Three Ways to Help Students Use Text Features

Issue 6Getting students to read from a wide variety of texts is often a challenge in the classroom. Some of the challenges can be time, resources, and ways to help the students access all the different types of texts. Many teachers are using the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation’s student magazine, Iowa Ag Today to offer rich non-fiction text into their learning.

Rich student discussions can occur about the author’s purpose in the nonfiction text of Ag Today. The most common purposes of this type of text are to explain, inform, to teach how to do something, to express an opinion, or to persuade readers to do or believe something. Knowing the differences between nonfiction and fictional text can truly help students understand the meaning better.

Ag Today is aesthetically pleasing to readers as it offers text features to help them understand the text. These text features include and are not limited to print features such as bold print, symbols and icons; graphic aids like maps, charts and timelines; illustrations including photographs, drawings, or cartoons. It is imperative for teachers to explicitly teach students about using these features to help them with their understanding of the information presented.  Here are three ways to do this:

1.  Model through a think aloud. Talk through how you as a reader would tackle the text and how you would use the text features to help understand the text. Look at each page and ask students how an illustration helps them in their reading, or look at a map and ask why the map was added to the text. Students need to have conversations on the importance of text features in their reading to help them use them to better understand their reading. Teachers can also use this time to have students make predictions about what the text may be about after looking at text features.

2. Create a quick reference for to students to access when using text features. Here is an example list students can insert into their working notebooks or turn into posters for the classroom wall:

  • Maps: Help a reader visualize where places are in the state, nation, or world.
  • Captions: Can help understand a picture or photograph.
  • Illustrations or photographs: Help to visualize the text and make it real. They may also help determine what is important within the text.
  • Special print: Look for bold, italics, or underlined words to determine key vocabulary.
  • Graphs: Can help understand important data within the text and assist in interpreting.
Issue 6 centerfold

In this example from Issue 6, text features are used to draw attention, provide additional information, and help students visualize and understand what they read.

3.  Using Ag Today in the classroom not only helps with reading of nonfiction texts, but it also offers opportunities for students to write. Teachers can preview the text with students and then have them write questions they may have about the text features they see. In addition, there are many think and discuss prompts within the text for students to talk with another student and to write their thoughts as well. This truly helps students realize the importance of discussing, reflecting, and writing about what they are reading.

Students reading Ag Today - Issue 2In conclusion, it is imperative for students to have access to multiple types of texts in the classroom. Ag Today is an excellent example to use for not only various content areas but also learning how to use text features for understanding. I would encourage teachers to start with a few strategies such as the ones shared here and slowly add more as you see students becoming more familiar with using text features. Happy reading in your classroom!

-Jody Still Herbold, Education Consultant, Northwest AEA

Bread Making—A Form of Art & A Way To Connect Back to Agriculture

As a college student, bread making is not something most think about or have time to do on a regular basis. It’s a lot easier to go to the store and pick from a wide selection of sliced breads—just as it is for any food items found in the store. In this generation, it’s easy to take for granted the convenience of a supermarket and the men and women who work to make the food we eat. This is where the gap between the consumer and the farmer begins—because we are not directly making or growing the food we eat—bread making is a prime example of this, and so I spent the weekend learning how to make bread. Here is my story and the lessons I learned along the way.cinrolls

Last week, I had a curious interest about bread making. It was interesting—earlier in the week my roommate and I were having a conversation about how much we love bread and then later on that night I was on Facebook and saw one of those quick food recipe videos—it was about making homemade bread.  It intrigued me just enough that the next day I was making my very own homemade bread.

I went to the store and got all the ingredients, and when I came back I instantly got started on the process. My favorite part of the bread making process was kneading the dough—it reminded me of kneading clay in pottery class—which is something that this process is very similar to. Kneading is an important step in the bread making process. Kneading activates the natural gluten in the wheat bread flour. Gluten is a protein that stretches; when we knead the dough, the gluten stretches and becomes more elastic. Then the yeast does its job in the process. The yeast in the bread releases carbon dioxide creating little air pockets. The air pockets are only possible because the gluten allows the bread to stretch instead of crumble and break apart. This results in a light, chewy, airy texture in the final product.

