Enhancing Farmer-to-Farmer Education for Farm Sustainability and Community Resilience

Progress report for WPDP23-009

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2023: $99,957.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2026
Host Institution Award ID: G111-24-W9986
Grant Recipient: Agroecology Commons
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Jeneba Kilgore
Agroecology Commons
Jeneba Kilgore
Agroecology Commons
Brooke Porter
Agroecology Commons
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Project Information


Agroecology Commons (AC) serves beginning farmers and agroecological educators working to amplify farming practices that enhance food sovereignty and sustainable farming.  Professional development funds will support AC’s and Contra Costa Resouce Conservation District (CCRCD)  staff and farm educators to deepen their understanding of sustainable agriculture, and in order to enhance educational programming focused on natural resource management, food production, farmer wellness, and cooperative economic development.

This proposal takes a unique multi-disciplinary and multi-organizational approach by deepening collaboration between the CCRCD and AC, a non-profit community-led organization. AC is composed of agricultural producers and community leaders and is working hand in hand with CCRCD  staff to deepen educational/extension support for farmers seeking to enhance sustainable farming practices and affirm agriculture as a viable career choice. 

As the principal grant applicant, Agroecology Commons (AC) is recognized as a leader within the local food movement, stewarding 3-acres of their own farm, training beginning farmers through the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer Training (BAFFT), facilitating farmer-to-farmer apprenticeships and skillshares, and organizing robust farmer and cooperative market partnerships. Through BAFFT, AC coordinates a network of over 30 educators, farmers, agricultural specialists, scientists, and food sovereignty organizers, who offer modules in their areas of expertise. 

In order to strengthen these programs, which have trained over 80 beginning farmers over the last 2 years, the WSARE grant will support program facilitators, farm educators, technical assistance provides through leadership/facilitation training, the development, of course, material/ curriculum content, and professional development opportunities that enhance technical sustainable farming skills 

Through carefully curated and farmer-led programming, such as the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer Training (BAFFT), we contribute to cultivating a just and equitable food system. Our programs are open to all underserved farmers and focus on farmers who are Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, multiracial, and/or people of color (QTBIMPOC). 

Project Objectives:

Objective 1: Increase skills and technical knowledge of coordinating and executing an educational incubator farm and apprenticeship program for beginning farmers by providing professional development to AC staff through the National Farm Incubator Training Initiative (NIFTI). 

Objective 2: Support the ongoing development and expansion of Agroecology Commons’ on-farm apprenticeship program through curriculum module development, and one-on-one farm mentor training for host farms. 

Objective 3: Train the trainers to provide leadership, facilitation, and technical training for a network of farm educators and AC staff who currently host the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer Training (BAFFT) and practice the campesino-a-campesino methodology in order to strengthen community-based agroecological learning in the Bay Area. 

Objective 4: Support curriculum and course material development for the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer Training (BAFFT) which provides beginning farmers with comprehensive on-farm vocational training, a network of farm mentors, and interactive online coursework. 

Objective 5: Increase AC Staff’s ag professionals’ sustainable agriculture knowledge around beekeeping by effectively being able to communicate the importance of honey bees and other pollinators within educational programming in order to serve as mentors for other beginning beekeepers. 

Objective 6: Enhance the business development module of the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer training by having AC staff/ farmers participate in professional development that supports training farmers in marketing plans, crop planning, budgeting, and other elements of creating a cohesive farm business plan.  

Objective 7: Provide funding for four CCRCD Technical Assistance Providers to attend 3-6  workshops, courses, or trainings across the grant period on related culturally relevant sustainable agriculture.




Year 1

Year 2

Year 3













Milestone: Participate in National Farmer Field Day Training  

Participants: AC Staff 

Outcome: Increase skills and technical knowledge of coordinating and executing an educational incubator farm for beginning farmers and apprenticeship program. 

      x       x       x

Milestone: Work with host farm apprentice sites to develop individualized farm apprenticeship programming

Participants: AC and Host Farm Apprenticeship Sites

Outcome: Learning syllabus development including; technical farm skills learning checklist, community agreement development, farm apprenticeship evaluation process, and post-apprenticeship pathways. Develop an individualized training plan for 5-9 beginning farmers participating in the apprenticeship training program

    x x     x x     x x

Milestone: Develop and enhance course curriculum and materials for BAFFT

Participants: AC staff and BAFFT core educators 

Outcome: Increased resources available to participants on our online learning platform. 

