1. Extension Agents, Florida Cooperative Extension, Lake County, Tavares, FL 32757
2. Extension Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, New Hanover County, Wilmington, NC 28403
Most U.S. citizens are removed from direct involvement with agriculture and may hold misconceptions about modern farming practices (Duncan and Broyles, 2006). This distance, and lack of understanding, can contribute to decreased trust in modern Agriculture (Duncan and Broyles, 2006). Confounding this mistrust are an abundance of misleading “documentaries”, sensational media coverage, and the ease with which anyone can publish false information online. These issues present a major challenge to Extension agents who are charged with sharing research based, non-biased, information. To meet this challenge UF/IFAS Lake County Extension Agriculture and FCS Agents collaborated to pilot a food systems program entitled “Exploring Local Cuisine from the Roots Up.” Each session of “Roots Up” featured a different locally grown agricultural product. Agriculture agents discussed the production of the featured livestock or crop from start to finish, with a focus on addressing common misconceptions and providing a scientific context to what consumers may have heard in the media. Agents also discussed marketing labels and their meanings. The second half of class transitioned “from farm to table” by shifting the focus from production to consumption and focused on nutrition, recommended serving sizes, and culinary uses of the featured product. Since its inception a total of 18 “Roots Up” classes have been taught to 515 participants. Participants have reported increasing their consumption of the featured foods and have developed a better understanding of both marketing and nutritional labels. Encouragingly participants have also reported sharing some of the “myth-busting” information they learned through their participation with others in the community.