Interacting with people unfamiliar with agriculture and forestry in our state is the most exciting, surprising, and challenging part of working for Oregon Aglink.
There is power in personal storytelling and genuine connection – it’s one of the coolest things to watch unfold.
It’s the time of year when we kick all of that into high gear as students go back to school! The excitement of middle school students bounding off a school bus onto a farm for the first time is one of my absolute favorite things. They are curious and full of questions. Their worldview is taking shape from first-hand experiences and what a better place to gather those than on the farm? Students who struggle with attention in the classroom, often thrive on a field trip. We watch students become fascinated by things we forget are novel because they’re so common to a farmer. Adopt a Farmer field trip experiences help create positive associations with and a better understanding of Oregon agriculture.
For the past several years we’ve also been connecting students in OHSU’s dietetic internship program with farmers and ranchers. Curiosity combined with critical thinking sure makes for a great jumping off point. These interns are passionate about food – nutrition, access, production, sustainability, the list goes on. There really is rich dialogue to be shared between farmers and future registered dietitians who could reach thousands of people during the course of their careers. We get to help with myth busting ideas like that organic doesn’t mean no chemicals. Sometimes interns have strongly held beliefs around food and farmers may share answers that surprise them or challenge those notions.
Even if both sides don’t come to an agreement, we continue to have conversations and interactions that result in better understanding of one another.
As we gear up for a school year with the excitement of students returning to school in person, we are excited to connect students and teachers with farms and ranches again. We are ready to see students face to face and hope to get them out of the classroom on field trips, but also understand that we’re still starting the school year with some uncertainty. Our farmers and ranchers are ready to host as soon as we’re given the go ahead by school administration to facilitate these valuable experiences.
Working to make connections between Oregonians and farmers, ranchers, fishers, and foresters is so rewarding, worthwhile, and necessary.
It is only thanks to our members’ dues, generous fiscal donors, and steadfast volunteers that we as staff are able to ensure that “back to school” includes agriculture. We are grateful for another year to help students know an Oregon farmer and are always looking to include more people in the program. If you are a farmer who has thought about participating, this is a great year to do so – and it’s not too late!
Sharing your story and answering questions directly with Oregonians is a powerful and effective way to help create a two-way dialogue instead of one way streets.