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Why Ag Should Say Yes to FCS

Agriculture, we have to do a better job connecting with nontraditional audiences.

After spending a week with Family and Consumer Science (FCS) teachers at their annual conference, I’m more convinced than ever that griculture needs to be engaging with these teachers and their students.  

This is not the home economics classes of my day.  

FCS students are enrolled in culinary classes, which should be an obvious connection to agriculture. They are learning to prepare the food we farmers are growing.  

FCS students are enrolled in fashion and apparel classes, learning to make clothes with cotton, wool, and other fibers that agriculture produces.  

In talking with several teachers, I learned they are teaching about sustainability, food systems, and other topics related to agriculture. This sounds fantastic, because the more people who know about farming, the better, right?  

It would be, but teachers told me they didn’t have agriculture classes in college, so many are teaching based on what they read on the internet. One told me how she taught her students if they couldn’t buy all organic produce, at least buy organic strawberries because they have the most pesticides. I’ve visited organic and conventional farms and both used pesticides.  Neither crop was a danger to the consumer. Agriculture, we have to do better. We have to be the source of information for teachers, not a random website.  

One teacher told me how her classes and agriculture students work collaboratively. Ag students are teaching FCS students how to grow the food. Once harvested, FCS students teach the ag students the culinary side: food preparation, safety, and human nutrition. Why isn’t this happening more often? Farmers need to know how to cook. We need to understand culinary trends and how the food we grow or raise is being used by chef, food scientists, and registered dietitians as part of understanding consumer demand. Those professionals need to understand how food is grown and all the decisions farmers make when growing or raising food.

Another teacher talked about a partnership with business education students on a food truck project. FCS students planned the menu and everything that goes into the food side. Business students handled the finances, marketing, and financial details. Think how many more studens would have been impacted if the agriculture classes had grown or raised the food. Imagine the collaborative learning if all three of those career and technical education areas worked together. Agriculture benefits not only other students learning how food is grown, but also ag students learning FCS and business skills. This could open students eyes to career paths they never knew existed  It’s a win-win for all students and teachers involved.

FCS students may go on to become chefs. They may work in food processing. They could work in the fashion industry. They may go in an entirely different career direction. Regardless of their career choice, they will be consumers.  

This is the opportunity we in agriculture talk about, a chance to connect with people interested in food and fiber. It’s time to stop talking about connecting and and actually do it. How? Advocate for FCS programs in your local middle and high schools. Invite FCS students and teachers to your farm or serve as a guest speaker in the classroom. Donate produce or meat from your farm to a program so culinary students are preparing local food in their classes. Involve FCS teachers and organizations in your marketing plans. Partner with the FCS student organization, the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (think of it as the FFA of family and consumer sciences) as they prepare for competitions, engage in peer education, and coordinate community service programs.   

I challenge you to reach out and connect with your FCS programs. Say “YES” to FCS!

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