P L E N T Y SUMMER 2019 Plenty Summer 2019-joomag copy | Page 43

The Relevance of Farm-based Education BY SOPHIA MARAVELL T he poet, writer, small family farmer and activist Wendell Berry, wrote, “The need for agricultural education is great and urgent.” With the ravages of climatic disturbances, food inse- curity, and poor nutrition leading to myriad health issues, how might farm-based education impact our present political moment? Today’s farmers can play a significant role in educating and equipping our youth, our political leaders, teachers, busi- ness owners, consumers, chefs, restaurant owners, researchers, policy makers, scientists, librar- ians, environmentalists, doctors, health practitioners, architects, builders, landscapers, and so on, to make decisions that help restore and rejuvenate our food system. One local example: the farmers of Potomac Vegetable Farms, based in Northern Virginia, have formally and informally practiced agricul- tural education since its inception more than 50 years ago through informal training and mentorship of countless young and beginning farmers, school tours, and informa- tive articles in its newsletters. We are not powerless Vandana Shiva, Indian scholar, envi- ronmental activist and food sov- ereignty advocate, was once asked in a Mother Earth News interview: “What are the most concrete things we as individuals can do to re- store food sovereignty (the right to Example of educatinal outreach to young women at Potomac Vegetable Farms. healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods) and build a sustainable society?” Her response: “Save seeds and grow a food garden.” This is one of the many important things farm-based education teaches. When people have the knowledge of how to grow their own food and save their own seeds, they can gain some control over what ends up on the dinner table and enjoy better nutrition in the process. Another simple and straight- forward response to this question would be to follow the words of American author, journalist, and activist Michael Pollan: “Vote with your fork...three times a day.” In other words, choose where you spend your money within our food system. Understanding how food is grown and an awareness of its PLENTY I SUMMER GROWING 2019 43