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Agriculture's story rightly goes to inner city children

Next Friday, 1,200 inner city Los Angeles second and third graders will be surrounded by California agriculture in their own backyard.

As part of National Agriculture Week, California Women for Agriculture and the Agricultural Awareness and Literacy Foundation, will sponsor ‘Agriculture Day in LA’ where children will tour interactive displays showing them how California agriculture impacts their daily lives. It will all happen at Dorsey High School in the heart of Los Angeles.

“This is a unique opportunity for these inner city children to experience the sights and sounds of a world outside of their own,” according to CWA state president Carol Chandler.

Many commodities and ag groups will be involved in six interactive education stations featuring a live food guide pyramid demonstrating where food comes from; a fiber station showing how cotton and wood provide clothes; flowers to teach how plants grow; a water station illustrating how irrigation produces food; the Plant Doctor program from California Agricultural Production Consultants Association (CAPCA) will expose these children to the “good” and “bad” bugs and the Mobile Dairy Classroom will teach the children how cows provide milk and cheese.

This is a commendable effort by CWA, CAPCA, and the California Department of Education.

There is opinion that is being espoused today that agriculture is wasting money trying to convince well-fed city dwellers that farmers are good guys and need their support. Some believe some cash now spent on public relations would be better spent lobbying politically to win support for agricultural causes.

There is validity to that point of view.

As long as farmers fill supermarkets with high quality, reasonably price — cheap — food, California and Arizona's adult urban populace will find it hard to believe that farmers are struggling with issues that threaten their ability to produce that food supply.

It is difficult to win urban support for issues like dwindling ag water supplies and onerous pesticide, air and water quality laws that endanger the economic future of Western irrigated farming when everyone's mouth is full.

However, those who advocate redirecting money to lobbying efforts, including this editor, do not believe all efforts to communicate to people in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and Tucson should cease, just spend the money more wisely.

There is no wiser place to invest agricultural resources than in educating school children.

Programs like the Plant Doctor, the California Fertilizer Foundation and the Mobile Milk Classroom are investments that can only pay dividends in the future.

Agriculture has failed to educate a generation of Americans. Now it is imperative to educate their children if America is to understand the importance of maintaining a safe and dependable American food supply.

Those of us born in the first half of 20th century had ties to agriculture. If we did not live on a farm, we had relatives who farmed.

Most people born after 1950 never experienced those ties. They have never spent time on a farm and neither have their children. The children are the ones who need to understand agriculture.

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