How, I asked myself, are these children and all the others in New York State going to learn about the source of their food and how it is produced? In this day of electronic technology which children are exposed to from almost the moment of their birth, do they even know about Old McDonald?
Luckily there are signs of hope. Schools teachers are willing to invite volunteers into their classrooms for special activities related to farming and agriculture. The recent Agricultural Literacy events around the state are evidence of that. While interacting with the children, it was apparent that they were very open to learning about how their food is produced. It was obvious that school trips to farms and orchards had paid off. The children remembered what they had learned and seen and were quite happy to share what they had experienced. Reading and stories about agricultural activities and production helped to reinforce that learning.
Teachers around the State have also been participating in training sessions on how to use the Food, Land and People curriculum that has been developed to incorporate agriculture into the everyday lessons on math, literature, science, and the arts. The curriculum, designed for all ages and grades, blends easily into the state required teachings and comes with lesson plans, activities, and teaching aids. Information on the trainings is available for interested teachers and schools from www.agclassroom.org/ny/programs
There are other ways for children to learn about agriculture besides going to school. 4-H has been teaching children about farming and other subjects for over 50 years. Children do not have to live on a farm to participate and, in many cases, do not even have to own an animal. There are general agricultural activities and specific ones, such as dairy, beef, horses, sheep, goats, poultry, rabbits, and, in certain areas, llamas and alpacas. Information on 4-H activities is available from the local 4-H program in the Cornell Cooperative Extension office.