Acres4Change Stewardship Education and Training Program

Progress report for LNE23-468

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2023: $134,483.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2025
Grant Recipient: Acres4Change
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
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Project Information


Problem or Opportunity and Justification: In the United States, structural and economic barriers disproportionately impact the well-being and capabilities of historically marginalized groups. On average, Black families have $5.04 in net worth for every $100 held by White families, and Black families are 40% less likely to own property than White families (Bailey et al. 2020). According to the Guardian, the number of Black farmers in America peaked in 1920, when there were 949,889 Black farmers. Since then, the number has dramatically decreased with the US Department of Agriculture recently reporting that of the country’s 3.4 million total farmers, only 1.3%, or 45,508, are Black (The Guardian, 29 April 2019). The underrepresentation of Black people in contemporary land ownership and agriculture is due to intergenerational impacts of systemic oppression. Legal barriers post-emancipation impeded land acquisition and kept Black families indebted to landowners; later, discriminatory lending practices prevented Black homeownership and devalued predominantly Black neighborhoods. Following COVID-19 market disruptions and affordability crises, Black people continue to be victims of land left and predatory lending. . 

Solution and Approach: To reduce the negative impact of these challenges, Acres4Change creates economic stability through land access and ownership, professional development, and racial healing for minority groups, through three main objectives: supporting beginning farmers (“Stewards”) to become food secure and economically empowered through food production, sales of harvest, and ownership of land; establishing a professional network of farmers and landowners who are economically empowered and entrepreneurial self-starters; and providing Stewards with mental health and wellness support through social support and counseling resources. We launched our inaugural Stewardship Program cohort in May 2022 to pilot our model of dedicated, localized support for aspiring BIPOC farmers with our network of Baltimore-based partner organizations. With the support of these partners and experts, we have been working to provide the training and support services needed for Stewards to become successful farmers and landowners. In the short term, this capacity-building project will enable our Stewards to overcome many of the barriers that new, marginalized farmers face like basic and specialty agricultural training, access to racial healing support, and strong community partnerships. In the long-term, this project will equip Black farmers with the tools to generate sustainable income, foster a sense of belonging and community connectedness, and contribute to greater economic vitality in the surrounding communities of Baltimore, MD. Our approach is unique and effective because we’re distributing the land in coordination with partner organizations and their training programs. This model is efficient and sustainable because we leverage the expertise and programming of  our partners and create opportunities for earned income to fund generational wealth-building for our participants.

Performance Target:

Five Black farmers in Baltimore, MD will be trained in mycoculture, vegetable farming, farm operations, and business skills in collaboration with Baltimore-area partners, including Black Yield Institute, Farm Alliance of Baltimore, Future Harvest, and Innovation Works Baltimore. Stewards will grow approximately 10-20 tons of mushrooms at an education and  demonstration site, complete the development of business plans, conduct direct-to-consumer sales and identify at least 2 markets for their products.


This will be provided in the final report.


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  • Myeasha Taylor (Educator)
  • David Becker (Educator)


Involves research:
Participation Summary


Educational approach:

Partner tour and workshop- education
Farm Alliance of Baltimore Tours/Workshops
UAIP team work day
UAIP-A4C team work day

Engagement: The Stewardship Program is a cohort-based learning model open to Black, indigenous, people of color, and marginalized applicants. Our inaugural (pilot) cohort has already been recruited and includes five aspiring, Black farmers. Acres4Change received 45 enthusiastic applications sourced from the Baltimore-area, including from the networks of our partner organizations: The Farm Alliance of Baltimore, Black Yield Institute, Future Harvest, and urban farms and community gardens in the region. Our participants (Stewards) meet weekly, work collaboratively at our demonstration site at Green Street Academy, and coordinate directly through a groupchat. They develop ongoing, productive relationships with trainers, mentors, and partner organizations who support Acres4Change. We provide a travel stipend to support Steward participation and ensure our programming is accessible. Future cohorts from the Baltimore area and beyond will be similarly sourced from community, civil society, and educational organizations interested in economic development, agriculture, and racial justice. Earned revenue generated at the demonstration site, and a growing community of mentors and farmers promotes replicability of the cohort model locally. Our inaugural (pilot) cohort is built with a plan to scale through replicable systems, either through direct implementation by Acres4Change or documented lessons for replication by other communities. 

