Spreading the message of agriculture
March 26, 2012
When someone is passionate about something, you can hear it in their voice, and see it on their face. For Eliza Poet, her passion is agriculture, and teaching others about agriculture is what she finds incredibly important.
Poet, a junior at Colorado State University, grew up on a family farm outside of Flagler, Colo., raising dairy cows, sheep, goats, hogs and bottle calves. Watching wheat harvest when the sun is setting is one of her favorite things, and agriculture has always been close to her heart.
“I took it for granted that I could watch wheat harvest. I think it is one of the most beautiful things watching the wheat being harvested with a sunset,” she said.
She continued, “I know where my food comes from. I’ve watched grain be planted, and then pop up and grow. I’ve watched it be harvested, and then fed that grain to animals and watched them grow. I’ve seen animals be processed, and I’ve eaten what we have produced. I’ve seen the entire system. Many others eat it and don’t know what it is.”
In early March, Poet had the opportunity to attend National Agriculture Day in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Agriculture Council of America, and on behalf of the Consortium of Collegiate Agriculture Organizations and Sigma Alpha Professional Agricultural Sorority.
National Ag Day was held on March 8, and ACA believes that every American should, “Understand how food, fiber and renewable resource products are produced, value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy, appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products, and acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food, fiber and renewable resource industries.”
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The conference brought in collegiate men and women from across the country to learn about issues in agriculture, take part in media training, and talk to legislatures about the agricultural issues in their areas.
While in D.C., Poet met with congressmen and their assistants from Colorado, and expressed her passion for agriculture, and more specifically, agricultural education.
Poet has served as the Chairperson for Ag Adventure at CSU for two years, and believes that teachers can use agriculture to teach students about core subjects in a fun, interactive way.
“You can learn about something all your life, but if you have never seen or touched it, it’s hard to actually care about it. I talked to the legislatures a lot about what we are doing at CSU. I believe ag education is one of the main things we need for people to understand where their food comes from. They don’t support ag programs, because they don’t know the impact it has on their life,” Poet said.
She continued, “We can use ag as a vehicle to learn about other things. We talk about different measurements, and how they relate to ag. The kids can get a visual representation of a gallon, and learn about measurement using hands to measure a horse. We use units, and talk about geography and where different things are produced and why, and the climate. We can teach them about ag, and the teachers can use this and bring it back to standards.”
Poet understands the importance of hands on learning, and stressed this to the legislatures. “Education programs are having their funding cut. More and more hands on experiences are getting pulled from those kids, and they can’t afford to go anyplace now. It’s easier to teach in front of kids than it is to work with them in a hands on situation,” she said.
Ag Adventure is what helped Poet learn to speak out for agriculture, and believes other college freshman will have the same experience through the program.
She said, “Not only does the program help teach the kids about ag, but it gives the freshman a start to teach people. It’s a low-key, low-pressure experience to learn in. It gives them a chance to talk to people about ag. There are organizations out there that are trying to create negative images of ag in the media, instead of us using an offensive strategy to teach people about it.”
She added, “It’s a really cool program because of everything it accomplishes.”
Advocating for agricultural education to legislatures on Capital Hill was a very special experience for Poet, who believes in being proactive.
“I think it’s important to talk with them because it lets them know we aren’t going to stand by and let them make our decisions. To go and set up a meeting in D.C. takes a lot of work, and shows that I care more about this. It really puts into perspective that people have elected them to these positions. Their assistants take time to talk with people, and it gives you the sense that one voice really can make a difference,” she said.
In addition to agricultural education, Poet also had the opportunity to talk with them about other issues Colorado is facing, such as labor laws and immigration laws.
“When I met with Michael Bennett’s assistant, he told me that they sent a letter to the department of labor when the child labor laws were being discussed. We have so many people that agriculture is their life,” she said.
She added, “Immigrant labor laws were also an issue we talked about. There were fields and fields of rotting food that was lost last year because of labor issues and the food wasn’t harvested fast enough. Food prices will skyrocket because we won’t have enough food or we won’t have cheap labor. It’s not that the general population can’t do it, but they won’t do it.”
Talking with legislatures in D.C. is not the only advocating that Poet does. In fact, she tells people about agriculture every chance she gets.
“I met someone the other day who asked me the difference between a bull, cow, heifer and steer. His grandfather owned an auction house, and he wanted to know what went on. He wanted to know more, like how do they make money and how do they sell animals. I didn’t realize how many simple things about ag that I know that I just assumed everyone knew,” said Poet.
Advocating for agriculture is something that she plans to do the rest of her life, no matter where her career takes her. “No matter what I do, I am always going to be an ag advocate, and I have the ability and been blessed knowing what ag is,” she said.