Blackwood Educational Land Institute Immerses Youth in Regenerative Agricultural Practices

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
Blackwood Educational Land Institute

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Blackwood Educational Land Institute

What They Do: The Blackwood Educational Land Institute, located outside of Houston, Texas, is a 33-acre teaching farm whose goal is to help future generations create more sustainable ways of growing and sourcing food. Blackwood practices restorative agriculture and provides educational programming to teach youth about where their food comes from and how regenerative agricultural systems function. The farm offers many programs for children and adults, including field trips, workshops, overnight stays, and summer camps. In addition to the “Landfarm,” Blackwood also operates the “Skyfarm,” which is a one-acre rooftop farm located at the cultural hub POST Houston.  

Resources and programs available at Blackwood include the following:

  • Field trips for students in first through 12th grade are age-appropriate visits to either the Landfarm or Skyfarm, during which students gain firsthand experience on the farm and learn about concepts such as food systems, sustainability, and healthy diets. Blackwood can accommodate groups of up to 50 students plus five chaperones and the trip costs $12.50 per student for a one-hour visit, $15 per student for two hours, or $18 per student for three hours.
  • Farm School is a weekly full-day (9:30 AM to 2:30 PM) experiential program for ages 6 through 13 that teaches students about how a farm operates and incorporates science, writing, strategic planning, carpentry, livestock management, and culinary arts. The program runs for six weeks and costs $450 per student. 
  • Nature Camp is a week-long overnight summer camp for kids between the ages of 8 and 14. The purpose of the camp is to encourage kids to get outside and be active through activities such as hiking, swimming, paddle boarding, fishing, cooking, and roasting s’mores. Trained counselors teach campers about wildlife and help them explore nature.
  • Overnight stays, for a few days or one week, are available for scout troops, schools, and other youth organizations. Children gain an immersive farm experience including up to four hours of daily programming with the option for organizers to implement their own curriculum ideas during the stay. 
  • Tours are offered for groups of up to 10 individuals by appointment only at a cost of $20 per person ($10 per child under 16). 

Most of the above programming also includes culinary education and farm-fresh meals provided by professional chefs using produce from the farm. 

How They Do It: Blackwood is committed to growing and harvesting food in an environmentally friendly manner, using farming methods that emphasize resiliency. The farm never uses synthetic chemicals, focuses on soil and crop diversity, treats animals ethically and humanely, and utilizes low-energy resources whenever possible. These practices result in produce that is up to 40 percent more nutritious than what is sold at a conventional grocery store. 

The Blackwood land has been in CEO Cath Conlon’s family for several generations. The farm began unofficially in 1990, when Conlon asked her son Cade’s elementary school to spend time on the land to help build a garden. In 1996, Conlon built a 5,000-square-foot straw bale house that allowed school groups to live on the land for a week at a time, helping to improve the garden and preparing meals together while continuing their normal classroom lessons. Student groups continued working on the land as Cade moved through elementary, middle, and high school, and the  Blackwood Educational Land Institute was registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2000. 

Since 2014, Blackwood has shifted its focus from basic nature education to resilient agriculture.

Mission: To model the indispensable role regenerative food systems play in our lives.

Major Funding Sources: Not disclosed

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: Not disclosed

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Blackwood Educational Land Institute allows youth to have immersive experiences on the farm, often staying overnight for a week at a time, to encourage a deep understanding of resilient and sustainable agricultural practices that can be upheld by future generations. 

27144 Rock Island Rd
Hempstead, TX 77445

Core Programs: Teaching farm

Number of staff: 11

Number of volunteers: Not disclosed

Areas served: Waller County, TX (and surrounding regions)

Year Started: 2000

CEO and President: Cath Conlon

Contact Information: Phone: 888-741-7199 | Email: 


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