Education for farmers in organic, sustainable and resilient farming systems

Photo courtesy of Practical Farmers of Iowa

Ceres Trust supports organizations of farmers that are creating, from the ground up, organic, sustainable, equitable and resilient farming systems. There is no substitute for the knowledge exchanged between farmers working in similar ecological, community, sociopolitical, and market conditions. Farmers must have ready access to learning opportunities and hands–on resources, including scientific research, cultural knowledge, best practices and tangible support.

Ceres Trust is honored to learn from grantee partners about the ancestral and more recent research, practices and farming solutions that produce healthy food while nourishing the land and ecosystems upon which we all depend. Most Ceres Trust grantee partners are organizations led by farmers and those who have worked the land for generations, and those who seek to revitalize and amplify Indigenous food ways and land management systems to restore and sustain ecosystems and communities. Ceres Trust partnerships are primarily in the upper Midwest, the San Joaquin Valley of California, and Hawai’i – along with efforts that provide support for small–scale farmers more broadly.

Due to the significant undue influence of multinational agrichemical and seed corporations on the public educational system within the United States, formal agricultural educational systems largely emphasize research and reliance on proprietary products that are the primary tools of high input, industrial agricultural production geared toward contract agriculture and export systems, rather than sustainable and ecological farming systems. It is within this context, in particular, that farmer–led research and knowledge exchanges, support systems and organizing – along with public and independent scientists who work in collaboration with farmers and Indigenous people, are key to a transformation to resilient farming, food ways, and rural communities.

Ka Maha ʻUlu o Koholālele - The Breadfruit Grove of Koholālele
Organic Taro Farming with Chris Kobayashi & Demetri Rivera

Stories from the Field

Community Alliance with Family Farmers

Click the Read More link below for photos of CAFFs recent workshops and field days.

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The Center for MS Food Systems: an emergent space that stewards and supports regional economies and food systems transformation

A few years ago, Black, Indigenous, and Asian American food systems stakeholders and allies from across the state of Mississippi convened together for the first time to dream about transforming the local and state level food systems. In 2016, the Mississippi Food Justice Collaborative was formed, consisting of organizational partners whose work is local, regional, statewide and national in scope. These partners are committed to working in four regions of the state that have historically been some of the most impacted by systemic oppression and divestments: the Delta, Central MS, the Coast and the MS Choctaw.

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The Illinois Stewardship Alliance successfully advocates for state programs

The Illinois Stewardship Alliance was a founding member of the National Healthy Soils Policy Network in 2018 and has received financial support through our mini-grant program every year since. In 2019, the Alliance successfully advocated for a state program to give farmers voluntarily adopting cover crops a $5 per acre reward on their crop insurance. State lawmakers passed a resolution in 2022 declaring the first full week of March each year as “Illinois Soil Health Week,” boosting visibility of the issue greatly. In 2023, after 3 years of organizing, they saw the passage of a bill to create the Illinois Healthy Soils Initiative and direct state agencies to collaborate on an accelerated soil health framework. A successful push on the FY2024 budget provided up to $4 million for the new initiative.

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Hmong American Farmers Association

The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) is a membership-led organization created by Hmong farmers and their children to advocate for systemic change and provide equitable access to the critical resources, training, and financial capital they need to operate successful businesses, earn family-sustaining incomes, and build intergenerational wealth.

HAFA launched a 155-acre incubator farm in 2013, and recently purchased the farm in a landmark racial equity achievement that guarantees affordable land access for current and future generations of Minnesota Hmong farmers. HAFA has also developed a robust bilingual business and agricultural training program that Hmong farmers leverage to access financial capital, earn required certifications, and optimize their farming operations.

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Dream of Wild Health

The relationships we have created throughout the years of programming at Dream of Wild Health is  extremely important to us. One of our key sayings is “we grow seeds and leaders,” and our alumni are a  perfect example of that. Dream of Wild Health had 7 Garden Warriors return as Interns, and 1 as a full- time farmer. Not only do former youth participants continue to engage in our public events and  volunteer opportunities, but these young adults come back wanting to work on our farm.

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HAFA supports Hmong farmers strength to overcome challenges

During 2021–2022, farmers incorporated over 30,000 crowns of asparagus, 1,000 raspberry canes, 15,000 day-neutral strawberries, and over 500 pounds of ginger rhizomes into their farming operations and applied to the USDA EQIP program to obtain financial support to purchase and erect high tunnel structures, implementing tactics to fulfill their long-term visions, which focus on combatting climate change and investing in premium and perennial crops. HAFA supports Hmong farmers strength to overcome challenges, become stewards of the land, and turn ideas into plans, thoughts into actions, dreams into reality, and overall, has provided a pathway to intergenerational and community wealth.

