Editor’s Note: It’s close to the end of the school year and that means proms, graduations and FFA Banquets. Agriculture Education Associate Director for Arizona Farm Bureau Katie Aikins was asked to replace an FFA Banquet speaker that had cancelled at the last minute. Her talk reflects why the Communication, Ag Education and Marketing Department of Arizona Farm Bureau do what we do. At the end of this school year, we’ll have reached nearly 70,000 students, parents and teachers with Arizona Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom Program, slightly above the previous year. Compare that to our first year in the 2008-2009 school year when we reached not quite 19,000 students.

Arizona Farm Bureau's Katie Aikins with American Farm Bureau's Women's Leadership Committee Chair Sherry Saylor during this spring's Ag Literacy Week. By the time this Ag literacy Week is complete, Arizona Farm Bureau's Ag in the Classrrom will have reached approximately 10,000 students.

By Katie Aikins, Arizona Farm Bureau: I was asked to speak on the importance of Agriculture Education programs in schools tonight. Just as a point of reference I’d like to ask, so I know my audience: students, raise your hands if you live or work on a farm or ranch. Parents, raise your hand if you live or work on a farm or ranch. Grandparents? This room fits the statistic that today people are three to four generations removed from the farm and ranch. They lack the first-hand knowledge and experience about where their food is coming from and how it is being produced. They are getting their information from Google, Dr. Oz and the Food Babe. There is a huge disconnect between what they read and hear from these places and what is actually happening on the farms and ranches across America today.

My job gives me an interesting perspective on things. You see, I know that only 2% of our population is involved in production agriculture, yet 100% eat food and need clothes (thank goodness!) I get to see production agriculture on a regular basis. I also get to see the misinformation and disconnect between the consumer and what agriculture is today. I love Ag Education programs because they help bridge that gap. Though all the students may not go into production agriculture (is anyone in this room going to be a farmer or rancher?) we still need individuals who are educated in agriculture and can fill the thousands of other industry jobs that get the food from the farm to the plate. Who in here will be working education or an agricultural career when they graduate?

We in agriculture have to have a generation of students who can bridge the knowledge gap about what agriculture is and what it is perceived to be; a generation of students that can be innovative and help feed the 9-billion people that are projected to be on this planet by the year 2050. And it is my belief that these individuals are ALL products of AG education in schools. So, you ask me about the importance of AG education programs in schools? I would say they are pretty important if you want to continue to eat.

Final note from the Director of the Communication, Ag Education and Marketing Department, Julie Murphree: We’d love to have you be part of our outreach. Consider donating to Arizona Farm Bureau Educational Farming Company, a 501 ( C ) (3). You donation will go directly to helping outreach efforts. We’re telling Arizona agriculture’s story and its future in many forms including special events, communication campaigns and much more. Come be a part of it!

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