I am the National Program Director for Art4agriculture and one of our signature programs the Archibull Prize is currently rolling out in NSW schools.
So we can get an understanding of where we should be focusing our efforts and whether we are achieving our objectives we conduct entry and exit surveys
The Archibull Prize has a number of objectives and those which specifically relate to this blog are
- To provide a platform for farmers and students to connect, share stories and improve understanding of modern farming practices and work through potential solutions together.
- To communicate to students, schools, teachers and parents that Australian farmers are professional and caring and committed to working towards sustainable farming production systems.
- To provide a vehicle for urban communities to understand that our farmers must be able to innovate, achieve efficiency gains and intensify their businesses where necessary in order to continue to deliver affordable, nutritious and ethically produced food for Australians and many other people around the world.
The preliminary results of the entry survey are in. We did not ask questions about the students’ knowledge of the paddock to plates process or whether they thought yogurt grows on trees or not. We knew this wasn’t necessary as we are very confident the program will provide them with excellent knowledge of where their food comes from.
What we wanted to find out is if the students had the necessary knowledge to enable them to value all services that Australian farmers provide including ecosystem services, healthy food and quality of life.
We readily admit we asked questions we only knew the answers to because we are in this space and what we discovered is what we already knew and that is agriculture has done a very poor job of telling its story.
We asked questions that would help the students think about food security. Scary isn’t it whilst 93 per cent of the food we consume is produced in Australia our young people thought it was more like 45%.and I wonder how many adults think the same. I wouldn’t be surprised if its a very similar proportion.
When asked the question how much of Australia’s land is suitable for food production? The most popular answer was 61% when in fact less than 6% of Australia is suitable for food production.
When asked about the cost of food as you can see the students overwhelming thought food spend as percentage of income was higher than it has ever been and everybody who reads my blog knows that food has never been cheaper in this country.
In relation to organically produced food our surveys have always found myths abound. Now I admire immensely anyone who can produce food organically and get a premium for it but no way in the world does it have a lower carbon footprint than conventionally produced food. But as you can see from the graph below the students overwhelming think it does. What was heartening is the students do acknowledge the massive farming productivity gains in Australia in the last 60 years
This year the ‘Archibull Artwork’ will embrace the theme: “What does it take to sustainably feed and clothe your community for a day?”
The program will cover issues like
1. The role of Australia’s food and fibre industries in sustainably feeding and clothing our communities.
2. Understanding the challenges our farmers face to feed and clothe people sustainably in a world with a declining natural resource base.
3. The disconnect between consumers and farming practices – how do we find common ground?
4. Understanding the disconnect between the food we buy and the impact that it has on the environment when we throw it away.
Other issues the students will explore include the future of farming and what direction the students see farming going in a social media world as well as looking at the faces of farming and how to personalise farming in a globalised society.
This will be enhanced by visits from young farming champions from rural NSW who will come to the school and talk to the students and share their farming experiences.
We believe this program not only helps turn the light on to the wealth of opportunities that careers in agriculture delivers but also highlights the valuable role our farmers play in the health, wealth and happiness of Australians and many people around the world.