What is Agricultural Literacy?

View as a webpage


Eleven components of agricultural literacy.

Figure 1. Describing the eleven components of agricultural literacy as reported by Frick et al. (1991).

Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC)
October 2023

Literate (adjective) – ability to read and write.
Literacy (noun) – the understanding and information gained from being educated.

October is National Information Literacy Month! Information literacy forms the basis of lifelong self-directed learning by understanding how to identify, locate, and verify subject-specific content. The National Research Council defines an agriculturally literate person as one who understands, "the food and fiber system, and this would include its history and its current economic, social and environmental significance to all Americans." 

Despite access to information resources worldwide, research has reported a significant gap in the components of agricultural literacy (Figure 1). With only 1.3% of the American population directly engaged in agriculture, this knowledge gap is predicted to widen as society becomes even further removed from agriculture. 

Encouraging the growth of agricultural literacy will help ensure a brighter future for all of us. This effort, however, requires locating and sharing credible information, trusted resources, and unbiased scientific research. As one of the world’s largest repositories of agricultural information, published science, and data, the USDA’s National Agricultural Library serves a key role in fostering a culture of improved agricultural literacy. 

Visit the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) to learn about ongoing federal research, specialized funding opportunities for farmers and producers, and more. Expand your knowledge on an unfamiliar component of agriculture or browse related topics such as the following: 

Graphic banner

Read More on This Month’s Topic

Frick, M. J., Kahler, A. A., & Miller, W. W. (1991). A definition and the concepts of agricultural literacyJournal of Agriculture Education, 32(2), 49-57.

Meischen, D. L., & Trexler, C. J. (2003). Rural elementary students' understandings of science and agricultural education benchmarks related to meat and livestockJournal of Agricultural Education, 44(1), 43-55.

National Research Council. (1988). Understanding Agriculture: New Directions for Education. National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC.

Explore Other Library Tools at NAL

Start with the following online library resources:

  • Access books, articles and more on Agricultural Literacy using this predefined query in the SEARCH database.
  • Find rare and historic manuscripts, seed catalogues, photographs and more in our Special Collections.
  • Check your term usage using the NAL Thesaurus (NALT)

NRCS Purple Skies Farm Photo credit Brooke DeCubellis

The Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) specializes in resourcing data, research, training, and other tools pertinent to establishing and maintaining alternative cropping systems and sustainable agricultural production across a variety of plant and animal species. AFSIC includes information on production practices, marketing, local and community food systems, and environmental justice in support of the USDA's effort to ensure a sustainable future for agriculture and farmers worldwide.

Questions or comments? Do you have topics you would like highlighted?

Contact the AFSIC team: afsic@usda.gov