Section C: Sustainability in Action: Case Studies
- Projected Outcomes
- Presentation (MS PowerPoint Presentation)
- Career Pathway content standards
- How are sustainable enterprises working in my state?
After this section, students will:
- Be aware of real-life and local examples of sustainability in working farming, food system and natural resource enterprises.
- Be aware of local practitioners for follow-up assistance and future projects.
Agro-ecosystems and food systems are complex concepts that we can understand better when we look at real examples.
Case 1: Full Circle Farm, Madrid, Iowa
Let’s see how one Iowa farm functions as an agro-ecosystem and as a part of a local food system. How is this farm contributing to economic, environmental, and community sustainability?
Full Circle Farm as a Sustainable Agro-ecosystem
The farmers on Full Circle Farm work with nature by:
- Capturing as much solar energy as possible while reducing the use of fossil fuels
- Retaining and recycling nutrients on the farm and using few purchased inputs.
- Preserving and restoring natural habitats to protect water quality and support wildlife.
Full Circle Farm as a Sustainable Local Food System
The farmers on Full Circle Farm support their family and community by:
- Raising value-added products such as forage fed beef, free-range eggs, and organic vegetables.
- Processing products in partnership with local lockers and other community businesses.
- Marketing products directly to consumers and to local stores and restaurants and bringing excess vegetables back to the farm for composting.
- Providing education and recreation opportunities, such as canoeing and hunting, to the members of the community.
Additional Case Study Suggestions
Probably no one lives a perfectly economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable life. But many people are working to develop agriculture, food, and natural resource systems that provide economic, environmental and social benefits.
Arrange to do one of the following:
- visit a local sustainable enterprise
- have a guest speaker address the class
- watch a video. We suggest “Walking the Journey,” a video of the Dick and Sharon Thompson farm in Iowa, “Local Food for Local Communities,” a video about local food projects in Wisconsin, or “Young Agrarians,” a video of youth and sustainable farming mainly in the southwestern US. Click on the video titles for ordering information and suggestions for active learning.
The best exposure to a sustainable farm or food processing operation is a visit. The next best thing is to invite a farmer to speak to your class in the school. To get suggestions of nearby sustainable enterprises to visit or speakers to invite, contact your local Extension agent or one of the sustainable agriculture organizations listed under Additional Resources.
Make sure your host or speaker knows in advance what aspects of the operation your class is interested in. You might want to discuss some possible activities that would be appropriate for your class to do.
Prepare your class for the visit by reviewing what you know about the enterprise and having them figure out what questions they want answered. The questions should address some aspect of sustainability, but they may range from questions about values and quality of life to technical questions about how specific practices work. Students can record information about the farm or enterprise on their case study worksheets.
If you wish, you can assign the class the task of writing up a case study of the farm or enterprise based on the field trip. They can use the farm interview form as the basic template for the case study. They can also take pictures or videos, provided they get permission from the host.
Career Pathway content standards
|Projected Outcome||National Agricultural Education Standards
Performance Element or
(in this section)
|1. List real-life and local examples of sustainability in working farming, food system and natural resource enterprises.||—||C|
|2. Distinguish between the goals and the practices used to achieve the goals of sustainable agriculture and food systems.||—||C|