Our journey towards justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion has driven the decision to recalibrate our offerings. We at EarthDance are striving to better meet the needs of people in our local community, while working on ways we can shift towards a culture that makes food sovereignty a reality.
Why are we changing our programming?
- Small-scale: After looking more closely at the feedback over the 12 years of our flagship apprenticeship program, we’ve found that while some have gone on to become full-time farmers and operate farm businesses, most of our program participants don’t move on to farming as a profession. The vast majority do however grow small-scale gardens for their families, neighbors, and community. (According to our most recent alumni survey, 91% of folks go on to grow their own food!)
- Time & Timing: We’ve heard lots of feedback that the time commitment is a barrier. Shortening the program relieves participants of the 6-month long commitment, and offers flexibility with additional learning opportunities. Additionally, here in the Midwest, beginning gardeners are most likely to want to learn about gardening in the spring, so that they can get their own gardens started. And summertime is a time when we can offer paid apprenticeship opportunities, on a full-time basis!. We are also looking to better meet the needs of existing farmers with trainings and field days that can be offered in a single day.
- Equitable Programming: Ensuring our educational offerings are reaching communities that lack power and suffer from food apartheid are high priority in creating a racially just food system. In order to better serve our immediate, predominately African-American community, we are offering free high-quality education on growing food to residents of Ferguson, Kinloch, Berkeley, Calverton Park, Cool Valley, and Dellwood to encourage a cultural shift to food sovereignty.
- Accessible: Affordability has been a concern for past potential applicants. Although many past program participants were recipients of scholarships, we recognize that lowering the cost of tuition greatly and removing the financial barrier for local community members will make programs more accessible. Also, thanks to the pandemic, we have realized the power of online education, and see this as an opportunity to reach many more people with online classes who would otherwise not have the ability to participate in on-farm education, either due to distance or circumstance.
- Diversifying: A diverse range of offerings allow community members, aspiring growers, and existing farmers to choose a “best fit” for what they are looking to learn and at an experience level that they are comfortable with.
- You! We want to meet you where you are now. The impact the Coronavirus has had makes it obvious that even more people want to learn how to grow their own food and we want to do all we can to make that happen, all the while keeping you in mind.
Thank you to everyone who has shared their insights, feedback, experience and encouragement as we continually strive to better understand and better adapt to the needs of community members, farmers, and food citizens such as yourselves! You have helped inform and shape these changes. We are excited to share the details of our brand new programming for this bold new year!