Regional Extension and Education Curricular Materials for Sustainable Agriculture: A Planning Conference

Final Report for LNC92-043

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1992: $34,081.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1994
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $26,351.00
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Jim King
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
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Project Information

Summary:

In this project, our team evaluated and developed an extensive range of interdisciplinary educational materials. These were targeted for use by Extension and SCS for in-service training, and for client education.

Project materials were also focused to teaching faculty for use in formal classroom environments.

We developed and acquired several new teaching and training aids including:

– models of leases for converting farms from conventional
to sustainable practices;
– a teacher’s guide to cropping system design;
– a teaching manual to accompany a new book on
pesticide-free agriculture, written by one of the farmer cooperators, Jim Bender, and published by the Nebraska Press; and
– course syllabi from 15 different areas.

Drafts of these materials were presented to two regional conferences and revised according to evaluations and authors’ comments. Many of the materials have been shared in their formative state with all 12 states in the North Central Region, and over ten other states.

All curriculum materials have been published in two volumes and disseminated throughout the North Central Region, and to selected national sites.

The two volume set of curriculum materials is noted on electronic networks, such as the Sustainable Agriculture
Network. Major materials centers, such as NAL and ATTRA, will have copies of all materials. Most materials will be available in electronic form from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources “gopher” server. This can be reached by gophering to “ianrvm.unl.edu”.

Future curricular design issues for sustainable agriculture have been identified, as well as some specific future oriented content and techniques. These are noted in Volume 2 of the materials compilation.

Project Objectives:

1. Write issue-oriented background papers and assemble key teaching and training materials in critical dimensions of sustainable agricultural systems.

2. Organize an interdisciplinary regional conference to present these new materials and assess the broader needs for future materials development.

3. Catalog and make available the conference materials, and other products in the area of sustainable agriculture–including course syllabi and key papers.

4. Make references, courses and modules, and other materials available at low cost and in a timely manner across the region and the country by using and taking advantage of the latest in communication and information technologies.

Research

Research results and discussion:

1. Write issue-oriented background papers and assemble key teaching and training materials in critical dimensions of sustainable agricultural systems.

The Project team includes a number of cooperators — scientists, farmers, extensionists, and others. We developed and compiled background papers on sustainable agriculture. These included: “Biodiversity in Sustainable Agricultural Systems,” “The University’s Role as an Agent of Social Change,” “Preventative Weed Management,” “A Guide to Nitrogen Optimization,” “Integrated Soil Fertility Management,” “The Use of Decision Cases,” and others. These papers provided content for discussions about particular teaching issues.

Project cooperators also developed and assembled teaching and training materials. Materials were developed in content areas which had been determined through literature reviews, several conference calls, and discussions with cooperators. These areas encompassed historical issues, ethics, lender materials, new cropping
systems, holistic approaches to management, community concerns, new economic measures, teaching strategies, and others. These materials could be used for farmers and ranchers, some urban audiences, and students in formal classroom education. All the materials can be used in professional development efforts for SCS, ASCS, orland-grant staff.

We also collected several course outlines for various issues in sustainable agriculture, and some plans for entire curricula. We identified key elements for future-oriented course and curricula in sustainable agriculture. These outlines and curricula were shared with faculty in the North Central Region, and with faculty nationally with an interest in curriculum revision. This collection becomes a baseline for evaluating future progress in integrating sustainable agriculture into curricula of colleges of agriculture.

2. Organize an interdisciplinary regional conference to present these new materials and assess the broader needs for future materials development.

Regional conferences were held in Lincoln, NE, and in Ames, IA in April 1993. At these two conferences, team members presented papers and materials. We discussed educational strategies for formal and non-formal education. We tried to determine efficient and effective ways to disseminate the materials to a wide variety of audiences. We also looked at future educational needs in sustainable systems. A paper reflecting the issues discussed is in Volume 2 of the materials, along with discussions and reports from other regional conferenceson sustainable agriculture.

