The term "food & farming education" is receiving more attention in Taiwan, and more and more people have heard of the term "food & farming education." The Council of Agriculture started promoting the "Food & Farming Education Promotion Program" (hereinafter referred to as the Food & Farming Program) in 2017. Schools, private organizations and agribusiness companies are encouraged to offer food and farming activities and courses. The concept of food and farming education is incorporated in the content and design of these activities to enrich the quality and to enhance the learners’ food and agriculture literacy. This year (2020) is the fourth year of the Food & Farming Program. The bidding for projects has been competitive, as this year is the first year calling for innovative projects. Many groups with previous experience have submitted their proposals with rich and brilliant ideas. What can be seen is that many groups were doing very well in this field even before the start of the food & farming program. The new participating groups also follow the guidelines of the Council of Agriculture in their program designs. The experiential learning activities, teaching activities, and the production of teaching materials and lesson are just the basic work of food and farming education. On the basis of the three years of promotion, all the participating groups have progressed and learned a lot from each other. But what do we need after this? What can we do further? It's time to look ahead to a new milestone.
II. The next step in food & farming education
As mentioned in the previous paragraph, non-governmental organizations such as schools, communities, and farmers’ groups have gradually developed templates through participating in the Food & Farming Program of COA. These may be methods of experiential learning and courses, or may be the types and methods of teaching materials production. Schools and agricultural communities mostly choose their local crops as the theme of lesson planning and develop the syllabuses and materials. These templates (lesson plans or teaching materials) provide a means of dialogue between the school and the agricultural community and for reference in the promotion of food & farming education by any interested operator. Then operators in schools and agricultural communities can learn from them, and transform and extend into their own teaching materials and lesson plans. The following four methods are proposed: "template duplication and deepening," "training," "sharing and communication, partner connection" and "diffusion and marketing", to be the direction for the promotion of food & farming education.
1. Template duplication and deepening
Take the Food & Farming Program as an example. A project is started with a local crop for trial operation and trial teaching and for the gradual development of a template, which can be adopted in the subsequent promotion of food & farming education and the development of food & farming teaching materials for other crops. In schools, the issue can be included in the courses and extended to students of different age groups. For instance, syllabuses of different school grades may be developed with one crop. In communities and farmer groups, outdoor farming experience activities can be developed for general consumers, students, parents and children.
Groups that have substantial experience and their own templates in the promotion of food and farming education can start their training programs. In schools, this can be done with the joint lesson preparation by teachers, and in communities and farmer groups, this can be done by empowerment courses. This can enhance the exchange of teaching experience between the teachers and also train more seed teachers to promote and inherit their templates and continue with the promotion so that students can proceed with systematic learning. The trainees can be school teachers, senior school students, attendees in housekeeping classes of farmers groups, community volunteers, and parents.
3. Sharing and communication, partner connection
Many organizations have been promoting the food and farming education. Some of them have many years of successful experience, and some are about to start and do not know how to operate yet, and are more willing to keep learning. The former groups are in a good position to organize workshops and seminars for local food and farming education groups (such as neighboring farmers’ associations, communities, schools, agricultural research and extension stations, etc.) to participate. In these events, attendees can share their successful case experiences, practice results, and goals for future promotion. The data exchanged are the basis for joint cooperation and mutual learning among neighboring partners and enhance the effectiveness of food and farming education.
In addition, the results produced by the teams can be made available to teachers who may need it. In addition to lesson plans, there are also various types of teaching materials such as 3-D teaching aids, board games, picture books, multimedia materials, teaching manuals, etc. Relevant social media or web platforms can also be formed to provide continuous exchanges of teaching resources for all.
4. Diffusion and marketing
The promotion of food and farming education is not always aimed at a particular target audience. Diffusing food and farming education has the target covering families, communities, and social media. For example, school teachers can design homework for which students interact with their family members so that students can practice purchasing, and acquire knowledge on food safety and nutrition that they can share with their parents. Or, through experiential learning activities, multimedia audiovisual aids, board games and other media, they can learn the concept of food and farming education that leads to changes in the consumption behavior of their relatives, friends and the community.
The promotion of food and farming education is booming everywhere. It started when nobody was clear about its content and everything was a mess, so everyone used his own method to promote food and farming education. The quality of the learning content has been much enriched since then. The promotion of food and farming education in schools can be done through offering a series of food and farming courses integrated with the MOE-based and school-based curriculums. This not only becomes an integral part of the school’s culture but also gets merged in the lives of the students and their families. In terms of agricultural promotion, the food and farming education can enhance the food and agricultural literacy, strengthen the support and value of the whole people to the domestic agricultural products, and cherish and preserve the special diet culture of various localities, thereby achieving the goal of marketing domestic agricultural products and supporting the development of local agricultural industries. In terms of food hygiene, it can promote balanced and healthy eating habits for individuals, whether they are infants, children, students, parents, or senior citizens.
The next step is to continue to extend this promotion model, and even to develop the local food and agriculture ecosystems. This would constantly promote the interaction between the different industries and aspects, so that it forms a positive virtuous circle and sharing of resources. And the benefit is the health of all citizens.