Who can implement this: State, county, and city officials; communities; advocacy organizations, agricultural producers; and school districts
The best way to ensure that agriculture will be valued by future generations is to connect children with farms in ways that will leave a lasting impression. Through creating unique educational agricultural experiences, which are not currently covered by the state’s curriculum, future generations will be educated about local food and about the food-production process. These experiences will help children understand where their food comes from while also opening up communication among farmers, teachers, and community members and promoting agriculture as a possible career path.
In the short term, individual communities and schools should create programs that provide children with hands-on farming experiences. Ideally, these small-scale efforts will eventually result in changes to the statewide curriculum, establishing agriculture as a fundamental part of Utahns’ education.
- Communities and school boards should create and promote programs that connect schools to farms. Additionally, schools and local farms should coordinate to establish these opportunities under existing programs, especially if expanded or made more accessible.
- School districts should evaluate and revise existing curriculum to make agricultural education a priority.
- It is recommended that educators and farmers work together to advocate for agricultural education becoming a bigger part of school curricula. Outreach should be made to local lawmakers as well as statewide organizations.
- Policymakers, educators, and farmers need to work together to fill in gaps in agricultural education; they should establish new programs for students at every grade level.
- Zoning laws could be modified to allow small livestock animals, like chickens and 4–H animals, to be raised on school property as part of agricultural education programs.
The Utah County Farm Bureau and Utah State University Extension hosts Farm Field Days every year, which allows elementary-school students to visit local farms and directly experience local agricultural. Farm Field Days can be organized by any group of educators and agricultural producers, and the Utah Farm Bureau has funds to meet the cost of separately organized Farm Field Days. The learning stations at Farm Field Days are designed to complement the curriculum objective, set by the Utah Office of Education, to maximize educational benefits for students.
Utah County 4–H established an Urban Sheep Project that allows students in the city to raise their own sheep on a nearby farm, providing them with valuable firsthand experience with livestock.
The Utah State Office of Education has partnered with many Utah agencies and businesses to establish Agricultural Education Pathways, a program for high-school students interested in pursuing a career in one of five different agricultural focus areas. Pathways explores the different ways students can better understand, value, and become involved in agriculture in Utah. However, this program is not part of the statewide required curriculum and exists only as elective high-school courses that are limited in availability depending on location. Many new agriculture jobs are opening up nationwide, and making agriculture a larger part of Utah students’ education will encourage them to pursue career opportunities in agriculture and strengthen the industry within the state.
The Future Farmers of America (FFA) is an organization for students looking to one day become part of the agricultural industry in any form. The FFA has individual chapters in each state, and the Utah branch provides scholarships and learning opportunities for Utah students interested in agriculture.