Learning About Equity & Inclusion in the Food System Through a Storytelling Curriculum and Training for 4H Agents & Middle School Agriculture Teachers

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $80,000.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2024
Grant Recipients: University of Kentucky; Black Soil: Our Better Nature
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Nicole Breazeale
University of Kentucky
Michelle Howell
Need More Acres Farm
Heather Hyden
University of Kentucky
Ashley Smith
Black Soil: Our Better Nature
Dr. Stacy Vincent
University of Kentucky


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: networking, youth education, curriculum development
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    The project brings together the farmer networks and interviewing/storytelling capacities of Black Soil and Need More Acres Farm with the technical expertise of Agricultural Education and Extension faculty at UK. An advisory group of farmers, educators and one student will work alongside key collaborators to oversee the grant and curriculum development process. 

    We propose to develop an interactive curriculum and provide professional development to equip middle school agriculture educators and 4-H Agents at KSU and UK to teach about diversity and inclusion in the food system.  Employing a storytelling pedagogy, we will develop five lessons built around digital stories that center black Kentucky farmers. Youth ages 11-14 are the target audience for this curriculum. As they move through the lessons and collaborate on a social action project, they gain knowledge about inequities in the food system, but also learn to appreciate the value of diversity while taking steps to build a more inclusive and sustainable system. The key to successful implementation of the curriculum are three half-day trainings for middle-school agriculture educators.  Using popular education methodologies, these trainings will introduce the material, but also help teachers facilitate difficult conversations in the classroom.  The project also seeks to strengthen relationships between youth, teachers, and farmers around the state through virtual networking. We will utilize survey and interview methodologies to assess knowledge and behavior changes in youth and teachers with multiple feedback loops in the curriculum design process. We will use story-based evaluation techniques to assess the community-wide impacts of the program.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The target audience for this training is middle school agriculture educators and 4-H agents, although the curriculum and training may be of interest to secondary school teachers as well.  The framework and approach is adaptable to a wide range of educational settings. 

    Project goals and objectives:

    1. To provide agriculture educators in Kentucky who teach black students with curricula that is culturally relevant and inspires them (as well as their non-black peers) to consider careers in sustainable agriculture.
    2. To provide agriculture educators in Kentucky with lessons that help students gain knowledge about inequities in the food system.
    3. To provide agriculture educators in Kentucky with activities and resources that empower youth to build a more inclusive and sustainable food system.
    4. To develop and provide an interactive training for agricultural educators to learn about diversity and equity in the food system and increase their capacity to teach the new curriculum.     
    5. To lift up the stories of black farmers and their families in Kentucky, highlighting: (a) systemic inequities; (2) resiliency strategies; (3) sustainable production practices; and (4) how farmers have built alliances across racial and class divides.
    6. To expand outreach, financial support, market opportunities, and networking support to black farmers who participate in the development and implementation of this educational curricula and accompanying professional development opportunity.
    7. To foster and deepen relationships amongst racially diverse youth, teachers, farmers, and university faculty across the Commonwealth around a shared knowledge base and concern for making our food system more equitable and sustainable.

    Given that this proposal intends to (a) develop an online curriculum; (b) provide professional development for educators on how to implement the curriculum, it is useful to differentiate learning outcomes for the two component parts since they involve different target audiences.  Note that learning objectives are likely to change based on ongoing feedback from the advisory group. 

    Expected learning outcomes for online, story-based curriculum:

    K=Knowledge; A=Attitudes; B=Behavior

    Youth will learn to:

    1. (K) Differentiate between “stock” stories of blacks farmers and “concealed” or “resistance” stories.
    2. (K) Notice and describe the diversity of lived experiences (and farming systems) of contemporary black producers in Kentucky.
    3. (K) Summarize the unique history of black farmers, informed by values and history of the African diaspora, and how this history has intertwined with other agricultural traditions to form the common US culture.
    4. (K) Explore and expand self-knowledge and introspection regarding one’s own story and experiences with the agriculture and food system.
    5. (K) Demonstrate a basic familiarity with some of the main concepts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
    6. (A) Recognize diversity as a positive value for our food and farming system.
    7. (A) Develop empathy for those whose lived experiences are different.  
    8. (A/B) Increase one’s willingness and ability to see complex social issues from different perspectives and vantage points.
    9. (A/B) Realize the importance of supporting black-owned businesses and start to change one’s purchasing decisions to buy from black farmers.
    10. (A) Place a higher value on farming as an important and desirable occupation.
    11. (B) Inquire into and begin to ask questions that lead to critical conversations about race in the food system.
    12. (B) Discover new skills and capacities for collective decision-making and social action that reduces discrimination in the food system.
    13. (B) Develop relationships with other youth, farmers, and educators from around the Commonwealth who share common commitments.

    Expected learning outcomes for middle school educators who will receive our professional development training and support to pilot the curriculum:

    Teachers will learn to:

    1. (K) Summarize the unique history of black farmers in Kentucky, informed by values and history of the African diaspora.
    2. (K) Demonstrate a basic familiarity with some of the main concepts related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
    3. (A/B) Increase their comfort level and ability to foster productive and authentic conversations about social issues (e.g., race) as related to agriculture and food.
    4. (A/B) Realize the importance of supporting black-owned businesses and increase sourcing of local food and flowers from black producers as part of everyday agriculture education work and Extension activities (e.g., buy product at retail cost from local black farmers when youth are practicing for 4-H horticulture judging).
    5. (B) Foster transformative learning for youth by guiding them through the curriculum and engaging them in a social action project of their own design.
    6. (B) Develop relationships with other educators, farmers, and youth from around the Commonwealth who share a common set of commitments.
    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.