School farm program to boost healthy living

All public school students in NSW would be taught where their food comes from under a program put forward by NSW Farmers.

With food and groceries being top of the agenda for families heading into the state election, NSW Farmers has proposed a suite of school-based measures to encourage children to learn how to grow their own food, find out where food comes from, and potentially take up a career in agriculture.

NSW Farmers Rural Affairs Committee chair Deb Charlton said it was concerning that children didn’t understand the basics with food, but there were some simple solutions.

“According to a 2020 study by the Primary Industries Education Foundation Australia, a third of young people aged 12 to 19 didn’t know yoghurt is an animal product and just under two thirds didn’t know cotton is derived from a plant,” Mrs Charlton said.

“Over the past couple of years NSW Farmers has delivered a successful Kids to Farms program for primary school students and we’ve seen them really enjoy learning about this practical, everyday thing that many take for granted.

“We’re hoping to see all sides of politics commit to bolstering agricultural education in our schools from kindergarten right through to Year 12, because there are great opportunities out there for young people.”

While NSW already had agriculture as an optional part of the curriculum up to Year 8, Mrs Charlton said expanding that focus would help restore Australians’ connections to where food comes from. Furthermore, she said exposing older students to modern agricultural practices would open the door to more job opportunities, particularly for those students who wanted to work with nature.

“At the moment there are six jobs to every one agriculture graduate in Australia, and these are in a range of disciplines from shearing and dairying through to IT and piloting drones,” Mrs Charlton said.

“Agriculture is not just a ‘manual labour’ sort of career, it’s a modern and ever-evolving industry that requires a range of skills across the entire state.

“Many lifelong careers start with a childhood passion, and it makes sense to get students switched on to farming from a young age.”

NSW Farmers has called for:

1. Establishment of an ‘Ask A Farmer’ program to strengthen conversations about agriculture.

2. Dedicated funding for teachers’ professional development to improve specialist agriculture delivery for all students in K-12.

3. Funding for an industry-led agriculture awareness, engagement and career program available for all school students in K-12.

4. Additional funding for TAFE NSW towards local delivery of agriculture and agriculture-dependent qualifications across rural NSW.

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