Sustainable Agriculture Youth Education: Professional Dev. for Youth Program Leaders and Educators

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $100,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2001
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $134,206.00
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Jonda Crosby
Alternative Energy Resources Organization

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, canola, corn, flax, millet, oats, potatoes, rye, safflower, spelt, sugarbeets, sunflower, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: apples, berries (other), cherries, melons
  • Vegetables: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), lentils, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, rutabagas, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants, ornamentals, trees
  • Animals: bees, bovine, poultry, goats, rabbits, sheep, swine, fish
  • Animal Products: dairy
  • Miscellaneous: mushrooms


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Education and Training: networking, participatory research, study circle
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Sustainable Communities: partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, social capital, social networks


    AERO’s Sustainable Agriculture Educators of Youth project was designed to model a community-based approach for educating leaders and educators of youth about sustainable agriculture, collaborative learning, and systems thinking. Multi-level learning was an essential component.

    Community Educator Teams worked together to design and test learning materials through projects that explored sustainable agriculture concepts and practices. These teams successfully blazed the trail to help the educators and youth understand the interconnectedness of people, community, environment and agriculture; engage educators and youth in systems thinking, community action, and collaborative learning; and catalyze new partnerships between educators, community members and organizations, farmers, ranchers, and youth.

    Members of the Leadership Team, Community Educator Teams and participating youth worked together to develop, implement and track project progress. We called this multilevel vehicle for learning and deepening everyone’s understanding of sustainable agriculture a “continuum of learning.”

    AERO’s Sustainable Agriculture Educators of Youth Project ambitiously set out to achieve long-term change through a short-term project. The project objectives included influencing teaching methodology, modifying problem-solving processes, changing opinions about sustainable agriculture, and effecting institutional change. AERO and other key statewide agriculture organizations and community educators took the widest possible approach to engage agriculture educators in a sustainable education project process that would intentionally involve their entire community, but more importantly, the youth they work with.

    These diverse community educator teams involved Agriculture Education teachers at high school and college levels; special education and science teachers; leaders and youth involved in 4-H and FFA; farmers and ranchers; local business owners; local Extension agents; VISTA volunteers, and other citizens interested in sustainable agriculture and community development.

    Project objectives:


    Build the capacity of educators to teach sustainable agriculture to youth and to their peers.

    Strengthen institutional support for sustainable agriculture education.

    Design and test a model "continuum of learning" in sustainable agriculture.

    Disseminate the continuum of sustainable agriculture learning materials and the community- based train-the-trainers model that will result from this project.

    Project Components:

    Continuum of Learning:
    The continuum of learning was envisioned as an alternative to a curriculum, where educators and students could choose materials and tools according to their interests, needs, knowledge, skills, and progress to create individualized education programs. It would include a variety of sustainable agriculture and systems-thinking teaching materials drawn from existing educational programs and created by project participants.

    The Continuum is a dynamic method of learning that lends itself to Sustainable Agriculture education and is complemented by resources all participants bring to the table. The continuum of resources is a diverse collection of people, teaching tools including lesson plans, study materials, case studies, hands-on projects and links ranging from local to global resources. Educators and students will be able to pick and choose from the continuum resources.

    Leadership Team:
    The Leadership Team was an umbrella group of state-level administrators of agriculture and youth programs, representing Montana State University (MSU) Agricultural Education, MSU Cooperative Agriculture Extension Service (4-H), NRCS, Montana Department of Agriculture, AERO, the Down Home Project, and other nonprofit organizations working in sustainable agriculture. The Leadership Team collaboratively implemented all aspects of the program and provided institutional support for the Educator Teams.

    Community Educator Teams:
    Community Educator Teams – including educators, community representatives, and students – worked together at the community level to design and test learning materials and approaches that:
    help youth understand the interconnectedness of people, community, environment, and agriculture;
    engage youth in systems thinking, community action, and collaborative learning; and,
    catalyze new partnerships among educators, community members, organizations, farmers, ranchers, and youth.

    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.