x       x       x      

Milestone: Partake in hive management professional development courses 

Participants: AC Staff 

Outcome: Enhance educational beekeeping module for participants of BAFFT and Farmer-to-Farmer Skillshares

  x           x        

Milestone: Partake in farm business model training as part of professional development 

Participants: AC Staff  

Outcome: Enhance farm business module of BAFFT program and support 6 beginning farmers with drafting a comprehensive business plan 

    x             x    

Milestone: CCRCD technical assistance providers partake in 3-6 culturally relevant sustainable agriculture training across grant period 

Participants: CCRCD 

Outcome: Expand professional development opportunities for TAP’s in order for them to be more equipped to offer culturally relevant sustainable agricultural extension services. 

  x x x   x x x   x x x

Milestone: Conduct evaluations for each project outcome 

Participants: AC & CCRCD Staff 

Outcome: Identify project success and shortcomings 

      x       x       x


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Leah Atwood - Producer (Educator)
  • Derek Emmons (Educator)
  • Alexa Levy (Educator)
  • Marianna Zavala (Educator)


Educational approach:

Agroecology Commons' educational approach is a blend of hands-on training, collaborative learning, and innovative use of digital platforms, all aimed at empowering a new generation of farmers in agroecology. This model educates and builds a community of informed, skilled, and resourceful agricultural professionals.

Agroecology Commons implements this approach through its BAFFT and Farmer Mobilization initiatives, centered on collaborative and community-centric learning. At the heart of this approach is the engagement of multiple stakeholders - a network comprising agencies, organizations, businesses, and individuals, all aligned in their values and dedicated to the support of beginning farmers. Experienced farmers bring invaluable insights as hosts, educators, partners, and mentors, facilitating farmer-to-farmer training, skillshares, and online workshops, leveraging the collective wisdom of curriculum partners to enrich the learning experience for beginning and limited-resource farmers.

A key feature of this educational model is the utilization of the Farmer Campus, an online learning platform. This platform is a repository of diverse educational resources catering to the varied needs of learners. By incorporating modern teaching tools like videos, infographics, podcasts, tip sheets, and social media content, the program ensures that the learning material is comprehensive and accessible, especially to those without traditional academic backgrounds in agroecological farming. In addition to these resources, the project also focuses on developing educational products. These include ongoing curricula for the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer Training Program and a curated selection of online resources like podcasts, videos, and articles. Furthermore, materials enhance the educational offerings at farm apprenticeship host sites, including skills checklists, apprenticeship evaluation forms, and learning syllabi.

The approach also encompasses in-person training and networking opportunities, such as participation in the National Farm School Field Day training and on-farm sustainable beekeeping workshops. Additionally, developing an incubator farm guide is underway, covering topics like land management best practices, natural resource management, and conflict resolution protocols. Farm business development training enables participants to draft comprehensive business plans, including marketing strategies, crop plans, and budgets. Moreover, the program provides professional development opportunities for staff, including teach-ins and skill-sharing sessions.


Education & Outreach Initiatives


To increase AC Staff’s ag professionals’ sustainable agriculture knowledge around beekeeping by effectively being able to communicate the importance of honeybees and other pollinators within educational programming in order to serve as
mentors for other beginning beekeepers.


Brooke interned at Sweet Serendipity Honey, a woman-owned beekeeping business that focuses on ethical hive management, small-batch honey and wax products, and beekeeping education opportunities. Their internship included visits to the bee yard with one one-on-one instruction in bee biology, colony management and mite control. Also included visits to the farm's apiary with full hive inspection and instruction with our bees.

