Agriculture and Environmental Education

By: Ethan Lewis, former MAEE Board Member

On July 16th, the organization I work with participated in the Eat Local Farm Tour. We had approximately 300 people come out to our farm to learn about chickens and their benefits, take wagon rides out into the fields and do family activities. It was a very visual demonstration of people’s growing desire to connect with our food and those who grow it. On a personal level, it was affirmation that my passion to use agriculture and food to connect people to their environment was desired.

This may appear to be a strange feeling since four of the last five-blog posts have been related growing food in some capacity. But this is a more recent trend in the field of environmental education. I certainly wasn’t taught at University that agriculture could be a vector for building relationships to the land and fostering an environmental ethic. But it makes sense. There are countless articles of research lending support to how build an environmental ethic in individuals. One of the common themes is an adult role model guiding children in the outdoors.

I know I was lucky enough to have lots of those in my life – both grandmas took me to farms to pick fruits and vegetables, my mother gardened and my dad is an excellent (not that I’m biased) cook on the grill or over an open fire. While I am the only one of three kids who is in the environmental field, my siblings both have a strong environmental mindfulness. My brother loves just being outdoors with no particular agenda. While my sister enjoys U-pick veggies and fruits and gardening, brining her son with her. She started him at 2 years old, in case you are wondering how young you can go.

But I know not everyone has a green thumb or wants to balance accidental plant deaths caused by a “helpful” 2 year old with producing as much as you can in a garden. But there are many options available to us here in the Twin Cities Metro, as well as, the greater U.S. There is Gale Woods Farm, who among other things has Saturday Mornings on the Farm programs. Scout groups can participate in programs at Minnesota Food Association. Both Dodge Nature Center and Children’s Country Day School have a strong farm component to their preschools. The point isn’t really what you do with children. But to enjoy doing them. So I challenge everyone to go out and experience some agriculture with your family and friends.

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