Agricultural Systems Education for Grassroots Sustainable Agriculture Educators

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $89,794.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2025
Grant Recipient: Practical Farmers of Iowa
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Sally Worley
Practical Farmers of Iowa


Not commodity specific


  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development

    Proposal abstract:

    This proposal builds on Practical Farmers of Iowa’s (PFI) exceptional understanding of the food and agriculture system. Staff bring a multitude of experiences and education to the team ranging from formal agronomy or animal science educations to lived farming experience. Several staff at PFI have formal educations in sustainable agriculture specifically, which benefits the organization’s capacity to think critically about farming and conservation practice adoption within the context of opposing forces and philosophies. Our farmer-led organization recognizes, for instance, that despite strong environmental stewardship ethics, market realities are unavoidable and maintaining profitability is essential. To reinforce PFI’s institutional farming knowledge, we propose the development of a sustainable agriculture field course for staff that includes visiting key agricultural stakeholders. Then, to build on the knowledge gained from the field course, PFI staff and board will participate in scenario planning activities that help forecast potential programming needs. Staff will also participate in a grassroots training to enhance outreach and networking efforts. To build off of the success of our current project funded by SARE-PDP – “Expanding and Diversifying Farmer-Educator Capacity through Ambassador Academies” – we’ll continue to provide coaching and speaking opportunities to farmer-leaders trained in that grant. We’ll also build that network of farmer-leaders by holding additional communications trainings; and increase its impact by developing relationships with media and other farmer networks. The outcome of this work will be a team of staff and farmers better equipped to educate others and promote sustainable practices for wider adoption and food system resiliency.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Once developed, the curriculum materials (slides, handouts and reading lists) for the field course will be available for ongoing use. Staff (n~30) will participate in a three-day field course visiting various agriculture stakeholders and covering three perspectives of agriculture (ecological, economic, social). PFI’s board of directors and staff will participate in a scenario planning exercise (n~42) resulting in recommendations and insights to inform the next three-year strategic plan for the organization. Staff will participate in a grassroots training (n~30) and have access to a summary handout of strategies and tips. Farmers in the membership will attend three communications trainings (n~24) and encouraged to follow-up with additional coaching for specific outreach opportunities. The farmer outreach coordinator will develop relationships with journalists and farmer networks (n~25) that will lead to earned media and speaking opportunities featuring farmer-leaders.

    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.