Agriculture Education aff plans/Drafts

Advantage 2 – Agricultural Literacy

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Advantage 2 – Agricultural Literacy

Ag literacy is depressed now

Holden, Forbes contributor, 17

[Ronald, internally cites a new report in the Journal of Agricultural Education, 6-15-17, Forbes, “Do Not Underestimate The Ignorance Of The American Eater,”, accessed 6.27.2017]//TRossow

What we call "agricultural literacy" is at a depressingly low point, according to a scholarly report in the Journal of Agricultural Education. One grade-school respondent, for example, told researchers that "My mommy told me bread comes from an animal. I don't know which animal."

In a front-page story, The Washington Post reports todaythat a high percentage of Americans do not have the most rudimentary understanding of food or agriculture. "Today, many Americans only experience food as an industrial product that doesn’t look much like the original animal or plant," the Post says.

The story reports on an online survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy.

A few examples:

  • 16 million people think chocolate milk comes from brown cows

  • 40% of California 4th-graders (5th and 6th graders, too) didn't know that hamburger comes from cows

  • Orange juice is the nation's most popular "fruit"

  • French fries and potato chips are the nation's most popular "vegetables"

Says the Post: "For decades, observers in agriculture, nutrition and education have griped that many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate. They don’t know where food is grown, how it gets to stores or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it."

There's actually a non-profit, FoodCorps, with a mission to bring more agricultural and nutrition education into elementary schools. But it may be a losing battle, according to Cecily Upton, FoodCorps co-founder. “Right now, we’re conditioned to think that if you need food, you go to the store. Nothing in our educational framework teaches kids where food comes from before that point.”

It wasn't that the kids didn't know, apparently; it's that they couldn't explain it in academic terms ““All informants recalled the names of common foods in raw form and most knew foods were grown on farms or in gardens," the researchers concluded. "They did not...possess schema necessary to articulate an understanding of post-production activities nor the agricultural crop origin of common foods.”

[Note: SBAE = School Based Agricultural Education]

Plan solves -- expanding agricultural education is necessary for literacy, allowing for informed decision making and better ag policies

Kovar, Southwest Minnesota State University Agricultural Education professor, & Ball, University of Missouri Graduate Studies for Agricultural Education and Leadership Director, 13

[Kristin A. & Anna L., Journal of Agricultural Education, Volume 54, Number 1, “Two Decades of Agricultural Literacy Research: A Synthesis of the Literature,”, p. 167-8, accessed 6.27.2017]//TRossow

As our global population grows to a projected nine billion people by 2050, the nonagriculture population has little to no understanding of the complexities involved with sustaining a viable agriculture system” (Doerfert, 2011, p. 8). With a steady increase in the planet’s population, changes affecting agriculture are occurring such as increased production needs, widespread urbanization, and regulation and policy changes. The National Research Agenda for the American Association of Agricultural Education (AAAE) outlines six key research priority areas. Research priority one is “Public and Policy Maker Understanding of Agriculture and Natural Resources” (Doerfert, 2011). The emphasis placed on understanding agriculture in a modern world through research priority one communicates the need for an agriculturally literate society. Agricultural literacy is defined as an “understanding of the food and fiber system [that] includes its history and current economic, social, and environmental significance to all Americans” (National Research Council (NRC), 1988, p. 1). With fewer people directly involved in production agriculture and the complexity of agricultural issues presented to legislatures, the need for an agriculturally literate society is imperative so that informed individuals are able to make educated decisions regarding agriculture (Pope, 1990). The steady rise of urbanization has transferred the future of agriculture to a group of people with an overwhelming lack of support for agricultural issues. Agriculturally literate Americans are more likely to support policies affecting agriculture than those Americans lacking agricultural literacy (Ryan & Lockaby, 1996). Controversy in agriculture has continued to increase over the years due to genetically modified crops, animal rights, and food safety issues (Leising, Igo, Heald, Hubert, Yamamoto, 1998). Organizations and special interest groups have attacked the agricultural industry using the guise of creating an “informed public.” An agriculturally literate population is able to see beyond emotional pleas and make informed decisions on these issues. A society with an understanding of agriculture and current economic, social, and environmental impacts could lessen current challenges facing agriculture through good decision making along with providing the necessary support. Research efforts in agricultural literacy began after a publication by The National Research Council in September of 1988 entitled Understanding Agriculture—New Directions for Education (1988). This report was the result of a study initiated in 1985 due to concerns about the diminishing profitability of American agriculture and the decrease of agricultural education enrollments in secondary schools. At the request of U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and Education, the National Research Council established the Committee on Agricultural Education in Secondary Schools to assess the contributions of agricultural instruction on the economic impact of U.S. agricultural production (Frick, Kahler, & Miller, 1991). Upon publication of Understanding Agriculture—New Directions for Education (1988), research on the concept of agricultural literacy began and has continued throughout the last 23 years. Publication of Understanding Agriculture— New Directions for Education (1988) sparked many changes in the management and operation of agricultural education programs in secondary schools. The publication stressed the establishment of programs in urban and suburban settings as well as a broadening of agricultural instruction. It also motivated a change in exclusivity by removing terms such as vocational, straying from traditional boundaries and attracting students of diverse interests. Aligning curriculum with science-based instruction methods and promoting a goal of increased program ethnic diversity was also encouraged (NRC, 1988). Agriculture as a whole has changed drastically since the publication of Understanding Agriculture—New Directions for Education (1988). The agricultural industry went through extremely trying times and financial crises in the 1980s, as evident in the dramatic rise of interest rates peaking over 20 percent, as well as a high debt-to-asset ratio (Boehlje & Hurt, 2008). Financial issues are still a concern in current times, but with agricultural loans at a much lower 4.5 percent and a significantly lower debtto-asset ratio across the industry, agriculture is in a more secure position than it was in the 1980s. Another change is the rise of corporate farming resulting in fewer people involved in production agriculture. As agriculture changed drastically over the years, one would expect to see a change in how society understands agriculture as well. Over the last two decades, the core concept of agricultural literacy, the understanding of agriculture, has stayed the same. However, understanding agriculture in 1988 and understanding agriculture in 2012 are two vastly different concepts. The change in technology alone warrants a new framework in which to examine agricultural literacy. Other changes include organic farming, ethanol production, international trade, buying local, environmental stewardship and climate, genetically modified organisms, as well as many other trends in agriculture. Agricultural educators designed programs to increase agricultural literacy prior to the publication of Understanding Agriculture—New Directions for Education (1988), but society is still considered agriculturally illiterate. If the concepts of agricultural literacy have evolved, but is being assessed through traditional methods, is the understanding of agriculture truly being evaluated?

