The Future of Food
Recently, our family had the opportunity to visit Mount Pleasant Middle School for its annual Agricultural day. Some local farms and agricultural based businesses brought out different pieces of equipment, products, and animals to help teach the kids about the different ways Agriculture impacts the world. We are big fans of this middle school! Since we are a generational farm, almost all of the Barrier family have attended this school at some point in their lives. In fact the two youngest members of the Barrier family still go there every day...though not always the most willingly! We live in a very agriculturally based town that is home to a lot of old school farmers, so you would expect this school to be full of kids that know where their food comes from.
Our first class that came through asked certain questions that quickly made us realize this was not true.
"Is that a tractor for monster truck rallies?"
"If eggs come from chickens, then how does the chicken get the egg?"
"how do you make these grains different sizes?"
"I heard sprayers were used to spray poisons that make animals die...does your's make animals die?"
These were not just goofy questions from goofy 12 year olds, these were actual questions from kids who were just curious about this strange machinery. We had to explain that the Sprayer can be used on some farms to spray out pesticides and herbicides that could kill animals if it wasn't used properly, but that farmers use special precautions to make sure that never happens. We also explained that its also used for very harmless things like spraying water, and fertilizer on crops to help make them grow better. We had to explain how a combine and hay balers work and that yes, cows do eat more than just grass. They didn't understand why we were a GMO free farm because they didn't know what GMO even meant.
We were so taken back by how little these kids knew about their food! Kids that grew up in a community thats backbone has been Agriculture. But we can't blame them, they're children, they will only learn what we teach them. If all we teach them is that the grocery store is a magical place where food comes from, they will become adults that have no idea how or where their food is raised. They don't understand how the way an animal or plant is raised can affect their bodies and health when they eat it. They don't understand what farmers are doing, what farmers are going through, but why would they? Farmers are just the people running the magical grocery store.
What happens when the Farmers die off? What happens when the old ways of farming can't keep up with the growing population? What happens when the magic grocery store gets more and more empty? Will we care then? I don't say this to tell you to go home and tell all your kids to become farmers so the world won't starve, but please teach them. Teach them so that when they're adults they will understand how important investing is sustainability is. They will understand that buying from a local farmer is always worth the couple extra bucks to gain the knowledge that the product they receive was raised responsibly and humanely. They will better understand how they can impact the environment and help teach others to do the same. They will understand that buying locally doesn't just help out your local farmer or rancher, it helps out the who world. They will understand that farmers aren't just spraying out chemicals that kill animals, they are trying their hardest to take care of the earth the best way they know how so it will continue to take care of us.
Its real easy for us to get riled up when science tries to intervene with nature and modify plants and animals to grow faster and better in poorer conditions. Its easy to get upset that these food aren't as nutritional as the ones grandpa had. Its easy to say that its worse on the planet in the long run than it is helping. But why are you judging them for just trying to feed a world that only wants to eat boxed mac and cheese and frozen lasagna. If the demand for processed is higher than the demand for fresh then science and large scale farming will plant the frozen lasagna and mac and cheese. We can't blame "big business" for our lowered health and crappy diets... after all, we fund big business. They do what we tell them, what we demand of them, and they will do the same for our kids.
The Future of Food and what direction it takes will be decided by our kids. So take the time, teach them, take them to visit a local farmer, heck bring them to us and we will teach them. The kids of today are the politicians, scientists, doctors, and yes farmers of tomorrow. Make sure they will leave the world in even better shape than we will.