THERE OUGHT TO BE AN APP FOR THAT!

Someone recently said to me, “Agriculture would be so much easier to understand if there were an app for it.”  Really.  It would be.  There is an app for everything.   Or so it seems.  Searching the App store for ‘Agriculture’ brings up “Ag Web News” and “Farm Futures,” and searching ‘Ag’ brings us to “AgRacer” where you compete in a driving challenge with various farm related implements.    Hmm…..what if we could explain agriculture in an App?

Apps are a relatively new thing—launched in July 2008 with only 500 or so. Today there are over 250,000 apps available for purchase from the Apple App Store.  There are apps for everything from Facebook to Log My Run, there is even an App for a level (I must admit I have it!) and a fake hand warmer.   (If you think your hand is warmer it might work!)

But how would you develop an app for agriculture?

First, a couple things about Apps. They have to be engaging.  They have to involve a challenge, how do you win this or come back for more?    From an Agriculture perspective, they need to be real.  Unlike Angry Birds, I think there would be an issue with flinging pitchforks at crows!   And you wouldn’t want talking cows or pigs, and really the corn or beans shouldn’t talk either.    It is getting tougher, isn’t it?

Let’s reflect on an App from this year in agriculture.   How would you reflect the drought?  How would you show the high winds in early August?  It sounds more like the ‘Hunger Games’ than a game! Seriously, would this make people come back for more?

Luckily, Ag in the Classroom just finished our ‘App’ for teachers this year.    Nearly 600 teachers across the state participated in our Summer Ag Institutes.  In a world where 60 million people pretend to be farmers in Farmville, (http://mashable.com/2010/09/10/farmville-vs-real-farms-infographic/)  these teachers saw first hand what happens on farms around Illinois.

One teacher wrote in her evaluation “All I kept thinking was, ‘there is more than farming in agriculture?’  But after our first day, I realized that this ‘farm thing’ was a bigger deal than I gave credit for.”   We have countless stories and anecdotes about how viewing agriculture from a new perspective gave them much more insight into what a ‘real farm’ is.

Another participant described her experience like this.   “I have learned that a farmer must be dedicated, hard-working and skilled in many areas.  Farmers have a deep passion for their profession and will do whatever it takes to make things work.  Perseverance is a trait that I hope I can instill in each one of my students, and I have learned that farming takes perseverance.”

All of that, and so much more, was learned when someone showed them what agriculture really was and they took the time to learn.   Could those emotions and experiences be channeled with an App on a 2”x3” screen?   I don’t think so.

In a era of catching falling blocks, pretending to raise strawberries and where birds explode in an effort to recapture eggs, Agriculture in the Classroom has an App for agriculture.

Our App is our Summer Agricultural Institute, and getting teachers to visit a farm.   Pretty simple and not real flashy, but it works!

Kevin Daugherty
Education Director
Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom

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