Regenerative & Closed-loop Agriculture Curriculum for Trainers and Farmers

Project goals: This project, funded by the Western Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education Program based at Montana State University and supported by USDA, is developing a training curriculum for agricultural professionals to teach small farmers how to implement regenerative agriculture and closed loop farming, both of which could make significant contributions to fostering and facilitating the necessary transition to sustainable agriculture. The curriculum targets two related groups of learners: agricultural professionals and small farmers (especially disadvantaged ones). Agricultural professionals can use this curriculum on an ongoing basis to teach operators of small farms the principles, techniques and practices that will allow them to recycle organic wastes, conserve valuable resources inputs, reduce operating costs and increase productivity and profits. The curriculum includes digital and hard-copy educational resources, including a handbook for farmers, training workshop modules, and short instructional video demonstrations. The project also seeks to foster a local community of practice around regenerative and close-loop agriculture by offering experiential learning, educational tours and demonstrations at Whiskey Hill Farms and other farms open to the broader community of small farms and agricultural professionals. Educational materials and workshops will be cocreated with Spanish-speaking farmers and professionals to ensure accessibility in English and Spanish.

This web page provides brief descriptions of resources and links to them.

1. Original proposal submitted to WSARE. 2022-24 SARE Professional Development Grant: “Closing the Regenerative Agriculture Economy Loop on Small Farms: A Training program for Agricultural Professionals and Curriculum for Small Farmers.”

2. Progress report submitted to WSARE in February 2023.

3. Curriculum Modules (see below)

4. Handbook

5. Instructional videos

6. Additional resources

Curriculum Modules

Module 1: Pedagogy & Principles

Module 2: What is a “local food supply chain?” What is regenerative agriculture (RA) and how do the two connect? 

Module 3: Farm landscapes and farming socioscapes.

Module 4: Land preparation and natural resource management.

Module 5: Materials, labor, technology, capital

Module 6: Farm operations & management

Module 7: Distribution & marketing.

Module 8: Bureaucracy, Paperwork & technical assistance.

