Promoting agriculture every day

Agricultural promotion happens each day in numerous ways. Just one example of the importance of sharing ideas and messages about agricultural promotion comes from a recent statewide 4-H event.

At the Michigan 4-H Beef, Sheep and Swine Teen and Adult Leaders Workshop held Feb. 23 at Kettunen Center in Wexford County, 106 attendees from 24 counties across Michigan shared their ideas on how they promote agriculture every day. Michigan State University Extension staff set the stage for the need for agriculture education and how 4-H exhibitors are also considered agricultural producers. This explanation included sharing resources found on the Breakfast on the Farm webpage to help expand ideas and provide resources for youth and adults participating in their local fair and other public events.

The staff and 4-H volunteers facilitated small group discussions and challenged the participants to think about how their actions might be perceived by others who do not interact with agriculture on a daily basis, other than through the food they eat. This process resulted in not only ideas, but education and awareness for both the adult and youth groups.

The teens and adults developed a list of methods to promote agriculture. The following ideas were among those presented by the participants and included:

  • Developing educational exhibits for public events such as fairs, festivals and store promotions. Exhibits can focus on all aspects of animal and crop production and should contain key messages. With today’s technology, videos and pictures can be used to take the public on a virtual tour of a farm or through the phases of safe food production. The public is interested in learning about the production cycle, how farmers and 4-H’ers take care of their animals, how they protect the environment and how they make sure the food they produce is safe and nutritious to eat. People are often surprised to learn about the by-products from animals as well as the many uses of crops. The more visual and/or interactive an exhibit can be the better. Members can have fun working together on posters, tabletop displays, demonstrations, videos, building a model or developing a game or scavenger hunt to showcase their agriculture messages.
  • Being available to speak with the public about agriculture. These conversations can range from a youth contacting local businesses to engaging with attendees at public events, to giving presentations at community meetings, at school or other youth programs. Business owners and community leaders are interested in knowing what youth learn through their participation in agriculture experiences and peers and the public often have many questions and misconceptions about food production and day to day practices on a farm. Sitting around the lunch table at school can provide a great setting for agriculture education.
  • Sharing agricultural information through school assignments, articles in school and community newspapers, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media. 4-H members have volunteered to write blogs about life on their farm and some share an Ag Fact of the Week via school announcements.
  • Hosting or volunteering at agriculture education events such as Breakfast on the Farm, Ag Awareness Days, Project RED (Rural Education Days), open houses/field trips, events to educate policy makers, farmer school visits or food tasting events.

The workshop participants had a diversity of experiences with agriculture education and agreed it was important to educate others and promote agriculture every day. 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)