Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders in Sustainable Agriculture

2006 Annual Report for LNC04-241

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $57,969.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Robert De Haan
Dordt College

Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders in Sustainable Agriculture


Ten undergraduate students, three graduate students, and three high school agriculture teachers from the Upper Midwest participated in the Agroecosystems Analysis summer field course offered August 4-11, 2006. Participants completed pre-course readings, learned from 8 innovative farmers by actually visiting their farms, and worked in teams to analyze these farms. Undergraduate and graduate students presented their analyses orally to the class and instructors, and also produced a final written report. High school teachers developed course modules in sustainable agriculture and agroecosystems analysis to use in their classroom settings. They presented these modules to the class, and submitted written summaries to the instructors.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The products of this project will be participants who are better prepared to practice sustainable agriculture, or to teach or conduct research in this area. By the end of the third year, a total of 21 high school teachers (agriculture, biology, and environmental science areas) and 45 undergraduate and graduate students will have participated in the course. Teachers completing the course will have designed course modules in sustainable agriculture and agroecosystems analysis, and will be prepared to present them to their students. Undergraduate and graduate student participants will have completed pre-course readings, written a pre-course essay and learner document, constructed a framework for analyzing agroecosystems, presented this framework to their peers, and prepared a written report based on their presentation.


The Agroecosystems Analysis course was offered August 4-11, 2006, based on the Dordt College Campus in Sioux Center Iowa (a central location). Five college/university faculty members, four graduate and 15 undergraduate students from Dordt College, Iowa State, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Nebraska were involved in the course. In addition one high school teacher from each of three states (Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska) participated in the class, and three additional high school teachers functioned as mentors.

Faculty members and farmer participants worked together to provide a quality educational experience for the students. Graduate and undergraduate students were fully engaged in the course and all of them completed the course requirements. The high school teachers did a very good job of analyzing the farms and then constructing curricular modules to help their own students do the same thing. One of the high school teacher mentors is now helping us plan for the 2007 year, and helping us recruit a new group of teacher participants. A video crew accompanied the class in 2006 and used the footage to produce a DVD titled ‘Getting Milk: A Tail of Two Dairies’.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Over the past two years, twenty-five undergraduate students have become much more aware of sustainable agriculture and of the challenges and opportunities that farmers face. They are now better prepared to make good choices regarding the food system in the U.S., as consumers or as producers. Seven graduate student participants are more cognizant of the big picture in Midwestern agriculture, and therefore better able to conduct meaningful agricultural research. Six high school agriculture teachers have written modules to use in their classrooms, and are excited about the potential of alternative agricultural systems. Each teacher also has a copy of the ‘Getting Milk’ DVD to use as an educational resource.


Mary Wiedenhoeft

Assistant Professor of Agronomy
Iowa State University
Charles Francis

Professor of Agronomy and Horticulture
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Steve Simmons

Professor of Agronomy
University of Minnesota