Educators, agriculture industry professionals and students celebrated National Ag Day by having breakfast and listening to speakers and panelists at the second annual Agriculture and Food Literacy Summit at the Mozingo Lake Conference Center.
Northwest’s School of Agricultural Sciences sponsored the event to discuss ways to help students understand the food system starting at 7 a.m. March 14. The summit started after U.S. Department of Agriculture sent a grant to the University for working on agriculture literacy.
Co-organizer Jill Brown, director of partnerships and placement in Career Services, said the event helps people continue the conversation about the importance of agriculture.
“We live in northwest Missouri where agriculture is a large part of our economy,” Brown said. “People seem to be more and more removed from production agriculture, but there’s no reason why they can’t get reconnected.”
The first speaker was Northwest Athletic Director Andy Peterson. He grew up in a family of dairy farmers in Trenton, Missouri, and had three degrees in agriculture, all from Northwest. He spoke about how agriculture influenced his life.
“It’s a passion of mine,” Peterson said. “I’m still very connected to it. The person it turned me into is something I’m very proud of. This is just an opportunity to share that a little bit with others and, hopefully, give some of the younger ones some encouragement on their path.”
The summit’s theme was “More.” The theme had four pillars — “Reach More,” “Empower More,” “Connect More” and “Feed More” — and each pillar correlated with a segment of the summit.
Division director of agriculture business development for the Missouri Department of Agriculture Davin Althoff spoke during the “Reach More” portion of the summit. He talked about ways to cultivate the connection between agriculture and society.
“Being involved in agriculture, it’s absolutely important for us to connect to and reach our consumers,” Althoff said. “Less than two percent of the population in the U.S. is involved in agriculture, so a big part of our population don’t have a day-to-day understanding of what we do in agriculture. Reaching consumers is about building that trust in what we do.”
The first panel focused on agripreneurs, people who make their living by selling an agricultural product, for the “Empower More” portion of the summit. Panelists represented three businesses: Berry Nutty Farms, Spoor Farms Popcorn and Alewel’s Country Meats.
Brown said representing different kinds of producers is important.
“(It’s) just more talking about all things food, whether it’s big Ag or people who are locally producing the product,” Brown said. “We want to highlight and support both of those kinds of individuals.”
Director of marketplace education and engagements for FCS financial Kate Lambert spoke for the “Connect More” segment of the summit.
The final part of the summit, “Feed More,” featured Northwest students in a panel discussion about their food choices. Brown’s goal was to better understand how the students make decisions about the food they consume.
Junior Garrett Louiselle was most excited about the panel discussion with students.
“I think it’s going to be extremely important to see the opinions from college students,” Louiselle said.
Brown said educators will take the feedback from the two summits and develop a curriculum about agriculture literacy for middle school students. Then they will use part of the grant to create a traveling truck.
“It’ll be kind of like a food truck but just full of knowledge,” Brown said. “That will be on the road, hopefully, in the fall.”