Evaluating the Agricultural Knowledge of Texas State University-San Marcos Freshmen
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In 1988, the National Research Council recommended that students in grades K-12 receive some systematic instruction in agriculture. However, according to the Texas Farm Bureau, many central Texas schools do not actively participate in general agricultural education programs, causing concern about the level of agricultural knowledge of central Texas students. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to evaluate the agricultural knowledge of college freshmen at one central Texas university, Texas State University-San Marcos, based on the consideration that college-aged students are the voters, policy makers, and consumers of the future, and should be well-informed regarding the food and fiber supply. Texas State University-San Marcos freshmen were invited via email to participate in the study, which consisted of the Food and Fiber Systems Literacy student assessment for grades 9-12. The instrument was administered using an online testing system, and results were evaluated using the variables of gender, type of high school (urban, suburban, rural), college major, participation in agricultural literacy programs in school, and enrollment in agriculture classes in high school. A score of 70% was considered acceptable. The mean overall score, however, was 50.39%. Overall mean scores based on gender were statistically significant at the 0.05 level (p = 0.016) with males achieving a mean score or 51.25% and females achieving a mean score of 49.85%. Type of high school (urban, suburban, rural) affected overall mean scores as well. Suburban high school students scored significantly higher (52.36%) than urban students (46.80%), while rural students scored 50.13%. In this case p = 0.007. Freshmen students who identified themselves as science majors at Texas State University-San Marcos achieved an overall mean score of 53.96% which was significantly higher (p = 0.023) than undecided majors, whose mean score was 47.36%. The mean scores of students who participated in agricultural literacy programs in school and those who were enrolled in agriculture classes in high school yielded noticeably higher scores, but the overall scores were not statistically significant at the 0.05 level. Agricultural literacy program participants scored an overall mean score of 55.33% (p = 0.153), and students who were enrolled in high school agriculture classes achieved an overall mean score of 54.07% (p = 0.22). The importance of the information gathered from this study was to recognize the possible insufficient level of agricultural knowledge, or literacy, of central Texas students. When agricultural literacy is recognized as a critical part of education in Texas, it is hoped that the appropriate authorities will act accordingly and encourage Texas educators to incorporate agriculture into existing curriculum.