Master’s Thesis Defense - Kathleen Reed - May 13

Date: May 13, 2016
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Location: Natural Resources RM 130

Participant Perspectives on Farmer Education Programs in Michigan: Fostering Co-creation of Knowledge and Engaging a New Generation of Farmers

Master’s Thesis Defense

Kathleen A. Reed

Friday, May 13, 2016

9:30 a.m. – Natural Resources 130


As the farmer population continues to increase in age, a wave of new farmers will be needed to fill an increasing demand for locally grown and sustainably produced food. Due to a decline in the number of family farms throughout the country, an increasing number of these new farmers will not come from generational family farm backgrounds.  Farming is both high-cost and high-risk for new farmers.  Thus, farmer education around practical farm skills, decision making, and management is important for those who wish to join the community of agricultural practitioners, especially for those who do not have the expertise or proficiency to begin a farm business on their own.

Educational programs located on-farm and centered on experiential learning can teach these skills outside of the formal, degree-based system. As these experiential education programs grow in number across the country, there is still very little known about participant perspectives on these programs that are part of an alternative knowledge system built around co-created, horizontal knowledge.

This study focuses on three farmer education programs in Michigan and examines how these programs create meaningful experiences for farmer-learners.  The study finds that the programs foster the co-creation of knowledge on farm, where knowledge can be shaped and reshaped throughout the program. Programs do this by creating a space in which learners have the flexibility to learn through decision making, through trial and error, and in collaboration with other participants and staff. As learners take part in and then move on from these programs they become part of a growing community of people who are playing a role in the development of a new regional food system and participating in the larger sustainable agriculture movement.

Committee Members