Regional Extension and Education Curricular Materials for Sustainable Agriculture: A Planning Conference
1) Write issue-oriented background papers and assemble key teaching and training materials in
critical dimensions of sustainable agricultural systems.
2) Organize an interdisciplinary regional conference to present these new materials and assess the
broader needs for future materials development.
3) Catalog and make available the conference materials and other products in the area of
sustainable agriculture, including course syllabi and key papers.
4) Make references, courses and modules, and other materials available at low cost and in a
timely manner across the region and the country by using and taking advantage of the latest in
communication and information technologies.
Methods and Results:
In this project, an extensive range of interdisciplinary educational materials was developed and
evaluated. These materials were targeted for use by Extension and NRCS for in-service training,
and for client education. Project materials were also focused to teaching faculty for use in formal
classroom environments. The teaching and training aids included: models for converting farms
from conventional to sustainable practices, a teacher's guide to cropping system design, a
teaching manual to accompany a new book on pesticide-free agriculture, and a course syllabi
from 15 different areas.
Drafts of these materials were presented at two regional conferences and revised according to
evaluations and authors' comments. Many of the materials have been shared in their formative
state with all 12 states in the North Central Region, and more than 10 other states. All curriculum
materials have been published in two volumes and disseminated throughout the region and to
selected national sites.
The two volume set of curriculum materials is available in electronic form from the University of
Nebraska-Lincoln, Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources website.
Potential Contributions and Practical Applications:
This project has developed new and innovative educational materials and teaching techniques,
which are already being applied in both extension and formal teaching courses in the North
Central region. Curriculum outlines have been widely shared and used as models for universities
developing sustainable agriculture courses. There has been a wide dissemination to some
non-traditional audiences including community colleges, state colleges, and non-land-grant
Three major ideas have emerged:
1) The need for a regional educational effort in sustainable agriculture. This would involve
teaching in multi-disciplinary formats, across state lines, and sharing students.
2) The need for a regional extension education effort in sustainable agriculture. Rather than each
state trying to do it alone, by pooling resources, staff will be better trained in the concepts and
processes of sustainable agriculture.
3) Criteria for developing courses and training in sustainable agriculture includes: on-farm
experiences, case studies/decision cases, distance learning, historical perspectives, community
considerations, interactive and multimedia learning strategies, internships, whole-farm studies,
global aspects/international experiences, independent study/team work, systems orientation and
applications, participatory and open-ended strategies, teaching/extension integration, and
producers/industry/businesses as faculty and co-designers.
Six farmers and managers have been involved in all phases of this project. They have developed
materials and papers, participated in all discussion, and reviewed proposals.