If I had a dollar for every time I have overheard someone mistake all of that dent corn growing in fields for sweet corn I would be a little richer. The truth of the matter is that people just aren’t informed. I believe that the biggest issue facing the agriculture industry today is not GMO labeling or animal rights and welfare, but a lack of education.
I grew up around farming, my grandfather and uncles all farmed. In high school, I was lucky enough to take agriculture classes every year. Those classes inspired me to pursue a career in the agriculture industry. After taking my introduction to agriculture course during my freshman year of high school, I had a much better idea of how the industry worked and I had a better understanding of the world around me. In my own opinion, taking an introductory agriculture course should be a requirement in K-12 education.
Issues that are at the top of the agenda concerning agriculture these days include genetically modified organisms, animal welfare / rights (which are two completely different things), and water pollution. These issues are attacked by activist groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Non-GMO Project. These groups have a lot of expendable money and use the media to their advantage. They play on the unknowns to create a fear among consumers.
These unknowns about the agriculture industry are not things that are being hidden, they simply aren’t being taught to those who do not seek the information. The percentage of Americans who are farmers is dwindling more and more each year. In fact, the average American is three generations removed from the farm. Being so far removed from an agricultural background, most Americans simply aren’t aware of the fact that agriculture is something that they should be learning about.
So, why do I believe that agriculture should be an essential part of K-12 education? The answer is simply, really. Taking a single class focused on agriculture gave me a whole new outlook on the world. It opened my eyes to all of the parts of this world that I didn’t know about and inspired me to take the initiative to learn about them.
Without my first agriculture course, I wouldn’t be where I am today. This industry has so many opportunities for people from all walks of life. There is truly a place for everyone and the people within the industry are standing with open arms to welcome anyone who may come along.
They say that we must prepare today’s children to change the world, that this generation will be responsible for correcting the mistakes of the generation before us. Without the knowledge of the industry that started it all, we will not be able to create a better future.
I have had the chance to sit down with legislators from my state to talk about the importance of agricultural education. They are excited to hear from young people and they want to make our world a better place. I encourage you all to contact your representatives and talk with them about how important agricultural education is for children of all ages. Your voice is stronger than you might think.
“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you are a thousand miles from the cornfield.” –President Dwight D. Eisenhower