Who Grows Your Food? Educating Youth About Agriculture

Who teaches our youth about agriculture? Do they know where their food and clothing come from? Do they only know that the grocery and department stores have everything that they need? Do they know that, if it were not for agriculture, the groceries and clothing in those stores would not exist? If not, then it is time for some education and exposure to the real source of their food and fiber.

Several members of the South Central NY Dairy and Field Crops Team participated in three recent events that gave us the opportunity to share agriculture with youth from Cortland and Onondaga Counties.

Agriculture Awareness Day was held at the Drumm Farm, Onondaga County, on May 31. This was the 21st year for this event. One hundred five fourth grade students, as well as teachers and assistants, from Tully and Fabius Schools attended the farm for the day and visited several agricultural based stations around the farm, learning along the way.

Children learn about beef cattle
Betsy Hicks teaches about the differences between dairy and beef cattle at Ag Awareness Day in Tully.

AgStravaganza was held June 12 and 13 at the Cortland County Fairgrounds. This event was for fourth grade students from several Cortland County school districts. With a similar set-up to Ag Awareness Day, the classes rotated through 13 agricultural based stations including dairy cows, beef cows, livestock, crops, soils and honey bees to name a few.

School group makes butter
Dairy ambassadors lead a lesson about dairy products and a butter making activity at AgStravaganza in Cortland.

The third of these youth agricultural events took place June 17 and 18 and had all team members on deck. McMahon’s EZ-Acres Dairy Farm Cortland County Fifth Grade Visit completed its 23rd year of giving students a real taste of the daily life of a dairy farmer. The stations were set at the actual places on the farm – cow barn, calf hutches, milking parlor, feed bunks – and youth learned details at each station that built the story around what each part plays in the production of milk and dairy products that they consume every day.

So, the team spent a couple of weeks focused on the opportunity to educate youth about the agriculture that abounds in our region. An added bonus was also educating the adults that accompanied the students, as they asked questions as well. Exposing our youth to agriculture can have lifelong impacts in the way of understanding the economic importance to communities, food and clothing that we all depend on, future career opportunities and a general support and appreciation for how agriculture affects our daily lives.

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Melanie Palmer

Agricultural Educator

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