Agriculture was on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald this morning for all the wrong reasons again. The article by Saffron Howden highlights the worrying levels of knowledge or lack of, about agriculture in schools
A survey released by Primary Industries Education Foundation shows that student and teacher knowledge of food and fibre production has declined to worrying levels. It is a wake-up call to government says PIEF’s Chair, Dr Cameron Archer.
The survey was undertaken by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER). It reveals that 75 per cent of students thought cotton socks were an animal product and 45 per cent of students could not identify that everyday lunchbox items such as a banana, bread and cheese originated from farms.
Read article by Saffron Howden
Now lets be clear statistics like this and the fact that they highlight the disconnect between urban and rural Australia are not new and are not surprising.
What is new is that Agriculture now has a peak education body, the Primary Industries Education Foundation’s who, as part of it’s objectives can provide national leadership and coordination of initiatives to encourage primary industries education in schools through a partnership between industry, government and educators.
As witnessed today agriculture now has an independent provider of credible, relevant and factual information on all matters relating to agriculture for the community who can open all the right doors and get front page news in the Sydney Morning Herald.
The statistics are also not surprising after all Australia is the most urbanised country in the world and as we grow so will the disconnect. It was for exactly this reason that Art4Agriculture and our unique education programs were developed
It is vitally important that we re-connect. The health, wealth and happiness of all Australians depends upon it. We are a lucky country and as a result food security does not register with most Australians. As a testament to this our Archibull Prize surveys showed only half of the student participants surveyed in 2011 knew that Australian farmers feed 60 million people. In fact 40% thought Australian farmers ONLY feed 6 million people
Yet the survey further showed the students are not overly concerned about food shortages and instead are most worried about water scarcity and pollution – things they have witnessed first hand. We do not want our young people to be food insecure before they appreciate agriculture and the farmers who grow their food and fibre.
This appreciation will only be achieved if we engage in a 2 way conversations with students and teachers. We all know that just making resources available for teachers without support and context does not work. Programs must be engaging, they must put farmers and students together, they must support teachers to expand their learning of agriculture and they must deliver real outcomes that can be shared with a wider audience if we are going to have significant impact.
The survey commissioned by PIEF and undertaken by ACER highlights the importance of a sustainability message for students in addition to students understanding where there food comes from.
We must get the balance right between food and fibre production and the environment. We must communicate this message and our farmers’ commitment to sustainable and ethical food and fibre production to urban audiences.
In fact sustainability IS the key message in Art4Agriculture’s programs with the theme of the Archibull Prize being “What does it take to feed and clothe your community for a day sustainably”.
All our programs are a true celebration of the people and the places behind the food we eat. They deliver strong rural sustainability messages – not just to the students involved, but also to the wider community. They showcase the positive things farmers are doing and empower them to share their stories. Our activities are genuine, contemporary, engaging, fun and full of hope for a sustainable future.
Agriculture, this survey is yet another wake up call to get behind programs such as Art4Agriculture that promote a “whole of industry vision” and a willingness to engage in two way communication between stakeholders and community.
24 hours after this story hit the new stands there are over 1.7 million links to it on the web worldwide. Embarassing yes but lets not play the blame game. This is a tripartate problem for goverment, industry and education but the solution is already out there and its already happening.
Agriculture now has a peak industry education body and we have cross industry highly successful independent in-school programs like Art4agriculture getting measurable results. The challenge is can we break down the industry silos and work together for the common good
Interested in Australian Agriculture?
Want to know all about Australian cotton farming check out this prize winning Archibull Prize entry from Colo High School
Or see what happens when you take fun and innovative agriculture programs into schools and actively engage with next gen who in turn become your AGvocates and tell Agriculture’s story for you.
Fast Facts about Australian agriculture
Sourced from the National Farmers Federation Farm Facts 2012
- Each Australian farmer produces enough food to feed 600 people, 150 at home and 400 overseas
- Australian farmers produce almost 93 per cent of Australia’s daily domestic food supply.
- Australia’s major agricultural export markets are China (14 %), Japan (13 %), ASEAN (21 % ), other Asia (16 %), European Union (8 %), Middle East (8 %), United States (7 %) and other (17 %).
- Australian farmers are environmental stewards, owning, managing and caring for 61 percent of Australia’s land mass.
- 94 %of Australian farmers actively undertake natural resource management.