Agri-Culinary Project

Final report for YENC22-183

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2022: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/15/2024
Grant Recipient: EarthDance
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Manager:
Rachel Levi
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Project Information


EarthDance Organic Farm School, in partnership with the local Ferguson-Florissant School District, has developed a plan to support farm to school curriculum in all district schools. This proposed SARE-YE project represents the launch of the implementation of the Farm to School Action Plan, and will focus on implementing an Agri-culinary Education program for the District’s Innovation High School. Students participating in the agri-culinary internship will learn about career opportunities in agriculture and the culinary arts, as well as sustainable agricultural practices through hands-on activities. EarthDance will also provide workshops for teachers’ professional development to support school garden education.

Project Objectives:
  1. Increase students’ understanding of organic farming concepts and practices, and train them in farming skills. Introduce youth to sustainable agriculture career opportunities
  2. Provide teachers with professional development classes and workshops to administer cross-curriculum agricultural education.
  3. Support students to pursue a self-selected course of study related to sustainable agriculture.
  4. Empower students to share their sustainable agriculture projects with peers, district staff and leaders, and EarthDance’s network of good food movement advocates.

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Consultations
8 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
8 On-farm demonstrations
2 Published press articles, newsletters
6 Tours
2 Workshop field days
2 Other educational activities: Students in the agriculinary internship choose a focus project as part of their 10-week program. Thus farm projects have included: learning about herbs and making teas with herbs, creating natural hair products using herbs, creating a compost bio-reactor, and documenting the agriculinary internship via Tik-tok videos.

Educators who participated in Spring Training also attended the following workshops hosted by EarthDance: Starting from Seed, From Grass to Garden: Bed Building Basics, and Plant It Forward – Community Work Day & Celebratory Potluck*

Participation Summary:

6 Farmers/ranchers
144 Youth
18 Educators
3 Other adults
7 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

September Newsletter 2022


EarthDance's Farm to School Educator has provided consultation to two school gardens. She has visited the sites to answer the staff's questions on what to plant, garden location, bed spacing, and ways to utilize the produce they grow. 

Lesson plans were developed for eight sessions of both the Spring and Fall cohorts of the Agri-culinary internship. Lessons included: 

Florida Basket weaving for tomatoes
Seed Saving
Crop families
Building a low tunnel and prepping beds for winter.

Harvesting various crops

Basics of chicken care, egg collecting and candling


The Farm to School program has thus far included eight on-farm cooking demos, four led by agriculinary internship students.

Online Training:

EarthDance's Spring Training for Gardeners program is a hybrid of online and in-person hands-on sessions. The course includes five 90-minute live online classes, taught by EarthDance staff and guest farmers (“I Want to Grow Food. Where do I Start?", Top 10 Veggies for Home Gardening Success, The Down and Dirty: Secrets to Great Soil, Pests, Weeds, and Plant Disease – Oh My!, and Maximizing Your Yield for Year-Round Deliciousness). Six educators from the Ferguson-Florissant School District participated in the program in order to prepare for success in their school gardens. FFSD paid the teachers' tuition and offered the educators an additional stipend for participation, to advance the Farm to School culture within the district. 

As part of our partnership with Ferguson Florissant School District, six field trips were conducted in 2022. Field trips include age-appropriate information about the value of organic farming, some of the core practices of organic farming, the history of EarthDance farm (and land acknowledgment of indigenous land stewards), opportunities to taste test some crops in the field, learning about high-tunnels and season extension, meeting EarthDance's chickens, and Q&A and/or games to extend the learning. 

Field Days (Field trips):
In Spring 2022, Agriculinary Interns took field trips to two neighboring urban farms. Rustic Roots is a BIPOC-led farm and  community garden The farm grows organic food for 30 + community members. Rabbits, Goats, Chickens and bees live on the farm. The garden has 24 garden beds in addition to several places where food is grown directly in the ground. There is a small pond, a fire ring, 3 picnic tables, and a sustainable farm stand. There are 2 huge hugelkultur mounds about 80 feet long that grow native plants, wildflowers and sunflowers. The Interns toured the site and helped clip chickens' wing feathers and move goat fencing.

