If we want our children to know where their food comes from; if we want them to be motivated to care about the lives and livelihoods of farmers; if we want them to take seriously the environmental impacts of their food choices; and if we want them to know more about how their health is affected by the way food is made, perhaps we need to rethink the place of food production
This knowledge has been lost since we all became so reliant on the industrial agriculture system; we should talk to the experts – the farmers – so we can get it back. We don’t just need more urban agricultural initiatives, including food-producing back, front and median-strip gardens, school kitchen gardens, community gardens and city farms. We also need a transfer of knowledge from rural farmers. We need Australia’s farmers to be intimately involved in the development of innovative and efficient urban agricultural practices to assure our future food security.
Art4Agriculture has taken up this challenge through the Archibull Prize. The program uptake this year has been phenomenal with 40 plus schools participating in this fun and engaging initiative that uses art and multimedia to tap into a whole new generation of young people
Original landscape image by Peter Dalder
Our ability to reach more schools particularly in NSW where the program has been running for 3 years has only been limited by funding.
Queensland has been a little more challenging, but experience tells us word of mouth amongst schools, teachers, friends and parents will mean Queensland schools will be queuing up in 2014 at the same rate NSW schools are.
The Archibull Prize is not about ‘educating’ people per se about agriculture. We believe it is the only program in the world allowing young people in the agrifood sector to go into schools and engage with the next generation of consumers and decisions makers to build an understanding of each other’s challenges and constraints
I have created this program for two reasons
1. We ALL have to eat so farmers are important and as farmer I know it’s challenging to produce food and fibre in the current climate
2. Young people are our future and its important we invest in them
Personally I am not particularly worried that 27% of kids think yogurt grows on trees or that cotton grows on sheep.
- What is important to me is that young people think farmers are committed, professional and caring
- That the next generation of consumers, decision and policy makers think responsible agriculture is a legitimate user of Australia’s land and water
- That young people don’t hear agricultural intensification and automatically think “factory farming”
- That young people have the knowledge to make informed decisions about genetic modification
- That young people think that farmers like everybody else are entitled to use technology
- That young people want to work not only on my farm but see the agrifood sector as the place they want to be
And it’s working. We know this because the programs outcomes are measurable. Visibly through the artwork the students generate and the blogs, videos and PowerPoints they create. Quantitatively though program entry and exit surveys
What is exciting is our students are very receptive to putting their thinking hats on not only through the progression of their big ideas for their artwork design and also when we pose blog questions like:
- Why is food production so important for us nationally and globally?
- Choose one of the challenges faced by farmers and discuss the possible solutions.
- Why are regional towns and centres so important to the farming community? How will they be affected if changes to farming practices occur?
- Why is it so important for Australia to produce food for people outside of the country? What do you think would happen if we only worried about ourselves?
- Why do you think so much food wastage occurs? What actions will you take to help this problem?
- What does sustainability mean and how can you contribute to the cause? What different choices may you take as a consumer?
- What is natural resource management? Why do you think it is so important to get right? Think about some of the consequences if we don’t manage these resources properly.
For all those people who are concerned about students’ lack of paddock to plate knowledge our beef, wool, cotton and dairy industry resources our industry bodies send them do an amazing job of sharing this story
Just to prove we have got our strategy right the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries released the results from the Victorian Attitudes to Farming survey in 2012
In summary they found
It is clear that among the Victorian public there is widespread support for farmers and sympathy towards them for the difficulties they face, but also a level of unease about some aspects of the industrialisation and corporate control of agriculture, especially among particular segments of the population.
There is substantial public concern about:
- Animal welfare
- Environmental sustainability
- Farmers’ ability to make a living from farming.
- Food safety (along with healthy, nutritious and good-tasting food) was viewed by the public as being more important than all other factors.