The plan encourages critical thinking and personal creation of agricultural knowledge

Rubenstein, University of Georgia College of Agricultural & and environmental Sciences Assistant Professor of Agricultural Leadership education and communication, et al, 16

(E.D., N.W. Conner, University of Nebraska-Lincoln assistant professor Agricultural Leadership education and communication, S.D. Hurst, Agriculture Teacher Osceola Middle School, and A.C. Thoron, University of Florida Institute of food and Agricultural studies Assistant Professor of Agricultural Education and Communication, September 2016, North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Journal, “A Philosophical Examination of School-based Agricultural Education and NBC's Education Nation.” ProQuest, Volume 60, Issue 3, Accessed 6/30/17, GDI - JMo)

Teaching Methods/Approaches

SBAE has a tradition of utilizing teaching methods that support problem-based learning (Phipps et al., 2008). Teaching methods/approaches that have been categorized within problem-based learning include problem-solving, inquiry-based learning and experiential learning (Eggen and Kauchak, 2001). Teaching methods within the constructivist theory allow instructors to provide students with educational experiences that allow learners to construct their own knowledge in a way that encourages critical thinking and development of their own thoughts and opinions (Fosnot, 1996). The central tenet of constructivism posited that the learner creates personal knowledge and meaning based on their personal experiences (Steffe and Gale, 1995). Constructivism is divided into a continuum, which includes cognitive constructivism, social constructivism and radical constructivism (Doolittle and Camp, 1999). According to Doolittle and Camp (1999), Career and Technical Education aligns neatly with cognitive constructivism and adheres to the central tenets that knowledge is actively constructed and that cognition is a process that is continually evolving (Von Glasersfeld, 1984, 1998).

Ag literacy solves extinction - key to global growth and food security

***NOTE -- gendered language

Malloy, Robeson County Center Extension Agent, Agriculture - Field Crops & Jones, Robeson County Center County Extension Support Specialist, Agriculture and FCS, 16

[Mac Malloy and Jessie Jones, 7-25-16, Robeson County Center, “The Importance of Agricultural Literacy,’, accessed 6.27.2017]//TRossow

So why the big issue? All citizens need to understand the economic, social, and environmental significance of agriculture. Food production is the basis of all civilization. We need a well-educated public to contribute to the success of a safe and affordable food system that will attempt to feed the expected nine billion people in this world by 2050. Though only a small percentage of our population is actively producing our food, we all have a responsibility as voters that affect agricultural policy related to trade, employment, and environmental issues. We also need policy makers who are agriculturally literate to create responsible regulation that supports such an important industry in our global economy.

U.S. agriculture also plays a major role in supporting other sectors of our economy. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, one in three U.S. farm acres is planted for export. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service, in 2014, each dollar of agricultural exports stimulated another $1.27 in business activity. That means the $150 billion of agricultural exports in the 2014 calendar year produced an additional $190.6 billion in economic activity for a total output of $340.6 billion. Agricultural exports required 1.13 million full-time civilian jobs, which included 808,000 jobs in the nonfarm sector the same year.

Society’s major challenge ahead is determining how to continue to feed a growing population on less land and with less resources. Maybe it’s time we focus more on agricultural education in our school systems to create a more literate public to meet this challenge. The National Academy of Science, Agricultural Education Committee, has stated that agriculture is too important a topic to be taught to only a relatively small percentage of students considering careers in agriculture and pursuing vocational agriculture studies.  Some have suggested all high school graduates need to take at least one agricultural course to gain a basic understanding. I guess it all depends on how important we think agricultural literacy is to all mankind.

We have two impacts –

1. Food insecurity causes war

Koren, University of Minnesota Political Science PhD Candidate, & Bagozzi, Delaware University Political Science Assistant Professor, 16

[Ore Koren is a PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota in Political Science and a former Jennings Randolph Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace. October 2016, Benjamin E. Bagozzi is an Assistant Professor of Political Science & International Relations at the University of Delaware. Food Security, “From global to local, food insecurity is associated with contemporary armed conflicts,” Volume 8, Issue 5, pp 999–1010, on Springer, accessed 6.30.2017]//TRossow

This study adopts an economic perspective on food security to explain this variation in the concentration of social conflict. From the demand side, violent conflict is most likely to revolve primarily around access to food sources. When food insecurity produces higher demands for food, these demands will directly compel groups and individuals to seek out and fight over existing food resources, rather than leading these actors to pursue and fight over geographic areas that lack any (or have very little) agricultural resources. Thus, access to croplands and food is a necessary condition for food insecurity-induced conflict, which is confirmed in the cropland analyses presented here. From the supply side, and within those areas that do already offer access to agriculture and/or food, conflict is most likely to occur in regions that offer lower levels of food availability, or insufficient food supplies. This is because lower food availability (or supplies) in these contexts directly implies higher levels of resource scarcity, which can engender social grievances, and ultimately, social and political conflict (Brinkman and Hendrix 2011; Hendrix and Brinkman 2013). More broadly, several causal mechanisms could plausibly link food security and social conflict.

For one, conflict in regions with higher food access and lower availability might arise as a principal outcome of food insecurity. This approach is most directly in tune with the body of research concerned with the resource scarcity-based security implications of climate change (e.g. Miguel et al. 2004; Burke et al. 2009; O’Loughlin et al. 2012), as well as with broader studies of conflict dynamics and food security in both rural and urban contexts (Brinkman and Hendrix 2011; Hendrix and Brinkman 2013; Messer and Cohen 2006). From this perspective, individuals and groups actively fight with one another due to food insecurity-induced grievances, which may manifest in groups’ attempts to overthrow existing political structures, or in these actors’ efforts to more directly seize and control available (but scarce) agricultural resources in an effort to better guarantee long-term food security for their constituents. If future global projections for population growth, consumption, and climate change hold true, then these dynamics suggest that incidences of violent conflict over food scarcity and food insecurity may increase as individuals and groups fight over a continuously shrinking pool of resources, including food.

