Our children are sponges of information and long to learn. What we teach them will hopefully last a lifetime and help them throughout life and even with their own families. 

Years ago, relatives were closely involved in agriculture so the question of where our food comes from was obvious to all age groups. That has changed over time. I didn’t grow up on a farm; I have to go back to my great grandparents to have a direct relationship to agriculture in my family. 

Having some knowledge of the farm, the challenges in producing our food and where our food comes from is important. Why? Because we can’t live without food.

  1. Food keeps us healthy.
  2. Food keeps us secure.
  3. Food provides nutrients that help our children learn and develop.

Agriculture has changed over time. The tractors have changed, the seeds have changed and even the farmer has changed. Our food in the U.S. is produced by less than 2% of the population. You no longer have to work in agriculture to feed your family. Science is an integral part of our food production and technology is a part of our world. We no longer have to take a horse into town, we use our cars. We no longer use that same horse to plow the fields, we use a GPS driven tractor, similar to technology on your phone or in your car.

Kids are fascinated by the world around them. As our children ask questions, we learn. In adults, this behavior stops at some point and yet it should continue. Asking questions allows us to have a deeper understanding of a career, of a person, of a culture, etc.

If you are looking for ways to encourage your children to learn more about food and the farm, I would suggest using the holidays as a great way to explore that. Many times families are already on the farm, picking out the perfect pumpkin, apples for a pie or that perfect holiday tree. Even if you aren’t already on the farm, the food around you has an interesting story to tell. Use this opportunity to talk to people about what goes into growing those for us. 

Some great questions to ask are:

  • How long does it take these food items to grow?
  • What requirements are needed to produce these food items?
  • Why did they decide to pursue this as a career?
  • What technologies do they use?
  • Why do they use those technologies?

The next time you visit a petting zoo, ask what products each of the animals make. Make a trip to the farmers market or grocery store educational by creating a scavenger hunt for products and questions to ask the farmer about those products.  

Ronda Hamm is passionate about sharing science with everyone. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture education at Fresno State University. She taught at Clovis East and Sierra High Schools before starting her graduate education. She received her Master of Science and doctorate degrees in entomology at Cornell University. She is currently a patent liaison at Dow AgroSciences.