The research literature shows that concerns about environmental and animal welfare, and about certain other ‘credence attributes’ of foods, have grown among consumers in industrialised countries. In part, this trend stems from the success of industrial agriculture—and of modern distribution systems—in fulfilling western consumers’ basic food needs, by making affordable food abundantly available to most consumers in industrialised nations (though not to the consumers of all countries). Yet the dramatic increases in agricultural productivity achieved during the 20th century have not come without some costs to environmental sustainability, to animal welfare, and to other ‘ethical’ dimensions of food production (even though the severity of these consequences is contested). It appears that, as consumers become more food-secure, wealthier and better educated, many become concerned with addressing these negative consequences.
Our survey indicated that 31% of survey respondents had taken some action—such as protesting or, more often, altering their shopping habits—that could be interpreted as being critical of conventional agriculture (‘critical activism’).
The survey also indicated that 32% of Victorians valued environmental sustainability or animal welfare (or both) highly, and had a relatively low level of trust that farmers would address these issues without coercion.
Most of the individuals surveyed made expressions of unease about some aspects of contemporary agriculture, and such latent concern creates the potential for agriculture to experience periodic controversies or even crises of ‘social authorisation’, as has occurred previously with GM foods, mulesing and (in Europe) Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and in Australia Live Export
The paper then asks and answers the questions
- How should government interpret and respond to those segments of the population that are critical of current farming practices?
- Are these individuals’ uninformed and forcing unnecessary and costly restraints on farming practices, or are they well-informed drivers of much-needed progress?
Where do Art4agriculture and the Archibull Prize come in? It would appear that these researchers strong agree with our philosophy
A number of agricultural stakeholders have aspired over the years to resolve controversies over farming issues by educating and engaging the public. The research in this project indicates that while this can make a contribution to resolving such controversies, it will not be sufficient.
The rationale for solving farm controversies by educating the public is premised on the assumption that farm controversies are waged between an ignorant public which needs to be educated and knowledgeable experts who can do the educating. The findings presented in this report show that individuals’ professed levels of knowledge about farming issues are relatively independent of their viewpoint about the issues.
The published literature indicates that differences in individuals’ views on ‘technical’ issues such as environmental sustainability and animal welfare derive not only from their level of attentiveness to scientific or expert knowledge, but also from partially subjective and social judgements about which sources of expert knowledge to trust, in the face of contested expertise
It also shows that cultural perspectives influence experts as well as the lay public, and that such perspectives can become institutionalised.
This suggests that divisions in public opinion cannot be reconciled without some engagement and conciliation between different experts and stakeholder groups. As well as educating the public, agricultural groups in government and industry will also need to listen and respond to concerns raised by the public and by other stakeholders groups (including lobby groups and other branches of government).
Testimonials to the way Art4Agriculture is listening and responding
THE IMPACT ON OUR YOUNG FARMING CHAMPIONS
“At the [school] environmental club, the students were really interested in the environmental impacts and challenges the beef industry faced and their questions reflected this rather well. I found myself answering a lot of questions about the need for feedlots, waste management from processors and feedlots and how we can manage beef systems to ensure they are sustainable. The students were very switched on.”
Steph Fowler, Beef Young Farming Champion, 2012
The students had quite a few questions regarding different areas of cotton production – some science questions, some general farming, and others from the teachers that just wanted to know more. I loved the questions I was asked and they weren’t afraid to fire them at me!”
Tamsin Quirk, Cotton Young Farming Champion, 2012
“The school visits were great! I really enjoyed talking to the students and the teachers. Everyone was so excited about their Archibulls and I loved having the chance to look at what they were doing and listen to things they had discovered about agriculture. I also enjoyed being able to talk about my university course and I hope I was able to encourage some of them to think about a career in agriculture.”
Sammi Townsend, Wool Young Farming Champion, 2012
THE IMPACT OF THE “ARCHIBULL PRIZE”
“I had this idea in my head that genetic modification is this horrible idea and agriculture should just go back to the way it was in the ‘50s and after talking about it with our Young Farming Champion and learning about it I cannot love it more, I think science and technology have a definite future in the industry.”
Laura Bunting Student feedback, 2012
You can see Laura talking her school’s experience here
We rest our case