Outcomes and impacts:
  • Brooke gained a fundamental understanding of bee biology, which is essential for effective beekeeping. This knowledge includes the lifecycle of bees, their behavior, and how they interact within the ecosystem.
  • Hands-on experience in colony management allowed Brooke to learn how to maintain healthy bee colonies at the incubator apiary, including understanding the dynamics within the hive, recognizing signs of healthy vs. unhealthy colonies, and learning about the seasonal needs of bees.
  • Brooke gained knowledge of identifying mite infestations and implementing effective control measures to maintain colony health.
  • Through visits to the farm's apiary and conducting full hive inspections, Brooke and Alexa developed practical skills in handling bees and hives. This included opening and inspecting hives, identifying different parts of the hive, and understanding the roles of different bees.
  • The internship combined theoretical instruction with hands-on practice, allowing Brooke to apply learned concepts in real-world settings.
  • Brooke’s newly acquired skills and knowledge will have a ripple effect, contributing to the local community's understanding of the importance of bees and promoting sustainable and ethical practices in beekeeping.
  •  We were also honored to have Yorlis Luna, farmer, mother, educator, and beekeeper, visit from Nicaragua and host a Farmer-to-Farmer skillshare on beekeeping at Canticle Farm. Yoris shared her wisdom about native bee behavior, hive management,  and the ways in which bees organize for collective well-being. She organized multiple fun dynamic activities that resulted in conversations around how studying a hive can support how we organize as humans in our local communities and cooperate as a global society.

Beekeeping Journal

Staff Professional Development

To increase skills and technical knowledge of coordinating and executing an educational incubator farm and apprenticeship program for beginning farmers by providing professional development to AC staff through the National Farm Incubator
Training Initiative (NIFTI).


NIFTI hosted 90+ participants from 24 states and 56 land-based farmer training organizations for the 2023 National Farm Field Day Training. Brooke and Alexa hosted a presentation titled "Building a Relationship-Based Apprenticeship Program for Bioregional Food Sovereignty.”




Outcomes and impacts:

The 2023 National Farm Field Day Training hosted by NIFTI marked a significant milestone in agricultural education and collaboration. Gathering over 90 participants from 24 states and 56 land-based farmer training organizations, the event fostered a rich exchange of ideas and best practices. Highlights included insightful field trips to incubator and apprenticeship programs, over 20 expert-led workshops, and a notable presentation on a relationship-based apprenticeship model for bioregional food sovereignty. This convergence of diverse experiences and perspectives not only enhanced practical knowledge but also spurred innovative strategies in agricultural training and sustainability. The event's emphasis on relationship-building, inclusivity, and hands-on learning has left a lasting impact, empowering participants to implement new ideas and practices in their communities, thereby contributing to the advancement of sustainable and equitable agriculture nationwide.

A highlight of the event was the presentation by Brooke and Alexa titled "Building a Relationship-Based Apprenticeship Program for Bioregional Food Sovereignty." This session shed light on the innovative approach of Agroecology Commons in developing the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer Training (BAFFT). AC's model is committed to breaking down barriers for diverse beginning farmers and nurturing a food sovereign bioregion where both farmers and mentors are deeply valued. The presentation emphasized the importance of fostering strong relationships, promoting bioregional food sovereignty, and providing practical experience, while also honoring and adapting agrarian traditions to meet modern needs.

NIFTI Presentation 2023


On-Farm Apprenticeship Program Development

Support curriculum and course material development for the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer Training (BAFFT) which provides beginning farmers with comprehensive on-farm vocational training, a network of farm mentors, and interactive online coursework.


Agroecology Commons has diligently worked in tandem with host farmer apprenticeship sites, providing personalized support for the ongoing development and expansion of the Agroecology Commons’ farmer apprenticeship program. 

Outcomes and impacts:

Agroecology Commons’ efforts in 2023 led to a notable advancement in agricultural education, particularly through its one-on-one work with nine host farmer apprenticeship sites. This collaboration resulted in the creation of 12 individualized learning plans for apprentices across these diverse farms.

Individualized Learning Plan Template 

Currently, AC, in partnership with host farms, is developing evaluation methods for the (year) cohort to ensure continuous improvement and assessment of the program's effectiveness. Alongside this, there’s an ongoing collaborative effort to finalize the BAFFT 2024 curriculum, which includes the Farmer Campus online modules, hands-on learning opportunities, and training schedules. The high level of interest in the program, indicated by the 125 applications for the upcoming cohort, highlights its appeal and extensive reach.

Apprenticeship 2023 Evaluation Questions for Apprentices 

BAFFT 2024 Modules and Educators_ 

Looking ahead, Agroecology Commons is focusing on refining its apprenticeship matchmaking strategy for future cohorts. This strategy refinement is based on feedback and insights gained from past experiences, aiming to enhance the effectiveness and relevance of the apprenticeship placements.

