Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Saline Fair Helping Kids Learn About Agriculture

While I was at the fair this past week, there was one recurring thought that kept coming up in my conversations with people. They wanted the kids in the area to be aware of farm life and agriculture.

I can perfectly understand where they are coming from. During the Miss Saline Pageant one of the contestants was asked why she was active in clubs especially 4H and she responded in length but the part that stuck out to me was, "Saline used to be a farm town." I grew up in Okemos, a town similar to Saline in many ways. One of those ways is that well before I was around on this Earth, Okemos too was a farming community. Until the 70's and 80's that's basically all Okemos was. However, by now, there is scant a farm within the district lines of Okemos. Right when i moved away, the big farm located across the street from Okemos high School was sold so that more subdivisions could be built. AS far as I'm aware the only farm left is Cook's where my family has been buying our sweet corn since I was eight.

This caused problems. Being a nice community, still surrounded by farm communities (sans East Lansing) I see more similarities to Saline, another nice community (granted there is still more farming in Saline and Pittsfield) surrounded by more agriculturally oriented communities (sans Ann Arbor). When I was in high school, some of the more elitist and socially harsh kids would make fun of the neighboring communities for being, "hicks" or farm kids. This is just mean. I obviously don't know the inner-workings of Saline High School, and whether this kind of taunting exists, but i would not be too surprised I guess. Again, growing up I was, and similarly neither were my classmates, schooled in agriculture even though we lived 10 minutes away from one of the biggest agricultural schools in the region. I can't speak for those hurtful kids, but I feel as though if they had truly understood the benefits of agriculture and farming and such, then possibly they would not have been so cruel.

Besides all of that, it just makes sense for kids to be aware of where their food comes from, especially in these times. So much processed and unnatural food is being served to our nation's children, if they knew that they could be supporting local families and neighbors by buying different foods that not only support people, but is actually better for them, who's to say they wouldn't? We need to have faith in our children, and teach them things like this. I know for one, that after high school, I became much more interested in learning where the food I put in my body came from. How hard would it have been to take a field trip in elementary and middle school to a local farm to teach kids that? Not very. Plus, kids are impressionable, and some love to take what they learned at school, and especially on field trips and tell their parents everything they learned.

Parents are also a root cause of this problem, and with enough insistence from their children who knows what differences we could see. The one positive aspect out of all of this that I have noticed in the last few years in the growing trend of non-farm oriented small communities with farmers' markets popping up. That's great in my mind. You can't know where your food is coming from any better than if you're buying it from the person who grew or raised it.

I talked to the fair President Kevin Ernst at the end of the fair and he said thanks in part to the baby animal exhibit and the fact school had not started, they had much more interest and excitement from area children. I asked him if they talked at all with the school district to help promote and he said they had talked with Superintendent Scot Graden. However, since school had not started yet it makes it hard for the schools to help promote the event.

Basically, it seems important to me that kids in areas not focused on farming learn more about it and where there food comes from. Not only from a healthy eating perspective but also from a community building and knowledge perspective.

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