Building with Community: Professional Development Training in Sustainable Food Systems

Final Report for ENC03-071

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2003: $90,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Will Allen
Growing Power, Inc.
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Project Information


Growing Power proposes an innovative approach to professional development via hands-on training in community food systems with diverse community members also in attendance to better utilize sustainable agricultural practices. Growing Power’s national community food center offers a setting that was designed for opportunities for interactive education and problem solving, developing training skills by experiential learning.

Project Objectives:

-10 2-day Trainings at Growing Power’s Community Food Center.

-Development of curriculum that provide digestible and appropriate information on food systems for education audiences by Growing Power staff.

-Engage educators in participatory planning process to develop action plan for projects.

Education & Outreach Initiatives


Delivery of hands on workshops in the following areas, within both an active farm environment and with multicultural, disciplinary and generational attendees. This innovative structure and related development methods provides the culture to build new alliances and support across sectors of agriculture.

Growing Power’s Community Food Center, a 2.1 acre facility including five greenhouses that contain: classroom space, large scale vermiculture operation, small and large scale aqua-culture and Hydroponic operation, small-farmer food distribution center, retail store, community kitchen, windrow composting, youth urban farm, new-immigrant farmers in residence, youth corps.

-Literature and instruction materials for each break-out group.

-Team of technical training staff to deliver workshops and offer post training/workshop follow up assistance as needed.


Outcomes and impacts:

In 2003, Growing Power, Inc. of Milwaukee, WI received a $90,000 2-year grant designed to provide professional development to a multi-disciplinary group of 40 to improve awareness and understanding of how sustainable agricultural practice impacts and relates to the entire food system over 2 winter-spring seasons providing 10, 2-day workshops. The participants for this project included professionals/Educators as defined by the following (multiple disciplines) farmers, extension educators, university professors, teachers (k-12), environmentalists, municipal and city workers, USDA staff, NCRS staff, RMA staff, state Agriculture Department staff, veterinarians, chefs and restaurateurs, city planners.

By increasing knowledge of community food security issues and their relationship to sustainable agriculture systems and by using hands on participatory training approach, Growing Power’s Community Food Center provided the learning environment to educate professionals about community food systems and sustainable practices.

Growing Power’s Community Food Center, a 2.1 acre facility including: 6 greenhouses contains classroom space, large scale vermiculture operation, small and large scale aqua-culture operations, small-farmer food distribution center, retail store, community ‘CSA’-style year-round food distribution, small scale and large scale wind row composting, youth/community gardening, urban and intensive commercial agriculture, new-immigrant farmers in residence, youth corps, beekeeping and animal husbandry all provided by expert technical training staff and consultants. The learning environment of this active center includes trainings and workgroups offered to ethnically and economically diverse local, regional and national audience.

In the winter and spring of 2004 and again 2005, Growing Power promoted the program to a wide range of stakeholders and encouraged North Central region SARE state coordinators to identify participants for scholarships and travel support. Additionally, Growing Power was able to develop curriculums and handouts that provide digestible and appropriate information on food systems for education audiences. The trainings and education resources, including expansion of the facility’s demonstration areas focused on vermiculture, aquaponics, project planning, marketing and beekeeping. The principles of hands-on, culturally appropriate approaches that facilitate cross disciplinary partnerships between professionals and promote post-training project development and implementation were enhanced and institutionalized within the facility, impacting the over 3,500 visitors to the facility over the 2-year project.

The intended result, for attendees to apply training skills by immediately integrated one (1) new sustainable strategy into teaching or practice post-training and to begin planning and/or participating in trainings with diverse professionals that will address learning styles, cultural/gender equity and listening skills through experiential workshops, on-farm and other site specific educational venues that promote sustainable agriculture.

This initial groundbreaking effort was successful and led to Growing Power applying again for a 2006-2007 PDP to continue this kind of education and development with the addition of a multi-cultural alliance building and dismantling racism workshop for professionals seeking to serve diverse audiences.

Attendees reported back that they were able to identify new partners and began to see how integrating hands-on, participatory methods and community building as necessary elements of sustainability.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impact of the Results/Outcomes

Short Term: Increase knowledge of community food security and food systems in relation to sustainable agriculture systems through participatory hands on training.

OUTCOME 1: 40 professionals received scholarships to attend 2-day training.

-Apply training skills by immediately integrated one (1) new sustainable strategy into teaching or practice post-training.

OUTCOME 2: 40 professionals engaged in hands-on workshops and train the trainer style working groups providing opportunity for immediate application of new skill sets.

-Participate in trainings with diverse professionals that will address learning styles, cultural/gender equity and listening skills through experiential workshops.

OUTCOME 3: 40 participants attended training and actively participated in workshops that highlighted multi-cultural and diversity as core element of successful programs.

Intermediate: How behavior, practice and policies will be impacted.

-Participation in the planning and development of the community food systems curriculum for a series of professional development workshop series.

OUTCOME 4: participants elected to establish individual plans, and to seek 1:1 mentoring and technical assistance from Growing Power staff or to visit center with their constituents.

