Teaching Tomorrow's Leaders in Sustainable Agriculture

2007 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


Seventeen undergraduate students, four graduate students, and three high school agriculture teachers from the Upper Midwest participated in the Agroecosystems Analysis summer field course offered July 27 through August 3, 2007. 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 will be 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 July 27 through August 3, 2007, based on the Dordt College Campus in Sioux Center Iowa (a central location). Six college/university faculty members, four graduate and 17 undergraduate students from Dordt College, Iowa State, the University of Minnesota, Southeast Missouri State, and the University of Nebraska were involved in the course. In addition two high school teachers from Iowa and one from Nebraska participated in the class, and one additional high school teacher functioned as a mentor. 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 will be helping us recruit a new group of teacher participants for the 2008 year. A video crew accompanied the class to several farms and used the footage to produce a DVD that provides a virtual tour of two dairy farms and two hog farms.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Over the past three years, forty-two 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. Eleven graduate student participants are more cognizant of the big picture in Midwestern agriculture, and therefore better able to conduct meaningful agricultural research. Nine high school agriculture teachers have written modules to use in their classrooms, and are excited about the potential of alternative agricultural systems. Each teacher will also receive a copy of the 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