I think what shocked me the most was the amount of waiting time that went into bread making. After kneading, you must let the dough rise. Letting the dough rise gives the yeast time to metabolize some of the sugars in the flour and release carbon dioxide creating little air bubbles. Yeast is a fungus and is essential in leavened bread. The more active the yeast is, the more the bread will rise. Yeast is most active at room temperature or slightly warmer, but as the baking process starts it then kills the yeast. It takes quite a few hours to let the bread rise and even after that you must do that a couple of times to get the perfect outcome.

bitmoji- breadAs I reflected on the process, I realized that bread making, in its own unique way, is a form of art, and after going through the recipe I can begin to appreciate the process and the people who make bread on a daily basis. It’s an art in the way one kneads the dough, it’s an art in the type of bread made—bagels, dinner rolls, sourdough, rye, or whole wheat—it’s an art in how you let the dough rise, and its an art in how you shape the dough to be baked. A big part of the bread making process is a form of art that some have mastered perfectly.

As the weekend went on, I found myself really enjoying making bread and sharing it with others. After making two loafs of bread on Friday I went on to make homemade cinnamon rolls on Saturday and contemplated the process of croissants on Sunday—which is a blog for another day.

It seems crazy to think how something as simple as making bread can make us closer to our agricultural roots. But anything that takes a raw product, such as wheat and dairy, and then turns it in to something new, like bread, ice cream or yogurt, can connect us back to the industry that allows us to do this—agriculture. Now even though I enjoyed my time making bread and other bakery treats this weekend, I will probably still take the convenient route of going to the store and save making homemade bread for another time when I need to be reminded of how our food is grown.bread and me crop

Recipe for White Bread


1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

2 ¼ cups warm water

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons canola oil

6 ¼ cups all-purpose flour


 Step 1: In large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add sugar, salt, oil, and start with 3 cups of flour. Mix together and slowly add in the remaining flour to form a soft dough.

Step 2: Create a floured surface and knead dough until dough becomes smooth and elastic. Roughly knead for 5-10 minutes.

Step 3: Place in a greased bowl. Cover and let dough rise until it has doubled in size. Roughly 1.5-3 hours.

Step 4: After dough has doubled in size, punch down and divide dough in half. Shape the dough and place in a greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise again until doubled in size. Approximately 1 hour.

Step 5: Bake at 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Step 6: Let cool and Enjoy!


Ethanol Quick Facts

Many of us know that ethanol exists. It comes from corn and can be used to power our vehicles. But many people are afraid to use it for fear of hurting their car, truck, or SUV. Today, let’s talk more about what ethanol is, where it comes from, and who can use it.

In chemistry terms, ethanol is ethyl alcohol, or C2H60. It can be made from many different things, including sugar cane, cassava, and sorghum. Essentially what happens is the sugars in the grain are fermented and turned into alcohol.

It’s not an incredibly new idea, either. In fact, there was even an episode of Dukes of Hazzard about it in 1979 (High Octane, for the fans out there). Bo and Luke entered a contest to find a cleaner burning fuel and entered their homemade moonshine (essentially just food-grade ethanol) in the contest. Of course, they had to fool Boss Hogg and Rosco P. Coltrane in the process, but in the end they won the prize money. Of course. They’re the Dukes.

Though the 1970s did mark the beginning of the modern ethanol industry, it didn’t all start then. According to the Energy Information Agency, ethanol was first used to power an engine as early as 1826! It was used as fuel for lighting in the 1850’s, too, but this use fell off when it was taxed as a liquor during the Civil War.

But anyway, how is ethanol made? Well, it really is just a bigger, fancier version of making moonshine. It works in the same way that other alcohol production works; yeasts break down sugars and create alcohol and carbon dioxide in the process.