The Fall 2022 Interns visited Rung for Women's Urban Farm. Rung For Women is a St. Louis nonprofit that empowers women to grow and achieve sustained independence through co-located and coordinated educational, professional, and economic resources. Rung members can participate in a Community internship program operated by the nonprofit Urban Harvest STL and be involved in nurturing plants from farm to table – planting, harvesting, and then cooking the produce in the garden. Growing methods include: raised garden beds, in-ground farm rows, caterpillar high tunnel, food forest, and keyhole beds. Ro Kicker, the Farmer at Rung led the interns in demonstrations of composting, seed collecting, and transplanting.

Other Educational Activities:
Students in the agriculinary internship choose a focus project as part of their 10-week program. Thus farm projects have included: learning about herbs and making teas with herbs, creating natural hair products using herbs, creating a compost bio-reactor, and documenting the agriculinary internship via Tik-tok videos.

Educators who participated in Spring Training also attended the following workshops hosted by EarthDance: Starting from Seed, From Grass to Garden: Bed Building Basics, and Plant It Forward – Community Work Day & Celebratory Potluck*


EarthDance has featured Farm to School activities in its online newsletter (9163 subscribers) and added numerous posts to our social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram) sharing information about the Agriculinary Internship and other aspects of our partnership with Ferguson-Florissant School District. Information about the Internship has also been shared in the Ferguson Neighborhood News, a print publication that is delivered to all households in Ferguson. 

Learning Outcomes

7 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Interest in, and confidence with cooking fresh produce

  • Interest in Sustainable agriculture

  • Awareness of agriculture's role in environmental stewardship

Results and discussion:

In 2022, we successfully (and joyfully!) piloted an experiential farm-to-school program in partnership with the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD). EarthDance and FFSD team members have developed a comprehensive farm-to-school program over the course of the past two years – a key piece being the Agri-Culinary Internship Program. The purpose of this hands-on-earth program is to help connect students with the land, with each other, and with the farming community, improving access to fresh, organic produce through food growing and sharing experiences in farm and restaurant settings. The five students in the first cohort were able to choose the Agri-Culinary internship based on their desired career paths or interests, from a variety of options offered through Innovation School at Cool Valley.

We developed an Agri-culinary Internship Program Guide to complement hands-on learning:

YENC22-183 Levi, Earth Dance Farm Agri-Culinary Internship Program Info - Agri-Culinary Internship Project Options Guide

Together, they spent two mornings per week for eight weeks working on the farm, growing vegetables from seed, helping to build a vegetable garden at their school, each taking on their own special project - ranging from building a quick composting bio-reactor, to making herbal tea and soaps, to documenting moments and activities to share on social media. In addition to the curricular aspects of their learning, the students said they solidified friendships with each other, practiced coping skills at the farm, honed future goals and learned valuable life lessons. One participant said he enjoyed making herbal tea from plants on the farm – stinging nettle mixed with mint was his favorite, working with the chickens on a field trip visit to another North St. Louis County farm, Rustic Roots Sanctuary – even participating in clipping the chickens’ wings that day, and he may use some of his garden-grown jalapenos to cook a meal for his family. He also found a new life goal: the high school sophomore, who wants to become an aerospace engineer, now wants to take plants to space. And, now he knows how to compost them to continue to generate nutritious food-growing fodder where soil might be in short supply! He is thankful for this experience at the farm. He said that, for him, there were many lessons learned: “The main one was patience. Working at the farm and growing things teaches you that not everything will come to you just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers. “It takes time to grow food and for it to return to the earth.”

Project Outcomes

2 Number of youth considering a career in sustainable agriculture
5 Grants received that built upon this project
4 New working collaborations
Increased organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:
Explanation for change in organizational support to explore and teach sustainable ag:

EarthDance received four additional grants to support the activities of this grant and additional activities expanding our farm to school efforts to include elementary and middle school students and Ferguson-Florissant School District staff, as well as outreach to district families. Funders/ grants included: USDA-FNS Farm to School Implementation grant; Dana Brown Charitable Trust; Blues For Kids; Cardinals Care; and Live Well Ferguson Fund.

New working collaborations included:
-co-hosting a soil-sampling field day in October of 2023 with Known & Grown, an initiative organizing local, organic farmers in the St. Louis area and our local NRCS agents, attended by 39 farmers and two agri-culinary high school students;

-Hosting scientists associated with a pollinator-research consortium made up of students and researchers from several local universities, who sample pollinator populations at EarthDance and have established several interventions to increase pollinator habitat on the farm. The scientists have shared their work with several cohorts of agri-culinary interns, reaching a total of 8 high school students during this project;

-Collaborating with Bowood Farm and Restaurant to provide a tour for agri-culinary internship students of an urban farm that utilizes its fresh produce in an adjacent farm-to-table restaurant.

