Creating Youth Leaders Using Sustainable Urban Agricultural Practices

Progress report for YENC20-152

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2020: $3,828.00
Projected End Date: 12/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Purdue Extension
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Manager:
Alexandria Pettigrew
Purdue Extension
Project Co-Managers:
Nathan Shoaf
Purdue Extension
Beth Siple
Purdue University
Expand All

Project Information


Over 200 youth participate in urban farming summer programs in Indianapolis, IN with the opportunity to manage their own sites and sell produce at farmer’s markets. Purdue Extension, in partnership with the Felege Hiywot Center (FHC), will develop a youth leadership program around urban farming. The program will provide attendees of the FHC an opportunity to teach neighboring youth organizations urban farming and compost management, as well as how to manage backyard chickens. This will offer leadership development for youth at the FHC, share growing practices with youth throughout the Indianapolis area and create future leaders in urban farming.

Project Objectives:
  1. Create a mentoring system where students are trained to teach their peers on sustainable agriculture practices using Purdue Extension curriculum.
  2. Increase sustainable farming skills of students through hands-on work sessions with farmers, a farm manager, Purdue Extension and the Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) reinforced by farming at school in existing farm plots.
  3. Youth will gain knowledge on small flock poultry management, composting production and learn how compost application impacts soil health. Provide youth hands-on soil sampling techniques and knowledge on sustainable soil management practices.
  4. Share project results through social media and conference presentations.



Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Online trainings
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

8 Youth
Education/outreach description:

Train the trainer presentation from Texas A&M for youth leaders to learn curriculum


Presentation from Purdue Extension Urban Agriculture State Coordinator describing soil in urban areas

UA Soil Health_SARE Youth Ed_FHC

Presentation from Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District on soil health and analysis

Marion County SWCD - FH June 2020

Results from our Focus Group Discussion and activities to date from 2020:

YENC20-152 Creating Youth Leaders Using Sustainable Urban Agricultural Practices_Focus Group Report

No youth educational events or activities occurred in 2021 because of lack of staff and volunteer support due to COVID-19. One site visit was scheduled with our project partner, Aster Bekele, at Felege Hiywot Center to discuss potential educational events and activities in 2022. One additional visit was scheduled in Indianapolis near the project partner site with our conservation partner, Kevin Allison (SWCD), to discuss and plan potential off-site educational activities with youth in 2022. We assessed several local businesses that were involved in various state environmental cleanup and remediation programs in the community as potential learning opportunities for students who might be interested in environmental remediation careers in addition to agriculture careers. 

Learning Outcomes

8 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Communication

  • Mentoring youth

  • Soil health

  • Backyard chickens

  • Urban agriculture

Results and discussion:

The first time delivering “Creating Youth Leaders Using Sustainable Urban Agricultural Practices” was a great success. The partnerships formed with the Felege Hiywot Center (FHC), SWCD, and Purdue Extension resulted in complementary roles, tasks, and resources for the program and the students.

A positive, inspiring program emerged in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic as the instructors and students were flexible and adapted to delayed and changing schedules and varied delivery from in-person to technology and back. High school age students at FHC participated in a train-the-trainer program for the Learn, Grow, Eat & Go! Jr. Master Gardener program led by Purdue Extension Marion County. This training prepared the students to teach elementary aged students at the neighboring community center. Students at FHC were also taught soil health, to compliment their curriculum training, by Kevin Allision of the Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District. Having a science-based soil presentation alone first, then a follow-up discussion about soil was beneficial, and led to the students asking many kinds of questions. Starting discussion high level, then getting in soil specifics was a good progression. Students were able to dig into topics and did. Finally, to increase knowledge of various urban agriculture practices, students at FHC also participated in an online poultry course created by Dr. Elizabeth Karcher, Animal Sciences Professor at Purdue University. The training and resources shared prepared the students to teach Jr. Master Gardener throughout the summer and also to engage in local discussions about small scale gardening and urban agriculture. 

Instructors were impressed with and saw growth in the students going from learning to practicing, to the actual teaching of children. Aster, Director of Felege Hiywot Center, saw students taking their understanding of children and adapting what they did and said and taught to match/fit. Students were able to express how and why they did these changes. They owned it.

All are looking forward to next year (2021), but also other opportunities for the students in other Purdue Extension programs during the year and program involvement with other classes at the Felege Hiywot Center. 

As stated above, 2021 educational events and activities were paused until 2022 due to a lack of staff and volunteer support related to COVID19. 

Project Outcomes

2 Grants received that built upon this project
Explanation for change in organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:

To expand the lessons being taught to youth, in the following years we will also teach families. Felege Hiywot Center has applied and received funding for youth to gain continued leadership related to small scale gardening and urban agriculture, and will begin to also support families in the community.

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.