A second mechanism involves the existence of logistic support in conflict-prone regions, or lack thereof. Throughout history and well into the nineteenth century, armies living off the land have been a regular characteristic of warfare. The utilization of motorized transport vehicles and airlifts has significantly reduced the need of modern militaries to rely on local populations for support, at least among modernized, highly technological militaries (Kress 2002, 12–13). However, given the bureaucratic and economic capabilities required to maintain such systems, the majority of state and non-state armed groups in the developing world are still unlikely to be supported by well-developed logistic supply chains (Henk and Rupiya 2001). Taking into account the consistent relationship between economic welfare and conflict (Hegre and Sambanis 2006; Fearon and Laitin 2003), unsupported warring groups on all sides of a conflict may move into regions that offer more access to cropland in order to forage and pillage to support themselves, which in turn produces higher incidences of hostilities, especially if there is not much food per person available within these fertile regions. Hence, violent conflict in this case is not the direct result of food insecurity, but rather is shaped by food insecurity concerns.

The identified relationships between food security and conflict are robust across numerous alternative model specifications, and imply an independent effect of food insecurity in shaping conflict dynamics and conflict risk. Especially when considered alongside current, and projected, climatic and political-economic conditions, this linkage suggests that countries could see an increase in localized conflict worldwide in the coming years. However, this anticipated trend should be considered with caution for several key reasons.

Specifically, food shortages guarantee the conflict is uniquely severe and drawn out

Simmons, Wilson Center guest contributor, 13

[Emmy, September 3, 2013, New Security Beat, “Harvesting Peace: Food security, Conflict, and Cooperation”,, accessed: 6/30/17, SK]

Deaths directly attributable to war appear to be declining, but war and other kinds of conflict continue to take a toll on human health, often through food insecurity. Conflict induces the affected populations to adopt coping strategies that invariably reduce their food consumption and nutrition. Poor nutritional status in individuals of any age makes them more susceptible to illness and death.  But the acute food insecurity caused by conflict has especially potent and long-lasting effects on children. Children whose nutrition is compromised by food insecurity before they are two years old suffer irreversible harm to their cognitive and physical capacities.  Analysis of the causes of conflict and war has been an area of growing academic interest. Both theoretical work and empirical analyses substantiate the many ways in which food insecurity can trigger, fuel, or sustain conflict. Unanticipated food price rises frequently provide a spark for unrest. Conflict among groups competing to control the natural resources needed for food production can catalyze conflict. Social, political, or economic inequities that affect people’s food security can exacerbate grievances and build momentum toward conflict. Incentives to join or support conflicts and rebellions stem from a number of causes, of which the protection of food security is just one. Food insecurity may also help to sustain conflict. If post-conflict recovery proves difficult and food insecurity remains high, incentives for reigniting conflict may be strengthened.   Given the complexity of factors underlying food security, however, we do not yet understand what levels or aspects of food insecurity are most likely, in what circumstances, to directly contribute to or cause conflict. More explicit integration of food security variables into theories of conflict could help inform external interventions aimed at mitigating food insecurity and preventing conflict.   The high human and economic costs of conflict and food insecurity already provide substantial incentives for international humanitarian and development organizations to intervene in order to alleviate food insecurity in fragile states and conflict-affected societies. Experience suggests, however, that effective efforts to address food insecurity in these situations may require external actors to reconsider the ways in which they intervene.

2. Growth is necessary to eliminate the incentive for war

Gartzke, University of California Political Science Associate Professor, 11

[Erik, associate Professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego PhD from Iowa and B.A. from UCSF, CATO, "SECURITY IN AN INSECURE WORLD", accessed 7.1.2017]//TRossow

It would have been much easier for my commentary to be colorful were the essay “A More Secure World” fatally flawed, but Andrew Mack has things about right. The world has become more peaceful, particularly in recent decades and in certain regions. Let me try to sharpen or emphasize a few points. I would also like to try to dive a bit deeper into the big “why” question. We all want to know whether this peace is temporary or perhaps perpetual.

A Few More Pictures of the Peace

It will help to begin with a few longer-term images of conflict trends. The graphs Mack provided are indicative, but we cannot really be sure a trend is a trend by looking at the bit that is supposed to be the anomaly. Below is a graph of the number of militarized interstate disputes—conflicts involving militarized threats, displays, or force up to and including major war between at least two countries—per year adjusted for the number of country pairs in the world. After an unusually violent period at the beginning of the 20th century, peace has begun to take hold. The trend Mack identifies is not only present post–Cold War, but has been a part of the modern world since at least the end of the Second World War. Countries are fighting each other less, and at all levels of conflict intensity.

It could also be that the last two centuries are the anomaly. To look back further, we need to focus on Europe, where data is slightly better. The next figure details conflict in Europe between 1400 and 2000. These data come from Peter Brecke. Warfare here represents at least 32 conflict-caused deaths, with each tiny square detailing the number of conflicts in a given decade. There is quite a bit of “noise” in the amount of conflict by decade, but clearly, too, there is a prevailing trend. These results are generally consistent with findings using other compilations of conflict behavior. Conflicts decrease in Europe from an average of 30 per decade at the beginning of the fifteenth century to about 10 per decade in 2000.

What is Going On?

So peace has broken out, at least in some places. Yet peace has been sought so earnestly, for such a long time, and with so little demonstrable success that it would be foolish, even irresponsible, for scholars to pretend that evidence alone is sufficient to have confidence in optimistic conclusions. History has observed other periods of unusual peace (there is an interesting set of studies showing that the Cold War peace was not statistically abnormal). As a matter of practical contingency, even in Europe war could recur at any time in large part because there is nothing in an anarchical world that prevents it from happening. In the absence a compelling explanation for why many nations are, and will remain at peace, we must allow for the possibility that macro-historical tendencies toward war will recur.

