When it comes to educating students about agriculture, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) wrote the book – literally.
Actually, FDACS produced a series of books, in partnership with Florida Agriculture in the Classroom (FAITC). The series of books are designed to highlight Florida agriculture and educate children on how important the agricultural industry is in their own backyard.
Revamping Agriculture Literacy Day
Established in 2004, Florida Agriculture Literacy Day is a coordinated activity designed to promote Florida agriculture within the educational system by encouraging volunteers to read books on agriculture to elementary school students.
“During the early Agriculture Literacy Day events, we used previously published agriculture-themed children’s books,” says FDACS marketing representative Arlette Roberge. “But often, commodities that weren’t grown in Florida were also included in those books.”
Then, in 2007, FDACS produced These Florida Farms, a book they hoped would help children understand that agriculture commodities come from farms – not grocery stores.
“Children often lack the basic understanding of food production,” says Roberge. “Some think hamburgers come from pigs or chocolate milk from brown cows.”
The books were well received by students and teachers alike, which led FAITC and FDACS to develop additional books exploring topics ranging from nutrition and the environment to specific Florida commodity groups.
The ultimate goal? Spread knowledge and appreciation for the industry.
“We want children to understand the proximity of agriculture industry sectors to their geographic locations, the value of agricultural lands for preserving green space, the nutritional benefits agriculture provides to their bodies and the economic and cultural benefits it provides to our state,” says Roberge.
Ag Matters in Florida
Florida agricultural products rank among some of the top commodities in the United States. Agriculture contributes billions of dollars to the state’s economy with a wide range of horticultural products, oranges, bell peppers, snap beans and more. The industry’s positive impact on Florida’s economy has provided people around the world with high-quality products and allowed the state to develop into one of the country’s most-beloved destinations.
While the accolades are many, the entire nation has seen a downward trend in agricultural awareness that could negatively affect public perception in the future.
“A smaller percentage of citizens are economically affiliated with our agriculture production sectors,” says Roberge. “Consequently, many in our society have a limited understanding of how this system meets our food, clothing and shelter needs.”
Educating Florida’s Youngest
In order to combat this issue, FDACS dedicates time and resources to educating residents on the importance of the agricultural industry – starting with Florida’s students.
“As young people become adults and our next generation of consumers, environmental advocates and voters, it’s important they have a comprehensive view of our agriculture industry,” says Roberge.
FDACS provides a vast number of resources to help students understand more about the commodities grown or raised in Florida. In addition to offering teacher presentations, digital resources and the opportunity to attend educational events, FDACS provides displays and presentations at the Florida State Fair, the Florida Association of Science Teachers Association, The League of Environmental Educators of Florida, Agriculture in the Classroom workshops and conferences. They even attend career activities at local high schools and colleges.