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Ka Maha ʻUlu o Koholālele – The Breadfruit Grove of Koholālele

Ka Maha ʻUlu o Koholālele, literally translated as “the breadfruit grove of Koholālele,” is a community-led food system project transforming approximately 80 acres of former sugar plantation and current eucalyptus plantation lands in Koholālele, Hāmākua, Hawaiʻi, into Hawaiʻi’s largest regenerative ʻulu (breadfruit) agroforestry system.

Accordingly, we wanted to be very intentional about who we invited into the process of planning and planting this space. Between September – October 2021, we worked with Ola Design Group to draft a baseplan for the Kilohana section of Ka Maha ʻUlu (Figure 5), which we would utilize in November to lay out and plant our first 65 ʻulu trees.

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Livestock on the Land

Livestock on the Land is a story by Practical Farmers of Iowa about the ways that farmers are building a regenerative agriculture by centering their operations around the animals they care for. Whether it’s through rotational grazing or cover crops or fertility for crop fields, livestock hold the key to protecting our soil, cleaning up our water and even providing habitat for wildlife. But most importantly, livestock give farmers a chance to get started, grow businesses, provide for their families, work together, and ultimately, bring back the next generation to start it all over again. View the video…

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Practical Farmers of Iowa: Cover Crop Options to Improve Soil Health

Because small-grains crops like wheat or oats are harvested in mid-summer, the many weeks remaining before winter presents opportunities for a panoply of cover crop options to improve soil health. Noah Wendt and Caleb Akin farm together near Cambridge in central Iowa. Among other reasons, they use small-grains crops in their rotation in order to facilitate cover crop mixes for the purposes of high-quality forage for grazing cattle and for boosting soil fertility.

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Organic Farming Research Foundation Materials

Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has produced a five-minute about how organic farmers are caring for the soil, and how this addresses climate change. The video highlights voices from the south and can be seen here.

Also, OFRF has created soil health guidebooks, webinars, past reports, and their new “Basics of Organic Farming” course, available on their education page for free.

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The Cultural Conservancy Hosts a Powerful Gathering

In August 2019, we were honored to host a powerful gathering of Elders, Traditional Knowledge Holders, Native youth, farmers and community allies to come together and listen to the land… the gathering quickly became a space rich with the revitalization of language, traditional knowledge systems, Native sciences and land relationships.

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Garden Warrior Alumna Joins the Dream of Wild Health team

In 2019 Dream of Wild Health hired their first Garden Warrior alumna, Faith Gronda, to the Dream of Wild Health team as a seed intern. Faith had participated in the Garden Warriors and Youth Leaders programs at Dream of Wild Health for several years before applying to be an employee at Dream of Wild Health to help teach the younger generations of youth at the farm during the 2019 summer.

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Solidarity Farm/Pauma Tribal Farms awarded California’s Climate Smart Farm of the Year

Solidarity Farm, in partnership with the Pauma Band of Luiseno Indians, have transformed their farming operation into a working, outdoor laboratory for a variety of new and rediscovered techniques to combat climate change.

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Climate Justice Alliance

CJA’s Our Power Loan Fund was developed as a vehicle through which to move capital away from the extractive economy and into a regenerative economy that shifts control to the people, advances ecological restoration, drives racial and social equity, and relocalizes most production and consumption.

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Practical Farmers of Iowa

PFI uses farmer-led investigation and information sharing to help farmers practice an agriculture that benefits both the land and people. Their values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration, and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology.

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Ecology Action

A key component of Ecology Action’s mission is to catalyze education and training opportunities in sustainable food production in communities around the world. The result: people in 151 countries around the globe are using the method in virtually all climates and soils where food is grown.

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Hmong American Farmers Association

In 2011, a group of Hmong American farming families formed the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) because they believed the best people to support Hmong farmers are Hmong farmers themselves and that we are all lifted up when those who are affected by an unfair food system lead the change we seek.

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Hui o Kūapa

The first nonprofit organization in the world to focus its efforts on the restoration of loko i‘a, traditional Hawaiian fishponds. Through the tireless work of Hui o Kūapa, there are numerous organizations that do similar work across Hawaii, a hui (group) of fishpond practitioners that work as a collection for the restoration of fishponds, and a program that works to revitalize these traditional aquaculture systems.

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Ecología y Población Workshops

Ecology Action’s primary Latin American partner organization, Ecología y Población, has continued a full schedule of GROW BIOINTENSIVE activities in many countries across Latin America and in Europe.

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Increasing Production, Building Topsoil

Ecology Action’s GROW BIOINTENSIVE enables small-scale farms and farmers to significantly increase food production and income, utilize predominantly local, renewable resources and decrease expense and energy inputs while building fertile topsoil at a rate 60 times faster than in nature.

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