Module 10: Combining regenerative and closed-loop agriculture on small farms

Subject area Learning objectives for trainers Activities for trainers Resources & references
Module 1: Pedagogy
1.1. Pedagogical principles for training and learning by Latinx small farmers Trainer will recognize that conventional teaching methods do not address the social position and experience of im/migrant farmers Julie Obudzinski, Jan Perez & Ann Williams, Cultivating the Next Generation–An Evaluation of the Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program, Washington, DC: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, 2017,; “Teaching Handbook–Refugee Farmer Training,” ISED Solutions, 2015;
U.S. Agricultural education is designed and practiced for the benefit of idealized, white, English speaking individuals Trainer will recognize that conventional teaching methods do not address the social position and experience of im/migrant farmers Michael J. Martin, Katherine Hartmann, and Shannon Archibeque-Engle, “Decentering Whiteness in the Pedagogy of Agriculture,” North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture, 2019,
Agricultural pedagogy is premised on a “knowledge deficit” approach that assumes transfer from experts to practitioners through formal methods. Trainer will not teach through formal presentations and scientific research and will incorporate farmers’ expressed needs, desires and goals Adam Calo, 2018. “How knowledge deficit interventions fail to resolve beginning farmer challenges,” Agriculture and Human Values 35: 367-81, DOI 10.1007/s10460-017-9832-6; Tara Baugher, et al., “Learning Preferences of Next Generation Hispanic/Latino Specialty Crop Growers,” HortTechnology 27, #2 (April 2017): 263-68,
Adult education incorporates students’ knowledge and practices derived from their life experience. Trainer will recognize and integrate farmer experience into course design and curriculum planning. Tara Baugher, et al., “Learning Preferences of Next Generation Hispanic/Latino Specialty Crop Growers,” HortTechology 27, #2 (April 2017): 263-68,
Presentations relying on in-class visual materials do not have the visceral impact of seeing and manipulation. Trainer will learn to incorporate demonstrations and hands-on presentations to illustrate elements of formal presentations Lisa A. Guion, “Educational Methods for Extension Programs,” Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida, 2001,
Knowledge is transmitted by peer-to-peer exchange and farmers who do not speak English rely on their children for system access. Trainer will learn to be sensitive to the social and cultural dynamics and relationships of migrant farmer communities, many of whom rely on family and friends to operate. Matthew Hoffman, Mark Lubell & Vicken Hills, “Network-smart extension could Catalyze social Learning, California Agriculture 69, #2 (April-June 2015), landingpage.cfm?article=ca.E.v069n02p113&fulltext=yes; Melissa Matthewson, Melissa Fery & Maud Powell, “Creating Farmer Networks,” Pacific Northwest Extension, Feb. 2013,
1.2. Curriculum planning and preparation International Rescue Committee, “Experiential Teaching Techniques,” ISED,
Curriculum should be based on farmers’ expressed needs, desires and goals, and not approached in topical fashion. Trainer will meet with farmers to identify their knowledge & skills base, farming experience and practical needs required to succeed in farm operation. Guion, “Conducting an in-depth interview; see also “Reading the Farm” (below), pp. 28-29
Curriculum should include visits to and observation of operating farms by trainer. Trainer will visit several farms to observe farm conditions and operation, identify critical topics and issues and record them. Janet McAllister, et al, “Reading the Farm—Training Agricultural Professionals in Whole Farm Analysis for Sustainable Agriculture,” NortheastSARE, June 2015,
Curriculum structure should reflect the most pressing issues for farmers, rather than the more conventional academic-scientific topical logic. Trainer will utilize interviews and observations to organize and construct curriculum modules and sequence. Lisa A. Guion, “Educational Methods for Extension Programs,” Florida Cooperative Extension Service, IFAS, University of Florida, 2001,; Nancy Franz, et al, “How Farmers Learn: Implications for Agricultural Educators,” Journal of Rural Social Sciences 25, #1 (2010): 37-59,
Class/workshop introduction will include small group discussions for farmers to compare history and experience. Trainer will present workshop structure and organization and pose questions and issues for discussion in small groups, and record responses in writing. Kathy Barrett, with D. Merrill Ewert, “Farmer to Farmer Discussion Groups,” Cornell Cooperative Extension, 1998, handle/1813/36896/farmertofarmer.pdf?+D22 sequence=1&isAllowed=y; Laura Liu & Taylor Russell, “Farming Practices as Funds of Knowledge,” Science Education and Civic Engagement 14, #1 (Winter 2022): 45-54,
Class/workshop will include bilingual translation, and printed & on-line materials should be in farmers’ language and provided primarily for background. Trainer will ensure that any handouts are translated appropriately and that translated on-line materials are made available
Module 2: What is a “local food supply chain?”  What is regenerative agriculture (RA) and how do the two connect?RA is normally addressed in terms of resource management and soil health.  This course takes a different approach by focusing on one or two crops moving through a local food supply chain.  Different crops have different resource requirements and move in different ways through supply chains.  We broaden the definition of RA here to address the effects of the supply chain on resource management and conservation as well as equity and food access.  
Defining and describing regenerative agricultureTrainer will learn to “read the farm” and identify regenerative agriculture practices (or lack thereof), and summarize the benefits of doing regenerative agriculture., Regenerative Agriculture: Practices For Secure Future, 1/14/21,; Agricultura Regenerativa: Camino A Un Futuro Seguro, 6/8/21,; American Farmland Trust, “Agricultura Regenerativa: La Fertilidad del Suelo y El Manejo de Cultivos,”
How regenerative agriculture benefits from local food supply chainsTrainer will be able to map out varieties of food supply chains ranging from global and national to local. Stephen Martinez, et al., Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts and Issues, USDA Economic Research Report #  ERR-97, May 2010,
Tracing a crop through a local supply chain   
Closing the agricultural loop through conservation, recycling and compostingTrainer will be able to describe closed loop agricuture, the activities involved and its relationship to regenerative agriculture Francisco José Castillo Díaz , La conexión sostenible: residuos y economía circular en agricultura intensiva,; Rodias, E.; Aivazidou, E.; Achillas, C.; Aidonis, D.; Bochtis, D., Water-Energy-Nutrients Synergies in