Connecting Consumers to the Farm: Research Results from Agriculture Day in Los Angeles

Article excerpt

Each day urban consumers influence human rights, child labor, environmental sustainability, price, availability, local economies and personal long-term health with their food and fiber purchase and consumption decisions. Most are not aware of the long-term impact of their decisions ultimately leading to food security. Consumers do not connect farming issues with food. Connecting young consumers to the farm introduces basic agrarian concepts, increases awareness of the food chain and promotes a healthy diet. Agriculture Day was designed to initiate the discovery of the role of food, fiber, flowers and forests in our everyday lives.

Agriculture Day in Los Angles was held on March 22, 2002. Eighty volunteers from California Women for Agriculture and ten volunteer presenters from various agriculture industry organizations dedicated their day to the Los Angeles Unified School District. These ninety volunteers donated an estimated $40,000 in time and resources to make the event possible. The Agricultural Awareness and Literacy Foundation organized the event and spent $5,000 on student busing and other event costs. The Los Angeles Unified School District Nutrition Network contacted the schools and provided a 90-minute teacher in-service prior to the event highlighting the instructions for the student pre-test and post-test evaluation. Student pre-testing was conducted as part of the student preparation. During the event, students spent 120 minutes of instructional time at six hands-on interactive lessons highlighting fiber, good bugs and bad bugs, a "live" food guide pyramid, irrigation water, how plants grow and dairy cows. Students also experienced live farm animals and farm equipment.

Fifteen Los Angeles Unified District schools were represented at the event. Fifty-seven teachers brought approximately 1,200 students. Teacher surveys and student work samples were collected and chaperone exit interviews were conducted as approved by Los Angeles Unified School District Program Evaluation and Research Branch.

More than 700 anonymous works were submitted; however, of those, only 213 students (18%) submitted a completed pre and post sample. Of those, only 1.4% (3) of the students associated agriculture with farming before the event. One hundred percent of the students identified agriculture with the production of food, fiber and/or flowers after experiencing Agriculture Day in LA.

Ten teachers responded to the post-event survey. These teachers indicated this event triggered an average of 162 minutes of classroom time integrating agriculture into lessons before Agriculture Day and 280 minutes with follow up lessons after the event. The foundation raised the question that the teachers who responded were probably those most interested and therefore would spend classroom time on agriculture anyway. Did any of the other teachers spend any time on agriculture beyond the event? (The event date was the Friday before Spring vacation, which may also have decreased response.)

A phone survey randomly calling non-respondent teachers was conducted narrowing the questions to two: How many minutes did you spend teaching about agriculture before Agriculture Day? How many minutes did you spend teaching about agriculture after Agriculture Day? …