Food and Farms as Learning Experiences

During a visit to a farm, a natural food producing area, or through simply buying and eating whole unprocessed food, there is an opportunity for mind/body shifts to occur in terms of human-nature relationships and potential, and therefore in climate understanding. Participating in farm activities, agroecotourism classes, farm apprenticeships, gathering fruit or vegetables from a U-pick farm or even just selecting produce directly from a farm-run farm stand can result in moments of embodied experiences (Carolan, 2008). According to a study conducted with agritourism providers of 592 farms in the state of Missouri, 66.9% of agritourism providers viewed educating the public about agriculture as being very or extremely important (Hayden and Buck, 2012). Farmers as agricultural educators are an important part of social bonding and this relates to the ability of the farm family to interact with customers (Tew and Barbieri, 2012).

When visitors engage in experiential and didactical activities on these sites, there is a development of personal awareness and a deeper embodied understanding of external environments. These system realizations support more abstract concepts, such as the connection of personal action and climate impacts. Farm visits can contribute to a place-based connection and the development of stronger systems awareness (Tew and Barbieri, 2012). Carolan (2008, p. 408) again encourages an understanding that if we ‘think with our bodies then we must think about the countryside with our bodies too’ and that rural studies need to incorporate embodiment so that we may begin to understand how to ‘give non-farming bodies a feel for production agriculture’ (p. 419) in order to open up interests in on-farm activities and how they may shape people’s attitudes towards nature, the countryside and agriculture. I argue this notion can and should also be applied to peri-urban and urban contexts.

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