Organic Ag. Academy

Progress report for ENC19-175

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2019: $13,794.00
Projected End Date: 10/14/2022
Grant Recipient: Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Carrie Mahlik
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
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Project Information

Abstract:

The Organic Ag. Academy will give high school and technical college teachers in-depth training to increase their knowledge and awareness of sustainable and organic agriculture and the tools to teach this topic to their students. The long-term impact will be more student exposure to sustainable and organic agriculture and the career opportunities in this field. This will expand the pool of workers skilled in sustainable agriculture practices.

To achieve these outcomes, the Academy project will develop 15-hour training sessions around six sustainable and organic agriculture topics. High school agricultural science and environmental studies teachers and technical college instructors from Horticulture, Farm Business Management, Agronomy, and Dairy Science programs are the audience for in-depth two-day sessions held over three summers. Participating educators will receive lesson plans, curriculum guides, lectures, assessments, teaching tools, and lab ideas to incorporate into their educational programs. Follow-up surveys will measure educator knowledge and awareness gains, as well as how content is being integrated in the participant classrooms/programs. Project results will be disseminated through SARE for potential replication in other geographic regions.

Further, content and deliverables for the six sustainable and organic agriculture topics will be developed with guidance of NCR-SARE (North Central Region-Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education) to ensure they meet SARE quality standards, setting the stage for development of a SARE Teaching Certificate for successful completers of the six training sessions.

Project Objectives:

Outputs of the Academy project include:

  • Updated curriculum for six, 15-hour sessions. The curriculum will include six hours of classroom content and seven hours of field work at farm sites, with two hours allocated for travel to/from/between farm sites. Ms. Dantoin, SAFS instructor, will develop the curriculum and share with NCR-SARE to ensure alignment with SARE quality standards.
  • Six curriculum guides with lectures, assessments, and suggested teaching tools and labs are created for participant use post-training. Ms. Dantoin, SAFS instructor, will develop the content, including typical lesson plans with timelines outlined, course competencies, learning objectives, PowerPoint lectures with notes, worksheets and quizzes, lab instructions, and lab supply needs.
  • Three surveys developed to measure impact of the training (see Evaluation). Ms. Dantoin, SAFS instructor, will develop the surveys with guidance of NWTC’s Institutional Research staff.
  • Two, two-day training sessions conducted annually, reaching ten educators (i.e., high school agricultural science and environmental studies teachers, and technical college instructors from Horticulture, Farm Business Management, Agronomy, and Dairy Science programs) at each session. Ms. Dantoin will deliver the course content, reaching a duplicated total of 60 educators over the three-year period.
  • SARE Teaching Certificate developed, in coordination with NCR-SARE.

Education

Educational approach:

The Organic Ag. Academy project is developing 15-hour training sessions around six sustainable and organic agriculture topics. High school agricultural science and environmental studies teachers and technical college instructors from Horticulture, Farm Business Management, Agronomy, and Dairy Science programs are the audience for in-depth two-day sessions held over three summers. Participating educators receive lesson plans, curriculum guides, lectures, assessments, teaching tools, and lab ideas to incorporate into their educational programs.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Soil & Nutrients
Objective:

Increasing educator knowledge and awareness of sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, and approaches.

Description:
  • Content:
    • Soil health: soil biology, organic soil fertility and fertilizer inputs, organic crop yields, composting
    • Manure and runoff: spreading, composting, run-off control, managed grazing, buffers, cover cropping, pollution impacts
  • Site visits:  NWTC Sustainable Agriculture Garden, various organic farms to see soils practices
Outcomes and impacts:

We asked learners to rate their knowledge before, and then after, the training in these subject areas: Physical Structure, Organic Fertilizers, Compost Process, Soil Organic Matter, Soil Health Testing, and Soil Microbiology. Four of the six participants provided survey responses. All topics had minimum knowledge gains of .75 (on scale of 1—”don’t know much” to 5—”I know a lot”), with the largest gains (1.5) in the topics of Organic Fertilizers, Compost Process, and Soil Microbiology. 

Livestock & Managed Grazing
Objective:

Increasing educator knowledge and awareness of sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, and approaches.

Description:
  • Content:
    • Livestock: organic alternatives to hormones & antibiotics; organic animal healthcare toolbox; pastured pork, free-range chicken
    • Grass-fed livestock: managed grazing, meat & milk nutritional quality research, marketing fact & fiction. Fencing, watering systems, and ecosystems services provided by managed grazing.
  • Site visits:  Jaworski robotic milking & managed grazing farm, Full Circle pastured pork farm, and site of a Wisconsin Discovery Farm drain tile water quality monitoring station.
Outcomes and impacts:

We asked learners to rate their knowledge before, and then after, the training in these subject areas: 1) Plant species and management used in grazing; 2) Equipment used in managed grazing (reels, fencing, waterers); 3) Conservation benefits of managed grazing, 4) Management of animals (cattle, hogs, chickens) in a managed grazing system, and 5) Nutritional profile of meat/milk/eggs from managed grazing system. Three of the five participants provided survey responses. All respondents increased their knowledge from an average score over all topics from of 3.67 to 4.67 with a maximum of 5 points.

Educational & Outreach Activities

26 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
2 Workshop field days

Participation Summary

1 Extension
7 Ag service providers (other or unspecified)

Learning Outcomes

8 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
7 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

8 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Soils & Nutrients: Participants responded via survey to indicate how the training has reshaped the education they are providing to K-12 students:

  • “I used the Cation Exchange Capacity Analogy Group Work Project. I used the “Soil in my Hands” Project and build off of it. I used materials the Soil Health handouts and demos – Tardigrades Rock! “
  • “A lot of the sustainability parts are being incorporated now and will be intertwined in our new Sustainable Agriscience course, that will hopefully run next school year.”
  • “Materials were used and greatly appreciated by students – there truly is a growing interest in ‘all things Soils’ – finally!”
  • “The training helped me see the other side. I think we teach a lot of traditional production ag and struggle with teaching alternatives.”

Livestock & Managed Grazing: Survey respondents shared 1) an interest in trying methods with more than just cattle, 2) an increase in teaching about sustainable practices, and 3)  the implementation of techniques in their own cattle/crop enterprise.

6 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
1 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Success stories:

Quotes from students in the Soil & Nutrients class:

  • “Students in my classes gained greater soils knowledge in sustainable approaches!”
  • “These classes are being used and will continue to be used in our new, innovative and sustainable classes being offered at our Green Bay Public Schools.”
  • “More exposure to alternative/sustainable practices will lead to a healthier community, etc. The more I share with others what I am learning/doing, the more interested they are in this subject.”

Quotes from students in the Livestock & Managed Grazing class:

  • “I have numerous students that have a few chickens on their small lots. I hope they will consider rotational grazing with them.”
  • “Students are becoming aware of sustainable agricultural practices and are looking at agricultural production as a holistic system.”
  • “The hands-on experience and knowledge is very helpful and necessary when sharing this knowledge with others. I took lots of pics to support my experience, etc.”
Recommendations:

Due to COVID and school district restrictions on travel, we had a lower turnout than we had targeted.  However, those who participated appreciated in-person learning with COVID precautions.

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.