Using Farm Family Studies to Teach Sustainable Agriculture
Without effective methods to educate producers about advancements in sustainable agriculture production, the development of new techniques would have academic, but very little practical value. The goal is widespread adoption of proven sustainable technologies on farms worldwide. The challenge is to be as effectual with our educational outreach as we are productive in research and development.
The purpose of this project is to use a creative multi-media approach to extend the experiences and results of an on-farm sustainable farming demonstration project and to encourage widespread support and adoption of sustainable agriculture practices. Educational videos and written materials featuring a variety of farm types in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee are being developed to educate producers, community leaders, and school children throughout the United States about the value of sustainable agriculture and the challenges and benefits in applying sustainable technologies to the farm.
1.) Develop case studies of farm families that have employed sustainable agricultural production practices on their farms. Prepare for a farm audience a five-part video series that documents the successes and challenges of these families in adopting sustainable agriculture practices and the economic and environmental impacts that resulted.
2.) Prepare a facilitator’s guide to accompany the case study videos that includes lesson plans, discussion questions, farm overviews, fact sheets, and worksheets that provide more detail on the concepts in sustainable agriculture that are introduced in the farm family case study videos .
3.) Prepare for a non-farm audience a 15-minute video that emphasizes the potential benefits of sustainable agriculture for the community and encourages community leaders to support the adoption of sustainable agriculture techniques on local farms.
4.) Develop up to five condensed versions of the case farm videos for public school teachers to pilot-test in their classrooms and to complement the Ag in the Classroom curriculum. Construct lesson plans to accompany the video(s) and facilitate its use by teachers.
5.) Distribute one copy of all materials to each 1862 and 1890 land grant University.
6.) Present the concepts of sustainable agriculture to 500 farmers in Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee by conducting 25 educational meetings and presentations. Educate 300 Extension agents and other agriculture professionals about sustainable agriculture through in-service training.
A predecessor of this project was a five-year whole-farm demonstration project called Agri-21 Farming Systems (Agri-21). Agri-21 was designed to help farmers move towards a more sustainable operation. Following an intensive evaluation of selected farms, cooperating Agri-21 producers and project participants developed whole-farm plans detailing an approach to more profitable, environmentally friendly operations. Various sustainable technologies have since been adopted on the participating farms. Throughout the Agri-21 program, comprehensive sets of economic and environmental data were gathered and analyzed. These data were used in the development of the case studies video project.
The five farm-family case studies developed for this project highlight sustainable agriculture techniques adopted on selected Agri-21 farms. In total, ten different themes are featured. The majority of information in the videos is presented by the case study families. Each family discusses and/or demonstrates how the adoption of sustainable techniques helped them meet their goals pertaining to farm profitability, environmental concerns, farm leadership in local communities, and farm family quality of life.
A written facilitator’s guide accompanies the videos. The guide, which will be used primarily by agricultural extension educators, provides an overview of the case study videos, suggests methods in which the videos can be used to achieve a set of educational objectives, provides suggestions for stimulating group discussions, and includes fact sheets and worksheets which provide more detailed information on the topics introduced in the videos. The written materials include enough information that educators will need little or no training prior to adopting the materials for educational seminars.
Draft versions of video and written materials were reviewed by the project steering committee, participating farm families, and a panel of over 40 reviewers of various disciplines. The reviewers provided feedback on the quality of the material presented and the value and appropriateness of the information presented. The feedback directed final revisions of the materials.
The case study materials will be used by the three states cooperating in the project to present concepts of sustainable agriculture to at least 500 individuals over a two-year period. In addition, a copy of the completed materials were distributed nation-wide to each 1862 and 1890 land grant university.
The footage obtained from the five case study videos was used to create a sixth video for a non-farm audience. The footage was re-cut and supplemented with b-roll from various sources. This video will be shown to community leaders in an effort to foster a greater awareness of the benefits of sustainable agriculture and encourage increased adoption rates of sustainable agriculture on local farms.
A youth project steering committee was appointed to develop a shorter version of the materials for use in teaching youth. The steering committee included teachers, Extension youth educators, and communications specialists. The steering committee guided the adaption of the case study videos for use with youth audiences.
An evaluation form was distributed to audience members after workshops in which the case study videos were pilot-tested. The evaluation tested the quality and educational value of the materials. In addition, a similar evaluation was distributed with the youth materials.
The five case study videos, the video targeted for general audiences, and the youth video are complete. Each of the seven videos is approximately 15-minutes in length, documentary-style, and contains all the elements of a standard long-form educational video including testimonials, professional narration, field footage, stock footage from multiple sources, titles, graphics, composites, illustrations, animation, supers, multiple music tracks, and credits.
One video was pilot-tested during five Integrated Marketing and Management In-Service agent training seminars conducted in Tennessee from September to November, 1997. Written and verbal evaluations were consistently favorable. In addition, an Extension Agent In-Service training in Kentucky was conducted in March, 1998 to train Kentucky agents how to use the videos and educational materials.
All written materials, including the case study facilitator’s guide, youth video curriculum guide, and marketing brochures, are complete. The teaching guides were reviewed by the steering committee, participating farm families, and a panel of reviewers.
The case study videos and the “general audience” video have been distributed to every county in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Mississippi and to each 1862 and 1890 land grant University. Seventy-five copies of the youth video and curriculum guide have been distributed to teachers at the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation University Workshops.
Impact of Results
The major impact expected from the completion of this project is increased awareness, support, and adoption rates of sustainable agriculture production by both farm and non-farm audiences, including producers, extension agents and specialists, policy makers, teachers, and school children.
Producers who watch this video will benefit from the lessons learned by others who have employed sustainable agriculture practices on their farms. As a result, producers will make more informed decisions when adopting sustainable technologies on their own farms. More informed decisions could potentially yield increased farm profitability, decreased negative environmental impacts on and off the farm, greater efficiency in farm management, an edge in competitiveness, and an enriched quality of life for the farm family.
Consumers, in turn, will benefit by farmers’ increased adoption of sustainable technologies. The food and fiber supply will continue to be safe, reliable, affordable, and fresh. Consumers will continue to enjoy clean air and water, a more stable economy that includes turnover of farm resources, enhanced quality of life, and better health. The community will also continue to benefit from farm family involvement and leadership in community activities.
Students who are exposed to the video and participate in classroom activities designed to augment the lessons learned in the video will gain a greater appreciation of where food originates and what it takes to get food from the farm to the store. In addition, as more students are exposed to the many challenging and diverse careers in agriculture, more students will participate in farm and off-farm careers in agriculture. December 1998.