FFA leaders educate curious urban school students about the origins of their food at schools in Minneapolis, Minn. To see a corresponding gallery with more images from the event, click here.
School students in urban classrooms can sometimes have a disconnect from agriculture and where their food comes from. That's according to Lloyd Lesmeister, one of the FFA leaders from an Agriculture in the Classroom event held on Friday, May 18, at Anderson United Community School in Minneapolis, Minn.
"This event is about bringing the farm to the city and teaching urban students about how food actually gets to their plate," said Natasha Mortenson, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Morris Area High School in Morris, Minn.
Students flocked around the animals that were in fenced areas outside the school and listened intently to the FFA leaders explaining the facts about each animal. Lesmeister and other FFA leaders spent time educating the urban school students about the origins of the food they eat—from corn and soybean production to different types of livestock. This is the third year the Morris Area FFA chapter has hosted the event in urban schools. The rural farm community helps to spread the word to students about the importance of agriculture and how it relates to everyday life.
The highlight of the event included a grill-out for the students, featuring cheeseburgers that contained many of the food products the students learned about earlier that day. The reactions of the students to the presence of the animals on their campus ranged from excitement and enjoyment to curiosity.
"It's really kind of cool how I view the animal and how the kids view the animal. The kids are really curious about more of the simple things about the animal like a runny nose or a scratch," said Matt Huot, one of the FFA leaders showing a dairy cow at the event.
Ag in the Classroom came to fruition after pork producers contacted FFA about informing and educating younger people about the agriculture industry.
"Pork producers actually came to us three years ago and asked if we would do something like this in urban areas. The separation of people from farms has been more and more throughout the years. With the legislation that gets passed in some states by special interest groups, we want to have informed voters," Mortenson said.
The FFA chapter decided to get the message out to young students early by holding the event in different elementary schools. Additionally, FFA makes appearances to a larger audience at the Minnesota State Fair in an effort to reduce the disconnect between the public and agriculture.
The event clearly had an impact on the students as they stared into the cages where the animals were housed for the day. Several of the elementary students interviewed mentioned enjoying the presence of the farm animals and related the animals to their own pets at home.
"I learned that crayons come from pigs," said Raul (last name omitted), one of the students attending the event whose parents are both from Mexico. The FFA leaders explained some of the ingredients in a few unexpected products that surprised many of the students.
The level of knowledge of the participating students varied, said Mortenson, but the students were excited to learn and experience a bit of agriculture for the day.
"Some kids still think that chocolate milk comes from a brown cow, so it's really neat to see that they're learning," Huot said.