Learning: Our program currently supports five aspiring farmers who are highly motivated individuals willing and able to create a future of food sovereignty and economic development for their communities. Our curriculum, developed in cooperation with partner organizations, is designed to support beginning farmers in the fundamentals of agriculture and food security; the process of land transfer and management of a profitable farm-to-consumer business, and support mental health and community wellness. It includes the following core elements:

Mycoculture and vegetable farming including: Hands-on Demonstration Site training; Land Access and Ownership; Farm Design and Operations; and Business and Management Skills Sustainability.

Acres4Change and its partners (including the Black Yield Institute, Farm Alliance of Baltimore, Future Harvest, Green Street Academy, Garden International, Cornell Small Farms Program, and Kennesaw State University) offer both in-house and outsourced pro bono and paid workshops for our five Stewards. Our Stewards will have the opportunity to complete Cornell University’s Community Mushroom Educator course which is a “train the trainer” program. This course along with the hands-on experience of starting and managing a mushroom farm (including retrofitting a freight farm) will prepare our Stewards to design and facilitate workshops for 15-20 Baltimore area farmers at the end of the 2-year Stewardship Program. These farmers will be recruited through our partner organizations including Farm Alliance of Baltimore, Black Yield Institute, and Future Harvest. During the 2-year program, Stewards will gain knowledge, awareness, skills and attitudes in mycoculture and sustainable agricultural practices including weed and pest control, composting, cover cropping, food safety, pre-post harvesting, no-till, fertilizer management, and on-farm energy efficiency. Stewards will teach these approaches to other urban, small, and community farms throughout the area while operating profitable small farm businesses. 

Stewards will also conduct community impact workshops on healthy food access, economic and neighborhood development, sustainable practices, mental health, racial justice and healing, and minority access to agricultural industries. Acres4Change offers a sustainable pathway to land ownership and economic security for Black farmers in the United States. 


In the Fall of 2022, Acres4Change will begin implementing its robust monitoring and evaluation plan to document achievement towards our performance targets. The Project Advisory Committee is responsible for managing the project evaluation and may delegate tasks and responsibilities to the Acres4Change team. Methods include: 

  • performance monitoring to measure output and outcome-level achievement of project milestones and performance targets
  • ongoing qualitative assessment to understand Steward experience and inform curriculum design and future scale, including structured interviews, feedback sessions, and surveys. 

The project will not include experimental-style impact evaluation with counterfactual. Instead, we will conduct a pre-post assessment documenting farm-level performance targets (production yield, income earned, operational status, business metrics such as customer acquisition, etc.). Lessons will be shared with partner organizations, documented for replication in future Acres4Change cohorts or by other communities, and presented as a demonstration case in industry and community publications. 


  • Engagement: Steward, Mentor, and Partner Recruitment. 5 Stewards recruited from marginalized communities for two-year, part-time commitment. At least 10 mentors and 3 curricular partners recruited to train and support Stewards. Steward recruitment completed by May 2022 (complete), partner recruitment ongoing, with curricular partners secured by April 2023 and mentor recruitment completed by August 2023. 

Status: Complete. Steward recruitment successfully concluded in May 2022 with 5 Stewards selected from 45 applicants. Since that time, three Stewards dropped out of the program due to personal reasons and one new Steward was onboarded in August 2023. A high school intern/steward was recruited in October 2023 from our partner Green Street Academy and onboarded in January 2024.  

Mentor and Partner recruitment completed May 2022. 

