Submission

Team

The lack of Agricultural Education in our Communities.
Title

The lack of Agricultural Education in our Communities.

Summary

When people go to the grocery store, they buy their groceries and go home to eat them without fully understanding or caring where this food came from. Many Americans are this way because they were not trained to think about where their food is coming from. If most people had taken just one agricultural class during their educational career, more people would wonder where the food was grown, how it was harvested, how long it took from being planted to the store, the process of packing and cooling, and the list can go on. Going through grade school, we all are required to take the typical classes: math, science, history, English, etc. Agricultural education (sometimes referred to as ag ed) is typically overlooked as a required course though. To keep the world running smoothly, agricultural education is beneficial to the population. As urbanization has occurred more and more, the disconnect between agricultural producers and the general public has grown immensely.

Team Information
Agricultural Advocates for Education
Category
Education

About the Problem

Problem Category

Education

Problem Context

This problem context occurs daily all throughout communities. Consumers who lack education in the agricultural industry feel misled or confused when they buy products at the store. Our group realized that before high school we hardly knew anything about agriculture, we soon found out through agriculture education how prevalent and vital agriculture is in our daily lives. When it came time to share our knowledge in the real world, we realized how significant the lack of knowledge about agriculture is in our community. People who have an open mind are always very grateful for those who can inform them about agriculture. We found this to be an important problem in the community because if people vote on policies that affect agriculture and lack the education to make an educated decision the consequences can be significant.

How did you identify this problem?

Through interactions with people who have little to no agricultural background. There is misinformation that causes people to come up to someone that they know has agricultural knowledge and ask them questions. In classrooms and in the community, we would have conversations with people about agriculture and they clearly were misled. Another large factor we realized is how much misinformation there is on the internet. We found that people want to learn about agriculture but have no idea where to learn about it and where to start.

Problem Details

Who are those affected by this problem?

The lack of agricultural literacy in our communities affects everyone as a whole. More specifically, the producers and consumers. The vast majority of the US population does not live on farms nor participate in production agriculture. People who live in urban areas such as cities and large towns do not have the same opportunities to learn about agriculture. The problem is specifically generated when we are young. Our schools lack the proper education to inform students about the agricultural industry. People who are not active in agriculture will tend to only hear negative problems about the agricultural industry through the news, which can be very biased. These negative stories tend to drive the younger and older generation to have a bad perception about agriculture when there is so much good that comes from it.

How often does this problem occur?

This problem occurs on an everyday basis, beginning specifically at the grocery store. When people go to the grocery store the first thing, they look at are the labels. Grocery stores will manipulate these labels because they know consumers lack agricultural literacy. Grocery stores know that people prefer to buy organic food and will use labeling to attract buyers to that food while charging more for it. This problem also occurs outside the grocery store when people see or hear how animals are cared for. They fail to realize that producers already follow many sets of rules that are put in place by state and federal laws.

How long has the problem been going on?

As urbanization has occurred more and more, the disconnect between agricultural producers and the general public has grown immensely. In modern times, the trend of farm-to-table food has grown. This trend has only made the problem worsen the relationship between producers and consumers. The idea has grown that producers are using techniques that can be harmful to our bodies but in fact, these techniques are not harmful and are needed to be able to produce enough food for our growing population while usable farmland is decreasing.

Is the problem disrupting the community? How?

Yes, the issue with lack of agricultural education has to do with lack of information and sometimes can be conflicting between those who produce food and those who just consume it. This can lead to bad relationships between consumer and producer interaction and views instead of coming up with a viable solution that fits both agendas. Consumers will always outnumber producers when it comes to debating topics. Consumers don’t understand that even making slight changes to agriculture can cost farmers a fortune which in many cases puts smaller family-owned farms out of business.

Is the issue perceived as a problem by the community at large?

Yes and no. There are people that know that they are not as educated as they could be. It is more farmers and ranchers, or people who are involved in the industry that can see it as an issue. Consumers tend to point out the problems but do not have any idea how these problems they find can be solved.

Is the problem limited to certain geographic areas?

The problem is not limited to a specific geographic area; however, it is obviously more prevalent in urban areas. Urban areas lack prevalent agriculture and therefore people are not reminded that their food doesn’t just come from the grocery store. Those who live in communities of poverty typically do not have a lot of connections or opportunities to learn about agriculture.

Who are the Stakeholders, those wanting this problem to be fixed?

The main stakeholders include both those in the agricultural industry and those who are in the community. Agricultural producers want the community to know the reasons behind their techniques and consumers want to know where their food comes from. Producers want the public to be informed properly because some consumers might be upset over problems that do not exist but think that they do because of misinformation.

Addressing the Problem

Are you aware of any solutions, approaches, or efforts to tackle this problem?

