Gen Z-ers spend more money on food and drinks than anything else, and by 2020, they’ll represent 40 percent of consumers. With more brands embracing transparency, which is what Gen Z consumers seek out, now is the time for agriculture to be a voice at the table and share all the positive things that are happening on today’s farms and ranches.
This transparency starts in the classroom giving students a more well-rounded understanding of their food supply and how crops and animals are grown and raised. But fewer and fewer schools in urban settings include agriculture in their curriculum. And in the opinion of one Farmer’s daughter, Megan Striegel, she thinks agriculture should be considered a core curriculum in the K-12 school system across the country.
A freshman at Iowa State University, Megan Striegel recently wrote an article in The Odyssey titled, “Let’s Talk Agriculture: Why We Are UnEducated About Its Importance.” Addressing why many Americans are disconnected from the production of their food supply, Striegel believes it falls on the shoulders of the agriculture industry and education system to start this dialogue with today’s consumer.
“There’s such a disconnect between ag and consumers today, especially with so many brand campaigns aimed at eliminating GMOs and antibiotics,” says Striegel, who’s major is agricultural journalism. She tells U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), “These campaigns threaten us as farmers, and limit what we can and can’t do, when farming is already safe and reliable.”
Striegel clears up some misconceptions with the animal industry, including:
- We do care for our sick. If one of my steers is sick, we call the vet clinic and have him come out to our farm. When he comes, he usually prescribes us with an antibiotic for the steer, and we administer the medicine. The steer gets healthy, and we pay close attention to the withdrawal period once it’s administered. We do not sell or harvest cattle before the withdrawal date. Whether it is an antibiotic for livestock or chemicals on our sweet corn, the strict requirements are followed. Our family consumes our produce as well as selling to our neighbors.
- I showed livestock as a kid and I treated my livestock humanely. From second grade in Clover Kids to High School, I went to county fairs with livestock. The memories I will look back on in my life include the early morning walks down the lane with the sheep and my dad while talking about my future (or the softball game from the night before), washing my sheep in hot summer afternoons, and the winter mornings that my ewe gave birth to her first lamb. The livestock are so much more than just an animal in a pen. Spending the amount of time that I do with them, they develop personalities and I form close bonds.
- I am an agriculturist. I believe in the future of agriculture, I believe in the advancements we have made and will make in the future are vital to our survival. We live in a country and world experiencing food insecurity at an alarming rate. The farm community realizes this and is taking careful steps to provide proven safe, high-quality product at an affordable price. We’re trying to feed the world, let us do our job so you can do yours.
“In learning about how our food is grown and raised, my generation wants to have a conversation with a farmer or food expert to learn the facts,” says Striegel. “My friend recently brought up the negatives of antibiotics in agriculture, and we ending up having a two-hour conversation about my farm and how we raise our animals humanely.”
To incorporate agriculture in urban classrooms, Discovering FARMLAND’s curriculum guide and interactive resources are available to high school teachers and students to gain real world insights and understanding of where their food comes from and how it is grown and raised. The curriculum, in partnership with Discovery Education, brings to life many of the themes covered in the FARMLAND film, and teaches students about food choices, sustainability, entrepreneurship and antibiotics, among many other topics. The website, www.discoveringfarmland.com, which includes lesson plans, launched in November 2015.
Iowa State University student Megan Striegel, and her siblings pictured here, showed sheep from second grade through high school. She says today’s brand campaigns threaten us as farmers, and limit what we can and can’t do, when farming is already safe and reliable.