Here in Iowa, we make ethanol from the starches of the corn kernel. Starches are essentially a long chain of sugar molecules. You may have heard of cellulosic ethanol, which yields the same product, but the process is a bit different, because the alcohol is created from cellulosic plant material, like corn stalks, instead of starches like in corn kernels.


First in the process to make ethanol, you have to physically break open the kernel so that the starches are exposed. Then, enzymes are introduced that break down that starch chain into a simple sugar. This is the same kind of thing that happens when you put a cracker on your tongue and don’t chew it. It breaks down anyway, because there are enzymes in your saliva that do the same thing. How cool is that?

Once the starches are broken down into sugars, yeast can be added. The yeast eats the sugar, and produces ethanol and carbon dioxide. After the yeast has done its job, the ethanol is purified, meaning any remaining water is removed using heat and molecular sieves. Lastly, ethanol is blended with a specific amount of gasoline to ensure that it cannot be used for human consumption.


In this graphic, you can see that there is a byproduct in ethanol production that creates animal feed. Depending on if it is dried or remains wet, it is either called DDGs (dried distillers grains) or “wet cake” (wet distillers grains). This is a common feed supplement because it is a high quality feed at a low price.

At the gas pump, however, there are a few common blends of ethanol to know about. The one that is the most common at gas stations is E-10. That means that the fuel is 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. The second kind of fuel is E-15. E-15 is not at all gas stations, but is denoted with a blue handle at the pump. Many people stray away from E-15 for fear of hurting their engine, but that is a common misconception. All cars made in the year 2001 or after are approved to use E-15. E-15 options are generally cheaper (up to a dime per gallon), and burn cleaner than lower percentage ethanol blends.

Lastly, there is E-85, which is a remarkable 85% ethanol. This blend should only be used in Flex Fuel vehicles designed for that much ethanol. These vehicles are becoming more and more popular.


In summary, ethanol in Iowa is most commonly made from the starches in the corn kernel. The process yields a cleaner burning, cheaper, renewable fuel alternative, as well as a low cost and high quality livestock supplemental feed. Flex Fuel vehicles can use up to 85% ethanol (E-85) blends, and all cars built in 2001 or later can use E-15 blends.

To find a gas station with E-15, click here! For lessons relating to ethanol production, click here. And for a new book about modern corn production, click here.


Why are Baby Farm Animals Typically Born in the Spring?

ThinkstockPhotos-483531372.jpgThis unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having in February has us thinking about spring. And spring on farms usually means babies! Some of my friends even celebrate events like ‘Lambaggedon’. So many baby lambs can be born on a single weekend that family and friends have to come from miles away to help out. They make the event fun with a little contest. Guess the number of lambs to be born between Friday morning and Monday noon. Closest guess gets the privilege of naming one of the lambs.

But why are so many babies born in the spring?

In a lot of ways spring is the perfect time for babies to be born. Mother mammals usually need better, richer food to produce quality milk for their babies to nurse. For grazing animals like cattle, sheep, and horses, the fresh green grass and other plants on pasture in spring and early summer are rich in nutrients. These plants can have a higher percentage of protein and ‘total digestible nutrients’. This can lead to better milk production for the babies. Most calves are born between January and May because of this reason. Read more about early calving here.

ThinkstockPhotos-139923089.jpgSpring is also a good time for babies to be born because the days become longer and temperatures rise. With the warmer weather it is easier for the baby to survive. There is less chance of harsh weather. Just like humans, animals need to be protected from severe weather. Cows often like to wander away from the herd to give birth in solitude. This can put the mother and calf at risk. If the cow has any problems during the birthing process, a farmer might not be available to assist and help pull the calf. Away from the herd, especially in cold weather, the calf might be less likely to survive. Away from the herd, the baby might be in danger from predators like foxes, coyotes, or even large birds of prey like eagles. In many, contemporary farming operations calving and farrowing happens in a barn or ‘under roof’. This protects the mother and baby from many of those dangers.

