1) How did you get involved with the Adopt a Farmer program?
I got involved with the Adopt a Farmer program during the 2013-2014 school year. It actually started through the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association and other groups that partnered together for the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” assembly at Yamhill-Carlton Middle School last year. I was one of the speakers, and one thing led to another and I had the school out for a field trip. It was really fun to be involved with.
2) What was your first impression of the program and how has that evolved?
The biggest thing I got out of it was the ability to tie into what they were learning in school and apply that to real life. I’m an avid reader, but applying it to real life is big. Being able to tie agriculture to economics and the business side is important. . I’ve talked about cows, nutrition and diet with my current class, and that led back to math and biology. It was perfect, you could really see the proverbial light bulb go off.
3) Who have you been paired with and what has it been like?
I was paired with Yamhill-Carlton Intermediate School in Yamhill last year, and this year I was paired with Harvey Scott School in Northeast Portland. Coming to a ranch was different than what they’d seen. There’s a disconnect from the east side of the state to the west. For those in an urban environment, to come to where the closest neighbor is a mile away, that’s pretty daunting for them. Their demographic is very, very urban and most haven’t been out of the city before so that’s been a big change. Also they have no basis (for agriculture), whereas some at Yamhill-Carlton did. Yamhill-Carlton is closer to ag even though they’re still relatively urban. My Northeast Portland class has asked lots of questions, and I’ve been involved with them in a different way. It’s fun to have that interaction.
4) When did you know you wanted to keep participating?
There was an ‘aha’ moment on the field trip last year. I was talking to the kids about the cow in the chute, and talking about its nutrition and diet, and one kid says ‘we’ve been talking about that in my math and biology class.’ That intrigued me so much, you could see them putting the puzzle pieces together. That’s when I saw it was making an impact.
5) How has your second year been different than your first year?
It’s a different audience. With Yamhill-Carlton Intermediate School, some had exposure to agriculture and some didn’t. This year’s class, Harvey Scott School, they are very, very removed from it and questions from them are quite a bit different than ones from Yamhill-Carlton. It’s also been more one-on-one with this teacher. Carlos brings a lot of excitement to the program, and that’s been a lot of fun for me as well. He seems to be more engaged and it’s been a very fun process.
6) How important is it to educate others about Oregon agriculture and how has this program helped?
The education piece is pivotal, I think that’s the one piece we’re lacking in this industry. Especially with this age group, because they’re vulnerable and open to ideas. It’s absolutely vital to show where our food comes from, and that as agriculturists we’re the first environmentalists. If we don’t sustain our land, we go out of business. Telling our story is the education piece and, since we’re busy 24/7 and 365 days a year, this program opens that door. It’s a forum to allow that process to happen, instead of someone like me having to design and put it together. It’s a platform we have built and continue to grow, and that is absolutely incredible and very crucial from the producer side, and it’s very, very important.
7) Where have you seen the most growth in attitudes and impressions of Oregon agriculture?
With Oregon cattlemen’s associations. Cattle are now the number one agricultural impact, and there are a lot of gaps. We need to educate the public, we need to be involved more and by doing that it has been very rewarding. With programs like the Adopt a Farmer program, we have started to see more forward progress.
8) What has been the most rewarding aspect of participating in this program?
I think sharing information with the kids has been the most rewarding. Listening to the kids and forming an answer they’ll understand has been very challenging but very fun. I enjoy the one-on-one conversations and opening their eyes to a whole different world.
9) What impact do you hope these relationships will have on the future?
The biggest impact I’d like to see is on the political side. For our society to see how important agriculture is, so that they’ll dig deeper and help us produce more quality food for our society. One of the biggest things is the education piece. Ag is very labor intensive and we don’t have a lot of time, so then we find ourselves battling politicians who are making laws who don’t understand the importance of what we do and how we do it. Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now when kids become voters, hopefully they’ll understand how important agriculture is and how they can continue to have cheap food that’s sustainable across the board. Most are four, five, and six generations removed, and don’t understand the basis of that reality. It’s not an overnight thing, but it can happen in the long run.
10) Would you recommend this program? Why?
I absolutely recommend this to all ag producers from all commodities. With the generational gap and the importance of education, there’s a huge gap between where food comes from and how it’s raised. It’s about being transparent and showing the world we’re doing things right. This program gives us a platform to share our story that isn’t always available. It’s very important to jump in and be involved.