Making Michigan food and agriculture a priority throughout the year

Advocating agriculture can take place in numerous settings.

There are numerous opportunities to get involved with local agriculture advocacy.

There are numerous opportunities to get involved with local agriculture advocacy.

March was filled with numerous celebrations as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared March Michigan Food and Agriculture Month. But now that Food and Agriculture Month has passed, it is important that we continue to advocate for agriculture throughout the year.

Read any newspaper, magazine, or social media post or listen to the radio or television, and most likely there will be information on the food we eat and how it is produced. Some of this information is accurate, while others contain misinformation or the misrepresentation of agriculture facts. Consumers of all ages want to know more about agriculture and the food they eat, so it is important for those in agriculture to work throughout the year to advocate for agriculture and help the public increase their understanding of agriculture.

Advocating can take place in numerous settings and facets. Utilize these five ways to continue advocating for agriculture:

  1. Get involved with your local school district. Schools are always looking for new ways to educate their students, but flexibility is important as there are many standards that students are expected to learn each year. Think about taking a lesson into a classroom or even working with an after school program to help educate youth about agriculture. Michigan State University Extension has created some great resources including Science Blast in the Class and 4-H Animal Science Anywhere lessons. Also consider using additional resources such as Michigan Farm Bureau who offers lesson plans for K-3rd and 4th-6th grade on their website. Statewide commodity organizations also have activity ideas and resource information for students on their websites. Partnerships are important so don’t forget about ways to involve youth in programs such as 4-H and FFA.
  2. Get involved with Breakfast on the Farm. Breakfast on the Farm (BOTF) gives consumers and farm neighbors a first-hand look at modern food production and the farm families who work hard to produce a safe, wholesome food supply for Michigan communities and the world. In 2014, there will be three BOTF programs: July 19 in Calhoun County hosted by Crandall Dairy Farms LLC., August 16 in Mecosta County hosted by De Grins Oer Dairy Farm and September 6 in Washtenaw County hosted by Uphaus Farms. Volunteers are needed on the day of the event to help guide and educate attendees.
  3. Volunteer to help with or host community events. With each county and community in Michigan being so unique, there are numerous opportunities to get involved locally. The options are limitless and may include helping with mall shows or Rural Education Days (Project RED), working with local festivals or offering educational events at your farm or business. Start small and build on it each year to keep events manageable.
  4. Help out at the local fair. Fairs are considered by much of the general public to be a highlight of agriculture. Help make sure that their visit to the fair is a positive one and they leave with more knowledge about agriculture. Some ideas include working with youth groups to create posters, setting up educational stations, assisting with judging of agricultural events or even just volunteering in the fair office. For more ideas, check out the Ag Education at Fairs resource on the Breakfast on the Farm webpage.
  5. Establishing relationships with local grocery stores. Consumers will continue to purchase food items based on their family needs and opinions about products. Myths about food production often factor into those purchasing decisions as well. By creating a relationship with local grocery stores, you are able to help educate their employees and may be able to provide resources to the store as well. “June is Dairy Month” is a perfect time to plan an in-store event.

Although March is over, don’t hesitate to continue the important work of educating consumers about agriculture. For more information and ideas, visit the Breakfast on the Farm agricultural literacy resources page or contact MSU Extension agriculture literacy educators, Nancy Thelen at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Mary Dunckel at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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