Volume 52(4) - 2011 - DOI: 10.5032/jae.2011.04001
Agricultural literacy of K–12 students is a national priority for both scientific and agricultural education professional organizations. Development of curricula to address this priority has not been informed by research on what K–12 students understand about the agri–food system. While students' knowledge of food and fiber system facts have been studied, in–depth research into broader student understandings of the system have largely been ignored. This study employed semi–structured interviews to compare urban elementary students' understandings with nationally developed benchmarks for agri–food system literacy. Findings indicate that no participant had ever grown their own food, raised a plant, or cared for an animal. Participation in school fieldtrips to farms or a visit to a relative's garden were the most frequently mentioned agricultural experience. Participants could readily name common food items, but could not accurately elaborate on the origins of common foods. Post–production activities, like food processing, were not well understood. Students' agriculturally related experiences did not appear to influence their understanding about where food comes from or what happens to food as it travels from farm to plate.