Marr, Matthew Lawrence (2017-05). Assessing Agricultural Literacy in Urban and Suburban Mothers After Their Completion of the Illinois Farm Families Program. Master's Thesis.
A true definition of what agricultural literacy actually means, has yet to be agreed upon by researchers. The agriculture industry, after all, is constantly evolving and changing. As time passes, much of society continues to become further and further removed from America's agrarian heritage. The industry has been subject to much criticism in recent years, with allegations of mass malpractice. Due to the advent of various media platforms, people are able to publish falsified or inaccurate information for the world to see, and exploit the very industry that clothes and feeds them. What's more, there are a variety of labels and marketing campaigns that have done nothing but mislead, and confuse consumers. However, a program by the name of Illinois Farm Families sought to combat these issues by providing urban and suburban mothers from Chicagoland with a yearlong learning experience in agriculture. Since 2012, IFF has taken cohorts of these mothers out to a variety of farming operations across the state of Illinois, with the intent to provide them with a firsthand experience in stepping foot on these farms, and conversing face to face with farmers. The researcher framed this study around two theories. The first being a centralized diffusion system, in which the Illinois Farm Families program fits as the formalized change agency. The second theory is Dewey's experiential learning model, since this program is extremely experiential in nature.
This census study of all mothers who are alumna of the Illinois Farm Families program assessed their levels of agricultural literacy. They were asked to complete the Food and Fiber Systems Literacy assessment, and answer six questions pertaining to their personal characteristics. The researcher compared their results based on personal characteristics such as: the year(s) they participated, level of completed education, number of children, ethnicity, age range, and proximity to Chicago proper. The findings revealed that these mothers are in fact agriculturally literate, based on a 60% benchmark. Although this was not a true pre/post-assessment, nor a true program evaluation, it is recommended that this study be replicated in these forms.