Accomplishments: Stewards are receiving curricular support from the following  partners (individuals and organizations): Calabash Collective (business planning support through 1:1 meetings), Innovation Works Baltimore (mentorship), University of Baltimore Community Development Clinic (pro-bono legal services), Farm Alliance of Baltimore (agriculture training and technical assistance), Brioxy (mentorship), Black Yield Institute (networking and training), The Garden International (mycoculture resources and tips),  Ulysses Archie of Baltimore Gifteconomy (agricultural education and training), Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy (presentation and Q&A on different cooperative models), OurSpace World (networking and resource development), Neith Little (University of Maryland Extension--Baltimore City Extension Educator--Urban Agriculture), Larry Evans (retrofit contractor), David Becker (mycoculture consultant), Alex Riehm (IWB mentor-business planning), Mike Holcomb and Chris Ellis(technical assistance BaltiSpore).

  • Learning: Agricultural Education. 5 Stewards have received agricultural education and training in mycoculture and sustainable agricultural practices including landscape management, produce safety, weed and pest control, composting and vermiculture, and on-farm energy efficiency offered by program partners and program coordinator Kimberly Raikes. Training includes on-farm site improvements at demonstration site, including storage container retrofitting. Storage Container Retrofitting completed by May 2023. Stewards attain minimum acceptable competency in above-listed skills by May 2024. 

Before retrofit Before retrofit retrofit Sanitizing the grow room

Status: In progress, Retrofit completed  January 2024

Accomplishments: Altogether, Stewards have received hands-on agricultural education and training on sustainable agricultural practices including landscape management, produce safety, weed and pest control, and composting through the establishment and maintenance of an ethnic crop garden from May-November 2023 and the hoop house garden from October-December.  The following events have been conducted with community partners: Compost workshop for Stewards and Green Street Academy Agriculture students, Ethnic Crop garden set-up and maintenance including drip irrigation installation and maintenance with Stewards, high school summer intern, and Black Butterfly volunteers, Site visits and technical assistance with Neith Little (Md Ag Extension Officer) and Alison Worman (Farm Alliance of Baltimore), Soil Science Zoom workshop with Neith Little. Stewards will learn about vermiculture and on-farm energy efficiency in the spring.

  • Learning: Business Planning and Launch. 5 Stewards receive business and financial planning from partner organizations and mentors. Stewards finalize farm-level business plans for each of the subsidiary farm-based businesses, including commercial viability metrics: unit economics and farm-level breakeven, input financing, market analysis, cooperative management, and revenue projections. Farm-level business plans completed by February 2024. Full curriculum completed and 5 small farms launched by May 2024.

Status: In progress

Accomplishments: 3 Stewards are receiving business and financial planning support from our partner organizations and mentors (Calabash Collective and Innovation Works Baltimore). Based on the legal feedback received, the Stewards have opted to establish a joint ownership and collective farm business model. 3 small farm businesses will be launched in May 2024. Stewards are each specializing in 3 business activities (composting, bee apiary, and community gardens). 

Business Planning
Workshop with our partner Innovation Works Baltimore
  •  Engagement: Community Engagement and Impact. 5 Participating Stewards, Acres4Change staff and volunteers, and partner organizations and mentors conduct community outreach, engagement, and service on topics related to healthy food access and awareness, community and economic development and land sovereignty, racial justice and healing, and healthy lifestyles and mental health. At least 24 events conducted with community partners from the demonstration site by November 2024.

Status: In progress

Accomplishments: An all-day agriculture and food justice expo, in collaboration with Green Street Academy, is being planned, by 3 Stewards and 1 intern, for April 2024 at the demonstration site. We’ve begun our community outreach in the Central Park Heights neighborhood. We did a site visit with Farmer Chippy of Plantation Park Heights Farm and got both advice and the support of their farm community to establish the farm collective in the Park Heights community.  We’ve deepened our engagement with our host site, Green Street Academy, with the new student intern and increased learning opportunities through the mushroom farm. Our team held a recruitment and mushroom farming info session with the 11th graders and 1 7th grader.  Acres4Change will host 1-2 workshops through the Farm Alliance Black Butterfly program and will continue to provide volunteer opportunities for participants of the Black Butterfly program. 

