What’s your ag literacy?
Dave Ostdiek, Communications Associate, Panhandle Research and Extension Center, Scottsbluff
How many people does a single farmer feed these days? Why are farms more productive than they used to be? Do modern tillage practices lead to more soil erosion, or less? Answering questions like these is one way to measure a person’s agricultural literacy.
Ag literacy is a concern for food-producing places like Nebraska. As the number of farmers and ranchers in the population shrinks, even rural areas are occupied by many people who have never raised a crop or a cow, or even set foot on a farm or ranch.
The number of farms and ranches in Nebraska declined to 48,400 last year, 300 fewer than 2015, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service reported in February.
The National Ag in the Classroom web site (http://www.agclassroom.org) has several descriptions of ag literacy.
“An agriculturally literate person would understand the food and fiber system and this would include its history and its current economic, social and environmental significance to all Americans.” (From a 1988 report by the Agricultural Education in Secondary Schools Committee.)
An agriculturally literate person is “a person who understands and can communicate the source and value of agriculture as it affects our quality of life.” (From a 2013 National Agricultural Literacy Logic Model.)
Every March, National Ag Day and National Ag Literacy week help shine a spotlight on the topic. Ag Day is March 21 this year, and National Ag Literacy Week is March 20-24. The theme: “Agriculture: Food for Life.” The website is www.agday.org.
A number of groups are dedicated to educating Nebraskans about agriculture. It is one of the missions of Nebraska Extension. Various ag organizations sponsor other educational efforts. Nebraska Ag In The Classroom™ (AITC), a program of the Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation, helps students and teachers develop awareness and understanding that agriculture is the source of food, clothing, shelter and other essentials of life. AITC’s goal is “to help Nebraska students learn that the industry includes the production, processing, distribution and marketing of products used every day.”
Ag literacy also was identified as a primary need in a Panhandle Agricultural Summit conducted in December 2013 in Gering, which brought together a number of leaders from various ag sectors in western Nebraska to identify key issues and strategize around them. The summit was sponsored by the Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce Agribusiness Committee and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center.
|Amber Kuntz with the gift certificate she won in the drawing during the KNEB Farm and Ranch Expo.|
Are most Panhandle residents ag savvy? One non-scientific measure is a quiz conducted by Panhandle Extension staff at a booth at the KNEB Farm and Ranch Expo in February at the Mitchell Events Center. Everybody who visited the booth was invited to take a seven-question quiz.
Over the course of two days, 119 people took the general quiz. Another 39 people took a more difficult quiz that concentrated on pest resistance, an issue that affects what tools farmers use to protect their crops from weeds, bugs and disease.
Everyone who participated was allowed to enter a drawing for $50 worth of meat from Marky’s Meat Market. The drawing was sponsored By Platte Valley Banks, which sponsored the Panhandle Center’s booth space at the expo. The winner of the drawing was Amber Kuntz of rural Minatare.
The basic quiz consisted of seven multiple-choice questions from the National Ag in the Classroom “Ag Knowledge” quizzes, a resource for teachers at the group’s website.
The results were encouraging. When the responses were tallied, more than 80 percent of the respondents, 86 of 119, answered correctly on either four, five, or six of the seven questions. Eight participants got all seven questions correct. More participants got five correct answers than any other number, followed by four correct and six correct.
Here’s how the quiz scores broke down:
One correct response: 2
Two correct responses: 10
Three correct responses: 13
Four correct responses: 27
Five correct responses: 35
Six correct responses: 24
Seven correct responses: 8
Nobody missed all seven questions.
The questions (correct answers are at the end):
1. Out of every 100 people in the U.S., how many are farmers?
2. Which of the following has allowed farmers to increase production during the past 100 years?
Farm machinery such as tractors
All of the above
3. One farmer produces enough food for about how many people?
4. World food production in the future will need to _______ to feed everyone on the planet?
Stay the same
5. Agriculture includes food and fiber production, processing, sales, farm equipment sales, and other areas close to farming. With that in mind, how many people out of every 100 people in the U.S. work in some phase of agriculture?
6. With the use of biotechnology, new hybrid seeds result in ________ in insecticide and herbicide use.
7. Modern tillage practices, including no-till farms, are leading to ______ soil erosion.
Answers: Question 1, 1-2 people; Question 2, all of the above; Question 3, 155; Question 4, Increase; Question 5, 15 people; Question 6, a reduction; Question 7, Less