As part of its approach to community outreach, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) American Samoa office sponsored a week-long effort to catalyze high school students and the public to think about pursuing a career in agriculture.
American Samoa consists of 7 islands and is 77 square miles, an area just slightly larger than Washington, D.C. Due to the limited land area, traditional farming depends largely on “interspersed” farming of taro planted among banana crops, although local production is diversifying toward modern hydroponic operations.
Because many families maintain a banana or taro patch, most young people have first-hand experience growing food for their own consumption. However, few are exposed to farming as a full-time career. With that in mind, FSA invited local youth to participate in an art contest, hoping that this novel approach would plant the seeds that could later flourish into the next generation of agricultural professionals.
To begin the contest, called, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food: American Samoa’s Unique Agriculture Art,” students were invited to draft sketches. The top two sketches from each school were then selected to transfer their work onto canvas and write a short narrative describing their inspiration. The USDA Service Center employees judged the entries based on how realistically they portrayed the local agricultural scene.
The first place piece, painted by Steve Tava’e of Fagatitua High School, will be permanently displayed in the Farm Service Agency Hawaii State Office in Honolulu (which oversees the American Samoa Field Office). A slideshow of all ten finalists’ artwork can be viewed here.
In coordination with the art contest, FSA also sponsored an agricultural career fair that included a panel of active agricultural professionals who spoke to students about their unique roles in the agricultural community and the diverse career opportunities that make up the local agriculture scene.