Development and Integration of Sustainable Agriculture Core Curriculum Training into the Southern Region Extension Education System

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $241,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Geoff Zehnder
Clemson University


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: decision support system, focus group, networking, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, partnerships, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The overall goal of this project was to achieve widespread incorporation of the principles and practices of sustainable agriculture in the training provided to agricultural professionals in the Southern Region. The project objectives were to: 1) Create 8 to 12 high quality, contemporary educational products that deliver state of the art knowledge about sustainable agriculture in the Southern Region, and 2) Integrate these products into the overall Extension education system in the southern region through the Cooperative Extension Curriculum Project (CECP) and Southern SARE. A Curriculum Design Team (CDT), consisting of subject matter experts and information technology and curriculum development specialists was organized to identify and prioritize topics and competencies for curriculum development and to serve the project in an advisory capacity. A group of subject matter experts were subsequently recruited to develop the curriculum modules in cooperation with information technology and curriculum development specialists. A pilot curriculum entitled “Pest Management in Organic Crops” was developed consisting of 11 modules on various topics related to disease, insect and weed management for organic farming systems. As of this writing the modules are currently available temporarily for review and feedback on a server located at Mississippi State University: The modules ultimately will be incorporated into an on-line system called the Cooperative Extension Curriculum Project (CECP) (

    Project objectives from proposal:

    A full proposal was submitted to SR SARE in January 2004. Funding was approved for three years with a project start date of summer 2004 with Clemson University as the lead institution.

    A meeting of the Curriculum Design Team (CDT) was held in May 2004 in Raleigh, NC to identify subtopics for curriculum development. The CDT recommended that a pilot curriculum be developed for the “Pest Management in Organic Crops” Competency Area. A list of five sub-competency topics was identified for development as part of the Pest Management Competency Area:
    o Concepts of biologically based pest management
    o Pest, disease and weed monitoring and identification
    o Preventative pest management strategies: Cultural controls
    o Biological disease, insect and weed control strategies
    o Pesticides approved for organic production

    A group of subject matter experts were recruited by the CDT and retained to begin development of curriculum modules within each sub-competency area. This group was referred to as the Product Development Team, or PDT. The following individuals contributed expertise and services as members of the PDT over the three + years of the project:

    Product Development Team Members
    Name / Expertise Affiliation
    Boudreau, Mark / Plant Pathology, Biological Control Herbert Green Agroecology
    Mcann, Brian* Mississippi State University
    McDonald, Richard / Entomology, Biological Control Symbiont Biological Pest Management
    Roos, Debbie / Insect Pest Management North Carolina State University
    Schonbeck, Mark / Weed Management, Organic Systems Virginia Association for Biological Farming
    Sexton, Julie** Mississippi State University
    Swisher, Mickie, Program Evaluation University of Florida
    Zehnder, Geoff / Insect Pest Management Clemson University
    *Information technology, curriculum design and instructional technology
    **Curriculum development and design

    A PDT Leader/Coordinator was assigned to each of the curriculum sub-competency areas. The Mississippi State personnel were resources for information technology and curriculum development. Leaders communicated regularly by conference call to provide updates on progress and to facilitate a consistent format and flow between topic areas and to avoid subject matter overlap. Other responsibilities included:
    • Contacts with pest management specialists throughout the region for input on subject matter to be included within each topic area
    • Contact state specialists (southern states and other regions) for recommendations on high quality educational materials that may include existing printed materials, videos, interactive materials, and other available resources that pertain to the subject matter area.
    • Compile educational materials, identify specific critical portions and key concepts to be used in the curriculum
    • Identification of learning outcomes
    • Compile, summarize and prepare text and interactive component material
    • Consult with IT and curriculum development team members to facilitate conversion of information to online format.

    A great deal of time and effort was devoted to the process of conversion of subject matter material into online module format and interactive elements; i.e. concise and comprehensive text, interactive games, real-world examples, etc. For each module this required detailed and frequent communications between subject matter and information technology experts. Because of the time and expense involved it was essential that programming revisions be kept to a minimum.

    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.