So what is happening? My answer is similar to Mack’s, but I will pose it in a slightly different way. First, let us think about why anyone (individuals, groups, nations) resorts to violence. War is costly and, in nominal terms, inefficient. Blood, effort, and treasure are expended in contests that might well be used in other ways. Yet historically, these actors return to violence because it offers the potential to accomplish ends for which they strive.

Conflict has utility in politics for one of two reasons. Either actors want physical, tangible stuff (populations, minerals, or territory) that they cannot all have, or they want intangible states of the world (policies, prerogatives, political concessions) that they may not be able to share. Think of the difference here in terms of the Cold War, where opponents wanted to impose a state of the world on one another—the United States and the Soviet Union had policy differences but did not want to physically control one another’s territory—and a war like the First World War, where opponents had real, tangible territorial objectives.

A second, separate question, is what actors are willing and able to do about their conflicts. Individuals are much more likely to act violently against a neighbor, since they are close and there are many opportunities to interact. Similarly, neighboring states are historically much more likely to fight. At the same time, alternatives are important in terms of whether opportunity and willingness to fight result in violence. I may dispute my neighbor in court instead of with my fists, if this is an option. Nations can occasionally work out differences peacefully when there are dispute mechanisms that accomplish “warfare by proxy.”

Almost as informative as the decline in warfare has been where this decline is occurring. Traditionally, nations were constrained by opportunity. Most nations did not fight most others because they could not physically do so. Powerful nations, in contrast, tended to fight more often, and particularly to fight with other powerful states. Modern “zones of peace” are dominated by powerful, militarily capable countries. These countries could fight each other, but are not inclined to do so. At the same time, weaker developing nations that continue to exercise force in traditional ways are incapable of projecting power against the developed world, with the exception of unconventional methods, such as terrorism.

The world is thus divided between those who could use force but prefer not to (at least not against each other) and those who would be willing to fight but lack the material means to fight far from home. Warfare in the modern world has thus become an activity involving weak (usually neighboring) nations, with intervention by powerful (geographically distant) states in a policing capacity. So, the riddle of peace boils down to why capable nations are not fighting each other. There are several explanations, as Mack has pointed out.

The easiest, and I think the best, explanation has to do with an absence of motive. Modern states find little incentive to bicker over tangible property, since armies are expensive and the goods that can be looted are no longer of considerable value. Ironically, this is exactly the explanation that Norman Angell famously supplied before the World Wars. Yet, today the evidence is abundant that the most prosperous, capable nations prefer to buy rather than take. Decolonization, for example, divested European powers of territories that were increasingly expensive to administer and which contained tangible assets of limited value.

Of comparable importance is the move to substantial consensus among powerful nations about how international affairs should be conducted. The great rivalries of the twentieth century were ideological rather than territorial. These have been substantially resolved, as Francis Fukuyama has pointed out. The fact that remaining differences are moderate, while the benefits of acting in concert are large (due to economic interdependence in particular) means that nations prefer to deliberate rather than fight. Differences remain, but for the most part the capable countries of the world have been in consensus, while the disgruntled developing world is incapable of acting on respective nations’ dissatisfaction.

While this version of events explains the partial peace bestowed on the developed world, it also poses challenges in terms of the future. The rising nations of Asia in particular have not been equal beneficiaries in the world political system. These nations have benefited from economic integration, and this has proved sufficient in the past to pacify them. The question for the future is whether the benefits of tangible resources through markets are sufficient to compensate the rising powers for their lack of influence in the policy sphere. The danger is that established powers may be slow to accommodate or give way to the demands of rising powers from Asia and elsewhere, leading to divisions over the intangible domain of policy and politics. Optimists argue that at the same time that these nations are rising in power, their domestic situations are evolving in a way that makes their interests more similar to the West. Consumerism, democracy, and a market orientation all help to draw the rising powers in as fellow travelers in an expanding zone of peace among the developed nations. Pessimists argue instead that capabilities among the rising powers are growing faster than their affinity for western values, or even that fundamental differences exist among the interests of first- and second-wave powers that cannot be bridged by the presence of market mechanisms or McDonald’s restaurants.

If the peace observed among western, developed nations is to prove durable, it must be because warfare proves futile as nations transition to prosperity. Whether this will happen depends on the rate of change in interests and capabilities, a difficult thing to judge. We must hope that the optimistic view is correct, that what ended war in Europe can be exported globally. Prosperity has made war expensive, while the fruits of conflict, both in terms of tangible and intangible spoils have declined in value. These forces are not guaranteed to prevail indefinitely. Already, research on robotic warfare promises to lower the cost of conquest. If in addition, fundamental differences among capable communities arise, then warfare over ideology or policy can also be resurrected. We must all hope that the consolidating forces of prosperity prevail, that war becomes a durable anachronism.

Advantage 3 – Small Farms

The US farm sector is consolidating now -- expanding agricultural education is critical to preserve small family farms

Mercier, former Senate Agriculture Committee Chief Economist & Farm Journal Foundation Director of Policy and Advocacy, 15

[Stephanie, July 2015, AGree, “Food and Agricultural Education in the United States”,, p. 1, accessed 6-26-17, AFB]

Food and agricultural education in the United States has changed over the nation’s history, starting in the 18th century as a means of providing farmers with the basic skills they needed to prosper on their farms. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, traditional agricultural education was focused on increasing production to sustain a growing and increasingly urban and industrial population. Today, the range of issues and subject matters important to agriculture has broadened, and the educational system to provide skilled individuals to fill the needed occupations has scrambled to keep pace. The crucial areas of expertise now encompass not just those trained in production agriculture but also food and nutrition, natural resources, and the know-how to maintain and improve the physical and scientific infrastructure that underlies modern agriculture, including an increased role for information technology with the emergence of “big ag data.” For the U.S. food and agricultural sector to be in a position to compete in the global markets of the 21st century, the food and agricultural education system must be expanded and strengthened to address the challenges and opportunities facing the global food system. The world will likely become a much more politically stable place if we can make a further dent in the number of hungry people, estimated at 805 million people in 2014 by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. This paper examines the evolution of U.S. food and agricultural education over time, its current structure, and how it must adapt to meet the challenges facing the sector.

