Closing the Regenerative Agriculture Economy Loop on Small Farms: A Training program for Agricultural Professionals and Curriculum for Small Farmers

Project Overview

WPDP22-023
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $99,807.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: Sustainable Systems Research Foundation
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
David Blume
Whiskey Hill Farm/Blume Distillation
Co-Investigators:
Tom Harvey
Whiskey Hill Farm
Dr. Ronnie Lipschutz
Sustainable Systems Research Foundation

Commodities

No commodities identified

Practices

No practices identified

Proposal abstract:

This project, building on activities and results from our 2021 SARE grant (FW21-379), will develop a training program for agricultural professionals to teach closed-loop, sustainable agriculture to operators of small farms, based on the technologies, techniques, and best practices of Whiskey Hill Farm in Watsonville, California.

The project addresses a primary challenge to the sustainability of agriculture: heavy reliance on the extractive, open flow model of farming in the United States that treats land, water, minerals, microbiomes, and soil as free and unlimited goods, leading to their degradation and loss in the form of wastes disposed of as trash rather than treated as valuable resources. In the face of growing populations, climate change, transformation of peri-urban farmland to housing, demand for nutritious food, and low profitability of small farms, it is critical that farmers begin to “close the loop” of their agricultural economies through regenerative agriculture, recycling, and reuse of agricultural inputs and wastes. 

This project will:

  1. Train-the-ag-professionals: Working with a cohort of ag educators from local institutions, including CAFF and Watsonville High School, we will upskill ag professionals with the capacity to teach small farmers,employees and students about how to conduct closed-loop agriculture. We will
  2. Create a ‘close-loop’ curriculum that agricultural professionals can use to teach small farmers and ag students about innovative, feasible technologies, techniques, and practices in regenerative, close-loop agriculture. The curriculum will be modular and include learning materials and freely available to all interested.
  3. Collaborate with Latinx farmers to refine course materials and workshops developed for SARE grant FW21-379 andto ensure that curriculum and materials are available in both English and Spanish and accessible and acceptable to minoritized farmers.
  4. Create digital web-based educational resources, including learning materials and video demonstrations of technology and technique application.
  5. Foster a community-of-practice in closed-loop agriculture through tours, demonstrations and outreach.

 

Project objectives from proposal:

Objective 1. Agricultural professionals will develop the knowledge and skills to teach operators of small farms about circular, closed-loop agriculture, in English and Spanish. This will happen through a set of training workshops on the need for, principles of, benefits from and deployment of technologies, techniques and practices of a circular, closed-loop agricultural economy as demonstrated at Whiskey Hill Farm, and an instructional handbook. Ag professionals will be given a curriculum and educational materials that they can use to teach close-loop agriculture on an ongoing basis (objective 2).

Objective 2. Ag Professionals and farm operators will use a modular curriculum and digital learning materials to understand and apply technologies, techniques and practices of a circular, closed-loop agricultural economy as demonstrated at Whiskey Hill Farm. This will be achieved through the development of a new curriculum based on materials developed and results from the current SARE grant, including brief online videos, a handbook of principles and applications, with “how-to” instructions and a specialized web site, in collaboration with CAFF.

Objective 3: Minority/BIPOC farmers operating small farms will be able to implement closed-loop agriculture on their farms. We will partner with Latinx and BIPOC farmers to understand their needs and ensure that the training curriculum and materials are accessible and acceptable.

These three objectives will be the outcomes of the training and educational curricula and materials created during this one-year project and evaluated on the basis of both agricultural professionals’ and farmers’ collaboration on, inputs to and reviews of these materials.

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.