Farm-to-Fork: Educating Youth in Sustainable Agriculture for Healthy Food and a Healthy Environment

Final report for YENC21-165

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2021: $4,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2023
Grant Recipient: SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Manager:
Dr. NAVREET KAUR MAHAL
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE UNIVERSITY
Project Co-Managers:
Dr. Mriganka De
Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Project Information

Summary:

It is a pivotal moment for youth to understand the importance of sustainable agriculture for ensuring sustainable food systems and a healthy environment. In collaboration with the NRCS, Blue Dart Farm, Tesdell Century Farm, and Grass-Fed Cattle Co, our proposed project will educate high school students about different sustainable agricultural practices for healthy food and a healthy environment. Youth will gain hands-on experiences on soil and water quality testing, farm visits, have discussions with the farmers, local food market, and understand how the integrated crop-livestock system, economics, and farm-to-fork establishment can work together towards the sustainability of agricultural systems.

Project Objectives:
  1. Engage and educate youth about sustainable agricultural practices, integrated crop-livestock systems, and local food systems through lectures, discussion, and hands-on work sessions with farmers, ranchers, and NRCS staff.
  2. Develop skills on how to measure soil health and water quality.
  3. Give youth hands-on experience through farm visits and discussion with the owners of sustainable farms and farm-to-fork establishments.
  4. Introduce youth to sustainable agriculture career opportunities through meetings with farmers, ranchers, and NRCS staff.
  5. Increase awareness about sustainable agriculture among the youth and extended community through presentation(s), social media, movie nights, weblinks, a YouTube channel, and field days.

Cooperators

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

Educational & Outreach Activities

3 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
2 On-farm demonstrations
1 Online trainings
2 Tours
5 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Workshop field days
1 Other educational activities: Watched a Netflix documentary - Kiss the Ground

Participation Summary:

3 Farmers/ranchers
15 Youth
5 Educators
4 Other adults
Education/outreach description:

Education & Outreach Activities

Summer Program: July 19 – July 24, 2021

We created a flyer and a promotional video to spread the word. But the program was rescheduled due to the low enrollment (only one applicant).

 

Fall Program: Sep 16 – Nov 12, 2021

To make this program successful, we collaborated with Mr. Ethan Dado who is an Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Instructor at Mankato East/West High School and an FFA Advisor. All the activities were in-person. The project updates and pictures were shared using Dr. Mahal’s Instagram account and Dr. De’s Lab website and Twitter.

Activities:

Sept 16, 2021, Introduction to the Program and Sustainable Agriculture ‐ Dr. Navreet Mahal

Youth were introduced to the Farm-to-Fork program. Then Dr. Mahal discussed the issues with the conventional farming systems and introduced the principles and significance of sustainable agriculture with appropriate examples of sustainable farming practices. Educators facilitated interactive and discussion-based classes using multimedia approaches.

Dr. Mahal handed out the assignment of creating videos and presentations on the topic of their choices related to sustainable agriculture. Video assignments were submitted by the students at the end of December 2021. Students were paid for their contributions.

Number of attendees: 15 students from Mankato East/West High School

 

Sept 23, 2021, Soil Health and Water Quality ‐ Dr. Mriganka De

Youth learned about the role of healthy soil in the sustainability of agriculture, soil health concept, measurement methods, and five principles of soil health management. Dr. De discussed different water quality issues and how different crop management practices impact water quality.

Number of attendees: 13 students from Mankato East/West High School

 

Sep 24, 2021, Soil Health promoting agricultural practices ‐ Mr. Sam Ziegler.

Students visited Mr. Sam Ziegler’s farm. Mr. Ziegler showed his farm while discussing corn-soybean rotation, soil health, soil erosion issues, and soil health promoting practices (e.g., the use of cover crops and CRP). Students collected soil samples from 0-15 cm depth and samples were passed through a 2 mm sieve and shipped to a commercial lab (i.e., Ward Lab Inc.) for soil health analyses. On the same day, students performed “bury the undies” activity. Bulk density and gravimetric moisture samples were collected and sent to Dr. De’s lab for analysis.

Mr. Jim Clendenin and Ms. Baylee Lukonen, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition were scheduled to demonstrate “slake test” and “rainfall simulator” via zoom. However, due to technical issues, the session was not successful. Dr. De and Dr. Mahal discussed employment opportunities in the field of agriculture.

Number of attendees: 7 students from Mankato East/West High School

 

Sep 30, 2021, Improving Water Quality through Conservation Practices ‐ Mr. Lee Tesdell.

A virtual field visit (via Zoom) was organized by Mr. Lee Tesdell to learn about Soil Health and Water Quality Management practices at Tesdell Century Farm, IA. Youth learned about tile drainage systems for crop production, different water quality issues, and management practices (such as cover crops, prairie strips, no-till, and saturated buffers) to minimize impacts on water quality.

Number of attendees: 12 students from Mankato East/West High School

 

Oct 1, 2021, Sustainable Animal Production and Farm‐To‐Fork Establishment ‐ Mr. Jared Luhman and Local Food Systems ‐ Dr. Navreet Mahal. Field visit to Mr. Luhman’s field to learn about direct farm-to-table food systems.

Youth learned about integrated crop-livestock systems, grass-fed animal production, and direct farm-to-market establishments. Students collected soil samples from 0-15 cm depth and samples were passed through a 2 mm sieve and shipped to a commercial lab (i.e., Ward Lab Inc.) for soil health analyses. Bulk density and gravimetric moisture samples were collected and sent to Dr. De’s lab for analysis.

Number of attendees: 6 students from Mankato East/West High School

 

Nov 11-12, 2021, Watch a Netflix documentary film - “Kiss the Ground” 

Drs. De and Mahal organized a session to show students a Netflix documentary film - “Kiss the Ground”. The movie highlighted the importance of regenerative agriculture and how we could offer a solution to the climate crisis.

On the same day, feedback was collected from the students to determine the student learning outcomes from this program.

 

Conference presentation:

Soil data received from Ward Lab Inc. were analyzed and summarized. Using these results, Drs. Mahal and De have submitted an abstract “Farm-to-Fork: Sustainable Agriculture Program for Youth” for a poster presentation at ASA, CSSA, SSSA International Annual Meeting, Baltimore, Maryland (Nov 6-9, 2022). The abstract was submitted to the “K-12 Outreach Poster: Materials, Activities, Lesson Plans and Ideas” session of SSSA Division: Soil Education and Outreach. Drs. Mahal and De will give an in-person poster presentation on Nov 7th, 2022. Once the poster is created, we will add it to the final report on our Youth Educator Grant project and Dr. De’s Lab website.

Learning Outcomes

12 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Soil Health

  • Water Quality

  • Crop Production

  • Sustainable Farming

Results and discussion:
  • Youth learned about sustainable agricultural practices, integrated crop-livestock systems, soil health, water quality, and local food systems through lectures, discussion, field visits, and hands-on work sessions with farmers and ranchers. 
  • Youth learned about collecting samples from the farmers' field to measure soil health. Samples were sent to a commercial lab for soil health analysis. 
  • The youth got hands-on experience through farm visits and discussions with the owners of sustainable farms and farm-to-fork establishments. 
  • Introduced youth to sustainable agriculture career opportunities through in-class discussions and meetings with farmers and ranchers. 
  • Youth learned and created short outreach videos on sustainable agriculture practices. 

Project Outcomes

1 New working collaboration
Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:
Yes
Recommendations:

Due to the ongoing COVID situation, it was very difficult to recruit students. So, we had to collaborate with the Mankato East/West High School.

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.