OSU bridges the gap between agriculture and educators

A Summer Agriculture Institute participant tours a grass seed warehouse.

Agriculture feeds Oregon's residents and keeps many of them employed. But not everyone — especially the younger generation — knows about this sector's important contribution to the state.

To bridge this knowledge gap, Oregon State University's College of Agricultural Sciences helped create the Summer Ag Institute (SAI) in 1989. SAI is a three-credit, action-packed week-long graduate-level class that educates K-12 teachers with little or no background in agriculture. Program participants receive hands-on instruction and materials to incorporate agriculture into their classroom curriculum. Topics include marketing and applications, food science, land and water usage, natural resources, hydroponics, commercial farming and economics.

SAI provides a working environment for participants to experience current, factual, science-based information about agriculture. OSU scientists and professors, educators, Oregon Department of Agriculture specialists, Extension staff, high school agriculture teachers, producers, processors, managers and owners all take an active role in educating teachers about where their food comes from and how it ends up on the grocery shelf. Participants visit numerous agricultural operations, such as: a dairy and a food processing plant, nursery, hydroponics operation, grass-seed farm and processing operation, mint, Christmas tree, Hazelnut, vegetable and fruit operations; a winery, and a commercial turf facility.

The highlight of the week is the opportunity to experience production agriculture through an overnight stay on a working farm or ranch. The learning experience and warm hospitality helps participants see how farmers live, work, care for, and steward the land that supports all of us.

Surveys have shown that the Summer Ag Institute has positively impacted teachers' perceptions and knowledge of agriculture. As one participant said, "All the tours were so eye-opening. Everything dispelled myths I had held as true for a lifetime."

SAI is the result of a long-term collaboration with the Oregon Farm Bureau Foundation for Education. Through SAI, teachers are given first-hand experiences in the depth and breadth of the agriculture industry and how OSU, their land-grant institution, is linked to making this industry prosperous.

Related stories

OSU Train the Trainers workshops keep agricultural workers on track with food safety

Food safety education is the key to preventing the risk of food contamination in the supply chain, especially when crops are harvested directly by workers. In those cases, farms must remain especially vigilant to ensure their ...

Beef Quality Assurance program ensures quality meat and improves profits

The national Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) program, developed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, is meant to promote safe and wholesome beef, raise consumer confidence and bring bigger profits. Major beef packing plants ...

Extension helps get hay to those in need after September wildfires

The wildfires that ripped through western Oregon in September 2020 displaced thousands of head of livestock when their owners evacuated. County fairgrounds became the destination for cattle, horses, sheep, goats, poultry and other ...