Friday, December 9, 2011

Teach Our Children Well...

Last week I got a call from daughter A's FFA teacher at school asking if I could come in and make a presentation on what it's like to be a poultry farmer. Now, strictly speaking, I'm not a "poultry farmer." When I hear that term, I think of the folks who own the big battery farms, and raise ten thousand broilers or laying hens. That's definitely not me. I told Ms. W that, and she said it was fine, she just wanted to give the kids some idea of what it's like to raise poultry. That I can do!

Production White Leghorn
So in I went today to make a presentation. I had nothing prepared, no notes or Powerpoint, just a chicken. I had grabbed up one of our Production White Leghorns (which A got for her 4-H project and County Fair this past summer.) Popped the hen into a crate and off to school I went. I've done lots of presentations and demos in my life, so winging it was just fine with me, I can extemporize with the best of 'em, on any number of topics (being able to spout bs at length and sound like you know what you're talking about is a gift, not a skill, I'm just lucky that way.)

Off we went, the chicken and me, up to school where I did my presentation for a 7th grade class (when did 7th graders get so old looking, by the way?) We live in a very rural area, and I admit I was surprised at how few of the kids in the class live on farms, only 2 out of the 25 in the room. Most of the kids were from "in town", and few had ever gotten close to a live chicken. It brought home to me how disconnected most of us are from how our food is raised (those of us who eat meat, that is), as the average 7th grader really only thinks of chicken as something that comes as a nugget, or is wrapped in plastic in the case at the grocery store. I think this is a Very Bad Thing.

Fresh eggs are so much better than store-bought!
Part of my presentation was to answer eight questions the kids had on a worksheet, and as we worked our way through the sheet several things became clear. The first was, the kids were eager to display what they did know about chickens (several weeks earlier A had done a presentation for the class on a different breed we raise, called Buckeyes.) Most of them were happy to share what they already knew, and were interested in learning more about what it takes to raise chickens. We talked about doing chores; every day, twice a day, sometimes three times a day if it's really hot and the animals need extra water. One of the questions was "What is the hardest part about raising chickens/living on a farm?", to which I replied "Finding someone reliable and knowledgeable enough to do chores if we want to go on vacation" which surprised many of them. But the thing I came away with, is that most of those kids would be perfectly happy to not ever be a farmer. And that makes me sad.

Children in our communities need to get more involved with production of their food, not less. We need to have more community gardens, more cooperative animal projects, not fewer. Kids need to get dirt under their fingernails, mud on their shoes, pull an egg out from under a chicken on the nest, to really appreciate what it means to raise food, to connect with the process. We do our children a disservice if we keep them from that, raise them to think food comes from Wal-Mart or Kroger, rather than the back yard, or the neighbor's farm. I have no answers, just concerns. How do we reconnect people to the food they eat? I wish I knew. But I think it needs to happen, somehow.

1 comment:

Mrs. Bartos said...

Amen to that.... part of the reason few want to do it, is that the priorities of society have changed. It used to be if you had food, clothes a warm home and a steady income, you were rich. And people would do a lot to acheive that. Now everyone wants everything handed to them (in clean packaging) and will only work to earn money to buy more house than they can afford or need and a flatscreen tv (or IPHONE or fill in the blank.) Sad, sad, sad.