Modernizing agricultural education through community based, culturally responsive, experiential learning
R1 land-grant institutions like UC Davis provide students with myriad opportunities to excel in Food, Agriculture, Natural and Human (FANH) sciences, yet Rising Scholars (Chicanx, Latinx, Native American, first generation, and low-income undergraduates) remain underrepresented in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CA&ES), and few Ethnic Studies courses, such as Chicana/o Studies, integrate FANH science material into their curricula. We aim to support the education of Rising Scholars in FANH disciplines and Chicana/o Studies who interact with the UC Davis Student Farm. We will design innovative curricula, offer experiential learning opportunities, and focus on student recruitment and retention in FANH majors, all centered around a community-based, culturally relevant and responsive pedagogy, while also considering the context of food insecurity that many students face. This approach builds on academic literature linking students' sense of belonging to academic success, and recognizes that student food security is positively correlated with academic performance. In addition, we will provide career and leadership workshops to strengthen these students; access to public/private sector careers through enhanced partnerships between a wide range of UC Davis units. This proposal brings together an interdisciplinary team of faculty and staff from CA&ES, the College of Letters and Sciences, the Student Farm, Internship and Career Center, and Strategic Retention Initiatives.
This project has three objectives:
- Objective 1. Through culturally relevant and responsive curricula, increase Rising Scholar sense of belonging in the campus community, interest in FANH sciences and careers, and learning in FANH sciences.
- Objective 2. Provide Rising Scholars with experiential, community-engaged food access internships.
- Objective 3. Facilitate Rising Scholar entry into public and private sector FANH careers, through information dissemination about available career opportunities, leadership training to increase competitiveness in the job market, and direct linkages to potential employers.
Katharina Ullmann (she/they), Director Student Farm
Natalia Deeb-Sossa, Prof. Chicana/o Studies
Amanda Crump, Assoc. Prof. Plant Sciences
Beth Rose Middleton, Prof. Native American Studies
Susan Ebeler, Assoc. Dean CA&ES
Carol Hillhouse (she/her), Associate Director Emeritus, Student Farm
Objective 1. Through culturally relevant and responsive curricula, increase Rising Scholar sense of belonging in the campus community, interest in FANH sciences and careers, and learning in FANH sciences. Activities: Activity 1a: Update the curriculum for Plant Sciences (PLS) 193, "Garden and Farm-Based Experiential Education." Plant Sciences 193 educates 25 undergraduates to conduct food and agriculture-based garden tours for elementary schools in the region; students in this course learn about garden and farm-based experiential education in Winter through lectures and field based activities and then lead "Kids in the Garden" tours in Spring as interns. Last year, 25 student interns led 1,800 K-5 students in garden tours through the Student Farm's "Kids in the Garden" program. With input from our interdisciplinary faculty team, including faculty from Plant Sciences, Native American Studies, Chicana/o Studies, and the CA&ES Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, we will revise the course content for PLS193 to emphasize culturally responsive and culturally relevant teaching methods and activities. The new content will include a discussion of and activities related to culturally relevant crops, indigenous farming practices, the history of agriculture and the diversity of people engaged in agriculture in California, while acknowledging contested issues in agriculture (e.g., the impact of new technology on farm labor) and other topics identified by our faculty team. Activity 1b: Hosting a Chicana/o studies course at the Student Farm to improve Rising Scholar access to Farm resources. The Student Farm began to host Chicana/o Studies courses in 2018 after learning that students in that major were interested in food and agriculture and that Hispanic students majoring in FANH disciplines often minor in Chicana/o Studies to increase their sense of belonging (Deeb-Sossa personal comm.). As part of this grant, we will host CHI110 (Sociology of the Chicana/o Experience) for three field trips to the Student Farm. Overall, the Student Farm will create opportunities for students to share knowledge about gardening and farming, increase their understanding of social and political issues around plants and food, and celebrate their farm working and indigenous roots through field-based activities such as planting the "Three Sisters" - an intercropping method for corn, beans and squash. Students in previous course visits noted that "[The visit to the Student Farm] ... gives me a way to connect with my roots and culture" and "Seeing plants used by my culture made me feel included." Fostering this greater sense of belonging is the primary focus of Objective 1.
Objective 2: Provide Rising Scholars with experiential, community-engaged internships. Activities: Expand Food Access Internship program. We currently host 30 food access internships a year at the Student Farm and donate 8,000-10,000 pounds of produce per year to campus partners. Our distribution partners include: the Pantry, Basic Needs Center, Educational Opportunities Program, NAASSC, and LGBTQIA Resource Center. This program will be expanded in two innovative ways. First, in addition to growing and gleaning produce for donation, which provides hands-on farming experience, student interns will develop food security programming for the project's campus distribution partners, listed above. Programming may include workshops or informational videos, covering topics such as campus statics on students most impacted by food insecurity, where to access food resources, culturally relevant recipes, and how to grow your own food. Second, the Student Farm will focus on growing more culturally relevant crops for donation to key campus community partners. Overall, the expanded internship program will improve the quality of experiential learning at the Student Farm by helping students feel more connected to their campus food system and student community, have a deeper understanding of campus food security, and increase food access.
Objective 3. Facilitate Rising Scholar entry into public and private sector FANH careers, through information dissemination about available career opportunities, leadership training to increase competitiveness in the job market, and direct linkages to potential employers. Activity: Develop a workshop series highlighting FANH career opportunities - especially related to the USDA. We will forge a partnership between the Internship and Career Center, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Strategic Retention Initiatives on campus to improve student access to FANH employment. Specifically, we will develop an FANH workshop series to guide students on USDA career opportunities, building a professional network, developing leadership skills related to communication, professionalism, and teamwork, resume building, and applying to USDA and other public sector jobs. These workshops will build on materials and partnerships the Student Farm has already created through its Leadership Development Training Program and a workshop it co-organized with the USDA and ICC on NRCS careers. Colleagues from CCLASS, NAASSC, ICC and CA&ES will assist with promotion of these events to help reach Rising Scholars. We will also share workshop announcements with our faculty and food distribution partners. During these workshops, we will also connect students to internship and career services available on campus. The overall goal is to help Rising Scholars articulate the value of their background and perspectives, enhancing their confidence to enter and prosper in FAHN professions.
This project is funded by USDA-NIFA HEC #2020-03546