Relevancy and Engagement

Journey 2050 Lesson 4: Economies (Grades 6-8)

Grade Level

6 - 8


Students will explain why economics are important to sustainability, describe the relationship between a sustainable economy and the environment, develop a model demonstrating how agricultural production creates a ripple effect that impacts local and global economies and social stability, and discuss how investments build an economy. Grades 6-8

Estimated Time

30-45 minutes

Materials Needed

economy: the wealth and resources of a country or region, especially in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services

global citizen: someone who identifies with being part of an emerging world community and whose actions contribute to building this community's values and practices

infrastructure: the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region or organization to function properly

market: a place where products are bought and sold

ripple effect: the simple planting of a seed starts a chain of events that help the farmer, community and eventually the world

Did You Know?
  • A market economy is driven by supply and demand.1
  • Agriculture plays a significant role in the economic development of a country.2
  • In 2015, each dollar of agricultural exports stimulated another $1.27 in business activity. The $133.1 billon of agricultural exports generated an additional $169.4 billion in economic activity for a total economic output of $302.5 billion.3
  • Agricultural exports required 1,067,000 full-time civilian jobs, which included 751,000 jobs in the non farm sector.3
Background Agricultural Connections

Journey 2050 takes students on a virtual simulation that explores world food sustainability and answers the question, "How will we sustainably feed nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050?" The lesson plans and online simulation program allows students to make decisions on a virtual farm and witness their impact on society, the environment, and the economy at a local and global scale. The lessons engage students with the important concepts regarding sustainable agriculture. The online simulation contextualizes these concepts as students experience the lives of real farm families across the world. As students interact with each family, they learn the role of best management practices in feeding the world, reducing environmental impacts and improving social performance through greater access to education, medical care and community infrastructure. These lessons can be taught individually or as an entire unit. See the links below for the remaining lessons: 

Earning money and creating jobs is the foundation for an economy, and a healthy economy is critical to sustainability. It provides the money needed to address the factors that limit our social and environmental sustainability. This often starts with the simple step of planting a seed that produces wealth and money. However, building wealth and not addressing social and environmental limitations is not sustainable. All the money in the world will not sustain our future generations if we don’t protect our soil, water and air.

The engine of an economy is the marketplace where buyers and sellers meet to trade products and services. This could be a physical place like a mall or a virtual hub like a website. Marketplaces exist both in the local community and globally as goods from one country are sold on the other side of the world. For example, the global food market allows you to buy tea in Canada that’s grown in India and fruits and vegetables even when they’re out of season.

  • When farmers have a good crop, they can use it to feed their family.
  • If they have extra food, they can sell it at the market.
  • The profits made from sales can be spent to improve the farm and in the local community to buy more goods. These purchases then support local business which employs people in the local community, generating wider benefits.
  • As profits grow, people and families throughout the community are able to access more jobs and earn higher incomes.
  • This cycle leads to investment in local infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, housing and roads.
  • Investments in infrastructure can create opportunities for further economic growth. For example, improving roads can help truckers deliver goods faster, enabling the distribution of products to local markets and ultimately to global markets.
  • Global markets give customers access to different products and services and also allows farmers to sell their goods all around the world.
  • In this way, a positive ripple effect is created that helps the farm family, their community, their country and the world.

Access to the internet and cell phone technology provides information and allows knowledge to be shared. Access to education leads to skilled employees. Finally, access to loans enables farmers to purchase things like fertilizers and equipment. With more income, farmers can use profits to invest in more things they need for their farms, like seeds, fertilizer, energy-efficient technology, machinery and education. They can also buy storage facilities to protect their crops from insects or to store them until the market rates are higher and the crop is worth more. Along your journey to feed the world there will be plenty of investments to choose from.

As the world population grows, we will be challenged to do more with less. To meet this challenge, we will rely on new ideas and technologies to help farmers increase revenue while addressing social and environmental limitations. Improving economic sustainability will enable farmers to access new ideas and technologies that improve agricultural practices.

These practices not only help produce more food to feed the world but they also contribute to the ripple effect, making all areas of sustainability stronger and stronger. Improving farmers’ access to local and global markets will be crucial to helping us feed the world in 2050.


This lesson has been adapted for online instruction and can be found on the Journey 2050 eLearning site.

  1. Open the Economies slide deck.
  2. Slide 2: Ask your students, “How does agriculture create ripples in the world?” (Just like a ripple in a pond, changes in the agricultural industry impact many other things. When agricultural markets are strong and there is high demand for agricultural products, the cost of food will rise. If an agricultural market is flooded, the price of food will drop. In addition to direct food markets, other industries rely on agricultural commerce for business, so their markets will also fluctuate along with the agricultural market.)
  3. Slide 3: Ask your students, “What impacts agriculture, creating ripples in the industry?” (Many outside factors impact agriculture. For example, if fuel prices are high, it costs farmers more money to grow, harvest and transport their products to a final buyer, thus potentially decreasing their overall profit. Weather could be another factor. An unusually wet summer could create ideal grazing for livestock, improving their growth rates and potentially leading to a higher paycheck because the animals are sold by the pound. On the contrary, a year of drought can diminish overall harvest if there isn’t enough water available to maximize crop growth.
  4. Allow students to offer their answers. Inform them that throughout this lesson they are going to take a closer look at how the planting of a seed creates a ripple across the farm, community and country. We all play a role in the ripple effect.
Explore and Explain

Preparation: Prior to class, review the Background Information, video clip and slide deck (including the speaker notes) associated with the lesson. Review the Teacher's Guide: Getting Started document for further information to prepare for class.