Modern food and agricultural education takes many forms, ranging from children in grade school classrooms learning from “Agriculture in the Classroom” modules to undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in Colleges of Agriculture at land-grant universities and other schools with agricultural programs (such as Texas Tech and Southern Illinois Universities) to agricultural leadership programs available for adult professionals in farming and agribusiness in 42 states.1 This paper focuses primarily on food and agricultural education provided to students in elementary and secondary schools around the country (K-12), both inside and outside the classroom, and in community college programs. These programs are a means of exposing young people to careers in agriculture, and they are also a critical delivery mechanism to educate the general population about agriculture and food systems. The subjects covered in these educational settings have broadened in recent years to include health and nutrition and natural resource issues. The need for better knowledge in these areas has arisen as the general public has become more conscious of the health impacts of the food they eat and natural resource constraints such as water and arable land.

Today there are two primary reasons to support U.S. food and agricultural education activities for young people. First, we need to build a cadre of next generation farmers and ranchers as well as career seekers interested in food and agriculture. The 2012 Census of Agriculture reports that the average age of principal operators on U.S. farms is 58.3 years of age, with only 8.1 percent of all operators below the age of 35. U.S. agriculture would likely continue to produce abundant amounts of food and fiber if older farmers were not replaced as they retire, but the farm size composition of the sector could become further concentrated. To ensure that the social and economic stabilizing role of family farming is preserved, the U.S. government has for many decades taken steps to provide access to the two most important things a young farmer needs to get started: 1) adequate capital to buy or lease equipment and land to farm, and 2) adequate education so young people and other new entrants will have the know-how to farm. Today’s farmers must have an expanded technological skill set—for example, if they want to maintain their own farm equipment they need to have computer programming skills as well as be handy with a wrench and a screwdriver.

Small farms can succeed -- but more young people in the industry is needed

McAleer, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 12

[Patricia, Summer 2012, Small Farms Digest, “Getting Started in Farming”, Volume 15, pg. 2-4, accessed 7.1.2017]//TRossow

Many people are considering farming or ranching as a new occupation these days, and for various reasons. Some plan to enjoy their retirement in a rural setting, perhaps increasing their satisfaction by growing a few crops or tending a few animals. Others hope to become more traditional farmers, supporting their families through production agriculture. Some of them are young, perhaps with little or no farming background. Others may have waited and saved for years to afford this opportunity. Whatever motivation, no one takes the decision lightly. Like any other new business venture, starting a farm or ranch involves a great deal of thought and planning. This edition of the Small Farm Digest lays out key issues that must be considered, identifying challenges and offering examples of how these challenges can be met.

If you are interested in becoming a farmer or rancher, you are certainly not alone. A 2007 agricultural survey estimated that of the approximately 3 million U.S. agricultural operators1 , more than 650,000 were beginning farmers or ranchers (BFRs). This is a diverse group. It is often assumed that BFRs are young, but recent data show only about 16% of them are under 35, compared to 1% of established farmers and ranchers (EFRs.) 50% are between 35-50, 22% are between 50 and 64, and 12% are 65 or older.

Most BFR’s are men, but women are more likely to be principal operators on beginning operations than on established ones (15% versus 9%.) Pennsylvania State University professor Rachel Unger notes that despite ‘significant barriers to success for new and beginning women farmers, the number of female principal operators in the U.S. increased almost 30% between 2002 and 2007.’ Recent data show little difference in racial or ethnic backgrounds between BFRs and EFRs, but more detailed information may be available from the 2012 Ag. Census.

As with any new venture, beginning farms and ranches tend to be smaller than established operations (174 acres on average compared to 461 acres for EFRs) but there is wide variation across the country. Most BFR operations are less productive and profitable than more established ones. For example, in 2010 family farms with gross sales of $10,000 to $249,999 (i.e. excluding the smallest operations) accounted for 17% of the value of U.S. agricultural production while all BFR operations were responsible for 10% of the value of production by family farms.

This is not surprising. It may take several years to generate a significant harvest (think of tree crops) and in 2010 nearly 32% of Beginning Farms were ‘without production.’ Also, as noted above, many BFRs focus on rural retirement with little interest in farming or ranching for profit.

How likely are you to succeed as a BFR? A 2007 ARMS Survey analysis of linked Census data showed that 45% of farms and ranches started between 1978 and 1982 survived the first 5-9 years. 19% were still in business by 1997. The failure rate is comparable to that of other new businesses. Analysis also showed that the longer an operation is in business, the greater the chance that it will survive. More information is in the ERS report: Understanding U.S. Farm Exits.

There are various reasons why new enterprises fail, but finding good land is a key challenge. Unlike established operators, many BFRs buy most of the land they operate, and carry a heavy load of debt. Kathy Ruhf’s article, How Will the Next Generation of Farmers Acquire Land to Farm or Ranch, discusses the availability and high cost of land, and lays out sound alternatives to land purchase. In Starting a Small Farm, Rachel Pollock describes how leasing very small urban plots often helps establish immigrant farmers.

Some BFRs do acquire land within the family, by inheritance or by working with existing family members. Professor Duffy’s article, Inheriting a Farm, not only clarifies issues related to inheritance but is also a useful guide on what to look for when any piece of land is being considered for a farm or ranch. Similarly, in On the Home Farm he gives a thorough discussion of issues that must be considered when family members or any group of operators decide to farm or ranch together.

Significant capital is essential when starting a new farm or ranch, not only to find land but for other investments such as farm machinery, and as a steady supply of operating capital. Few new operations generate much cash in the early years, however, and many BFRs use their off-farm income to subsidize the farm or ranch, hoping it will eventually become profitable enough to be their sole source of income. Professor Duffy’s article PartTime or Small Farms discusses this approach in some detail. He also raises a concern that young BFRs may skimp on health insurance in the interim.

