Educating urban youth via decision cases and curriculum on hoop house vegetable production

Progress report for YENC19-137

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2019: $4,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2021
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Manager:
Dr. Julie Grossman
University of Minnesota
Project Co-Managers:
Anne Pfeiffer
University of Minnesota
Marcus Kar
Youth Farm
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Project Information


This project introduces youth in Minneapolis to hoop house vegetable production. We will develop a decision case study highlighting an experienced winter hoop house spinach producer, an educational video produced collaboratively with youth, and a multi-day experiential learning trip to engage with hoop house production and local food markets. Materials and activities will be developed by Anne Pfeiffer, under the supervision of Dr. Grossman at the University of Minnesota and in conjunction with Youth Farm. Youth Farm is a leadership development program that utilizes food as a catalyst for social change and community engagement, with an emphasis on training through gardens and greenhouses. Outcomes include youth who are aware of hoop house production and the challenges and opportunities associated with careers in vegetable production.

Project Objectives:
  1. Increase youth critical thinking skills through a Decision Case Study presenting farmer experiences using hoop houses for vegetable production.
  2. Provide hands-on, experiential STEM education including concepts in soil science, entomology, biology, and engineering.
  3. Increase capacity of urban youth from diverse backgrounds to grow vegetable crops during the school-year via training in hoop house production.
  4. Introduce youth to opportunities for business and market development through season extension and high value horticultural crop production.
  5. Share project results with at least 3 additional urban high schools that have farms integrated into their curriculum.


Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Marcus Kar (Educator)

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 Online trainings
4 Tours

Participation Summary:

1 Farmers/ranchers
4 Youth
6 Educators
4 Other adults
Education/outreach description:

In Spring 2019, and then again in Fall 2020, University of Minnesota undergraduate students were brought on to the project to develop teaching modules that could be utilized by urban schools providing agricultural education to historically underserved audiences. A series of written teaching modules including agricultural demonstrations of interest to teachers in our region were developed, then refined in 2020, for distribution in local middle and high schools with agriculture programs.   The guides included a list of materials and instructions for four different demonstrations, including: 1) Soil Tests and in the Lab and Field, 3) IPM and Crop Scouting, 4)  Soil Science and Testing. The modules are targeted at an urban middle- to high-school audience and designed to provide information and provoke curiosity into different aspects of our food production system by being highly visual and interactive.  Schools contacted in spring 2021, and that have shown interest in receiving the curriculum, include Great River School, Roosevelt High School, Minneapolis Farm to School program, and St. Paul Public Schools garden program. We are currently finalizing graphic design and will be ready to distribute by summer 2021.

In the spring of 2020, Dr. Grossman and Anne Pfeiffer led an educational visit to Madison WI to visit local food system sites in Southern WI. The field trip was organized in conjunction with Youth Farm, a Minneapolis based community development non-profit focused on social change and agriculture. Participants included Youth Farm Program Coordinator Marcus Kar and four middle and high school students. Site visits included: baking trials related to a University of WI heritage wheat breeding program, Voss Organics, an urban high tunnel farm, Badger Rock School, an environmental and agriculture based public charter school, and Snug Haven Farm, which heavily uses high tunnels in their production of vegetables for their local market. 

In conjunction with the Snug Haven site visit, a written case study and two videos were produced to provide lasting youth targeted educational resources. Snug Haven farmers expressed most interest in developing a decision case based on the future of their family land, a 'true to life' decision that they would be facing in the coming years. The written case study "Deciding the Legacy of the Land,"  one of two developed educational videos, focuses on questions surrounding Snug Haven Farm's generational transition and questions of land ownership. The second video provides an overview of why and how high tunnels are used, targeted toward a level that will be appropriate for use in youth education programs. 

Learning Outcomes

Key changes:
  • NA

Results and discussion:

An educational trip to visit Snug Haven Farm and other food systems sites in the  Madison, WI area took place in March, 2020 with a group of students from Youth Farm in Minneapolis, MN. Youth Farm leaders reported "Youth farm gained a lot from this opportunity; it really put me in the mindset of being a lead/director on the ground in urban agriculture... to help youth that are a part of my programming really take ownership in spaces we are creating and learn about different ways to approach the problems." Youth reported having a better understanding of the biology of farming systems, how and why growers use high tunnels, and opportunities to develop profitable food and farming businesses. 

Youth Farm leader Marcus Kar described the opportunities provided by the project in this way: "We are not here to be the adults in the room, to be the teacher, we are here as youth workers. We are here to get down to their level and learn side by side with them and allow them the energy and space to feel safe and absorbing energy as their own scientist. This is what SEL is all about – Social Emotional Learning. This is a huge part of stem and this is a source of where the idea of stem came from. Allowing kids to explore and touch and feel and become their own person."

Project Outcomes

1 New working collaboration
Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:
Explanation for change in organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:

This project created new materials that high schools can use to teach about sustainable agriculture (see Education and Outreach section).

Sustainable Agriculture practices parents adopted:

N/A-outreach is scheduled for year 2 of the project.

Success stories:

N/A-outreach is scheduled for year 2 of the project.


N/A-outreach is scheduled for year 2 of the project.

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.