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Introducing: Pasa Sustainable Agriculture and the OpenTEAM Fellowship

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Pasa Sustainable Agriculture, a Pennsylvania-based sustainable agriculture association, started out as a small group of Pennsylvania farmers interested in collecting and sharing their own resources and experiences around sustainable farming in the early 1990s. Since then, Pasa has become a network of more than 5,000 farmers representing every production and scale, mostly from the Mid-Atlantic region, with a united goal of advancing regenerative and equitable agriculture at home and in their communities. They have invested in farm-based research, farmer training, and events and conferences about sustainable agricultural practices––engaging thousands of farmers and supporting them in bettering their communities and the environment.

But, Pasa’s current research team does not have the capacity to provide the required one-on-one support to help farmers digitize their records and support their onboarding to different initiatives, such as their Soil Health Benchmarking Study which now includes over 100 farms.

Two people kneel on the ground in a field with masks on while taking water filtration samples.
Taking water infiltration measurements in established clover strips in the vegetable fields at Rodale Institute.

“Having an OpenTEAM Fellow focused on training, onboarding, and data collection would greatly increase our ability to bring farmers into the OpenTEAM ecosystem of services, free up existing staff time to provide research analysis and feedback to farmers, and increase the digital literacy of regional farmers,” says Christina Kostelecky, Operations Director at Pasa.

Through the Fellows Program, OpenTEAM will provide training, community support, and technical facilitation that will equip land stewards such as farmers and ranchers with the best possible agricultural knowledge and tools needed to achieve landscape level regenerative outcomes.

With their soil health benchmarking study beginning its seventh year as they expand into other states through partnerships with peer organizations, such as the Maine Soil Health Network, they realized that they need to be able to scale their operations. Through the Fellows Program, they can continue to make their processes both more efficient and more beneficial with increased automation, connectivity, and digitization, allowing them to scale and empower farmers to understand their data more thoroughly.

At Pasa, the Fellow will lead their farmer data collection efforts for ongoing research projects, among other needs, and address digital access barriers through on-the-ground technical assistance to farmers. Furthermore, the Fellow will support the implementation and use of these technologies, supporting their ability to scale and expand this work both regionally and nationally. By participating in the Fellows Program, Pasa hopes to ensure that farmers feel like the tools are helping them and connecting them to not only more information and analysis, but other peers in their network.

“The fact that OpenTEAM is farmer-centric and taking data accessibility and privacy seriously is important. We work with OpenTEAM because we work with farmers and want to see farmers succeed. We know that technology and data can help drive better decisions for farmers,” says Kostelecky.

They are also excited to use what they learn from this program and the data they collect as a part of their storytelling. “Here at Pasa, we are so farmer-centric and love telling farmers’ stories. We can use data to help tell those stories,” says Kostelecky.

As the Fellow is onboarded in July, Pasa looks forward to their increased engagement with OpenTEAM and the larger community. OpenTEAM continues to act as a convener, facilitating relationships among organizations, farmers and ranchers, and now directly between land stewards and Fellows.

A farmer kneels on the ground to measure water infiltration on their farm. The farmer is smiling.
Measuring water infiltration at Chatham's Eden Hall Farm in Richland Township, PA with farm manager Indira Alcantara.
The OpenTEAM Fellows Program operates with significant support from a $730,000 grant by the Walmart Foundation.

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