North Dakota Association of Agriculture Extension Agents



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2017 Consumer or Commercial Horticulture

2017 State Winner

Kids, Compost, Crops and Consumption: Introducing the Whole Food Cycle to Urban Youth

North Dakota State University Extension Service

Mary Berg, Alicia Harstad, Kelcey Hoffmann, Nikki Johnson, Linda Schuster, Stacy Wang, Todd Weinmann

Educational Objectives

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 92 percent of children in North Dakota do not eat enough vegetables. Also, the average American consumer is three to four generations removed from agriculture.

Even though North Dakota is considered a very rural state, youth still do not completely understand where their food comes from. As an example, during the Ag in the Classroom event held in Jamestown, North Dakota, the common response from students when asked about livestock manure was “eww, gross” or “it smells bad”. The Kids, Compost, Crops and Consumption (KCCC) program began as a way to make an agriculture connection with urban youth while demonstrating the whole food cycle. Youth participating in the KCCC program learned about nutrition, agricultural production and where their food comes from.

Program Activities

The program consisted of six lessons taught once a month throughout the school year. Each lesson focused on a different part of the food cycle:

  • Livestock production and what animals provide to the food cycle (Kelcey Hoffmann)
  • How compost recycles plant and livestock manure into a valuable resource for crop production (Mary Berg)
  • How soil supports livestock and crop production (Alicia Harstad)
  • Root development, required nutrients for plant growth and photosynthesis (Todd Weinmann)
  • Health benefits of vegetables and how to incorporate vegetables into their diet (Nikki Johnson)

The final lesson was a review of the previous lessons. Each student was provided with a square foot garden and all of the necessary supplies and information to grow spinach during the summer. Students received recipes for using spinach at home and had the opportunity to taste spinach at the lesson to encourage consumption at home. Physical activity was also noted as an important part of learning, so each lesson incorporated several minutes of activity.

Teaching Methods

The decision was made to make each lesson as hands-on as possible to keep students engaged during the one-hour lessons. The hands-on activities in each lesson were designed to stimulate as many of the senses as possible such as: smelling and touching what livestock eat; filling a compost bin to watch it change during the six month program; acting as a human soil web; planting seeds to watch them grow; and sorting fruits and vegetables into proper color groups. At least one physical exercise was included in each lesson. Each lesson also included a review of the previous lesson as well as foreshadowed the next lesson.


This program was piloted during the 2016 school year to 80 third- and fourth graders at a low-income school in the Fargo School District. The youth were split relatively equal with 49% being male and 51% being female. Ages in the class ranged from 8-11 years old with 54% being 9. During the 2017 school year, the program is being piloted more widely in three very different situations; an after-school 4-H program, a six week (vs. six month) in-school program, and a rural in-school setting similar to the original format. Feedback will be obtained in the summer of 2017 and suggested changes will be incorporated. The program will then be offered through the NDSU Agriculture Distribution Center for Extension agents, teachers and agency personnel to use.

Impact Statement

Educating students about food production and the nutritional requirements of a balanced diet may empower them to make healthy choices and begin to provide food security.


Success of this program was measured with pre and post evaluations as well as a follow-up evaluation three months following the final lesson.

Students improved their knowledge of nutrition, compositing and agriculture by participating in this program. Evaluations indicated:

  • 97 percent know livestock use plants as food.
  • 78 percent know paper can be composted, compared with 41 percent before the program.
  • 68 percent correctly defined photosynthesis as the life cycle that uses sunlight energy and carbon dioxide to make sugar and oxygen.
  • 75 percent correctly answered that sand is the largest soil particle, compared with 20 before the program.
  • 85 percent indicated they are more willing to try new fruits and vegetables.
  • 91 percent know fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that help our brain, eyes, heart, skin and teeth.

Follow-up evaluations were completed by 63 students three months after the last lesson and indicated students applied the knowledge they gained:

  • 73 percent planted the square-foot garden that was provided by the program.
  • 37 percent harvested the plant and the majority ate it as a salad.
  • 57 percent planted another garden besides the one the program provided.
  • 62 percent had a parent participate in the garden activity.
  • 29 percent consumed 2 serving of vegetables per day during the summer break months.

Feedback from Teachers

  • “We appreciate all of your work and patience with our students. You made it hands-on, interesting and something they will remember. Thank you for all of your work and effort!”
  • “The most valuable part of the program was exposing the students to agriculture in ways they have not experienced. Very hands-on and having something to take home to try was excellent. As one student said, ‘Showing us real life.’”


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