Promoting Agriculture Literacy Through Awareness Field Trips

Terri Crawford, Gould, Frances I., Castro, Renee N., Fox, Janet E.  |  2/2/2017 5:16:05 PM

Terri Crawford, Janet Fox, Frankie Gould, Karen Martin and Renee Castro

Agriculture provides the sustenance of life, and yet, a majority of consum­ers – youth and adults – do not have a fundamental understanding of agricul­ture or how agriculture affects their lives. To meet the challenges of the future, it is imperative that youth and adults are aware of the role that agriculture plays in their everyday lives. Youth and adults must increase their agricultural literacy to become informed consumers, advo­cates and policymakers.

LSU AgCenter faculty across the state provide multiple opportunities each year for more than 25,000 youth to increase their agricultural literacy. These opportu­nities include:

Ag Alley Held each January in West Monroe, this event reaches first- and fourth-grade students from the 12-parish area of the Northeast Region. Through interactive stations, first-graders learn how food gets from the farm to their table while fourth-graders learn more about com­modity crops grown in the region.

Ag Adventures Held yearly in February at the Delhi Civic Center, this event targets second-and third-graders. They learn more about gardening, farm animals, hand-washing and crops through hands-on educational activities.

AgMagic This interactive, visually stimulat­ing, educational journey through Louisiana agriculture takes place in three locations: Baton Rouge, Violet (near New Orleans) and Shreveport at the State Fair.

In Baton Rouge, the audience is pre­school through middle school. The students explore and learn about agriculture and the environment at Parker Coliseum on campus every April.

In Violet, the event is held at Docville Farm in St. Bernard Parish. Kindergarten through fourth-grade youth get to tour and learn about agriculture on an actual working farm. They see live animals and taste Louisiana products.

In Shreveport, the exhibit is set up in the agriculture building at the State Fair, which is in October and November every year. More than 3,000 students in grades three to six from the surrounding area visited in 2016. The theme was safety.

Ag Wonders Held in Amite City in April, this event provides an opportunity for students to visit more than 20 agriculture exhibits where they learn about aspects of agri­culture, especially those prominent in the Florida Parishes region, such as dairy production, nursery crops and forestry.

Northeast Region 4-H Youth Field Day This event is held annually at the Sweet Potato Research Station in Chase at the end of September. Seventh- through 12th-graders are taken through a series of educational stops, where they learn about various careers, best management practices and research in agriculture.

Southwest Region 4-H Ag Career Field Day The goal of the event – usually in December every year at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station – is to expose high school students to the many career opportunities in agriculture.

Each event is unique, but they all provide youth with an interactive, visu­ally stimulating environment that links food and fiber products used every day to forests, aquaculture, field crops and livestock produced by Louisiana farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

For a measure of the results of these types of experiences, an online survey elicited responses from 124 of 305 teachers who brought their classes to AgMagic in Baton Rouge in 2016. The results showed 97 percent of the teachers reported their students were introduced to Louisiana agricultural products, while 82 percent of the teachers believed their students had a better understanding of the importance of agriculture (Table 1).

A new Ag Alley exhibit “From the Farm to the Table to You” was designed to increase elementary students’ awareness of the link between food origins, nutrition and health. Youth were evaluated through a post pictorial survey using Qualtrics software and iPads. A random sample of youth (N = 179) completed a posttest to assess their knowledge of healthy food choices and food sources. The overall average of knowledge of healthy food choices was 80.69 percent. Youth were asked to identify sources of foods as part of the farm-to-table initiative. The over­all average was 85.67 percent, indicating the majority were able to match selected foods with their farm source.

Ag awareness field trips are a valu­able tool to promote agriculture litera­cy. Evaluations have indicated that ag awareness trips provide students with a relevant, educational opportunity that promotes agriculture. As a result of the field trip experience, youth become aware of the role agriculture plays in their everyday life. Increasing agricultur­al literacy of youth today will help agri­culture continue to have a bright future for tomorrow.

Terri Crawford is 4-H regional coordinator in Winnsboro; Janet Fox is head of the 4-H Youth Development Department; Frankie Gould is director of AgCenter Communications; Karen Martin is 4-H regional coordinator in Homer; Renee Castro is 4-H regional coordinator in Hammond.

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Camille Brady, a 4-H agent in Ascension Parish, holds a 2-week-old goat as students from St. Helena Arts and Technology Academy pet it during Ag Wonders, an event hosted by the LSU AgCenter on April 20, 2016, at the Florida Parishes Arena in Amite City. Photo by Olivia McClure

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Table 1. Agriculture awareness of students who visited 2016 AgMagic-Baton Rouge as measured by their teachers.

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