As consumers' voices are being heard louder than ever before, producers are doing what they can to meet the satisfaction of the consumers. Solutions to tackle this problem are already in progress which includes Farm to Fork programs such as farmers' markets, schools implementing a required agricultural course, and agricultural students teaching younger students.

What are the obstacles you are aware of to address the problem?

The main obstacle we are aware of is the ability of people to remain open-minded. People have a hard time learning about something they think they already know. Many farmers do not get the chance to have their voices heard as well. Another issue is the constant misinformation that is being pushed on people whether it be through social media, the news, or other individuals.

What are the success criteria that could be defined to address this problem?

When it comes to success criteria it can be somewhat difficult to measure or set standards for people to meet. The main problem that we are facing is the lack of agricultural literacy. We want people to keep an open mind about agriculture and not let bad reviews ruin their whole perspective about the agricultural industry. People need to understand the policies and work that are in place to bring food to their table. Agriculture producers take pride and are dedicated to producing the best products they can, and consumers need to understand that it is no simple task.

Solution Overview

Solution Title

Educating the community

Solution Summary

While this problem is very large, we do not expect it to be solved overnight. Many organizations, including our own FFA program, have been working on educating our community for many years. As part of our solution, we want to be able to send more students who are a part of agricultural education to educate fellow students and communities. FFA programs are all over the United States and it is our goal to get them to join us in this solution. We understand that starting small is the best approach to this problem. We want to get all agricultural programs in California to get involved with spreading agricultural literacy. This would include offering free hands-on learning to younger students. We could approach this by having agricultural field days so students can see first-hand the basics of agriculture. We plan on going to local farmers' markets and educating people about the food they buy so they feel a larger connection to the agricultural world. We want our communities to understand that there is more to agriculture than just sows, cows, and plows. The National FFA Organization defines agricultural education as, “a systematic program of instruction available to students desiring to learn about the science, business, technology of plant and animal production and/or about the environmental and natural resources systems,” (Agricultural Education). Educating the public about how significant agriculture is in their lives can create a strong relationship between the producer and consumer.

Solution Details

Are there any similar initiatives solving the same problem your team is trying to address and how is your solution different from what already exists?

A similar initiative is being taken by the state of Georgia. They have created agricultural education programs for grades K-12 and are allowing any school districts to join in on them. Livermore FFA, which is the agriculture program we belonged to in high school, has a day where we would pay for all the third-grade students in our school district to come to learn about agriculture. We have held this event for many years and the kids are always very interested in the fun lesson stations we have for them. Our solution would be different because we wouldn't be just reaching out to just one age group, but we would be reaching out to the community as a whole. We plan on having information pamphlets at grocery stores that teach consumers about different agricultural products. The more we have a good relationship with the community the more we can have meaningful and productive conversations about what really goes on in agriculture.

Who will benefit from your solution?

Those who will benefit from our projected solutions will be agricultural producers and the community. The shared transparency will create healthy relationships between producers and consumers. People will understand that the techniques producers use are safe for the environment, the animals, and consumption. Consumers will feel confident in what they buy and not be worried about how healthy their food is because of something they heard on the news. Students who may not have had an interest in agriculture before may realize that they want to learn more about it. If our plans become so widespread, we may be able to get more schools to adopt agriculture education programs and for some students, it may change their life in beneficial ways as it has for so many other students like us.

How far along are you with your solution (Idea, Vision, Implementation Plan, Etc.)

When answering this question, many agricultural education institutions and programs have begun their own program to try to educate the public. This includes informational newsletters and going out to schools and teaching younger students to learn about the importance of where their food comes from. We are just now getting started on our solution, we recently got the opportunity to educate the public about agriculture at our county fair. We set up education posters and talk to people one on one. People were happy to learn about agriculture because it makes them feel proud to know where their food comes from.

What steps or process do you think is required to develop or implement your solution? (optional)

In order to implement our solutions, the first thing we could do is fun agriculture lessons for other programs across the state to use and share with their communities. It can be difficult to choose what you share because there is so much to learn about agriculture. Another step we want to take is reaching out to other school districts that do not have any agricultural education in their schools. We want to be able to offer free seminars to students at these schools to spread our knowledge.

What would you like this solution to look like in 12 months. (optional)

In 12 months, we would like to see at least 10 other agricultural programs join us in educating the community. We understand it can be hard to get people to join our solution, but we will be determined to make it as easy as possible. We would also like to see schools asking us to come back to their schools for more educational seminars. We want to make sure that our lessons are fun because we know people do not want to listen to boring presentations.

Would you be interested in getting support from mentors(optional)

We would greatly appreciate the support from mentors, in fact, we already have two of our high school agricultural teachers who would be more than willing to help us with all that we need. The agricultural community is a community that is always wanting to help and lend a hand so in that perspective we are lucky to have people who would gladly support us in our goal.