EarthDance Redesigns for Equity


EarthDance is a 14-acre organic teaching farm tucked away in the middle of a neighborhood in Ferguson, Missouri, where their mission is to grow food, farmers and community through hands-on education and delicious experiences. With that mission in mind, the non-profit organization has made a tremendous impact over the last twelve years, especially with its flagship Farm & Garden Apprenticeship program. This program brought individuals of varying backgrounds and experience levels together to take steps to pursue their farming and gardening dreams. Over 400 individual participants have learned to grow food for themselves, their families and their communities as successful backyard gardeners, community farmers, commercial and even rooftop growers.

With so much success of the apprenticeship program, one might ask, why are the programs changing? These major changes are all part of EarthDance’s journey towards justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion which has driven the decision to recalibrate program offerings. Staff members have listened to feedback, and identified inequities in the food system that were also an underlying theme within the apprenticeship program. Some of the aspects of the program, including long-term time commitments, tuition costs, and the reliance of physical labor were necessary to sustain the program. Although the farm sits in the middle of a predominantly black, low-income neighborhood, the aforementioned obstacles made the apprenticeship program inaccessible to many of its neighbors. EarthDance is striving to better meet the needs of people in the local community, while working on ways to shift towards a culture that makes food sovereignty a reality. 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. EarthDance’s new suite of training programs should prove to be more equitable and impactful than the former market-scale farmer readiness apprenticeship. 

New programs in 2021 include:

Spring Training (Registration is now open!)

A 5-week beginner level program; April 14th-May 15. EarthDance educators will host live online classes on Wednesdays 6:00-7:30pm with hands-on instruction on 2 Saturdays from 9:00am-11:00am or 1:00pm-3:00pm, culminating with a Plant It Forward Community Garden Tour & Work Day at a partner site. Participants will be provided with weekly tools, templates, and resources to complement the live instruction from experienced farmers.

The cost for all 5 weeks of online training is just $100, with options to choose individual classes for $25 per class. The full course live online + hands-on training sessions cost is $250. *Note: the hands-on training hosted on Saturdays are only available to full course participants, not as individual class offerings. Full course participants will also receive plant seedlings upon completion of the 5 week-training to get started in your own garden!

Ensuring that 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 the immediate community, EarthDance is offering Spring Training FREE to residents of Ferguson, Kinloch, Berkeley, Calverton Park, Cool Valley, and Dellwood to encourage a cultural shift to food sovereignty.

  • April 14 – I Want to Grow Food; Where Do I Start? (Online 6-7:30pm)
  • April 17 – Starting from Seed (Hands-on at EarthDance, 9-11am or 1-3pm)
  • April 21 – Top 10 that Grow Well in STL (Online 6 -7:30pm)
  • April 28 – The Down & Dirty: Secrets to Great Soil (Online 6 – 7:30pm)
  • May 1 – From Grass to Garden: Bed Building Basics (Hands-on at EarthDance, 9-11am or 1-3pm)
  • May 5 – Pests, Weeds, and Plant Disease, Oh My! (Online 6-7:30pm)
  • May 12 – Maximizing Your Yield for Year-Round Deliciousness (Online 6-7:30pm)
  • May 15 – Plant it Forward! A Community Work Day and Celebratory Potluck (Hands-on at a partner site, followed by celebration at EarthDance 9am – 1pm)

Farmer Field Days 

For intermediate and experienced gardeners and farmers, EarthDance will host Farmer Field Days as quarterly opportunities for farmers to take a 3-4 hour deep dive into agricultural topics. Example Field Day topics include, greenhouse winter production, cover cropping, improving soil health and obtaining organic certification! Dates and times are TBA.

Summer Apprenticeship (Applications will be available April 1st)

Not to be confused with the former 6-month long apprenticeship program, this new offering is a 

10-week, full-time, paid opportunity. In partnership with the AmeriCorps Service Program EarthDance will host 4 summer apprentices from June 1 – Aug 15th. The summer apprenticeship will prepare beginner gardeners and farmers for employment in the agriculture industry. Daily activities may include seeding, transplanting, weed management, irrigation installation, high tunnel production, season extension, pest management, equipment and tools lessons, harvest procedures, post harvest handling and packing, cover cropping, composting, team building, selling at farmers markets, and selling at the new EarthDance Pay What You Can Farm Stand.

Volunteer Opportunities (Spring Orientation is March 27th 1:00-3:00pm)

Community members are always welcome to volunteer with EarthDance! Opportunities to become a volunteer team member begin March 30th, 2021. Join experienced farmers Tuesdays & Fridays from 8 -11am. Monthly orientations will take place on Saturdays so please sign up in advance. Opportunities are limited to maintain COVID-safe protocol. Volunteering is a great way to learn skills such as, managing an herb garden, improving your harvest techniques, identifying weeds, and maintaining an orchard. You’ll even get to take home a share of the harvest! 

EarthDance Pay What You Can Farm Stand (Opening June 2021)

For many in our community, the most exciting new change for equity is the opening of the EarthDance Pay What You Can Farm Stand in June of this year! The structure that was previously used as a tool shed will become an on-site farm stand where community members and visitors will be able to access fresh, organic produce directly from the farm. Whether you can pay above the listed price, below the listed price, or nothing at all, EarthDance hopes that the increase in accessibility will encourage everyone to buy locally.

Farm to School Partnership with the Ferguson-Florissant School District (On-going)

Last but certainly not least, EarthDance is thrilled to share that we have partnered with the Ferguson-Florissant School District to engage closely with students, teachers, administrators, and staff so that enriching farm to school activities are offered at every grade level The goals are to encourage students to learn about where food comes from, develop healthy eating habits, and build food based entrepreneurial skills. Teachers and staff in the District can also participate in a 3 day Farm to School professional development opportunity during spring break. In addition, through this partnership, Innovation School at Cool Valley is slated to implement a new agri-culinary internship program to prepare students for careers in agriculture and culinary arts. 

Stay in Touch with EarthDance by following us on Facebook or Instagram, and by checking out www.earthdancefarms.org for updates! If you’d like to become a partner in this work and support these changes, you are invited to become a Farmhand (monthly donor / member) to enjoy perks such as a share of the harvest, opportunities to forage and harvest many plants growing ‘wild’ on the farm, invitations to events, and a 25% discount on all EarthDance merchandise.