners to work through scenarios.
  4. Simulations and in some cases - actual problems are presented to participants in HALT 2321 Small Farm course, tours and field days. This creates a safe and controlled setting so that instructors can provide hands-on experiences and reinforce learning.
  5. Problem solving exercises will be added to each lesson topic to challenge learners to think critically and apply their knowledge. These "most frequently asked questions" will be part of the each of the final assessments for all five topics.  Questions added will be compiled from feedback from content delivery at tours, field days and in-person classes.
  6. Social Media Blog posts: NTCC Ag Department facebook page is utilized to reach our audience with instructional blogs.  Questions and interest from blog posts are monitored and questions incorporated in the content of the course.  

By utilizing these activities, instructors are engaging our audience and creating relevant on-line course material for our five course topics.  This will result in future participant farmers understanding and adopting new sustainable agriculture skills and practices.  Year 2 will begin Summer 23 which will primarily be editing and creating final content. Year 2 will also have a Fall Ag Fest to cover topical demonstrations for each lesson during that time of year.  For example: establishing fall gardens, breeding meat goats, and cover crop planting of winter forages.

March into ag flyer 2 page


Press Release March into Agriculture 2023

Learning Outcomes

5 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Soil Health Management

Project Outcomes

5 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
1 Grant received that built upon this project
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Project Outcome generation and tabulation are in process and will be reported at end of second year - March 2024.

Projected Outcomes can be described as:

The ACE Online Learning Project will contribute to the future sustainability of farmers in several ways, including economically, environmentally and socially.

Economically, the lessons will teach farmers how to implement sustainable agriculture practices that can reduce production costs and increase yields.  Specific data in the area of reduced reliance on fertilizers and pesticides provide reduced costs due to improved soil health and fertility. Practices such as cover cropping, crop rotation, pastured poultry and integrated pest management are also expected to provide farmers with measurable economic impact.

Environmentally, the lessons will teach farmers how to reduce their impact on the environment and promote biodiversity.  Sustainable practices demonstrated such as conservation tillage, cover cropping, hugelkultur and silvo-pasture can reduce soil erosion and improve soil health, which can lead to higher crop yields and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Sustainable practices can also reduce water use and promote the conservation of wildlife habitats. Pre/post surveys with topical questions will help to provide data to farmers and instructors to assess impact.

Socially, the lessons will promote the well-being of farmers and their communities.  Sustainable practices such as agroforestry and diversification can increase farm resilience and provide alternative sources of income during lean times.  Historically, our farmers are dealing with inflated costs of inputs, high land values resulting from rapid influx of urban sprawl and rising population.  The rapidly rising property taxes are the final straw for most and are pushing more to sell out.  This provides an overwhelming obstacle to new farmers wanting to enter the industry.  Sustainable practices can lead to healthier and more diverse diets, which can promote better health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs.  Finally, sustainable practices can contribute to the preservation of cultural traditions and the strengthening of rural communities.

Final outcome survey tools are still being completed and will be implemented at future course offerings, field days and tours.  These are examples how data can be utilized to help producers and instructors to asses impact of the ACE Online Learning Lessons.

Information Products

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.