Our Learning Model

 

MESA’s interactive curriculum for busy farmers and farm interns offers a platform to broaden agroecological knowledge and practices. Using a virtual classroom, MESA’s curriculum encourages the comprehension, synthesis, and sharing of agroecological knowledge and practice through real-time, on-farm activities and projects. Farm interns deepen their on-farm engagement and commitment, and also develop crucial skills and networks to enhance their agricultural career opportunities in their home communities.

Curriculum Objectives

  • Increase agroecological practices and participatory research on small farms
  • Integrate technical learning with a global perspective and understanding of economic and socio-political factors impacting the food system
  • Build a network for the exchange of agroecological knowledge
  • Promote solidarity among isolated farmers and interns through learning networks
  • Advance the mentorship capacity of small farmers and educators to pass on knowledge via accessible learning tools and modules that coincide with hands-on activities
  • Harvest traditional knowledge and ancestral practices through elder interviews from across the globe to be shared on our online portal
  • Provide educational structure for farm internships
  • Help farms better comply with legal requirements for farm interns
  • Facilitate meaningful context for farm work through project-based learning

Curriculum Design

MESA’s program is based on a participatory model of agroecological education. Eventually, host/mentor farmers may simply choose appropriate modules for their apprentices, and if they are so inspired, may also engage more fully as co-learners and educators throughout the course. Assignments are stored in a database that enables future students to view the collective work of past students from their current site, creating an enriching opportunity for co-learning and potential for future networking and collaboration.

Each module’s content connects on-farm realities to global agricultural issues in the form of video lectures, discussions and reading. The content entices students to question how global issues relate to the day-to-day practice of farming. Project oriented assignments offer the opportunity for course participants to build professional skills through activities such as crop resilience assessments, soil quality measurements and securing conservation grants. These project-based assignments provide a basis for career development and can be used as resumé builders for those seeking to pursue careers in and out of agriculture.

Host and Mentor Farm Involvement

Most small-scale farmers are hard pressed for time. By providing time and space for learner-initiated projects, farmers and interns can experiment with alternative methods of production based on a compendium of agroecological research provided by MESA. Furthermore, these modules can increase intern motivation since the content engages the learner in such a way that the relationship to the farm forms more deeply; providing new incentive for interns to contribute to the history of the farm and its long term success.

The Value of Networks

Strong networks are essential for the sharing of agroecological knowledge and practice. MESA’s curriculum helps build a movement and platform for sharing agroecology, a science that is highly critical of production-oriented, modern agricultural science. MESA’s platform creates a chance for interns and apprentices nationwide to engage with one another as they face the challenges of restructuring a food system while living the demanding realities of daily farm work. Along with the relationships formed, our holistic curriculum framework helps interns feel more connected and intrinsically motivated to participate in this work.