BY LINDSEY HANNAH
Today’s suburbia is the epitome of convenience, especially when it comes to food. Everything comes prepackaged or precooked. There are no such things as “seasons” for fruits and vegetables, and even the cows which once filled the fields between developments have gotten the boot to make way for new Walmarts and gas stations.
It’s about time we follow the lead of high schools like South Plantation and bring agriculture back to the students of Cooper City. Agricultural education, including the raising of animals and growing of plants, might just do them a world of good.
Did you think you were eating chickens, pigs, and cows? Think again. In this world, those don’t exist, only bacon and burgers, fillets and nuggets… We have come up with a thousand ways of disguising the fact that the meat on our plates used to belong to actual living things.
Many, once reacquainted with the ethically questionable conditions in which animals are kept and subsequently slaughtered, have opted for vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. Others have sought out local or ethical brands to ensure that the animals they eat are treated with respect. Some make no lifestyle changes, merely acquiring a greater appreciation for the life that was given to supply their dinner.
No matter the effect it has, there is no doubt that a familiarity with the process of how animal products arrive on our plates, cradle to grave, is essential to live a responsible and conscientious life.
An awareness of what goes into the foods that we eat also discourages wastefulness. In the United States, 30-40% of all food produced is thrown away; that’s 133 billion pounds and $161 billion in 2010 alone, according to USDA.
Not only is this wasting our resources, but crowding our landfills as well. When students have a hand in the time and work it takes to produce even a small amount of food, it makes them consider the food they throw in the garbage, leading them to only buy and cook what they will actually eat.
Agricultural and horticultural work is a form of experiential learning, which enriches the overall enjoyment of school and learning of the student. With the exception of some electives, students often sit in their seats reading and writing for hour-and-a-half blocks, seven hours a day, five days a week. The opportunity to be active and work with their hands would offer students a reprieve from the necessary but taxing work of core classes.
“The high focus on collaboration and learning from each other benefits the participant as it increases engagement,” founder and CEO of KNOLSKAPE (a creator of experiential learning technology and simulation programs) Rajiv Jayaraman wrote in his article on the benefits of experiential learning. “On the other hand, since the participant is immediately involved in the problem-solving activity or event, the level of ownership of the outcome is high.”
Hands-on involvement with the production of whole, genetically-unaltered foods might also encourage students to eat more healthfully. In addition, it could create a positive environment in which students can gain an appreciation for nature and the outdoors, leading to more time outside and active as well as a greater consideration for the state of the environment.
Agricultural education would have innumerable benefits, including, but certainly not limited to, greater awareness and conscientiousness of where our food comes from and environmental issues. It would also promote more active and healthy lifestyles in students.
As Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka once said, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”