Is it time for a new roadmap for agricultural education?

The Primary Industries Education Foundation (PIEFA) recent survey results of young people and their knowledge of the origins of the food they eat and the natural fibres they use suggest we may need a new roadmap for agricultural education in Australia.

Agriculture has been documenting the problem for a long time and the results from his survey appear to show little change in knowledge of the paddock to plate process since the 2011 PIEFA survey.

What could a successful customer centric business model for agricultural education look-like?.

Agriculture is a business so let us have a look at best practice business principles

  1. Find out what customers want and how they want to buy it. 
  2. Debate and adjust your offering to better match what customers want. 
  3. Align your business model to how your customers want to buy. Don’t start from how you want to sell. Start with a new understanding of the real customer need, their search process in finding you and their most desired learning model

What does success look like?

If you are a wool producer or a cotton grower would a program that achieves this excite you?

or this

If you want to raise awareness of the diversity of careers in agriculture would a program that achieves this excite you?

To learn more about The Archibull Prize visit

This result is particularly interesting as the PIEFA survey (see page 16) noted that according to their survey “Agronomist was the most poorly understood career and many students would not be exposed to this job title although it is significant in broadacre cropping industries.” It would appear from our program impact studies there is great merit is showing young people who they can be in agriculture.

If your want to get teachers excited about careers in agriculture would a program that achieves this excite you?

Who is already doing it well?

The only way to know who is doing it well is for industry to measure the impact it is having in schools. As the PIEFA survey shows its time to measure OUTCOMES in preference to OUTPUTS  

Would it be smart to work with the people already doing it well and help them multiply their impact?

This is a no brainer and there is no shortage of people/organisations already showing huge success. Time to signpost those people

Some examples include:

A great collaborative model of aligning your business with what your customer wants to buy are the industries who are building partnership with the Centre of Excellence in Agriculture located at Western Sydney University.

If you want to engage teachers, invite teachers to help you design your offering. I have personally found working with teachers a very rewarding process.

Being customer orientated is a mantra for Australian Wool Innovation (AWI). Understanding what young people care about and want to learn about has led them to create a new series of resources on the eco-credentials of wool and a series of soon to be available factsheets on the following on Microplastics & biodegradability, Natural capital and Greenhouse Gas accounting

AWI will also shortly be releasing as series of great case studies around wool producers that use restorative land management practices and how that positively affects the environment. You will find them shortly on their Learn About Wool site

A mega shout out from me to the farmers in Western Australia behind the new AGZero2030 initiative. As the PIEFA survey shows young people see acting on climate change as a high priority and the AGZero2030 team is setting the bar showcasing what WA Farmers are doing

Speaking of the PIEFA survey  

Should the world of agriculture be concerned about these statistics?
• As per the 2011 study, 30% indicated yoghurt is made from something other than animal product.
• One in six students did not know that bacon and scrambled eggs are animal products.
• One in four students do not know that leather shoes are made from animals
• Over 30% of students did not know that books or pasta are made from plant material.
• Over 60% of students did not know that denim cotton used to make jeans is a plant material.

I am not concerned. The best advice I got when we started Picture You in Agriculture was this

“The mobile phone is the most complex engineering feat on the planet. You don’t need to know how it works to value it”

Perhaps another question we could ask ourselves is what outcomes do we want from agricultural education?
Is knowledge of the paddock to plate process what we want to monitor and evaluate?
What else could be more important?

What I know is young people are very interested in learning how to ensure that the safe, affordable, nutritious food our farmers are producing is getting to ALL the people who need it. We can all be very proud this is front of mind for young Australians. Read their stories here

Success will come from a focus on a bottom up approach driven, informed by the wants and needs of farmers and teachers and a genuine desire to collect data, experiment, tweak and signpost success

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

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