In August, we hosted over 40 Ferguson-Florissant School District administrators, principals, & assistant principals in a series of group visits to the farm. The purpose was informing district leadership and staff about the programs and resources we offer teachers, students, & families.

We welcomed folks from Ferg-Flor Schools for guided farm tours, and in addition to showing them around our teaching farm, they also learned about:

-Farm-based professional development opportunities for teachers & staff
-The AgriCulinary Internship Program
-What’s Fresh classroom visits, with chef & EarthDance Outreach Educator Joia Walker taking the Freshmobile kitchen to area schools for demos & tastings
-School garden work days led by EarthDance staff
-Our Pay What You Can produce, available at both the Farm Stand and the Ferguson Farmers Market

And, as part of the district's work in nurturing staff, student, and family wellness, Assistant Superintendent of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Tamoya Rose-Watson led a guided meditation on personal and community healing at each farm session.

Sustainable Agriculture practices parents adopted:

Engaging parents was not a focus of this project, however, EarthDance's Spring Training for Gardeners program (a 5-week hybrid in-person and online program to equip new gardeners with skills and knowledge to start growing food) does attract many parents who wish to garden with their families. We know of three homeschooling families who have shared their gardening success with EarthDance, including two families living close to the farm. 

Success stories:

In 2022-2023, we successfully hosted a full school year of farm to school programming in partnership with the Ferguson-Florissant School District (FFSD). EarthDance and FFSD team members developed a comprehensive program in 2020-2021 and began implementation activities in the fall of 2022; a key piece being the Agri-Culinary Internship Program. EarthDance hosted five students in the fall semester and three students in the spring semester. Together, they spent two mornings per week for eight weeks each semester either working on the farm, growing vegetables from seed or focusing on culinary skills including preparing healthy dishes using produce grown on the farm. Highlights from the fall semester include two of the culinary students helping prep, plate and serve a pear and radish salad to attendees of a school sponsored event, Parent University. EarthDance was the featured organization to engage district families. Health and nutrition was the focal point with food and information about the farm to school program central to the event. The student-interns gained small plate catering experience as they supported their district at a neighboring school. In the spring 2023 semester, interns were excited to construct a hydroponic tower and begin growing leafy greens inside their school building. This was a great addition to the ongoing maintenance of the garden beds that interns renovated in the spring of 2022. 

One Agri-culinary student, an aspiring chef, joined the program extremely excited to learn about the culinary arts and foods that he planned to cook with. Cameron’s willingness to show his skills during cooking days led to him using the internship as his exhibition project at the end of the fall semester. He prepared a slide presentation and engaged his classmates in a cooking demonstration. His return in the spring is a testament to the success and the impact of the program for students who are looking to pursue a career in the culinary arts. Taking a field trip to Bowood Farm and Restaurant was a highlight for him and 8 additional students. During this field trip the students were able to speak with the owner, taste sample size plates of dishes on their menu and tour the farm and nursery where they sell flowers, plants, shrubs, and trees. This field trip in which he experienced seed to table in action inspired him to continue to follow his dreams of becoming a chef and growing food for the community.

In October, a new intern began digging into field work with Farm to School Educator Joia Walker and the farmers participated in a Soil Sampling workshop at EarthDance, co-hosted with Known & Grown STL and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. After participating in the program that day, she is now considering a career as a soil scientist!


We appreciate SARE so much! Your grant applications are very clear and you give us room to tell our story. Our biggest recommendation for non-profits and farms initiating collaborations with larger school districts is to have lots of patience, and try to make as many contacts as possible. We've seen a fair amount of turnover of staff in the schools, so it has been necessary to be flexible about expectations as new staff adjust to plans made before their tenure. Two years in to our Farm to School initiative, EarthDance is still very much learning what families, teachers, and youth most respond to from our programming. Right now, it seems like the biggest demand for seed-to-table education is among elementary school students - thus, EarthDance has developed a new aspect of the agri-culinary internship: What's Fresh visits, in which high school students in the agri-culinary program help Farm to School Educator Joia Walker prepare fresh food to sample for younger audiences. Schedules depending, the teens also help serve samples to younger students and role-model enthusiasm for trying new foods, including fresh produce from the farm.  

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.