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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Major issues threaten American agriculture, but few outside the industry understand the gravity of these problems. University of Florida students are learning how to tell these stories.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, awarded a $296,000 grant to UF, Texas Tech and Colorado State — three land-grant universities — to teach students how to increase their awareness and knowledge about controversial topics in agriculture and natural resources. That way, they can think more critically about such hot-button topics – including genetically modified organisms and climate change — and thus, communicate more effectively about them, said Ricky Telg, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural education and communication.
UF/IFAS received $90,921 for its portion of the project.
The grant will help future agriculture leaders know how to communicate more effectively and hopefully educate the general public about how these challenges could, for example, destroy Florida’s $10.7 billion citrus industry, spread viruses like chikungunya and dengue, increase water pollution and lead to more obesity. Educating the general public about these challenges will help people understand how agriculture and natural resources issues are intertwined and help everyone see the big picture in ensuring we have ample food to feed the predicted 9.5 billion people on Earth by 2050.
“We hope this grant will provide information to the students that will help them understand that any one particular issue is comprised of many, many other aspects,” said Telg, who’s also director of the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources. “And these topics were selected because they are representative of other issues that arise, such as the impact of an invasive species, as it relates to citrus greening, and on manmade and natural disasters, as it related to Apalachicola Bay region.”
Telg and his colleagues, Assistant Professor Alexa Lamm and Lecturer Becky Raulerson – all faculty members in the UF/IFAS agricultural education and communication department — are shooting video, collecting information and writing curriculum about these issues. These case studies will be integrated into Raulerson’s
Issues in Agricultural and Life Sciences course and two other issues-based courses at Texas Tech and Colorado State this fall, Telg said. Students will be asked about the issues as they watch the videos.
“They will be challenged to find out more about the topics outside of class and to critically think about these and other topics,” Telg said. “With citrus greening, for example, there are many interrelated issues, ranging from how the disease got into Florida, to its economic and societal impacts, to the amount of resources UF/IFAS and other research organizations are devoting to this. It’s a huge issue, and it’s one that many people who are not directly involved in agriculture really don’t understand.
“I hope this initial effort will serve as a template for developing future educational materials to inform the public about these interconnected issues facing agriculture,” Telg said.
Caption: Ricky Telg, director of the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources, is leading a UF/IFAS effort to teach students how to better understand, and therefore, better tell the stories of agriculture, natural resources and their issues. Those include citrus greening, climate change, pests, water conservation, leading healthy lifestyles and more.
Credit: UF/IFAS file.
By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Ricky Telg, 352-273-2094, email@example.com