Sharing the Story of Ag
Posted by Kelly Wubben, Outreach Director for Ag United
As you may know, National Ag Week was recognized across the country March 16-21. To celebrate, I had the opportunity to organize and participate in events throughout the week. Ag United, along with Paulsen Marketing, sponsored pizza parties for 5th graders at schools in Milbank, Mitchell, Watertown, Yankton and Sioux Falls. The pizza tasted great, but more importantly was a talking point for producers who attended the events. Eight local dairy and pork producers spoke to students about agriculture and how products such as meat, cheese and the flour are made to create the pizza. The producers spoke about what they do, their animals and how they are cared for, and the processes the products go through to get to the plate.
Times are changing. At one time it was common for families to live on a farm, raise livestock and crops. Even though agriculture is still an important part of South Dakota economy, it is becoming more common for farm families to be the minority, even in rural areas.
In each classroom, we asked the question: “How many of you live on a farm?” In one classroom the most students that raised their hands were seven. I was very surprised at the low number of children who raised their hands in each class. And, when we asked what they raised on their farm, it turned out that the majority of those students seemed to live on an acreage with maybe a horse or two and a few other pets.
The importance of educating today’s youth on agriculture and all its benefits is becoming increasingly important. Many are disconnected with farm and ranch life, being 3 or 4 generations removed from the farm. These students may not have had the opportunity to be around corn, soybeans or livestock, and to understand that pork products come from a pig and milk comes from a cow, not just from the grocery store.
In addition, there are a number of trends gaining ground and media attention that seek to portray agriculture and livestock production in a negative light. Many activist groups are becoming more vocal, often expressing opinion passed off as facts, to those who do not have connections to farm or ranch life.
The 5th graders who enjoyed pizza with dairy and pork producers will someday be purchasing consumers with families of their own. It is vital that they receive correct information early in life so they can make informed decisions on what products they buy for their families.
The producers who volunteered their time during National Ag Week see the importance in educating others about agriculture. They know consumers need to hear the real story from the people who know it best … those who live agriculture every day.
Thank-you to the producers who spoke to students during National Ag Week. I encourage everyone reading this to get involved in positive conversations about agriculture and livestock production. These conversations go beyond classroom visits or just to students, but also with your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues in local coffee shops, at work, in the waiting room at the dentist … anywhere.