Land O'Lakes Inc., joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, hosted June 15 at Fair Oaks Farms in Fair Oaks, Ind., a live broadcast about taking the conversation about food and agriculture beyond the field. The broadcast coincided with the unveiling of the WinField Crop Adventure, an experiential exhibit designed for students ages 8-12 years old and their families that celebrates modern farming and illustrates the innovation and entrepreneurialism at the core of agriculture.
"The challenge of feeding a growing global population, coupled with the availability of more and better technology than ever before, makes food and agriculture one of the most exciting and rewarding career fields for young people today," Vilsack said. "I applaud Land O'Lakes for broadening the conversation around the innovation and entrepreneurship that are at the heart of modern American agriculture, giving the rest of us a glimpse into the dynamic industry that keeps our nation food secure."
During the “Fields of the Future” broadcast, Land O'Lakes president and chief executive officer Chris Policinski discussed the need for a more robust discussion about modern farming.
“More consumers want to know more about where their food comes from. That’s a terrific opportunity for agriculture to tell its story,” Policinski said. “It’s especially important because farmers have been so productive. In that environment, we just want to inject fact and science in the story of agriculture. That’s what WinField Solutions’ Crop Adventure is all about.”
As evidenced by findings from a survey of young people across the country, new research highlights the need for a more inclusive and transparent dialogue — particularly with non-farming youth and their families. Notably, the survey of 500 teens found only 15% of respondents considered farmers to be technologically advanced. Additionally, 64% do not know anyone who works in agriculture, further illustrating the need to connect families who are sitting at the table with farmers who produce the food.
"We're pulling back the curtain on modern farming to share the story of farmers and facilitate a more robust dialogue around food and agriculture," said Policinski. "We need to excite and engage people in a broader discussion about what it takes to produce the food needed to feed a growing global population. It's important that we demystify the work of farmers and our industry for the 98% of Americans who don't have a direct connection to where their food comes from."
He said farmers have done a great job talking among themselves about the great productivity and sustainability story: Growing more food with less. However, they’ve done a really poor job of engaging the consumers. “Our goal here is to tell the story in a way that consumers can have fun learning about and absorb.”
The WinField Crop Adventure exhibit does just that by providing a history of farming and exploring the journey of a crop in highly educational but approachable exhibits. Additionally, the experience completes with a look into the future of farming and an invitation for ideas from all visitors.
"The WinField Crop Adventure, developed in partnership with Fair Oaks Farms, is one way Land O'Lakes and WinField are sharing the important and meaningful work done by farmers, and fueling ideas and innovation to feed the growing population," said WinField chief operating officer Mike Vande Logt. "The Crop Adventure dives in to the innovative practices in precision agriculture, technology and sustainability and connects them to people's everyday lives."
Young farmers, like 15-year-old Kelly Irvine, a seventh-generation teen farmer recognized nationally for her research focused on women in farming and agriculture, are becoming increasingly rare. Irvine attended the WinField Crop Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms and joined the Fields of the Future broadcast to talk about her hopes for farming and how she encourages youth to learn more.
Vilsack believes the new exhibit will not only inform youth about modern agriculture, but also inspire them to look for a career in agriculture.
“It’s not just farm to fork, it’s also farm to fork to port. There are jobs connected in cities and in small towns all across the U.S. that are connected and a result of agriculture,” Vilsack said.
The WinField Crop Adventure joins The Dairy Adventure and The Pig Adventure, which are already available to guests of Fair Oaks Farms.
“All of these animals that we take care of need the crops. It all starts with our farms and crops,” said Dr. Michael McCloskey, co-founder of Fair Oaks Farms. The new exhibit is a big piece of the agriculture story that had been missing at Fair Oaks, he added.