As an outgrowth of examining future educational needs, cooperators at the Ames meeting developed an idea for a North Central Regional (NCR) educational consortium.

This led to another regional meeting in Ames, at the Leopold Center, partially funded by two foundations. Theideas which emerged have been written and formalized, andshared with the Kellogg Foundation and the Northwest Area Foundation, and with the MCR College of Agriculture Deans when they met in Washington, DC, in November 1993. Methods for implementing these ideas are being discussed by interested faculty and producers at several NCR schools.

A second outgrowth of the Ames meeting was the development of a working paper on regional cooperation for Extension training in sustainable agriculture. Since then, this idea moved into a proposal. This proposal is now under revision and is expected to be submitted for funding.

3. Catalog and make available the conference materials, and other products in the area of sustainable agriculture–including course syllabi, key papers, and
visual materials.

All materials have been printed in a two-volume set. For each activity or project, global objective as well as a primary audience were identified. These materials are being widely distributed in the NCR.

4. Make references, courses and modules, and other materials available at low cost and in a timely manner across the region and the country by using and taking advantage of the latest in communication and information technologies.

We have packaged all original materials in a print format, two volumes, and have distributed them to cooperators, materials centers, and other groups.

As part of our dissemination efforts, we responded to requests for materials from over ten land-grant universities in states outside the region. We also distributed prototype materials to seven private groups in the NCR.

The availability of the two-volume set will be noted on several electronic networks.

Curriculum documents which are in digital format will be accessible via the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources Communication and Computing Services’ “gopher” server. This will be announced via several electronic mailing lists and through newsletters.

Research conclusions:

This project has developed new and innovative educational materials and teaching techniques. These materials and techniques are already being applied in both extension and formal teaching courses in the North Central Region.

Curriculum outlines have been widely shared, and used as models for universities developing sustainable agriculture courses as they integrate sustainable agriculture into existing courses as well as show new course possibilities.

There is wide dissemination to some non-traditional audiences including community colleges, state colleges, and non-land-grant universities.

Farmer Adoption

Producer Involvement

Six farmers and managers have been involved in all phases of this project. They have developed materials and papers, participated in all discussion, and reviewed proposals.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

As the Project progressed, we began sharing materials. Selected components of the educational and extension materials were disseminated at:

– The University of California Cooperative Extension In-Service Training Program and Tour;
– Western Regional Sustainable Agriculture Meeting;
– Agronomy Society of America Meeting;
– Agricultural Communicators in Education Meeting;
– Extension Technology Conference;
– Extension Workshops in Nebraska;
– North Central Regional Sustainable Agriculture Meeting;
– Land Grant Universities Meeting — Deans of Colleges of
Agriculture;
– Kellogg Foundation Innovative Agricultural Education Meeting;

As noted in sections 3.3 and 3.4 above, we have mailed the copies of the print materials to all project cooperators, materials centers, information dissemination
groups, the National Agricultural Library, key extension and faculty in sustainable agriculture in land-grant and other schools. Currently, over 100 requests have been answered.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Three major ideas have emerged:

a. The need for a regional educational effort in sustainable agriculture. This would involve teaching in multidisciplinary formats, across state lines, and sharing students.

b. The need for a regional extension education effort in sustainable agriculture. Rather than each state trying to do it alone, we believe that by pooling resources we can better train our staff and others in the concepts and processes of sustainable agriculture.

c. Criteria for developing courses and training in sustainable agriculture, including:
– on-farm experiences
– internships
– case studies/decision cases
– whole farm studies
– interdisciplinary
– global aspects/ international experiences
– distance learning
– independent study/ team work
– historical perspectives
– systems orientations & application
– community considerations
– participatory and open-ended strategies
– multi-institutional
– teaching/ extension integration
– interactive and multimedia learning strategies
– provide alternatives within courses
– producers/ industry/ businesses as faculty and co-designers

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.