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Monday, January 26, 2015

Food Education Starts Early!

Photo credit: Judy Baxter (Creative Commons)
A few months ago I was asked to create a PowerPoint presentation for children.  The subject was to be “Where our food comes from.”  Easy enough, right? 

I thought so too.

As it turns out, the task was far from easy.  I started by opening the PowerPoint program.  I titled the first page “Where our food comes from.”  I was rolling along pretty well, huh?  Then it hit me.  I couldn’t create this presentation. 

It wasn’t the fact that I didn’t know where food comes myself, or that I didn’t know how to tell kids where food comes from.  It was the fact that I didn’t know what these kids knew.  I had no idea what kind of knowledge base children have about where their food comes from.  And if I remember correctly, I got pretty upset when, as a sixth grader, all these adults came in telling me stuff that I had already learned in the third grade.
The gears in my brain started to turn.  I didn’t want to be the adult who upset these kids.  Who will hear this presentation?  Will it be pupils in urban schools?  Or in rural ones?  Will it be kids with a rural background, going to an urban school?  Or will it be kids with an urban background attending a rural school?  What have their parents and teachers already taught them?  How do I address these different audiences?  Who IS my audience at this point?

So I did what any logical PhD student would do at this point.  I researched it!  And I researched it…  And I researched it…  And I found two documents describing children’s knowledge of where their food comes from.  TWO.  Both documents were surveys done in countries other than the United States.  I searched the USDA, the FDA, the US Department of Education, and found no documentation that I could use to help me understand how much children in our country learn about food production.
This was very disappointing to me.  We have consumers raging about wanting to know where their food comes from, but we don’t even teach it in schools.  We’ve got people spending hundreds of dollars more in grocery bills just to have natural and organic products, and they don’t even know the difference between naturally and conventionally-produced food.  And we have people throwing fits about GMOs when they have no clue that their dog is technically a GMO.

As an industry, have to change these things.  And not just within the beef industry.  All agricultural industries will have to be involved. 
We have to teach people how food is produced, so they aren’t afraid of it.  The adult population has been so inundated with misinformation from television, the internet, and other media sources that many will not change their ways.  Children, however, still have open minds about the world.  They are sponges.  They take in all the information they are given, and then use it in the future.

We must provide the correct information for them to utilize in their futures.  We must open their eyes to the fact that food does not just come from the grocery store. We must teach them how their food is grown, processed, and packaged so that they are confident in not only the product they buy, but the way it came to them.  And we must teach ourselves how to do this.
Our jobs are changing.  We do not just feed people in a hungry world anymore.  We inform the world about how we are feeding those people. 

It will start with understanding what to teach and who to teach it to.  Then we will need to devise a strategy as to how to teach it to them.  I propose that we start with children.  We teach them how their food is grown, and even how to grow food themselves.
My 10-year-old nephew lives in a city of 65,000.  He hunts, he fishes, and he’s coming to my family’s farm to spend a summer learning how to drive a tractor, feed cows, and haul hay (among many other things).  He is so excited about it!  He’ll go back and tell his friends, and they’ll be excited about it!  Children get excited about things!  They learn, they do, and they are happy doing it!  We need to use this enthusiasm to help them learn, and to get them involved.  That is our calling as educators, mentors, parents, and contributing members of society—we can make a difference, and we need to make it now!

Tiffany Lee

Monday, January 19, 2015

Super Bowl Commercials

The Super Bowl is less than two weeks away. Crazy how time flies, and there were some crazy games in the playoffs as well. Not going to lie, kind of disappointed that Jordy Nelson doesn't get to play in the Superbowl, but oh well (my K-State bias coming through).

Whether you watch the Super Bowl for the game itself or for the commercials, probably several of you will be watching one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Every year, companies spend millions of dollars for advertising spots during the game. Several of these commercials are the chance for companies to make a big splash on advertising to kick off the new year.

So I got to think about the best Super Bowl commercials, and there was one that came to the top of my list. The Dodge Ram commercial, "So God Made a Farmer." You can watch the ad here.

I remember exactly where I was when this commercial aired. Several of my vet school classmates got together to watch the big game. We were all around visiting about the game, reflecting on life, and having fun. Then the commercial came on the television. Our attention all tuned into the tv, and nobody said a word. You could have heard a pen drop. It was that captivating!

Now this wasn't the first time I have heard this speech given by Paul Harvey before. He gave this speech at a National FFA convention in 1978. Now I wasn't around back then, but other people made me aware of it before because it had that much of an impact on them when they heard it in person. Paul Harvey was a radio icon that I listened to growing up as well. His "News and Comments" and "Rest of the Story" always provided great insight into things. In fact, we always tried to arrange lunch to occur after Paul Harvey's "News and Comments" concluded, so we could listen to it while working in the tractor.

Back to the ad by Dodge now. I tip my cap to the Dodge marketing people for taking the time to use expensive advertising to promote agriculture to the entire country. I could watch this ad over and over (in fact I did and recommend you do as well) to further gain knowledge and appreciation for what all the farmers and ranchers provide for this country. Thank you Dodge!

Now typically I always end my posts with a catchy phrase, "Until next time." Our own Dr. Dan Thomson ends his segments with, "I'll see you down the road." Today, I'll end with a phrase credited to Paul Harvey (and yes I hope you read it in his voice).

Good day!

Miles Theurer


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