As I leave my role with Michigan Farm Bureau, I take with me the experiences our members and county Farm Bureaus provided.
From my agricultural roots in an increasingly suburban area of northern Macomb County, to every farm visit, county annual, discussion meet, conference, legislative testimony supporting Career and Technical Education, state Promotion & Education committee meeting, relationships with commodity partners, and more, Michigan agriculture has built my foundation for continuing to advocate for agricultural literacy and education at the national level.
These building blocks of my foundation taught me innumerable lessons about volunteer management, complexities of agricultural policy, budget and time management, tough decisions moving our organization forward, and so much more.
In my new position as a research associate with the National Center for Agricultural Literacy (housed at Utah State University, but don’t worry, I’m working remotely from Michigan!), I’ll be working to shape more bricks for the foundation supporting our agricultural education efforts.
Just prior to accepting my new role, I completed my doctoral dissertation investigating parents’ value of their children learning about agriculture in school. Be it the high school agriscience classroom or a kindergarten field trip to the farm, I wanted to know what parents thought about students learning the roles agriculture, food and natural resources play in daily life.
Resoundingly, they found it very important: In my nationwide survey, 72% of parents responded that it is very or extremely important that their children learn about agriculture in school.
My research is one brick in the foundation supporting Promotion & Education outreach. P&E volunteers have often asked me, “How do I develop that inroad with a school?” And I have long responded: One option is to make a connection with your child’s teacher or with Farm Bureau members who are parents of school-age children to build a connection with their teacher.
This research highlights the role parents’ play in their children’s schooling and in student-teacher-parent relationships. No different than writing a Farm Bureau membership, it is the relationships in our community that open doors for P&E programming. The proverb that it takes a village to raise a child — it’s true!
Parents are the grocery shoppers and parents are the voters. How are you connecting with the parents chaperoning Project RED? Invite them to a dinner on your farm. Consider what little nuggets they are taking away from your child-focused station at Project RED. What handouts are you sending home from an agricultural career event? Eventually they might make it out of a backpack and into the hands of a parent.
In my new role, my research will provide stakeholders across the country the data needed to support our efforts — your efforts.
From Ag in the Classroom donors, to teachers earning professional-development credits, to USDA support for the National Agriculture in the Classroom program and the National Center for Agricultural Literacy, my research will validate these investments and partnerships.
My role will include summarizing the volume of outreach of all state-level Ag in the Classroom programs, evaluating gaps in the understanding of agriculture in school children and the public. I’ll help state Ag in the Classroom programs measure the effectiveness of their outreach so they can make better decisions about how to use their staff and financial resources.
The National Center for Agricultural Literacy maintains the database of free agricultural lessons distributed through National Agriculture in the Classroom. I will be helping connect state program leaders with new teaching practices, helping them better connect with schools and teachers.
Michigan Farm Bureau Promotion & Education volunteers, you’ve laid many bricks in my foundation. This year marks 38 years of P&E here in Michigan; your foundation is strong!
Each school year, local P&E volunteers reach more than 50,000 K-12 students through Projects REDs, classroom volunteering, career events, library programming, poster contests and more.
Throughout my 13 years with Promotion & Education, I’ve witnessed you reach more than 650,000 students! I’m excited to see what you accomplish next!
While this is a bittersweet transition, I look forward to serving farmers on a national scale and doing work that further bolsters your Promotion & Education efforts here in Michigan.