Thursday, March 14, 2013

Let's Write Our Own Story

Submitted by Brittany Mountjoy, International Food Information Council & Alliance to Feed the Future

This past week at the grocery store, I was picking up a gallon of milk as a woman with a very concerned look on her face reached out and cautioned, “You know that milk has a ton of hormones in it, right? And those poor cows are milked until they're skin and bones.” I was so shocked by her conviction that she was really ‘helping me out' that I didn't even correct her before she walked away.
Ever since that encounter, I've been thinking about that woman. As someone who grew up in rural Virginia surrounded by farms, I have experienced the benefits of modern agricultural practices first hand. When I was growing up, I learned the definition of hard work, getting up before the sun rose to clean out stalls before school, helping friends check on the chicken houses in two feet of snow, and watching farmers take care of their land and their animals every day of the year. So, I know that agriculture has a great story, but I often forget that not everyone was raised on a farm like me.

Today, less than 20% of the population lives in rural areas. That means that 80% of our population lives in urban areas, without proper access to the knowledge of how their food is grown and produced. So, not only is it more important than ever to share the story of agriculture, but it is also equally important that we teach children about where their food comes from, which is a missing link in many of today's formal education efforts. As part of the education outreach efforts provided by the Alliance to Feed the Future, “Lunchbox Lessons: The Journey from Farm to Fork,” educational curricula for K-8th grade students, was created through a grant from Farm Credit, America’s largest agricultural lending cooperative. The comprehensive supplemental curricula guide students through the exciting journey of food from the farm to their forks. Curricula, like this, are necessary to show children the value of American agriculture and all that it is able to provide.

The Alliance to Feed the Future is a group of scientific societies, universities, industry and commodity groups, and nonprofit education and communication organizations committed to raising awareness and improving understanding of the benefits and necessity of modern food production and technology in order to meet global demand. Its 109 members have science-based resources on modern agriculture, food production, and technology that are all available through the Alliance website.

The curricula, as well as these resources, will help educate our youth and give balance to the dialogue about modern food production. With any luck, the next time I walk down the dairy aisle, I will hear people talking about what farmers and ranchers are doing for the good of the American population.