Agriculture on the Menu

Agriculture has an image problem. Sadly this is a statement I can make and non-one will contradict me. What is interesting is the silver bullet solutions that our sector puts forward to fix this.

The first one is always the TV campaign. First and foremost as mentioned numerous times in my blog, we (the agriculture sector) don’t have the multi-million dollar budgets required to run TV campaigns.

Secondly I am flabbergasted how many people in the agriculture sector think that the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program will solve all our woes.

Now don’t get me wrong this program is a great concept but lets put it into perspective with regards to agriculture and get a clear understanding of the role of the program.

Lets start with some things you might not know. The SAKGF ( Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation ) receives around 16 Million dollars in government funding. On top of this the big corporate GPT group have poured significant funding into the program

The vast majority of government funding comes from the Department of Health and the foundation has DGR (deductible gift recipient) status with the Australian Tax Office as a health Initiative.

The program is for students in years 3-6 only. The emphasis on the program is growing, cooking, sharing ( i.e. Sitting down and eating at a set table). In reality its frightening that the later even needs to be taught at school. We don’t sit at the table too often at our house either.

Each schools receives an initial grant of $70K-$90K to establish a kitchen and a garden. Thereafter costs are borne by the school, including for a part-time gardener/kitchen aid. This is approx. $45K to $60K pa for a school to raise themselves.

The primary purpose appears to be fighting childhood obesity and introducing new foods to children.

If we then look at the program as an “awareness raising” and “interest generating” activity for agriculture here are some of the messages I believe its sending. In the first instance its subsidised “agriculture” at its highest level. After the first round “subsidy” is spent then the school soon finds out farming costs you a lot of money. Then there is the lack of triple bottom line messages. What I mean by this is where does natural resource management come in, or lessons on agriculture’s contribution to the GDP or images and perceptions about career pathways in agriculture? Or innovation, technology and efficiency gains for that matter?. I could go on forever.

I am pretty confident Stephanie Alexander doesn’t see the program as an introduction to agriculture. Why does agriculture?

My role on the National Agribusiness Education, Skills and Labour Taskforce (NEST) has shown me and all other participants that whilst agriculture has over 1000 activities in schools there are less than 4 organisations whose core business is “awareness raising” and “interest generating”and they get a minimal amount of government funding.

We do however have quite a few organisations that are government funded in the participation (Tertiary education, skills and labour) space.

Yes agriculture, we have do have an image problem and that is because we haven’t got our priorities right.  The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program is not our magic bullet but the program is great example of when you get your act together and get smart you can access a considerable amount of public good money to get your story out there.

 

 

6 thoughts on “Agriculture on the Menu

  1. I am sure Stephanie Alexander doesn’t see her program this way, though I do applaud all her efforts in getting our kids in touch with food.
    The establishment of agricultural education area in my school has just begun over a year and a half ago. There is no funding that I am aware of that helps to set up, and we rely kindly on donations and the funding I apply for in my school budget. Our ag area will never be able to replicate the goings on of an everyday farm, yet it requires equipment,etc that allow us to be able to give students skills that will be seen as a useful introduction to an incredibly diverse industry. We spend a lot of time taking kids out and about and getting them involved in the ‘bigger picture’, through farm visits and activities.
    We also rely on good program’s that we find that help give the primary industries a much needed relevance in students lives. I am thrilled to say that with all this effort, I am thrilled to see the number of kids I have about to go into trainee ships next year and some planning to enter University to study Ag Science and Agribusiness.
    We love every opportunity to interface with industry and see it as a partnership to awareness of the incredible array of careers within agriculture. Please help make a presence in the education of our kids. We can’t sit and moan about kids not knowing where their food and fibre comes from and then wait for someone else to run with the baton.
    Incidentally, an unashamed request – I am trying to set out fencing and cattle yards for our kids, many of who are most interested in working in the beef industry. We would truly love some help!
    Lisa Claessen – Faith Lutheran College QLD

  2. Oh how lucky is agriculture to have teachers like Lisa investing their time and energy into next gen food and fibre I salute you. Com’on agriculture lets see if we get Lisa some fencing material and cattle yards

  3. Lynne, you make some great points about the limitations of the SAKGP. It’s not accessible to all schools and that is why they have extended their program to include a ‘subscription’ program. This again, however, costs money. An alternative program that is more about the food growing than the eating side of things and is FREE is the Biological Farmers of Australia’ Organic School Gardens program. They have also extended this to include an Adopt a Farmer program. (http://www.organicschools.com.au/) Then of course there are the many schools that go it alone with the help of parents and the wider community. These are all great for raising awareness about how food is grown but not necessarily the wider implications of agriculture as an industry and a career option. This is perhaps better suited to High School education.

    Unfortunately at the Secondary level the commitment to Agriculture is left wanting. Certainly there are plenty of programs supporting Ag (art4ag being one of them!) but the actual subject is struggling to sustain itself. This is not helped by the Tertiary institutions that value Biology and Chemistry over Agriculture when accepting students into Ag Science degrees! Secondary Agriculture in NSW was the topic of my Masters Dissertation research and I’ve written a summary here….. http://lightfooteducation.com.au/2011/12/06/sustaining-agricultural-education-where-does-secondary-education-stand/ If anyone would like a copy of the Dissertation please let me know and I’ll email it to you.

    I agree that NRM, innovations, careers and the contribution of agriculture to the wider community and economy need to be included in education. Every child needs to know that behind the food they eat and the clothes they wear are resourceful, intelligent and hard working farmers!

  4. Great thanks Lynne! I didn’t try to have my research published in any journals, rather I’ve had it freely available to download from a few sites. I’m very happy to have it shared around so thank you.
    Regards
    Joanne

  5. Stop writing everything I think before I get a chance too!

    (Said with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, of course!)

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