Activities for Module V: A Growing Market: Organic Agriculture
Activities for Section A: What is Organic Agriculture?
Activity 1: Dig for Organic Agriculture’s Roots
Purpose: Students will learn from the web and each other about key historical figures in the growth of organic agriculture
Advance preparation: Print out and make copies of the Organic Roots worksheet. If students do not have web access during class, you will also have to print out biographical information on each of the people to be researched or allow students to use the encyclopedia in the school library.
Estimated time: 30 minutes
Divide the class into small groups. Assign each small group one historical figure to research.
If students want to research other people influential in the history of organic agriculture, they can start at Organic Ltd. See note below.
Give each group 10 to 15 minutes to research their assigned person on the web and/or in a good encyclopedia. If groups are large enough, some can do the web and others the encyclopedia. Have groups fill out their worksheets.
Give each group 3 to 5 minutes to report their findings to the class. If students wish, they can be creative about how they present the information (for example, one student can pretend to be the historical figure and another can be an interviewer).
Conclude with a brief class discussion.
- What similarities are there between these people?
- How are they different from each other?
- What do you think of their ideas?
- Would their approaches still be valid today?
- What do you think they would think about issues in agriculture today? (For example genetic engineering, precision farming, world trade in agricultural commodities, etc.)
Students can also look up Rudolf Steiner and biodynamic agriculture. However, please note that although farms that practice biodynamic agriculture are also usually certified organic, Steiner’s ideas go far beyond organic agriculture and are not widely accepted in organic agriculture. Another influential person linked to ideas of organic agriculture, but separate from the mainstream of the movement is Masanobu Fukuoka International Institute for Ecological Agriculture
Activity 2: Survey the Market
Purpose: Students will realize the limits of their knowledge about organic agriculture, and the limited knowledge of most consumers about both organic and conventional food production. Students will formulate some questions about organic agriculture to help guide their learning.
Advance preparation: Print out and make enough copies of the survey to hand out. Optional: bring in ads for both conventional and organic foods for students to compare. Stores that specialize in natural foods often have complimentary copies of magazines filled with advertisements for organic foods.
Estimated time: 15 to 30 minutes
- Have your class fill out a short survey about what they know about organic foods. Optional: students can also take the survey home and ask the main grocery shopper in the family to fill it out.Optional: Have students compile the survey results.
- Follow the survey with a brief class discussion.
- Before taking the survey, did students feel they knew what organic agriculture was?
- Did the survey stimulate questions about organic agriculture? What questions would the class like to get answered in the course of this unit?
- Do any of the students know people who buy organic foods without knowing exactly what organic agriculture is?
- Do any of the students know people who buy conventional foods without knowing exactly how they were raised and processed?
- If you showed the class the “Store Wars” movie, ask them if the movie provided specific information about organic agriculture. In general, do advertisements for either organic or conventional food give consumers specific information about the food?
Explain that the main purpose of the survey was to stimulate questions about organic agriculture.
A note about Question 5 of the survey. Clearly, at some level, the answers to this question are a matter of opinion. However, a key objective of this organic module is to provide students with information to help them better judge answers to these questions.