You Don’t Have to Be Big to Be Profitable: Teaching Youth How to Meet Community Needs, Maintain a Farm System, and Treasure Family

Progress report for YENC23-193

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2023: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Grace Heritage Dairy
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Manager:
Sarah Easdon
Grace Heritage Dairy
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Project Information


The Grace Heritage Farm Youth Internship Program features goat microdairy and meat herd management. Up to two qualified youth aged 14-19 are offered a competitive position as a paid intern in this 8-month educational intensive, where they will gain highly individualized counseling and education regarding herd management of both dairy and meat goats. Interns will participate in hands-on experiences catered to teaching regenerative agriculture, targeted rotational grazing, livestock health, farmer/rancher partnerships for proactive weed management between species, budget management, and direct value-added, consumer marketing through agritourism. Students will be expected to develop and present educational material to the public.


Project Objectives:

Throughout the internship, interns will:

  1. Describe three basic herd management practices of meat and dairy goats.
  2. Plan and execute the managed grazing of meat and dairy goat herds through seasonal needs.
  3. List and explain five benefits of targeted grazing with goats.
  4. Have seven hours of direct-consumer points of contact, with four of those hours being during a county-wide agritourism event.
  5. Visit three local agritourism-focused farms to understand direct-to-consumer marketing and production.
  6. Participate in value-added production of microdairy products and consumer education.
  7. Budget for, prepare, and present an educational project to agritourism event attendees.

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 On-farm demonstrations
3 Tours
2 Webinars / talks / presentations
2 Other educational activities: Agritourism Experiences x2 - "Barn Quilts 'n Kids"

Participation Summary:

2 Farmers/ranchers
107 Youth
4 Parents
150 Other adults
Education/outreach description:

Demonstrations: on-farm demonstrations were hosted for 2 families who wanted to learn about rotational practices and hand milking.

These demonstrations were hosted early on in the youth internship, so student intern 1 observed the content presented. This reached 4 parents and 7 youth.

3 county-wide farm tours were hosted. Youth student intern 1 shadowed during the first two weekend back-t0-back tours in the spring and presented an educational display on rotational grazing on the fall tour. She entertained all questions related to rotational grazing and explained the science and art of the practice of rotating goats as she had learned over the summer. Youth student intern 1 was also able to educate the public on other sustainable practices used on the farm while producing value-added dairy products.

The fall tour that youth student intern 1 hosted reached approximately 100 youth and 150 adults. The breakdown of adults into educators and parents is uncertain.

Learning Outcomes

1 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Herd management for meat and dairy goats

  • Rotational grazing

  • Balancing family and farm life - quality of life

  • Financial and budgeting considerations of the farm

  • Online marketing

Results and discussion:

One youth (Student Intern 1) was hired for the duration of the 2023 production and agritourism season. She worked 240 hours and was paid at $10.50/hour. She spent her time focusing on the following educational areas:

  • Agritourism - local farm and other farms
  • Value-added production and sales
  • Rotational grazing meat goats and dairy goats (and the different needs associated with each herd)
  • No-till gardening
  • Online marketing
  • Annual herd management
  • Public education
  • Quality of life of farm + family

Time was spent on the host farm, four other agritourism-focused production farms to gain perspective on farm demands and different ways of maintaining sustainability of farm and family. The farms featured the following production models:

  • Multi-species grazing (cattle, hogs, goats, and poultry) and direct-to-consumer sales
  • Vegetable production and direct-to-consumer sales
  • Direct-to-consumer hogs and dairy
  • Llama and alpaca fiber production and farmer's market sales

Youth student intern 1 was also taken to one commercial meat goat farm to witness and participate in large-scale meat goat herd management, including banding, vaccinating, and tagging.

Youth student intern 1 participated in 12 webinars throughout the season to gain further knowledge on rotational grazing, marketing, and no-till gardening. She was provided a list with many webinars to choose from and selected the ones that most appealed to her interests. This farm provided a long list of webinars from FACT (Food Animal Concerns Trust), ChopLocal, SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education), the Kansas Rural Center, US-USU-SDSU Extension Sheep and Goat Monthly Webinars (University of Idaho Extension, University of Wyoming Extension, and Utah State University Extension), and Youtube presentations from presenters including Greg Judy, Joel Salatin, and "The Shepherdess".

On-farm, the youth student intern 1 helped in dairy product processing and development. She spent time in the farm shop initiating face-to-face client sales and building relationships with the "regulars" of the business. She additionally participated in product development by experimenting with different cheese flavors and understanding proper dairy handling. For agritourism events towards the end of her internship, the youth student intern 1 was required to develop a proposal for an educational display, including a budget. Once approved by the host farm, she created and presented her educational display on rotational grazing and answered all grazing questions presented by guests.

Throughout the course of the season, student intern 1 independently developed a 4-acre pasture plan to rotate a small number of goats and learned the technicalities of proper set-up, internal parasite prevention/management, and general herd care. She participated in a 20-acre rotation for the remainder of the 25-member goat herd.

In addition to goat rotation, student intern 1 worked regularly alongside farmers in the personal-sized no-till garden, learning techniques of optimal pruning and companion planting. Her interest in gardening was not as strong as other areas, so less time time was spent in this area. The goal of the internship was to train in multiple areas, but also to focus on the intern's interests as much as possible. In this case, it proved to be livestock management and public education.

Lastly, youth student intern 1 was encouraged to participate in all aspects of farm life, including witnessing educating children "in the moment" and falling into family-centered routines. These included communal mealtimes and acknowledging the natural need for rest in a given day or week, despite a heavy workload.

A second intern was intended to join for this internship intensive, but was a complete no-show after hiring. Instead of hiring a second intern late in the season, the host farm instead opted to open an internship for the 2024 season.

Project Outcomes

1 Grant received that built upon this project
6 New working collaborations
Success stories:

The Kanas youth intern hired for this project had no agricultural background. She has a strong interest in agriculture and has been independently pursuing agriculture-related education through FFA. 

Her reflection over her internship experience included the following, "the opportunity to be an intern here...was the best decision I have ever made. I have learned so much here and I love learning about goats and building a mentoring relationship with the farmers and their family. I truly enjoy my time here!"

Her parents shared these words, "it has been great watching our daughter gain real-life experience in an area she is interested in. I think she has been surprised at the work involved and the reality of working in the elements. She is so excited to come and participate and we are grateful for your guidance."

The high-school aged intern has been particularly interested in closing the gap many farmers have in budgeting and is looking at pursing a consulting role in ag business and accounting upon graduation. She has expressed that she feels she will best be able to utilize her natural gifts and passions in this type of position.

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.