  • Evaluation; Performance Monitoring and Evaluation. Project Advisory Committee leads program evaluation, with performance monitoring delegated to Acres4Change staff. Performance monitoring ongoing through project activities with final pilot project report completed by November 2024.

Status: In progress.

Accomplishments: The advisory committee has met 2 times since March 2023 and will begin assisting with evaluation in early 2024. Evaluation tools have been drafted, and Stewards are involved in ongoing program monitoring. Stewards completed an end of year 1 evaluation in May 2023 and we conducted individual check in meetings with Stewards throughout Year 1. 

We have continuously adapted our program based on valuable feedback from the advisory committee and the Stewards. Throughout the process, we have navigated multiple pivots to enhance program outcomes and refine a scalable, place-based model. In 2022, the Stewards conducted their workshops and training in and around Baltimore City through community partners. In response to the Stewards' 2023 request for in-house workshops and hands-on training, we established an ethnic crop garden. Following consultations with UB Law Clinic and BRED, the Stewards proposed establishing a jointly owned farm collective, deviating from A4C's initial recommendation for a Farm Cooperative. We also introduced guest presenters at bi-weekly meetings for an added educational dimension. While A4C suggested purchasing semi-rural or suburban land for Sankofa Farm Collective, the Stewards opted to stay in the city to address NIMBY issues and transportation challenges. We are actively pursuing a city-owned parcel of land in Central Park Heights for Sankofa Farm Collective. A4C is supporting the Stewards in acquiring the land and developing infrastructure and business plans for the site.

Ethnic crop garden- beforeEthnic crop garden set upEthnic crop gardenethnic crop garden

  • Learning: Land Acquisition and Transfer. Stewards learn the fundamentals of real estate and setting up a cooperative farm business from our board members Assaati and Krystle and consultants, OurSpace World.  3-5 acres of Land acquired by Stewards. Earned revenue generated by demonstration site, paid workshops piloted by Stewards. Donations and capital contributions received.  Deed transfers completed by August 2024.

Status: In progress. 

Accomplishments: Krystle and Assaati accomplished the following with the Stewards before moving on to other endeavors: hosted a visioning session to debrief the Urban Ag proposal and brainstorm Stewards’ wants and needs for land. We’ve recruited three new board members who will officially join the board at the end of January 2024. Realtor, Fatimah, hosted a real estate Zoom workshop for the Stewards on December 4, 2023. A4C and 3 Stewards are working with the city of Baltimore to acquire ~16,000 sqft of land in Central Park Heights which will host the 3 farm businesses and an outdoor education/learning center for the community. The Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy (BRED) did a Zoom workshop with the Stewards to discuss different farm cooperative models. The Stewards have decided, based on their feedback from BRED and the Legal Clinic, to set up joint ownership of the land and create a collective farm in lieu of a cooperative. A4C is projecting $48K in revenue from the mushroom farm in 2024.     

  • Evaluation: Acres4Change project personnel will conduct post-implementation monitoring of farm performance. Participating Stewards and Mentors will support curricular development for 10 new Stewards recruited in Spring 2024 with project activities ongoing beyond the scope of the proposed activities.  

Status: In progress

Accomplishments: The pilot 2-year Stewardship Program ends in May 2024. A4C will determine the structure and composition of the Stewardship Program, post May 2024, based on the evaluation and assessment of the program. We’re working with Matson Consulting and the National Cooperative Business Association to assess the Stewardship Program and develop a strategic and sustainability plan for its next iteration. We’ve had many successes and challenges over the last couple of years which will inform the future structure of the program. We’ve documented the lessons learned from the retrofit delays which impacted our revenue projections; we’re continuing our efforts with the city of Baltimore to acquire land that the Stewards identified and selected as their urban farm site. Through these evaluation activities we expect to scale our place-based intervention and program model.

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.