Sustainable Agriculture and Healthy Lives Day

Final report for YENC21-161

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2021: $3,550.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota Duluth Land Lab
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Manager:
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Project Information


The UMD Land Lab will host students from a Duluth supportive housing complex for families who have experienced pervasive homelessness for a day of sustainable agricultural activities and programming taught by local farmers and educators. Students gain hands-on experience including cover cropping a field, exploring the workings of a bee hive, adding plants to our food forest, harvesting vegetables, and tasting a variety of fresh vegetables as part of a nutrition workshop from Essentia Health, a healthcare provider with facilities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. Students will go home with a bag of vegetables and recipes with preparation instructions.

Project Objectives:
  1. Design programming targeted towards school aged youth through collaboration with farmers, conservation biologist, a nutrition expert, and public health students
  2. Introduce 40 students to a working organic farm and related possible careers in the field (including basic concepts of sustainable agriculture, composting, cover crops, crop rotation, beekeeping, nutrition, agroforestry, and pollinator/beneficial insect plantings)
  3. Serve a farm fresh meal and send students home with vegetables, recipes, and preparation instructions as part of a nutrition workshop from Essentia Health
  4. After the event, host a community meal with students and their families including a discussion and learning circle 
  5. Share curriculum and materials


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Sarah Foltz Jordan (Educator)
  • Nathan Langer (Educator)
  • Regina Laroche (Educator)
  • Ginga Baleza Newton
  • Nora Steinmetz

Educational & Outreach Activities

4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Journal articles
4 On-farm demonstrations
2 Published press articles, newsletters
1 Tours
1 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

4 Farmers/ranchers
8 Youth
6 Parents
2 Educators
13 Other adults
Education/outreach description:

UMD students, regional farmers, sustainable agriculture experts and advocates developed 4 intergenerational workshops that will be replicable for the farmers for field days moving forward with the goal of developing new pathways for communication between growers and low-income residents. Farmers, students and Steve O'Neil residents shared a meal together. The First Ladies of the Hillside and their children from Steve O'Neil spent a day at the UMD Land Lab and Sustainable Agriculture Project. 

Here is one quote from a farmer participant that also helped inform a recent publication

“Working with perennials I don’t know how to calculate what our costs are and divide it over years…you know we planted our plants six seasons ago and sold our blueberries last year, but we base it a lot on what other people charge for blueberries. We are a little bit higher than average, but I also want to keep our blueberries at least somewhat affordable, or at least it's an intention I now have. We have a relatively small crop so we could sell them for more I think but I do at least feel a strong pull to be accessible…this has been a hard summer; I have heard it from multiple people…it does have me thinking a lot about how is this sustainable from a livelihood perspective?  We had a late frost in May that was detrimental to us…all the warnings of hail…just the more severe weather makes me concerned about how we can do this.  Part of that is trying to find ways to mitigate risks, but part of that is about  pricing things as well, and I think Ginga [another farmer] touched on that as well, is that if the climate is leading to higher level of risk and unpredictability for your crops then one of the solutions to that is higher prices to help smooth out the ups and downs as the farmer but then that makes what we sell more niche and…it limits our markets more…so that’s the tension I feel in terms of pricing and the difficulty of growing we are experiencing…” Sweetland Farm, Personal Communication

Katre, A., Bertossi, T., Clarke-Sather, A., & Parsatoon, M. (2022). Agroecological Transition: A Territorial Examination of the Simultaneity of Limited Farmer Livelihoods and Food Insecurity. Sustainability14(6), 3160.

News/Coverage About the SARE Grant Work

Learning Outcomes

8 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Sustainable Agriculture, Food Systems

Results and discussion:

Students and youth demonstrated interest and understanding of how local food relates to health and nutrition.  They met farmers through intergenerational workshops relating to healthy foods with their parents making sauerkraut, matching seeds to vegetables, learning about pollinators, honey making, and food sovereignty, and reading books about organic agriculture. 

Project Outcomes

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

University farms need to not only focus on the STEM but also food justice. This project helped the UMD Land Lab build relations with regional farmers to utilize our living land lab for education and to encourage interactions with lower income residents from a healthy food priority area who would otherwise be excluded from buying local and organic produce. The UMD Land Lab continues to work with the farmers that participated in Healthy Lives Day by supporting a local CSA program that purchases local food and helps distribute it to lower income families. We also continue our partnership with the First Ladies of the Hillside from Steve O'Neil who have now started their own pre-package meal kit enterprise that will include local, seasonal food grown by students from the UMD Land Lab. Students from the UMD Land Lab are also partnering with the First Ladies as a result of Healthy Lives Day to develop a textile and dye plot and plan to share the resulting fiber art this fall. First Ladies of the Hillside will continue to visit the UMD Land Lab and participate in activities with regional farmers.

Parents adopting sustainable agriculture practices:
Sustainable Agriculture practices parents adopted:

The First Ladies of the Hillside are working with the UMD Land Lab to develop meal kits utilizing local, seasonal foods to try to make them more accessible. 

Success stories:


I would like to see more projects that encourages interactions between farmers and low income residents who are often left out of the organic food circle.  Evidence suggests that these interactions are more fruitful in influencing diets and nutritional habits than educational campaigns alone.

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.