The effect of Transformative education on students’ learning experiences on agroecology – A caste study of the Farm Experience Internship by Jonne Walstra

We at Stichting Boerengroep are thrilled to announce the completion of our inaugural thesis, centered on the Farm Experience Internship (FEI) written by Jonne Walstra. Under the guidance of Heitor Mancini Teixeira, a former FEI intern in 2013 who introduced the FEI concept to the Netherlands inspired by Brazil’s Estágio Interdisciplinar de Vivência (EIV), an ‘Interdisciplinary Internship Experience’ stemming from the Brazilian agroecological movement’s grassroots efforts against large-scale agribusinesses. Heitor now serves as an Assistant Professor at Utrecht University, where he imparts knowledge through the “Agroecology” course for Global Sustainability Science BSc students.


In collaboration with Stichting Boerengroep Coordinator Irene Katsaros, a seasoned agroecologist with firsthand experience organizing an FEI in 2023. Irene brings expertise in transformative education, agroecological movements, and non-conventional pedagogical methods, such as art-based approaches. Her specialization in permaculture, ecological design, and resilience through nature-based solutions enriches the scholarly discourse surrounding our inclusive educational initiatives.

This landmark academic endeavor marks the first paper yielding tangible insights into the efficacy of our educational course. We extend our gratitude to Heitor, Irene, and all contributors for their invaluable contributions to advancing our mission of inclusive agroecological education.

Together, we bridge science, practice and movement;
We bring agroecology and food sovereignty to the university,
and students to the field;
We hear the voices of the people, the peasants, the indigenous,
– people from different backgrounds, nationalities and religions –
and believe in the value of co-creating knowledge together.
We proof that young people want to start in agriculture
and visualize the challenge of these future farmers;
We demand the university to bridge science, practice movement,
and listen to the challenges and needs of the peoples.
We believe in our vision and we prove this is possible:
an alternative to conventional agriculture that is good for the soil, for the people, for the planet.

From: The FEI movement, 2016


This research aims to explore the transformative character of educational elements in agroecology learning. Transformative education can motivate people to get involved in the agroecological transition towards more sustainable and equitable food production systems. For this study, the transformative elements in the case study of the Farm Experience Internship (FEI) are analyzed through the lens of the Transformative Agroecology Learning model, by Anderson et al (2019). This framework provides four pillars that promote agroecological learning for social change: 1. Wisdom dialogues; 2. Horizontal communication; 3. Combining the practical and the political; 4. Building a social network and movement. Data for this study was obtained through seven in-depth interviews with organizers of the FEI, providing insights in the organizational structure and program of the course. To explore participants’ learning experiences, a questionnaire has been sent to all former participants. Analyzing transformative elements in the FEI has shown that this four-week course can support a wide range of learning experiences, by promoting horizontal knowledge sharing, emotional self reflection and stimulating critical awareness. This can motivate students to evolve a more critical understanding of the link between theory and practical real-world problems and get involved in the agroecological movement. However, the success of transformative educational cannot be understood without bringing it into historic-geographic contexts, since cultural differences also influence the transformative potential. Organizing local initiatives similar to the FEI, adapted to the local context can catalyze transformative change and help to bring agroecology in Europe to a bigger scale.