Green Steam Incubator: Is youth going to save agriculture?
Most of us eat their food at least 3 times a day – breakfast, lunch and diner, right? Sometimes just for a quick bite, other times we sit for hours at dinner with friends or family. Whichever of the two, food is constantly around us. Without carbohydrates the human body lacks energy, without protein muscles weaken, without fat vitamins won´t be properly absorbed, without vitamins the metabolism cannot work properly, the immunity system breaks down, etc. Without nutrition, our body’s cells weaken to the point where they can no longer perform their vital functions. That is the same for plants, animals and people.
In the EU, in 2016 9,7 million people were employed in agriculture (4,2 % of total employment) and only 11% of all farm holdings are managed by farmers under 40! (Eurostat, 2018). Sadly, about 20% of their total food production is lost in waste every year (FoodDrinkEurope, 2019). With a rapidly aging population, current farmers won´t be able to feed the growing population. How can a new generation of farmers be raised?
As setting up a garden starts with planting a seed, raising a new generation of farmers starts with our offsprings. The place where the young spend the most time beside home is school. The school curriculum is supposed to cultivate skills and competencies that people will need in the future. The picture of a farmer planting seeds followed by harvesting with the help of a tractor season after season is not accurate anymore. Agriculture is an area where all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines are both applicable and useful.
Science is required to understand the nutritional composition of the soil needed for optimal crop growth. Technological innovations enable farmers to replace their manual human labor with machinery. Technology can be of great help in increasing productivity and yields to feed a growing population. Environmental engineering focuses on the protection of communities from the effects of pollution and waste. Last but not least, only by carrying out a mathematical operation, a farmer knows the amount of water, natural fertilizers and seeds needed for a field. Education in all these disciplines is essential in order to train the farmers of the future.
Agriculture in the 21st century is a multidisciplinary field requiring broad knowledge. STEM education aims to teach by solving real-life problems. Through the usage of real-life situations at school, youngsters can relate to farming. It can motivate them and keep them engaged because food is a part of their everyday life. STEM education cultivates the necessary competencies for a sustainable and innovative future. Regardless of social background or special learning disorders, with proper care, adaptations and guidance, any young person who has the opportunity to develop STEM knowledge can subsequently be encouraged to pursue a career in agriculture.
There are a lot of challenges to meet in the agricultural sector in the future. It is a daunting challenge to overcome. The whole world‘s food supply chain depends on it. Replacing the idea of the traditional farmer is ongoing and can be further supported by the initiatives of youth organizations and agro-businesses.
The Green STEAM Incubator Manual invites you to dive in, explore the boundaries and opportunities of modern agriculture and encourages you to organise “ready to use” activities to boost the development of these competencies!
Where to find the manual: https://steam-incubator.org/io1-the-green-steam-incubator-manual/
Eurostat. (2018). Farmers and the agricultural labour force – statistics – Statistics Explained. Retrieved 13 November 2020, from https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Farmers_and_the_agricultural_labour_force_-_statistics#Agriculture_remains_a_big_employer_within_the_EU.3B_about_9.7_million_people_work_in_agriculture
FoodDrinkEurope. (2019). Data and Trends, EU Drink and Food Industry 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2020, from https://www.fooddrinkeurope.eu/uploads/publications_documents/FoodDrinkEurope_-_Data__Trends_2019.pdf