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Agriculture This week - Keep the focus on ag education

Agriculture education is something often written about in this space, but it is with good reason.

Agriculture education is something often written about in this space, but it is with good reason.

There is little doubt in my mind one of the greatest challenges in the years ahead for farming will be the way consumers perceive what is a safe and secure source of daily food.

The old adage about perception being reality holds great merit in terms of what it takes to produce bacon, milk, eggs and wheat.

For an increasingly large portion of consumers, at least in North America, where a very small percentage of people have a direct connection with an operating farm these days.

That means a farm vision might well come from a remembered childhood book which has a red hip roofed barn and a single milk cow in the yard with a few chickens.

That farm has pretty much been relegated to the pages of well-worn children’s books.

The other source of information can be equally as out of touch with the realities on the farm.

We are certainly aware of piles of misinformation out there. People are left worrying about hormones in beef, chemicals applied to control weeds and insects in crops, and the entire idea of genetically modified crops.

Consumers worry, yet often cannot point to specific reasons for their concerns. It is instead a perceived feeling the above mentioned things must be bad for us.

To combat the fears and misinformation we must better educate consumers.

But that education cannot start when that consumer is an adult, a time when perceptions are already well-established and therefore difficult to change.

The story of farming has to be taught to the young.

That is not as easy as it seems as entire classrooms today will have no one who has even set foot on a farm, the teacher included.

So programs such as ‘Agriculture in the Classroom’ are hugely important in setting young students on the path to knowledge about where their food comes from, and what it requires to produce that food on a modern farm.

But, books only go so far. Hands-on education takes that process to another level.

There is something to be said to planting a tomato after having it explained how that plant will produce what ends up on a pizza.

Or, seeing the cow from which milk comes to produce the cheese for the same pizza.

I mention pizza because I was recently out at the annual ‘Pizza Farm’ program which is held here at Yorkton. Students are taken into the field to help learn about what farmers contribute to a pizza from canola oil to basil.

After learning about what farming means to something they all know, a pizza, they get to dig in the soil planting tomatoes, learning about herbs, and canola and wheat.

In the fall the students will head back to the Pizza Farm to see what their efforts helped produce.

It is a small thing, but one which students are likely to remember, as they gain a little better understanding of the importance of farming.

Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.

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