Activity 1: Economy and Food Sustainability

  1. Slide 4: Play the Journey 2050: Economies video (4:47). Prepare students for the video by asking them to discover three things: 1) What is the foundation for an economy? 2) What is a market? 3) How does the increased wealth that comes from a strong market impact a community as a whole? (Background and discussion prompts are outlined in the steps below). 
  2. What is the foundation for an economy?
    • Slides 5–6: Ask students, “What is the purpose of the foundation of a house?” As a class, discuss the purpose and function of a building’s foundation. Then ask, “What is the foundation for an economy?” As students offer answers, direct their comments to earning money and creating jobs.
  3. What is a market?
    • Slides 7–8: Define the term market. Determine if students have background knowledge about the law of supply and demand. Provide some explanation or clarification if needed or ask a student to summarize for the class.
    • Slides 9–11: To evaluate and apply students’ knowledge of the law of supply and demand, give three example scenarios of fluctuations in agricultural food markets (outlined in the slide deck: what if… milk was no longer served in school cafeterias; a disease spread through most of the chicken farms, killing many hens that lay eggs; or a late frost killed more than half of the peach blossoms decreasing the harvest by 50%?). Present each scenario and then ask students how it would impact the supply, demand and market price of the commodity. Instruct students to respond orally, with a hand signal (e.g., “thumbs-up” if the supply will rise or “thumbs-down” if it will fall) or with arrows drawn on paper.
  4. How does a sustainable farm impact the farm family, their community and their country?
    • Slide 12: Present this question to students and inform them that it will be discussed more after they play the next level of the Sustainability Farming Game.

Activity 2: Sustainability Farming Game Level 4 Economy

  1. Slide 13: Open Level 4 of the Sustainability Farming Game on each student’s computer or device. Explain that in this level of the game they will be farming in three countries (Kenya, India and Canada or the United States). Prepare students for the game by informing them of the following:
    • In this level you will have investment opportunities to further the ripple effect in the community. These are examples of real-life investments that exist in each country.
    • You will have an opportunity to sell your crops in the marketplace. Prices fluctuate and the amount of crop sold depends on your growing practices. (The more ‘best’ practices used the higher the crop yields, the more money you will make, and the more final product will be available. Students will be exposed to examples of both edible and non-edible items that agriculture produces)
    • NOTE: In India, if students plant sugarcane a disease, known as Redrot, will hit their crop causing significant damage. 
    • This is the last round of the game.
    • Total game time is 18 minutes (6 minutes per country).
  2. Identify three to five students whose farms have generated the greatest amount of income and three to five students whose farms have generated the least amount of income in the game so far. (Students can find a dollar figure in the top left-hand corner of their screen when they open the game.) Make a list of the high-income farmers and the low-income farmers. These lists will be used in step 4.
  3. Allow time for students to play the game.
  4. Slide 15: Once students have completed the game, ask the students, “What was the highest crop yield % you received? How did you achieve high results? What choices did you make in the market when you sold your crop?”
  5. Call on the high- and low-income farms that were identified in step 2. Compare the number and types of investments that were made by each group.
  6. Next ask the class, “What happens to your harvest when a random event such as hail or a crop disease hits your farm? What is the impact on the local and global market?” Did anyone plant sugarcane in India? What happened to your crop yield?
  7. As a class discuss the question, “How does a sustainable farm impact the farm family, their community and their country?”
  8. Slide 16: Display or print and distribute the Ripple Effect Infographic to summarize the principles (see Essential Files). You may also refer to the Ripple Effect video. 
  • The Journey 2050 lessons provide an introduction to agricultural sustainability. Take a deeper dive into additional sustainability topics using the links found on the Sustainability page.


Review and summarize the following key concepts (Slide 17):

  • Earning money and creating jobs are two factors important to a strong economy.
  • A market is a place where goods and services are bought and sold. Market prices fluctuate based on the principles of supply and demand.
  • When harvests and markets are strong, farmers earn more money.
  • When earnings increase, the farmer can invest in making improvements on the farm and provide a positive ripple effect throughout their community and the world.


The Journey 2050 program was originally developed by Nutrien in collaboration with Calgary Stampede, Alberta Canola Producers Commission, Nutrients for Life Foundation, and Agriculture in the Classroom Canada. Authors and contributors were drawn from each of these organizations under the direction of Lindsey Verhaeghe (Nutrien) and Robyn Kurbel (Calgary Stampede.) The lessons were updated and revised in 2017 and 2022 with contributions from the original J2050 Steering Committee, the National Center for Agricultural Literacy, and the National Agriculture in the Classroom Organization.  


Lindsey Verhaeghe, Andrea Gardner, Debra Spielmaker, Sara Hunt


Nutrien & National Center for Agricultural Literacy

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