Matchmaking Apprentices Cohort 2 2023 

The on-farm apprenticeship program has broad implications by preparing apprentices for professional growth in agroecology, equipping them with essential knowledge and skills. Moreover, by involving multiple farms and creating a network of apprentices and educators, the program fosters a sense of community and collaboration within the agricultural sector.

Apprenticeship Mentor Professional Development

Support the ongoing development and expansion of Agroecology Commons’ on-farm apprenticeship program through curriculum module development, and one-on-one farm mentor training for host farms.


Agroecology Commons has significantly enhanced its on-farm apprenticeship program, focusing on developing tailored curriculum modules and providing in-depth mentor training at host farms.

Outcomes and impacts:

Agroecology Commons (AC) has supported the farm host mentors through professional development funds access, or what AC refers to as independent learning funds, which enable mentors to expand their own knowledge and skills. Each mentor receives $200 for this purpose. To date, one mentor has utilized these funds for beekeeping equipment, furthering their expertise in beekeeping and hive management.

AC has actively gathered feedback from mentors on various aspects such as schedules, community connection, and curriculum. This feedback is invaluable for the continuous improvement of the program, ensuring it remains responsive and relevant to the mentors' and apprentice’s needs and experiences. Mentors have responded positively to this aspect of the program, noting how the apprentices significantly contribute to the capacity of their farms. They have also expressed a deep sense of fulfillment in training the next generation of farmers.

AC developed an Apprenticeship Mentor Guidebook that details the program's expectations, values, vision, mission, and outlining the roles and responsibilities of both mentors and apprentices. It also covers a range of important topics such as optional offerings, payment structures, learning stipends, conflict resolution strategies, on-farm safety protocols, and liability considerations. The guidebook further assists in developing individual learning plans and establishing community agreements, ensuring a structured and effective apprenticeship experience.

Guidebook for Apprenticeship Mentor 2023

Additionally, AC has developed an On-Farm Learning Activity Guide, providing mentors with strategies to strengthen their relationships with apprentices and enhance the quality of experiential education offerings. AC staff also play a key role in maintaining the health of the program, particularly in areas of conflict mediation. We provide training and support to navigate and resolve any challenges that arise between mentors and apprentices, ensuring that issues are addressed constructively and effectively. 

_Apprenticeship On Farm Learning Activity Guide (1)

To support and enhance its on-farm apprenticeship program AC invested in educational resources, encompassing a broad spectrum of agricultural knowledge and practices. The educational materials purchased include:

  1. "Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing Sustainable Farm Business" – A guide on developing sustainable and profitable farm businesses.

  2. "Raising Resilient Bees" – Focused on beekeeping and maintaining healthy bee populations.

  3. "Land Justice: Re-Imagining Land, Food, and the Commons" – A resource that delves into the concepts of land justice and sustainable food systems.

  4. "Farming While Black" – A book addressing the challenges and opportunities for Black farmers in the agricultural sector.

  5. "Pests of the Garden and Small Farm, 3rd Edition" – A guide on managing pests in small-scale farming settings.

  6. "Compost and Vermicompost" – Focused on organic composting methods and techniques.

  7. "Organic Seed Grower" – A comprehensive guide on growing and handling organic seeds.

  8. "Chinese Medicinal Herb Farming" – Specialized resource on growing and using Chinese medicinal herbs.

  9. "The New Organic Grower" – A foundational text on organic farming methods and practices.

  10. "Agroecology and Regenerative Agriculture" – Explores principles and practices of agroecology and regenerative farming.

  11. "Community Scale Compost" – Focused on community-level composting practices and systems.

  12. "Insect ID Chart 1" and "Insect ID Chart 2" – Tools for identifying various insects that are relevant to farming.

  13. "Plant Disease Chart ID 1" and "Plant Disease Chart ID 2" – Resources for identifying common plant diseases in farming.

Campesino-a-Campesino (farmer-to-farmer) Methodology

Train the trainers to provide leadership, facilitation, and technical training for a network of farm educators and AC staff who currently host the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer Training (BAFFT) and practice the campesino-a-campesino methodology in order to strengthen community-based agroecological learning in the Bay Area.


The Campesino-a-Campesino (farmer-to-farmer) methodology is a grassroots approach to agricultural knowledge-sharing and sustainable farming practices. Originating in Central America, this method is built on the principle of peer-to-peer learning among farmers. It emphasizes the exchange of local knowledge, experiences, and practices directly from one farmer to another, often bypassing formal education or external expert intervention.


