How ag education benefits us all
On a trip to school one morning, I drove past a lovely grass pasture, as the cows and calves grazed in the sunrise. My daughter looked out the window and exclaimed: “Did you know that there are more pigs than people in Iowa?”
Of course, she is right. It seems my daughter has inherited her mom’s ability to keep random facts in her memory (a skill that will prove useful when she’s a future “Jeopardy” champion).
She didn’t learn this fun fact from her usual go-to source, YouTube. Instead, she learned about farming after a recent visit from the Dallas County Ag in the Classroom program to her first-grade class.
Most Ag in the Classroom volunteers are farmers themselves. They visit local elementary schools throughout the school year to teach students the basics about farming and food production in Iowa.
Unfortunately, fewer Americans today understand the work that farmers do and how our food is grown and raised. Farm and ranch families comprise only 2% of the U.S. population today, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
That’s why county Farm Bureaus across Iowa support Ag in the Classroom programs to teach local elementary school students about food and farming.
This spring, the Ag in the Classroom program received a 2023 Iowa Ag Leader Award for leadership in ag education from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The Iowa Ag Leader Award honors organizations and individuals who have made exceptional contributions to Iowa’s agricultural community. Ag in the Classroom reaches nearly 150,000 Iowa students across hundreds of schools.
In addition, the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation assists the regional Ag in the Classroom programs and helps Iowa teachers incorporate ag lesson plans into their curriculum.
My daughter’s class learned how corn and soybeans grow and what are the top ag commodities in the state (thus, the fun pig farming facts).
From the worksheets she brought home in her backpack, I discovered she also learned about technology used on the farm, including crop protection products, tractors and conservation practices.
As a parent, I was thrilled that my daughter was learning more about modern farming practices and why agriculture is so vital in Iowa.
She is the first in four generations who won’t grow up on an Iowa farm. It’s important to me that she understands her family’s roots and how essential farming is to our everyday lives.
Selfishly, I also want her to someday find a job here in Iowa. Many of the best-paying jobs – particularly for young women - are in agriculture fields: agronomy, animal nutrition, ag economics, ag ecology and environmental science, and many more ag-dependent careers like healthcare, law and financial services.
Yes, many jobs in Iowa are either directly or indirectly connected to agriculture. My sister, for example, is a dental hygienist in rural Iowa whose patients include many local farm families and ag workers.
It’s fitting that as we approach spring planting season, we also celebrate 2023 National Ag Week March 21-27. The event recognizes the contribution of agriculture and farmers in our everyday lives.
A few interesting National Ag Week facts (for your next “Jeopardy” round):
- Thanks to the hard work and productivity of U.S. farmers, Americans spent an average of 10.3% of their disposable personal income on food in 2021, a number than has continued to trend downward over the past 60 years, according to the USDA. Americans also spends much less of their disposable income on food than most other countries. For example, many residents in Asia and Africa must spend more than 40% of their income on food.
- One U.S. farm today feeds about 166 people here in the U.S. and abroad annually, the USDA reports. The global population is expected to increase by 2.2 billion by 2050, which means the world’s farmers will need to grow about 70% more food than what is now produced.
- Agriculture and its related industries provide 10.5% of U.S. employment, the USDA says.
- Farmers today are doing more with less thanks to innovation and technology. In fact, U.S. agriculture would have needed nearly 100 million more acres 30 years ago to match today’s production levels. Smarter farm equipment, precision ag tools and biotechnology are helping farmers care for their crops, while using less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
To help celebrate National Ag Week, please consider making a donation to Iowa FFA , 4-H or the Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation to support ag education in the state.
Let’s recognize the hard work and dedication of Iowa farmers and ensure the next generation understands how essential agriculture and food production is to our future.
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