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Virtual smart farm tour set

By Staff | Apr 1, 2016

CHESTERFIELD, MISSOURI – Irrigation systems managed from iPads, animal nutrition tracked by computer chips, and tractors that drive using GPS are only a few examples of the ways farmers and ranchers use technology to produce food in a sustainable manner.

With each generation becoming further removed from agriculture, Discovering Farmland, a comprehensive education program created by U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, in conjunction with Discovery Education, is providing high school students nationwide a firsthand glimpse into contemporary agriculture through The Smart Farm: Where Technology and Innovation Meet, a live virtual field trip on at noon, Central Standard Time, April 5.

Available for free, this live virtual event, hosted from Deere & Co. World Headquarters in Moline, Illinois, will transport classrooms across the country to a hog, corn and soybean farm to see modern agricultural practices in action.

Randy Krotz, USFRA’s chief executive officer, said after James Moll’s feature film “Farmland” was released on March 18, 2014, USFRA heard pleas from educators to bring something like the movie to classrooms.

“Farmland” is an award-winning documentary film spotlighting six farmers across the U.S. describing their experiences of and views on modern agriculture.

The April 5 event is a classroom-length version of the movie’s message, streamed live from Deere & Co.’s Moline headquarters.

As of March 24, Krotz said there were upward of 20,000 students across the U.S. who were scheduled to be part of the virtual tour.

He said the target audience are high schoolers with little or no farming background, but are in science, engineering, technology and math studies.

“We have great technology for farming,” Krotz said, adding the technology does not fit with many Americans’ romantic views of farming. “The romantic ideas of farming are nice, but they short-sell agriculture.”

“We’re not feeding the world by farming the way we did 50 years ago,” he added.

The tour

Students will hear from fourth-generation farmer Ryan Veldhuizen, who was featured in “Farmland,” as he discusses technology and innovation on modern smart farms.

According to Paul Spooner, ag communications manager for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, there are six Iowa classrooms signed up for Tuesday’s events in Cresco, Johnston, Moravia, Elkader, Indianola and Mondamin.

Students and educators can register for the 45-minute event and submit questions ahead of time to be answered live at discoveringfarmland.com/virtualfieldtrip.

“Technology drives all aspects of American society, and modern farms are leading this revolution in a very important area – food production,” said Mace Thornton, executive director of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Through this virtual field trip to the farm, technology also will create an opportunity for interactive transparency between high school students and the men and women who grow food for their families.”

Discovering Farmland standards-aligned curriculum guides, lesson plans and interactive resources have become increasingly popular with high school teachers and students who are using these timely tools to gain real-world insights about where their food comes from.

The program covers key issues in modern agriculture including:

  • How technology has transformed the industry.
  • Challenges farmers face such as weather and growing conditions.
  • Common stereotypes around farmers and ranchers.
  • Market supply and demand.

The curriculum brings to life many of the themes covered in the “Farmland” film and teaches students about food choices, sustainability, entrepreneurship and antibiotics, among many other topics.

The program’s website, discoveringfarmland.com, launched on Nov. 9, 2015.

“Discovery Education is proud to continue our partnership with U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance to offer classrooms nationwide this unique learning opportunity that supports students’ understanding of STEM applications in the real world,” said Lori McFarling, senior vice president of Discovery Education. “The Smart Farm virtual field trip challenges students to think critically about the relevance and importance of science and technology in our everyday lives, while also reinforcing key concepts of food production, sustainability and innovation.”

To learn more about the virtual field trip or Discovering Farmland, visit discoveringfarmland.com/virtualfieldtrip.

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