-Educators will have knowledge to educate diverse audiences about sustainable food systems and food production with low-tech, low cost technology opportunities for small producers in the north central region.

OUTCOME 5: 40 participants exposed to new style of education and program delivery.

-Educators will be encouraged to join work groups following training as a vehicle to partner and develop regional sustainable agriculture food systems/research/program implementation.

OUTCOME 6: Due to lack of interest, working groups were not established. As a result the addition of diversity training on the Friday prior to the weekend would alleviate the issues reported of lack of time in schedule, additional travel time and greater interest in implementing new learning into regional programs.

-Access through Growing Power and its multiple partners to other resources and information.

OUTCOME 7: 40 participants received lesson plan information and technical information from Growing Power (project planning materials, aquaponics schematics, vermicompost information) and networked with the 40-120 participants attending each workshop.

-Ability to effectively teach a new sustainable strategy or technology (i.e. vermicompost) and integrate this training within their research or program delivery.

OUTCOME 8: 40 participants received hands-on active training, including train-the-trainer portions allowing each participant to “train” another workshop participant in what they learned.

Long term: Systemic Changes.

-Educators will be able to apply sustainable community food system strategies in their research and education of diverse populations and audiences.

-Program delivery to small farms, inner-city urban agriculture producers, new immigrant farmers and minority and women producers will be increased.

-Ability to apply sustainable agriculture education and research through hands on- participatory training as a result of this professional development workshop series form partnerships across disciplines and agencies as a result of participating in this professional development series knowledge and understanding of community food systems.

OUTCOME 9: In 2007, an increased acknowledgment of the need for diversity, and culturally appropriate (hands-on, in the field program delivery for farmers) has been reported and in part is reflected in the workshops offered at the SARE National conferences. Continued monitoring for the systemic changes will occur with the conclusion of Growing Power’s 2005-2007 PDP evaluation via outside evaluator, Martin Bailkey.


Potential Contributions

Workshop Comments

Sample of Post training surveys and evaluation interviews were revealing.

Excerpt from interview with Adam Wheeling:

"First, thank you for the opportunity last year, I really enjoyed the workshop!"

Could you describe how attending the workshop benefited you in your career?

"I was able to professionally grow my knowledge on vermiculture, greenhouses, fish, and learning how these systems can interact together."

Anything knowledge, training methods, that you have used in your work with your students?

"Our Vermiculture and composting here at the Agriscience facility has increased where a large majority of our fecal matter and plant matter from the facility is being composted."

Any new projects started as a result of attending the Growing Power training?

"This year we are launching our community garden program and filled out a grant to gain more tools for our program."

And finally would you be willing to participate in a one day networking workshop with other individuals in the food system/ agricultural arena?

"I will be unable to attend; I have started my masters program which has filled my schedule too full. I have however given positive feedback to other agriculture teachers who are interested."

About Young Mi Kaneshiro:

In her personal life, she has begun her own home scale vermicomposting set up and has [passed on worms to friends. Once mastered she is looking at expanding and bringing this operation to her work office with the Chicago Park District.

Professionally, the training received at Growing Power has inspired the beginning of the Jackson Park community garden which will be active this 2005 growing season. The Chicago Park District, in partnership with Growing Power, is looking for sites within the City of Chicago to do composting. This will been 1 -2 year process.

The Michigan Integrated Food and Farming Systems’(MIFFS) Multicultural Farmers Program has worked with Growing Power over the past several years helping spread the word about sustainable agriculture. We visited when we participated in their programs in October of 2004 and again when we participated in the Community food Coalition Conference in December. MIFFS Multicultural Farmers Program has partnered with Growing Power for the past five years. We have learned from the educational workshops provided on vermiculture, aquaculture and marketing. Growing Power’s Will Allen and Erika Allen have presented to our farmers at our Michigan Family farms Conference here in Michigan. They really share what they know with others.

There are few effective training programs weaving together community food security and sustainable agriculture the way this one does. There are even fewer that incorporate issues of urban agriculture and cultural awareness. The proposed trainings by Growing Power cover this range of issues and do so with a hands-on approach that facilitates quick absorption of the knowledge presented.

Excerpts from post workshop evaluations:

"It has really inspired me to incorporate as many different educational tools into the farm as possible…getting my hands dirty." -Jessica Feeser, Oberlin College Student Cooperative Association, April 2005

"I feel confident in my ability to set up a vermicompost program and I plan to head back and get started and pass along the knowledge." -Meredith Dowling, Ecological Design Innovation Center, Ohio April 2005

"I really like being able to get my hands dirty and jump right in to learn. I think hands-on learning is the best way for people to learn and to be able to replicate their experience." -Melanie Houston, Helping Hands, Newark, Ohio March 22 2004

"I liked the participatory method!" -Maria Alvarez, March 22, 2004, NIFI New Immigrant Farmer Initiative

"…wonderful diversity of people to learn from, the trainers at the workshop had friendly, open attitudes!" -Dr. Jerry Dewitt, Iowa State Extension Representative, April 4, 2004

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.