The 2008 Farm Bill introduced or expanded several opportunities to help BFRs. In particular, USDA’s Farm Service Agency offers considerable support. James Radintz’ article explains the kinds of loans available, addresses eligibility, and clarifies steps BFRs must follow. See also the article on U.S. Farm Bill Resources and Programs for Beginning Farmers by S. Ritchie and S. Sureshwaran in Choices Magazine.

Individual Development Accounts also help BFRs save and increase their own savings. Molly Bloom’s article on California Farmlink’s 20 years of experience shows how these accounts work and how effective they can be.

* BFRs = beginning farmers or ranchers

*EFRs = established farmers or ranchers

Industrial farms are collapsing biodiversity now - only a shift towards family farming solves

*multiple warrants - monocultures, pesticides, diets

*A2 - industrial farms key to food

Kravitz, Food journalist, 16

[Melissa, writer in New York City who writes about food and culture for First We Feast, Thrillist, Elite Daily, Edible, and other publications, internally cites American Farmland Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes environmentally sound farming practices, Severine von Tscharner Fleming, founder of the Greenhorns, a non-profit group working to support a new generation of young farmers, a 2012 United Nations report, "Food and Agriculture: The Future of Sustainability, and the US Department of Agriculture.”, 10-12-16, Alternet, “The Many Ways Farmer's Markets and Small Family Farms Are Essential to Our Future,”, accessed 6.27.2017]//TRossow

Ending food insecurity may be as easy as supporting your local farmers market. In advance of World Food Dayon October 16, American Farmland Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes environmentally sound farming practices, named its top farmers markets in the nation, many of which are based in warmer southern states like Florida and Virginia. But no matter what region you live in, farmers markets and small farms are essential to community health.

Small family farms have been shown to be the most effective, per acre, at ecological stewardship, biodiversity and production of nutrition,” said Severine von Tscharner Fleming, founder of the Greenhorns, a non-profit group working to support a new generation of young farmers. “Small family farms employ more workers, supporting the local economy and rural prosperityand can adapt and change with the market demands or shifts in climate," she argues.

Rather than massive monoculture farms, which may vend millions of pounds of corn to be turned into animal feed or sugary cereal, smaller farms grow a variety of productsand it’s in the farmers’ best interest to treat their land sustainably (i.e., not decimate the soil with toxic pesticides and fertilizers), as well as treat their animals with respect and compassion.

While factory farms may produce a higher quantity of food, the "more is better" logic is not particularly relevant to our public health concerns—or our economy. “The current ‘more production’ orientation is so outdated and unresponsive to our current needs that it is causing its own problems, particularly for our environment and natural resources,” according to a 2012 United Nations report, "Food and Agriculture: The Future of Sustainability." The report suggests a significant investment in small- and medium-sized farms to improve the overall health and viability of our food system worldwide.

By not using massive industrial farming and irrigation equipment, small farms better maintain the quality of our soil, air and water, which, from a public health standpoint, is pretty essential to our daily well-being. In contrast, explained von Tscharner Fleming, "large scale agribusiness landscapes not only degrade soil and water quality in the short term, reducing the biological health of the soil ecosystem, but also make them much more vulnerable to disease and drought, to crisis and collapse."

Moreover, small farmers can have closer connections to particular needs of a community and "have an investment in community health," said Juliet Sims, 
program manager at the Prevention Institute, a community health nonprofit based in Oakland, California. "We see support for small and mid-size farmers to engage in sustainable food production as a critical component of a sustainable food system that allows us to be food secure in the future."

The USDA’s most recent Scientific Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisorycommittee emphasizes the importance of fresh, unprocessed whole foods in American diets. "A diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health-promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet,” the report states.

The key to reducing greenhouse gases and improving our overall health with better food options? You guessed it: Small farms. In its 100-plus pages of research, the USDA reiterates the importance of local agriculture to improve long-term food security. “Access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food is an essential element of food security,” the report states. “A sustainable diet ensures this access for both the current population and future.”

And this isn’t just a research theory—supporting local agriculture works.

“Farmers markets and farm stands can really improve the diets of community members who are food insecure,” Sims said. For example, in 2015 the California Nutrition Incentives Act created financial incentives for CalFresh (the equivalent of SNAP benefits) to match dollars spent on produce at farmers markets. Every CalFresh dollar spent on produce earns a matching dollar to spend on produce, which has “dramatically increased people’s intake of fruits and vegetables, often produced more sustainably and locally,” Sims explained. In Davis, the Market Match program has increased farmers market purchases by almost 300 percent, building the local economy while simultaneously improving the health of the community.

Those not part of CalFresh or SNAP programs can support local agriculture by shopping at farmers markets, or subscribing to CSAs and local farm cooperatives. Even people in urban settings can get in on small farm purchasing, with services like FreshDirect delivering CSA boxes directly to New York City stoops. Sites like Overstock have also started delivering locally grown produce, and countless local initiatives by region bring the farmers market online and make it easier than ever to support local farms.

"We need to protect our remaining small farms, as teaching facilities, as places for ecological education and recreation, as reserves of biodiversity and rare animal breeds, as functional farm systems as a buffer against urban growth,” said von Tscharner Fleming.

Small farms sustain agrobiodiversity -- that contributes to both food security and forest diversity

Nowakowski, former National Geographic graphics reporter, 16

[Kelsey, 11/10/16, National Geographic, “On Tiny Island Farms, Biodiversity Is a Way of Life”,, accessed: 7/1/17, KW]

Growing a variety of plants like the Jamaican farmers do contributes to food security by maintaining agricultural biological diversity—known as agrobiodiversity for short. Protecting that diversity is becoming more difficult, though, since most of the world’s cultivated land is dedicated to growing the handful of staples we eat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 75 percent of the world’s food comes from only 12 plant species.

“In rural Jamaica, small farms blend in with the forests. In that variety lays the protection of biodiversity. The farmers know that to keep the soil healthy and food production up, they need the wild trees and native shrubs,” says study co-author Ina Vandebroek of the New York Botanical Garden.

