Participatory On-Farm Agroecological Education: Assessing the Effectiveness of a 14 year Farmer-University Partnership

Recent decades have seen a growing recognition that diverse, small, organic, and sustainable farms have been underserved by standard public agricultural research and extension paradigms (FAO 2011, IAASTD 2009, IPES 2016). Following the publication of the seminal USDA report “A Time to Act” (1998), a state legislative initiative established a Small Farms Program (SFP) at WSU to focus specifically on research and extension for small-scale, sustainable, organic, and racially diverse producers. At listening sessions organized by SFP Director (PI Ostrom) in 2004, small farmers expressed interest in learning organic farming techniques directly from the most innovative and experienced organic farmers in the state. In response, Ostrom worked with the Tilth Producers of Washington to launch a series of farmer-to-farmer learning events hosted by the state’s leading organic and sustainable farms each year known as “Farm Walks.” From 2004 through 2018, the WSU-Tilth partnership organized 141 Farm Walks, an average of 9.5 Farm Walks per year, with a total of 4,714 attendees, an average of 33.4 participants per Walk. Farm Walks have featured BIOAg farmer research partners and engaged university BIOAg researchers as resources whenever feasible. This project allowed us to gather evaluation data for this program through compiling on-site evaluations and surveying past participants. Analysis of on-site evaluations found that 98% of participants reported increasing their knowledge in at least one subject area and 86% of farmer participants planned to change a farming practice after attending a Farm Walk. A retrospective online survey of participants from 2010-2018 confirmed that 87% of farmer respondents had made at least one change on their farm as a direct result of something they learned at a Farm Walk. The average number of acres farmed by farmer participants throughout this period was 132, with a maximum of 22,000 and a median of 10.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 175
  • Project Status: Complete


  • Principal Investigator(s): Collins, D.
  • Investigator(s): Ostrom, M.
  • Grant Amount: $10,000