This Land is Our Land

Likely you know the words to a famous American folk song written by Woody Guthrie. “This land is your land, this land is my land… This land was made for you and me.” Those words immediately sprang to mind when I read this headline in my Archdiocesan paper “Catholics risk loss of their connection to the land”. Now first of all, this is not an article about religion although I am a practicing Catholic, our son goes to a Catholic school and I make no qualms about sharing that information but it has nothing to do with this article. The headline was about agricultural education and the land but it just happened to be in a Catholic newspaper.

My shock was when I read that there are 244 Catholic degree-granting institutions in the United States and not one of them offers an undergraduate degree program in agriculture. What about all the other private institutions? Are the statistics just as grim?  The public schools? I think so – I never once had an agriculture or farm to plate type class in any public school I attended. A professor in the article stated that most people did not know any basic agriculture nor had they even heard of big names that affect our food supply like Monsanto.

I would guess that I am preaching to the choir (pardon the pun!) on this issue. Most people visiting LANDTHINK are likely those who are aware of the value of land from conservation, hunting, recreation or farming aspects. You probably understand the intrinsic value of land and probably agree with Mark Twain and his famous quote to “Buy land, they aren’t making any more.”

But what about the next generation? Do they know what agriculture is? Do they know where their food really comes from? Do they know what sustainable means? Do they know that in my state, Kansas, that 1 out of every 5 jobs is in the agriculture sector? Do they know that there 22 million people working in ag related industries?

Church vs. State is a big debate but what about Education vs. School? Should every school offer at least one basic class in agriculture or land use? Will our next generation know what will happen to our food supply if disaster strikes? Anyone notice beef prices at the grocery store lately? It is a direct result of last summer’s drought that caused the now low herd numbers of cattle.

Maybe the education system is not responsible for any agricultural education. Maybe it’s too specialized. Maybe just the 3 R’s is enough. Kick out a few math problems, learn how to read and write and call it good. If that is the case then do enough children know about other opportunities like 4-H where they can learn about agriculture and plants and never have to own animals or live on a farm. They can be a part of 4-H and learn robotics, astronomy, photography or public speaking and meet up with other folks that farm or raise livestock and learn from them. They can take farm tours and meet animals face to face. Many other state and local programs like Agriculture in the Classroom are available and even the USDA has its program Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. But are these programs being used? Is it enough? Does anybody besides me know about them? And if so, why aren’t they being utilized?

So what say you? If this land is our land, then shouldn’t we understand it and educate our children about it.

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  • Great points, Marisa. It seems the growth of centralized, industrial agriculture has successfully stripped us of a deep understanding of the processes that go into producing our foods.

    Do you think that the growth of the local food movement will help to address this deficit of knowledge? Or do you think it will take a more formal effort to educate ourselves and future generations?

    • Michael,
      Great questions. Watching kids learn about agriculture even at something like the local county fair is amazing. Anything that gives them an opportunity to learn whether it be formal education or informal setting like a county fair is better than nothing at all.

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