Agrobiodiversity can ensure there are many food source options in case something goes wrong with one. The Irish Potato famine of the mid 1850s, which was caused by a blight that devastated the island’s main food source, is the classic example of something going wrong. More recent examples abound: Bananas are cloned (See The Miracle of the Modern Banana), as is agave, leaving both vulnerable to pests or viruses.

Biodiversity loss is on the brink - but it’s not too late to solve

Eurasia Review, independent journal, 17

[Eurasia Review, independent journal that provides news and analysis on world events that affect Eurasia and Afro-Eurasia, internally cites Forest Isbell, of University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences, McGill biologist Andrew Gonzalez and coauthors from eight countries on four continents.  June 2, 2017, “Report Says We’re On Brink Of Mass Extinction, But Still Time To Act,”, accessed 7.1.2017]//TRossow

Imagine being a scuba diver and leaving your oxygen tank behind you on a dive. Or a mountain climber and abandoning your ropes. Or a skydiver and shedding your parachute. That’s essentially what humans are doing as we expand our footprint on the planet without paying adequate attention to impacts on other living things, according to researchers from the University of Minnesota and McGill University. Because we depend on plants and animals for food, shelter, clean air and water and more, anything we do that makes life harder for them eventually comes around to make life harder for us as well.

But, reporting with colleagues from around the world in this week’s special biodiversity issue of the scientific journal Nature, the researchers also note that all is not lost, and offer specific strategies for turning that tide before it’s too late.

Forest Isbell, of University of Minnesota’s College of Biological Sciences, McGill biologist Andrew Gonzalez and coauthors from eight countries on four continents provided an overview of what we know and still need to learn about the impacts of habitat destruction, overhunting, the introduction of nonnative species, and other human activities on biodiversity.

In addition, they summarized previous research on how biodiversity loss affects nature and the benefits nature provides — for example, a recent study showing that reduced diversity in tree species in forests is linked to reduced wood production. Synthesizing findings of other studies, they estimated that the value humans derive from biodiversity is 10 times what every country in the world put together spends on conservation todaysuggesting that additional investments in protecting species would not only reduce biodiversity loss but provide economic benefit, too.

Human activities are driving the sixth mass extinction in the history of life on Earth, despite the fact that diversity of life enhances many benefits people reap from nature, such as wood from forests, livestock forage from grasslands, and fish from oceans and streams,” said Isbell, who served as lead author the paper. “It would be wise to invest much more in conserving biodiversity.”

“Biodiversity plays a big role in the UN Sustainable Development Goals that aim to ensure human wellbeing in the long-term” said Gonzalez. “Attaining the UN SDGs will require action to conserve and restore biodiversity from local to global scales”.

Biodiversity is intrinsically valuable and prevents extinction -- it’s not too late but changing agricultural practices is required

Hicks, Eco-Business Deputy Editor, 17

[Robin, internally cites Marco Lambertini, director-general of environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature, also known as WWF. June 21, 2017, Eco-Business, “Why biodiversity loss is scarier than climate change,”, accessed 7.1.2017]//TRossow

While the plight of tigers, sharks and rhinos may be sad, does it really matter to mankind if these species go extinct? Should we care if the only way to see these beasts is in a zoo or aquarium, or if they go the way of the Dodo?

Preserving these species is not only in the interests of zoologists and animal lovers, it is essential to safeguard the future of our own, says Marco Lambertini, director-general of environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature, also known as WWF.

Talking to Eco-Business on the sidelines of Ecosperity, an annual sustainability conference held by Singapore investment firm Temasek, Lambertini pointed out that nature has an intrinsic, intangible value that cannot be measured.

A price tag cannot be placed on the feeling of wonder on seeing, say, an eagle soaring over a hillside, or the sense of calm one feels when strolling through a forest, although “forest bathing” - the act of simply being in a forest - has been a recognised healing method in Japan since the 1980s.

Calculations can be made about the value of individual animals, for example, an African elephant might be worth around US$2 million a year in tourism value, and a whale shark in the Philippines a similar amount, estimates Lambertini. But it is harder to work out how much an ecosystem is worth.

A forest is not just a piece of greenery,” says Lambertini. “It’s a network of animals and plants all working together to make the forest a living system that produces oxygen, regulates water and retains the soil for us. It’s hard to put a price on that.”

The cost of loss

Although it is more difficult to work out how many species of plants and animals there are on Earth than stars in the sky, says the World Resources Institute, the rate of species loss can be more reliably measured.

It is estimated that 150 to 200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal go extinct every 24 hoursThis, Lambertini observes, is almost 1,000 times the natural rate of extinction, and the fastest rate of species loss since the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

WWF’s Living Planet report from 2016 showed that of 3,706 wildlife populations around the world, 60 per cent have disappeared in the last 40 years.

We need to work out the invisible value of nature,” says Lambertini. “We cannot have a prosperous society in a depleted planet.”

The numbers behind the impact of this decline are stark. According to a report from the United Nations-backed Business and Sustainable Development Commission launched at Ecosperity, biodiversity loss in Asia could reduce gross domestic product globally by 18 per cent by 2050, up from just over 3 per cent in 2008.

The reason for the decline is that, for most of the two million years that humankind has been around, “we’ve taken nature for granted. Fruits were there to be picked, fish to be fished, game to be hunted,” says Lambertini.

“Only in the last 50 years, because of the demographic and technological boom, we’ve realised that these resources are not infinite. Using them up will massively affect economic and social stability.”

People and companies must go from being “grabbers” of natural resources, to being stewards and managers of nature. “That’s a big cultural transition to make, but it’s not easy,” he says.

Paying for ecosystems

A study in 2014 by ecologists found that the services provided by nature, such as trees filtering air and water, plants storing carboninsects pollinating crops and the mental health benefits of green spaces, were worth US$125 trillion to US$145 trillion a year. The study also found that losses from land use change amounted to US$4 to US$20 trillion a year.

The services provided by nature are now increasingly being valued because they are becoming less reliable and less available, says Lambertini. The deforested areas of Sumatra in Indonesia, for example, are experiencing much less precipitation than they used to, because the forest has gone, he notes.

Even mining companies are starting to invest in conserving forests upstream because they are such big users of water.

