Educating and Training Future Farmers, Researchers and Extension Personnel in Sustainable Agriculture

2011 Annual Report for LS10-228

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2010: $245,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Rosalie Koenig
University of Florida

Educating and Training Future Farmers, Researchers and Extension Personnel in Sustainable Agriculture


The purpose of this project is to ensure that the next generation of producers, researchers, extension personnel and other service providers understand the principles and practices of sustainable agriculture. This project will help instructors teach sustainable agriculture at institutions of higher learning to prepare students to meet the challenges that they will likely face in their careers.

Objectives/Performance Targets

(1) To develop a two-day workshop that provides the project implementation team members with an understanding of their own learning style and its effects on how they teach, how to incorporate experiential learning into curricula, ways of reaching the six teaching goal areas, and how to develop objective-based instruction. Additionally, the members will assess their team member style and learn how this influences the key roles that they can play on the implementation team.

(2) To create an inventory of programs in sustainable agriculture at US universities, determine which ones utilize teaching farms and evaluate the extent to which these programs use experiential learning, teach to multiple educational goal areas and employ objective-based learning.

(3) To develop a model for a multidisciplinary, integrated sustainable agriculture curriculum based on experiential and objective-based learning, using POGIL and other aids for experiential and discovery-based learning that incorporates a teaching farm component for instructors at the University of Florida, North Carolina State University, Clemson University, and the University of Puerto Rico.

(4) Implement curricula at partner institutions.

(5) To disseminate the results of the research and model curricula to other institutions, extension professionals and service providers, including a guide about how to use the materials that provides an overview of the theoretical approaches underlying their development.


The team met in Atlanta, GA in June, 2011. We decided that we would develop our materials for use by faculty members who use the teaching farm in an exploration role based on the outcomes of research conducted in year 1. We believe that the materials will also serve some faculty members who use the farm in an enhancement role, especially those who use the farm specifically to extend the learning experience both in terms of the learning cycle and in terms of cognitive goals. We also think that there may be some utility for those who use the farm in a competency role.

Module Development: We decided that sustainable agriculture learning materials would be most useful in four distinct modules. Each university focused on creating materials that would best fit into those modules. The modules included Water, Biodiversity, Abiotic Factors, and Site Analysis. We believe that using these four modules as a base, we will be able to develop experiential and objective-based learning materials.

Lesson Objective Development: Before starting to create lessons, we wrote all the objectives that we wanted to meet with our learning materials. The objectives were shared between each person on the grant, to ensure that one grant member did not spend time working on a lesson that led to the same objectives of another grant member. Each university team developed an outline of their lessons that focused on the learning objectives for each topical area. Once we decided exactly which objectives each university would work on, we ensured that the objectives acheived every level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Lesson Development: The universities first agreed on a general template on which to base all of the learning material. It was important for editing and evaluation purposes to have the lessons from each university follow the same structure. We also agreed to include six main parts in each lesson: the lesson objective, the instructions for the teacher, background information for the instructor, information for the student, questions that reach cognitive levels beyond “remember” and “understand”, and techniques from Angelo and Cross (1993). We created five lessons, each containing multiple activities. These lessons were Soil Texture and Taxonomy, Best Management Practices, Solar Access, Temperature, and Soil Biology.
Evaluation of Lessons: We met, through conference calls, on a monthly basis. During these calls, we assessed our progress in the grant, confirmed future deadlines, clarified our goals, and evaluated the lessons that each university had created. At least one grant member from each university would read through and critique the newly created lessons, and offer feedback during the conference calls.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Our learning materials will be disseminated to other learning institutions and online. Students that use the materials will think more comprehensively about sustainable agriculture and will have learned skills that help them in their professional lives. Their sense of self efficacy may be higher, and they may have become interested in working in the field of agriculture in the future.


Pablo Morales-Pagan
Associate Professor
University of Puerto Rico
PO Box 9000
Mayaguez, PR 00681
Office Phone: 7874145429
Marilyn Swisher
Associate Professor
Family Youth and Community Sciences
Gainesville, FL 32611
Office Phone: 3522733538
T. Grady Roberts
Associate Professor
Agriculture Education and Comunication
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
Office Phone: 3522732568
Geoff Zehnder
Clemson University
Department of Entomology
B28 Long Hall
Clemson, SC 29634
Office Phone: 8646566644
Michelle Schroeder-Moreno
Assistant Professor
NC State University
2406 Williams Hall
Raleigh, NC 27695
Office Phone: 9195130085