1st Place: 2011 WNAAA Scholarship Essay Contest

How to Promote Agricultural Aviation Positively

What child isn’t amazed by an aerial applicator flying over a nearby field? A child exclaims with excitement, “Look! Look! An airplane! He is going up and down! What is he doing?” Kids are in awe of what appears to be the acrobatic flying of aerial applicators. If kids understood how much impact aerial applicators had on their day to day life, they would be even more in awe of the job of an aerial applicator. How do we ensure that children know the impact and importance of aerial applicators? How do we ensure that adults know the impact and importance of aerial applicators? How do we promote agricultural aviation? We educate them.

Agricultural aviation has been a big part of my life, since I grew up on a farm and was raised by an aerial applicator. Watching the “spray plane” go by the window was routine, and hearing it take off at 5:30 a.m. on a summer morning was also routine—which interfered with my teenage sleeping in summers. However, not many people are aware of the impact and purpose of agricultural aviation.

As a classroom teacher, a great way to promote anything is to reach our kids. In my classroom, I welcome outside speakers to give my students firsthand accounts of careers and professionals in our area. One of the programs that visited my classroom was on Farm Safety. Since I live in a rural state, I think that an Ag Aviation program would be one way to positively promote agricultural aviation. Students could be taught about the positive impact that aerial applicators make, especially in our food supply. Along with our current science curriculum in schools, an Ag Aviation program could inform students that without aerial applicators, our cost of food would rise an estimated 50 percent, since there would not be as much yield per acre for farmers. An Ag Aviation program would also support the social studies curriculum when talking about different countries and their growing populations. Ag in the Classroom and Provider Pals are two resources available for use in the classroom. I believe that by promoting agricultural aviation in the classroom, our students will share their knowledge with their parents.

As far as promoting agricultural aviation directly to adults, our aerial applicators need to be visible and answer the communities’ questions by attending the local Ag Days, County and State Fairs, as well as being visible to the public with them sharing the hard work they do with the community. In the past few years, I have noticed a billboard along the interstate, “Aerial Applicators: Helping to provide safe food for America's tables” and commercials on the local television station during state basketball tournaments, which is a step in the right direction.

Two of the big hurdles I see concerning agricultural aviation are the debate over organic food and the safety of the pilots. Just as we do with kids, we need to educate adults on both issues.

People will always have the choice of buying organic food. Despite the common misconception, pesticides are used in organic foods. If we didn’t use pesticides in both conventional and organic production, our food supply would greatly decrease; therefore, sending food prices skyrocketing. In order for our farmers to keep up with the growing demand for food, we need to have aerial applicators that can efficiently and effectively apply these pesticides to give farmers the high yields they need to continue to feed our world. It is predicted that food production will need to double by 2050. Our population continues to grow and we will need aerial applicators to help our farmers achieve the high yields necessary to provide the food needed. These yields cannot be obtained as efficiently or effectively with ground equipment. Application done aerially doesn’t leave wheel tracks which destroys potential crop yield. If people choose and can afford to buy organic food, they will be able to continue to make those choices. However, we need to ensure that there is affordable and abundant food for all people, and aerial applicators help make that happen. Whether people choose to buy conventional or organically grown food, agricultural aviation is promoted positively.       

The other issue that concerns people is the safety of aerial application. Through the PAASS Program, safety is promoted and supported by providing pilots with the knowledge they need to make better decisions. The PAASS Program has a goal to reduce the number of aviation accidents by improving the aerial applicator’s decision making skills. By having informed pilots making better decisions, these pilots not only help with their safety, but they are more effective with each aerial application. Some of the PAASS information is used by the WNAAA’s Athena Program and is presented to the women’s group at the National Convention.

If we promote agricultural aviation in a positive way, hopefully the next time a child, or adult, sees a pilot doing his pseudo-acrobatic moves with the airplane, they will know the positive impact that pilot is making on our food supply. Both the child and adult will know the pilot has safety in mind as he uses his skills to help provide our world with a safe and abundant food supply. ♥


Headshot of Tara HofmannTara Hofmann is married to Adam Hofmann and is the mother to two boys, Gage and Drew. Her parents are Brian and Elly Rau of Medina Flying Service, Medina, N.D. She has been a Reading Coach in Bismarck, N.D., for the past two years. Before that, she was a 5th grade teacher for nine years. Tara has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She is currently working on her Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership through the University of North Dakota.

2012 THEME: Stewards of the Sky, Stewards of the Land: Environmental Awareness in Agricultural Aviation