In the Field: In my last post, I discussed how far removed most children are from their agriculture roots. What can we, as modern-day farmers, do to help these kiddos understand farm life?
I have noticed that kids LOVE farming - when they're tiny. From about 2 years up to about 4 years, kids love anything to do with farming - the tractors, the animals - all of it! And then the fasination fades...they get overrun with TV and video games - the love of farming gets replaced with Power Rangers. So what can we do to foster that love of farming and outdoors?
Here's a few ideas you can put into place:
1) Invite "city" kids to your farming operation. My sister-in-law often brings her class to the farm on a field trip. I invite my "city" friends with kiddos to come visit. They stay with us, they play here, they climb tractors, they feed baby lambs. And they love it!
Who wouldn't, I tell you! My best friend, Bethany, brought her son out a few weeks ago. He loved it! The room to roam and play! She told me that when he went back to class, he told everyone about feeding the baby lambs! Now, that's excitement! And this is exactly the boost agriculture needs - kids telling other kids about how much fun it is!
2) Get involved! Volunteer! Get involved with your local 4-H, FFA, Girl Scouts. They're always looking for volunteers. You can contact your local Agrilife Extension agent for more info regarding 4-H and other opportunities. If you can't find the time to volunteer with an organization, check out 1-time opportunites. Speak out at your public schools - talk about farming at Career Day! Teach at the Ag in the Classroom days. These are only 2-3 days out of the year - but these few days make an impact on the next generation.
3) Promote MyAmericanFarm.org! What a great website created by the American Farm Bureau! What kid these days doesn't love online games? I've played them myself - LOTS of fun - great graphics and fun farming facts! Get your kids to play and tell their friends, show your grandkids - let's use their desire to play video games to promote agriculture!
4) And this is the MOST important - Portray and positive vision of agriculture! In Pioneer's "Growing Point" magazine, they asked kids from several different states questions about today's agriculture. One of the most humorous questions was "What does a farmer look like?" Some answers were funny - "Old hat, old shirt, wriggly pants" What ARE wriggly pants???? But the overwhelming majority were along these lines "Sweaty and dirty, sweaty and gross, tired" or "hard-working". Now, all of that is true - I know, I do my husband's laundry!!! But does this vision inspire kids to want to be farmers? I don't think so... Nor does the image of the "poor, broke farmer" help us promote agriculture. There are farmers out there who are profitable. I was talking to an acquaintance of mine who is single. She said her mother doesn't want her to date a farmer because they're always broke. Ouch. Who would want to pursue a career in agriculture if it is assumed that you'll always be just scraping by??? We need to change this mentality - and the only way that will happen is by being involved.
So I urge you - today - to start promoting agriculture! Invite "city folks" to see your farm and participate in your daily activities, volunteer with children's organizations, promote MyAmericanFarm.org! All of these will help change the way American views today's farmers!