In May, the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia facilitated the assembly of national and international experts on agricultural education for their 2016 conference ‘Food & Fibre matters’. Keynote speakers included Jay Jackman, Executive Director of National Association of Agricultural Educators (USA), Katrina Barclay, Education Manager of The Royal Highland Education Trust, and Dr Susumu Takakuwa, Emeritus Professor of Kyoto Women’s University.
Immediately it was evident agricultural education was in good hands. Nearly every primary production industry was represented; whether by industry bodies, producers, or both. Internationally and nationally exceptional ideas were being employed to engage our young consumers and develop pathways for those displaying interest in the sector. The partnership between farmers, industry and educators was acknowledged as a vital triangle to achieve agricultural educational success, and all corners are working towards this united approach.
Individual educational parties have developed programs and field days to give students hands on projects to involve them in the agricultural process. Lynne Strong of Art4Agriculture presented on the Archibull Prize program which provides student participants with opportunities to meet young farmers and engage in genuine farm experiences, gain knowledge and skills about the production of the food they eat, fibres they use and the environment they live in. The program also enables the development of young farmers as industry representatives, something which was identified as a weakness within the sector. At a more grass roots level, Andrea Vallance presented on the hugely successful Timboon Agriculture Project. TAP is an innovative applied learning model harnessing the expertise of a dynamic food production and processing sector. TAP is a multi-layered holistic partnership improving student outcomes and strengthening the whole Timboon P-12 School community.
Industry also had a lot of presenters; offering teachers as well as the wider agricultural community access to well-developed resources, units and competitions. Greg Mills gave a sneak preview of three complete units from The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply , Ashley Norval shared Australian Pork Limited’s comprehensive array of released units and GRDC showcased their consumer friendly resources. Fibres were well represented as Sophie Davidson showcased the very impressive list of teacher & student friendly resources, units and competitions for Cotton Australia and Australian Wool Innovation showed off their well-known and accessed Learn About Wool kit and the very successful Wool4School competition.
It was an absolute pleasure to be able to present to the conference about my own research, as well as the role ASC of NSW Next Generation see for ourselves in the space of agricultural education. Through the research informing my thesis ‘Impact of Agricultural Engagement in N.S.W. Secondary Schools’ it became evident the importance of schools and teachers providing agricultural information for students without contacts or family in the sector. Students identified even if they didn’t undertake the subjects of Agriculture or Primary Industries, dialogue with peers who were & their teachers provided access to knowledge and understanding. The biggest worry coming from these findings is the lack of information reaching our urban students where these subjects are not offered at the school at all.
There is a worryingly large amount of schools in exactly that situation producing students with no background knowledge, and no port of call to understand our agricultural practices. Fuelled by these concerns, ASC Next Gen are committed to the securing the future of our country shows to give all students the opportunity to experience local agricultural produce, and engage in discourse with the producers. We feel the relationship with local schools and teachers is key to ensuring this is happening; students are encouraged and facilitated to attend and even participate in the celebration of agricultural excellence that is our country shows. On August 5th ASC Next Gen will be hosting a junior judging workshop in Cowra for all students within the region, which you can find through the next gen ASC Facebook page (dont forget to click the like button!). This workshop hopes to give students a taste of what is showcased at shows, what is involved in junior judging, and equip them with the confidence to enter these competitions and become involved in their local shows.