The first initiative in the proposed draft of the five year plan for Purdue Extension calls for better education of both food producers and consumers as to how the big-picture food system work. Talk over the past 18 months in agriculture circles has been how to better inform the public of what happens on farms, and that producers are responsible. Little has been said until now about educating growers and livestock producers about the other end of the food chain which they may not know as much about.
Chuck Hibberd introduced the initiatives to Extension-based audiences all across Indiana recently via video presentation. The 10-intiative draft will be finalized for use beginning in 2011. However, as a user of Extension, you can still make comments about the plan until Friday, December 3. Do so at your local Extension office or by going on-line to the Purdue Extension site.
The draft proposal says that agriculture producers themselves may lack a complete picture of how the nation's food supply chain works. Consumers and advocacy groups, on the other hand, have knowledge about some phases of production, but usually not the production end.
How will Extension try to meet this goal? The draft suggests forming a multi-disciplinary Food Systems Team within Extension. The Team will address current educational resources to get this job done, and identify and develop additional educational programs and resources that can help tell the story to each prospective group.
The end result of course, is to hold meetings and use whatever means work to foster public conversations about food systems among consumers, producers, environmentalists and other advocacy groups.
Another initiative comes closer to representing one of the original roles of Extension- explaining and demonstrating new techniques coming out of research to farmers. While the words used in the initiative are larger, broader and more vague, the intent seems to be to work with farmers and non-traditional farmers, those now moving into niche markets, to improve managerial and marketing skills.
More emphasis seems to be on managing and marketing than on working with producers to develop higher yields. Yet the initiative talks about the need to feed a rapidly growing population. Traditionally, production of high yields has come first. Then ag specialists and farmers have figured out how to manage it and market it successfully. Without increased production through application of superior techniques, some developed through practical research, there may not be enough to market and manage.