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AGEARTH STEWARDS
STUDENTS AS STEWARDSHIP AGENTS
Members of Ag-Earth Partners use one of marketing's most effective methods to deliver stewardship messages to consumers and policymakers. They tell the kids.

"Children are our future and we want stewardship to be part of their ethic," says Tom Van Arsdall, senior vice president, environmental policy, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. Van Arsdall is coordinator of Ag-Earth Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based group of 70 companies, associations and government agencies that raise awareness of environmental initiatives.

"We've found that children do not have preconceptions about agriculture and the environment," he says. "We lay out simple concepts about stewardship for them to learn and often parents pick up on that."

During last year's Earth Day activities, several Ag-Earth Partners saw the value of teaming up with students first-hand. "We reached about 800 students directly and found them to be a very enthusiastic audience," says Van Arsdall. "We were able to interact with them and show them agriculture's diversity is our strength, from organic production to the latest in conservation practices and precision agriculture."

The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) is one Ag-Earth Partner that has found success in promoting stewardship directly to children through special projects, Web sites, newsletters and other materials.

"We want to educate consumers so their decisions about product use are based on facts. Education starts with young people," says Derek Jumper, spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based AF&PA. "Kids are in a position to learn the importance of reusing and recycling. We've found that by providing them with the right tools, they learn about stewardship and are willing to share that knowledge with others."

Specifically, AF&PA invites students to participate in a national public awareness project to decorate grocery bags with environmental messages for Earth Day. Bags are borrowed from local grocers, decorated with messages and returned for distribution to grocery customers on Earth Day. Last year, Jumper says students from more than 1,200 schools decorated nearly 400,000 bags that ended up in the hands of the consuming public. More information on the project can be found at the Web site www.earthdaybags.org.

To complement the Earth Day paper bag project, AF&PA distributes a colorful, interactive youth action kit. The kit has a series of educational flyers featuring fun facts about paper reuse and recycling and sustainable forestry. AF&PA has available interactive Web sites and materials designed to help youth take action to reuse and recycle kraft paper bags, corrugated boxes, paperboard cartons, office paper and newsprint.

In addition to paper recycling AF&PA encourages students to learn about forestry and replenishing paper's source. Materials promote participation in the "One in a Million" campaign, a national project that encourages students to plant trees. Students have reported planting more than 871,000 of the one-million-tree goal. The one-millionth tree will be planted at the White House on Arbor Day.

"AF&PA is one of the organizations that has helped us achieve, in a short amount of time, our Earth Day goal to reach school kids in every state," says Van Arsdall.

AF&PA and other Ag-Earth Partners this month will celebrate the 30th anniversary of Earth Day and again provide key stewardship messages to hundreds of students that attend activities in Washington. Ag-Earth Partners will also offer satellite and Web uplinks to schools around the country to send stewardship messages directly into classrooms. Following Earth Day, Silver Hammer Workshops, one of the newest Ag-Earth Partners, will showcase some of the group's initiatives in a national environmental education program for grades K-6, known as EcoTour 2000.

"Five years ago, agriculture was nowhere to be found at Earth Day. There was little understanding that agriculture is working hard to be an important part of the solution," says Van Arsdall. "But now, working with conservation and wildlife groups and government agencies, we are laying the groundwork to encourage partnership efforts. We are communicating with kids and others inside and out of agriculture that can influence our future." AM

 

Barb Baylor Anderson is a freelance writer from Edwardsville, Ill.,who covers a wide variety of ag issues.


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