But the agricultural sector, which uses 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water, is far behind, and moving much slower towards recognising its own dependence on nature, notes Lambertini.

We need to be able to plan agriculture in a way that incentivises high yields instead of just using more land,” says Lambertini, whose comments came on the same day that the chairman of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board, Thomas Lembong, told delegates at Ecosperity that years of deforestation and haze had been caused by low productivity on the part of Indonesia’s agroforestry industry.

We need to produce more food with less of everything; water, land and energy. We need to get the right balance of where we produce and where we protect,” says Lambertini. “The forest provides water regulation, pollination and local microclimate and precipitation services.”

Cities depend on the water regulated by forests, and Lambertini points to Singapore as a country whose water supply is reliant on the Central Catchment Reserve, a small patch of forest surrounding a lake that also holds the richest of Singapore’s biodiversity.

“The reason there are still trees in the middle of the island is because of their function to regulate water for the city. Municipalities are beginning to preserve forest areas because of the services they provide,” he says, at a time when Singapore’s remaining forests - which make up just three per cent of the city-state’s land area - face ongoing threats from construction and development.

Reason to be optimistic

Though ecosystems face increasing pressure from human development, the head of an organisation with 5 million followers says he is optimistic.

“It couldn’t be a better time. I’ve never seen a stronger response to the ecological crisis than now, both from government and business,” says Lambertini, who has been a conservationist for the last 45 years, taking the top job at WWF three years ago, moving across from BirdLife International, where he was chief executive.

But there is a long way to go. While climate change has entered the mainstream of political thinking and is now used by corporates to assess business risk, biodiversity is treated as largely an irrelevance.

Biodiversity loss is even scarier than climate change.

“It’s extraordinary how climate change has in the last 10 years surged to top of the political agenda and is used in business risk assessment. With the [Donald] Trump announcement about [the United States pulling out of the] Paris [Agreement on climate change], 80 per cent of big businesses in the US stood up and complained,” says Lambertini.

“Climate change is now considered a serious issue and a dangerous issue, for society, for business, for everything.”

“With climate change we’re not there yet, but we’re on the right track. With biodiversity, we’re nowhere near,” he says.

“The concept [of biodiversity] is too remote, too esoteric, too intangible. People don’t connect. And yet people are sad when they hear about extinctions, or the decline of animal populations, or deforestation - but they’re not worried.”

That’s the difference with climate change, says Lambertini, while acknowledging that the two issues are often interlinked, for instance climate change leads to coral bleaching, which in turns leads to biodiversity loss.

We need to make biodiversity loss and nature loss a serious issue, an issue that people are afraid of,” he says. “We are scared of climate change, but the loss of nature is “even more scary,” says Lambertini.

If we lose the oxygen that comes from the ocean and the forest, then we really are doomed. There’s no doubt about that.”

The struggle for environmentalists, says Lambertini, is to find ways to connect biodiversity - the foundation of ecosystems - to the services people enjoy every day.

“That’s the challenge. I am optimistic that we won’t ignore that challenge, and make nature as a big an issue as climate change.”



The United States federal government should establish a Perkins Plus program, modeled after the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, that offers additional funds to agricultural education programs deemed to be top performers by the United States Department of Agriculture.


The plan is necessary to expand the scope of agricultural education in the US

Mercier, former Senate Agriculture Committee Chief Economist & Farm Journal Foundation Director of Policy and Advocacy, 15

[Stephanie, July 2015, AGree, “Food and Agricultural Education in the United States”,, p. 15, accessed 6-26-17, AFB]

Rewarding Effective Programs

While state departments of education submit data on student performance in CTE programs to the U.S. Department of Education under the Perkins Act, there is little incentive for school districts to be identified as top performers because the funding available is provided under formulas at both the federal and state levels. It might be useful to consider establishing a ‘Perkins Plus’ program that offers additional funds to programs deemed to be top performers to help them expand their reach, either using the performance data already mandated to make the awards or setting up a separate competition. Because of current constraints on federal spending which suggests dim prospects of additional funding, it might be wise to consider a modest shifting of funds from the Perkins Basic Grants, which could serve as seed money for the ‘Perkins Plus’ endeavor, perhaps to be matched by funds from private sources such as foundations, farm groups and/or agribusinesses. An additional performance indicator that could be used in such a competition might be the rankings of states by USDA on their participation in Farm to School programs.

Key to this effort would be defining what constitutes success. If the primary goal is to create a stable and educated workforce for U.S. agriculture, moving students from secondary schools into post-secondary agricultural and agri-science fields should be the main performance indicator for this proposed competition.

Expanding agricultural education is necessary -- solves literacy, STEM, and cultivates new farmers – action now is key

Mercier, former Senate Agriculture Committee Chief Economist & Farm Journal Foundation Director of Policy and Advocacy, 15

[Stephanie, July 2015, AGree, “Food and Agricultural Education in the United States”,, p. 16, accessed 6-26-17, AFB]

Concluding Remarks

Food and agricultural education in the United States has taken steps in recent years to adjust its curriculum to the modern agricultural reality, but most of its energy is currently focused in the rural and non-metropolitan regions of the country. In order to expand the pool of young people who might consider a career in a food and agricultural field, more should be done to teach children in elementary school in urban and suburban settings as well about the basic facts of food and agriculture in a way that holds their attention and interest. If basic knowledge about food and agriculture becomes more widely held, there will be opportunities to hold onto the interest of more of these students as they move through secondary school and into college. There’s an urgent need for better data collection on program performance and funding at the national, state, and local level for food and agricultural education, in order to be able to examine these issues in a more rigorous manner.

Traditional partnerships and programs will continue to play a key role in promoting food and agricultural education across the United States. Alternative mechanisms for promoting food and agricultural education should also be explored, such as through charter schools and innovative food education efforts. By incorporating more agricultural science across a variety of STEM fields, there will be new ways to touch students in every classroom across the country. There’s no time to lose, as the massive baby boom generation in this country begins to enter retirement years, today’s millennials will be the ones who will fill the jobs of tomorrow, in food, agriculture, and agribusiness as well as the rest of the economy.

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