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State farm groups do work together to educate public
By Carol Hegel, Indiana Farm Bureau
I was very disappointed in Gary Truitt’s thoughts about agriculture education.

I refer to his column, “It’s time to get serious about telling the story,” which ran in the Sept. 21, 2005 issue of Farm World. To paraphrase, Mr. Truitt alleged that, while Indiana’s agricultural organizations all have their own consumer and student education efforts, there is little, if any, coordination of these efforts.

This allegation is completely unfounded. For years, Indiana Farm Bureau has worked with nearly every agricultural and commodity organization in the state.

For instance, the Indiana Soybean Board (ISB) gave Farm Bureau a grant to write a biotechnology education program for schoolchildren and to conduct regional training seminars for teachers. We, in turn, have promoted the ISB’s soybean science kit.

The organizations representing pork, dairy, beef and poultry producers all provide their latest materials for our Farming the Classroom program, where Farm Bureau volunteers go into classrooms to educate students about where their food comes from and the people who grow it. We have used materials from Milk Promotion Services, Inc. and the Indiana Dairy Council for years. We have also worked closely with staff members from the Center for Agricultural Science and Heritage, also known as “The Barn,” who have conducted numerous workshops at our Farming the Classroom volunteer training events, as well as our teachers’ workshops and annual spring conference.

Also, at a recent meeting of our Farm Bureau state women’s committee, two Purdue University professors presented the latest educational ideas that we plan to incorporate into our FTC program.

An extension educator presented Purdue’s chick embryology program at our Farming the Classroom update meeting, so that our instructors could inform the teachers they work with about this educational option.

In his column, Mr. Truitt accused Indiana’s ag organizations of talking a good game when it comes to agriculture education, but “there is precious little of it actually being done.” This is simply not true.

Again, Farm Bureau’s Farming the Classroom program documented 101,592 students in 5,147 Indiana classrooms in the 2004-2005 school year who were exposed to at least one meaningful agriculture education experience. The vast majority of the teachers in these classrooms wrote positive evaluations of the program and expressed a strong desire for the program to continue.

In another partnership with Hoosier schools, Indiana Farm Bureau sponsors the Lugar Essay Awards. Last year, 1,229 eighth-grade students in 55 counties wrote essays on the topic, “The Perfect Pizza Begins on Hoosier Farms.” The two state winners received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. to visit Sen. Richard Lugar and see our nation’s capital.

Indiana Farm Bureau is also an active and contributing member of the Indiana Agriculture Resource Council, a partnership of agricultural and commodity organizations, along with state and federal agencies, whose mission is to develop an informed public with a positive image of modern agriculture. Since the group’s formation in 1988, the council has created an educational program for Indiana school children centered around the theme, “Indiana’s Ag Extravaganza.” The council has also partnered with McDonald’s restaurants around the state during National Agriculture Week in March to promote greater awareness for Indiana agriculture.

We’re not just sitting on our hands here.

I don’t know how much experience Mr. Truitt has had in putting together agriculture education programs and making them fly, but from my experience, success comes from all of our individual groups doing what we do best, sharing our resources and successes with others, and not duplicating our efforts.

Mr. Truitt, you are a well-respected and experienced farm journalist in Indiana. Agriculture education may not grab big headlines, but the hundreds of volunteers who give their time and energy in education about our nation’s No. 1 industry, agriculture, deserve much better than the treatment you gave in your column.

This letter to the Editor was published in the November 9, 2005 issue of Farm World.

11/9/2005