Many children do not have an understanding of where their food actually comes from before it reaches the grocery store. Understanding the farm to table connection helps children develop an appreciation for agriculture, food systems, and the importance of making healthy food choices. First graders in the Northeast Region of Louisiana had an opportunity to experience first-hand how important agriculture is to the economy and to the health of themselves and their families. Ag Alley is an annual educational opportunity that helps children learn the origins of their food and how to incorporate agricultural commodities into a healthful MyPlate meal they can enjoy.
Agriculture provides the very sustenance of life; without it, no society can survive. Agriculture influences the food, health, economy, environment, technology, and well-being of all. In Louisiana, agriculture is the backbone to the economy and contributed $11.8 billion to the state on average over the past five years (LSU AgCenter Agricultural Summary). By 2050, it is projected the world’s population will reach 9 billion people; this will require agricultural production to double. A majority of consumers—youth and adults—do not have a fundamental understanding of agriculture or how agriculture affects their lives. In order to meet the challenges of the future, it is imperative that youth and adults increase their agricultural literacy in order to be better-informed consumers, advocates, and policy makers.
The LSU AgCenter Extension Faculty from the Northeast Region provide opportunities for youth and adults to increase their agricultural literacy through regional activities. First grade students are invited to Ag Alley, which is held in partnership with the Ag Expo hosted by the North Louisiana Agribusiness Council each year. The 2020 Ag Alley provided hands-on learning experiences for 1st graders by introducing students to agricultural concepts through interactive “alleys”. 630 1st grade students participated in 1st Grade Ag Alley this year along with 36 teachers and 92 parents/volunteers.
Farmer Pete was the focus of the 1st grade alleys with emphasis on how our food is grown, harvested, and processed. Four alleys, along with a mini farm, tied agricultural concepts with the nutritional components of Louisiana grown commodities. The four stations included: Delta Farm, Louella’s Dairy Farm, Sam’s Silo, and Farmer Pete’s Protein Place.
Students also had the opportunity to learn about animals from the Louisiana Purchase Zoo educational staff who brought animals from the zoo for the children to see and touch. Beekeepers also educated the children about honeybees and their agricultural benefits. Children were able to see inside a demonstration hive and taste honey straight from the honeycomb!
Results - Comments from teachers regarding the most important thing gained :
The North Louisiana Agribusiness Council provides funding each year for Ag Alley as part of the Ag Expo event. Ag Alley is a regional event for LSU AgCenter agents from 12 parishes and involves Agriculture & Natural Resources, 4-H, Horticulture, and Family & Consumer Sciences agents all working together to educate youth. SNAP-Ed educational materials are shared with teachers and students who participate in the event.