Outcomes and impacts:

Agroecology Commons has created a multi-dimensional learning environment that facilitates the exchange of agricultural knowledge and nurtures the well-being and resilience of the farming community. This approach aligns closely with the ethos of Campesino-a-Campesino, where the emphasis is on communal learning, sustainable practices, and the empowerment of farmers through shared experiences and mutual support. 

Our farmer-to-farmer skillshares are practical and interactive, focusing on real-world agricultural skills and community learning. At Three Feathers Farm, they hosted a skillshare on using seeders, transplanting, and crop planning, providing hands-on experience in essential farming techniques. Additionally, the Sustainable Systems Research Foundation (SSRF) conducted a session on building a hoop house. The program's diversity was further highlighted through a collaboration with Urban Tilth youth and the Goat Collective. Participants learned about goat stewardship, including milking and cheesemaking, with engaging activities like milking goats and making fresh cheese flavored with garden herbs. At Raised Roots Farm, the skillshare topics expanded to include mental and physical preparation for farming, social permaculture, community organizing for systemic change, and celebrating ancestral traditions. These sessions emphasized the importance of personal well-being and community involvement in sustainable farming. 

3 Feathers Farm Skillshare Signup

Intro to Goat Stewardship and Cheese-making.docx

Saturday, July 30th Raised Roots_ BAFFT Day Of Outline

Complementing these skillshares, three field days provided farmers with direct, hands-on experience at our cooperative incubator farm. Participants helped to prep our shed for the cooperative farm tool lending library, build mushroom compost, and tend to our native hedgerows. In November, the community joined us to plant native pollinator plants for our hedgerows. Moreover, AC hosted a two-day Cooperative Organizing Skillshare that covered cooperative business models and community organizing strategies for socially and financially sustainable farms and food webs. 

Copy of Cooperative Organizing Participant Agenda

Agroecology Event Invitation- Cuba_Nicaragua Teach In

Teach-In Nicaragua and Cuba

Workshops provided a structured and supportive learning environment, where farmers have the opportunity to delve into new agricultural concepts and techniques. In collaboration with UC Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley Agroecology Lab, and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), Agroecology Commons hosted three soil workshops, covering no-till farming methods, perennialization, fermentation processes, seed saving techniques, and on-site composting practices, among others. 

Soil Workshop Meeting Notes 11.9.23

Recognizing that farming is as much a mental and emotional endeavor as it is a physical one, AC hosted two Farmer Wellness Days to focus on farmer well-being, addressing stress management and mental health and reinforcing the idea that the sustainability of farming practices is inextricably linked to the well-being of those who steward the land.

Farmer Wellness Day Roles and Schedule - Sheet1

Business Development

Enhance the business development module of the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer training program


AC aims to enhance the business development component of the Bay Area Farmer-to-Farmer (BAFFT) training. This enhancement involves AC staff and farmers participating in professional development programs, equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to train farmers in critical areas such as marketing plans, crop planning, budgeting, and other essential elements for crafting comprehensive farm business plans.

Outcomes and impacts:
  1. Brooke took part in a fall business course offered by NIFTI to gain external expertise and bring that knowledge back to the BAFFT program. Additionally, a graduate of BAFFT who is currently an apprentice is also scheduled to attend this course.
  2. Scheduled for October 2024, AC will host a business development module as part of BAFFT to provide targeted training and resources in business development, directly addressing the needs of farmers in areas critical to the success of their farm businesses.

Educational & Outreach Activities

9 Consultations
12 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
4 Published press articles, newsletters
9 Tours
6 Webinars / talks / presentations
11 Workshop field days
4 Other educational activities: 1. Brooke interned at Sweet Serendipity Honey to deepen beekeeping skills
2. Brooke participated in the fall business course provided by NIFTI and one of the graduates of BAFFT and current apprentices is signed up to take the course as well.
3. We hosted two Farmer Wellness Days where participants practiced wellness, slowing down, and cultivating relationships of mutual care.

Participation Summary:

2 Researchers
1 Nonprofit
2 Agency
78 Farmers/ranchers
283 Others

Learning Outcomes

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

Project Outcomes

3 Grants received that built upon this project
9 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
78 Farmers reached through participant's programs
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.