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Where Have All The Farmers Gone?

Morrisonville CUSD #1
201 School Street
Morrisonville , IL 62546
Teacher: Bob Montgomery
Grade Level: 9 th -12 th

Introduction

Farming technology is changing how farming is conducted and the latent social changes that are triggered by this are of great local importance. Most students are either directly or indirectly affected be these changes. This project will allow students to explore the changing landscape and social change that accompany the failure of small family farms. Local farming is at the heart of our entire economy and changes to it impact the quality of life for all members of the community. This project will examine patterns of local change by utilizing survey data, as well as, technology and educational resources.

Objectives

There are three primary learning objectives.

  • Improvement in integrating curriculum
  • • Improvement of instruction
  • • Improvement in School/Community cooperation: Building a Community Coalition

Activities

Student teams will evaluate fly over maps and county data to identify the changes in the number and size of farms in Christian County , IL. They will also conduct interviews with farmers utilizing University of Illinois (U of I) extension personnel to build reliable survey questions. Sociology students will create the surveys to identify current conditions, attitudes and beliefs held by local farmers in regards to what constitutes a healthy family farm and what the future holds for local farmers. To this end, the class will sponsor a day to introduce local farmers to the Dudley Smith Farming operation. In conjunction, the students will create pre- and post surveys to identify the impact of exposure to farming alternatives using the Dudley Smith Farm. Geography students will use GIS software and mapping data to create map overlays that demonstrate their findings. By using both recent and 1960s fly over maps, students will compare and count farm houses and buildings. Students will also make use of assessor data and data from the Christian County Soil and Water District to gain a more complete perspective on changes occurring relative to the size and number of local family farming operations.

Methodology

These activities will challenge students to create appropriate survey questions and identify relevant data impacting GIS research. The student teams will identify trends, as well as, contemplate and evaluate the consequences if current trends continue. Students will compare current practice and technology against alternatives, such as the Dudley Smith Farm, to see which systems best fit with strongly held values identified in the survey. Students will also begin to look for cause-effect relationships through the creation and use of map overlays generated by the GIS software.

Participation

Students taking part in the project include the Sociology class (11 th and 12 th ) of 22 students and the Geography class (grades 9-11) of 25 students. An additional 350 students may be served by an expansion of the project.