Because spring is such a good time of year for babies, many animals evolved to accommodate these natural cycles. Many Iowans are familiar with the deer rut that happens in October, November, and December. Male deer are at peak testosterone, get more aggressive, and start fighting for mates. They wander out of their natural habitats which leads to increased motor vehicle accidents when they cross roads. This is in large part because the female deer come into estrus in the fall. As the days shorten, their hormones trigger the estrus cycles. A deer’s gestation will take 201 days. So if the female gets pregnant on October 1, you can expect a fawn around April 20th.

In farming generally, pregnancy and gestation follow these same deep-seated, natural cycles. Cattle gestate for 283 days. So if farmers want to start calving in February, they need to artificially inseminate or introduce the bull into the herd in the middle of April.

ThinkstockPhotos-489807042.jpgHowever, in contemporary farms piglets and chickens are born year-round. This might be attributed to two main reasons – consumer demand and differences in rates of development. Consumers want fresh meat and eggs year round. They don’t want fresh meat only in the fall when animals born in the spring are fully grown. Because consumers demand fresh meat year-round, farmers try to stagger when their animals go to market. This means that they might have to stagger when the animals give birth. Also, animals like pigs and chickens have much shorter gestation and development rates. Gestation of a pig is roughly 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days. Pigs farrow (give birth) and then piglets are usually weaned within a month after being born. This means that a sow could have two or possibly even three litters per year.

ThinkstockPhotos-459924937.jpgChicken eggs take almost exactly 21 days to hatch. A chicken can lay an egg every single day. This rapid turnaround can produce a lot of birds quickly. Traditionally, chickens did not lay eggs in the winter. With the shorter daylight, their bodies stop producing the hormones that make them ovulate and produce an egg. But on contemporary farms, chickens are raised in barns where the light can be controlled. With artificial lighting, chickens can and will continue to produce eggs year-round. This is a huge convenience for modern shoppers who expect to see eggs in grocery stores even in the winter months.

So, while many farmers are still in tune with the natural cycles of the season with their animals, modern farming practices have helped solve some of the problems that restrict births to only the spring. There is an abundance of babies in the spring, but in agriculture babies might be born all year long.



There’s a lot of lingo in the agriculture industry. Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with. For instance, what’s a heifer? What’s the difference between a pasture and a paddock? Let’s beef up your cattle lingo.

Types of Cattle:


Bovine is the scientific name for cattle! Like dogs are canines and horses are equine. Both bovine and cattle are used to talk about groups of cows without being specific about gender.

Many people use the terms “cows” and “cattle” interchangeably. While most of the time that’s okay, they do mean different things technically. In technical terms, a cow is a female that has given birth. A cow’s job is to be a good mama to her calves. Farmers try to have their cows calve (have a baby) every year.

A bull is, you guessed it, a male bovine. Bulls are kept for breeding purposes. In the past, each cattle farm would have at least one bull of their own. However, with artificial insemination today, farmers can purchase semen from a variety of bulls instead. This is an especially big deal in the dairy industry, where cows are really the main focus.

A steer is also a male, but he has been castrated in order to promote meat quality. High levels of testosterone make an animal’s meat very unpalatable. Bull meat tends to be pretty tough, and not as good to eat.

A heifer is a young female bovine. Heifers can have two purposes; they can either be kept for breeding purposes, or they can be raised for meat, like steers. Heifer is pronounced “heff-er”.

A calf is a baby! Calf isn’t a gender specific term. Calves can be born in the spring or the fall. This decision can depend on feed sources (pasture or feedlot), where the cows calve (either indoor or outdoor), and just personal preference of the producer.

In beef operations, calves will stay with their mom for a few weeks and will nurse while learning to eat grass and other types of feed. In dairy operations, the calf will be moved to its own “hutch” or house and will be bottle fed so that the farmer can harvest the cow’s milk instead. Dairy cows create much more milk than a newborn calf needs, so this system is more efficient for them.

Feeder calf
A feeder calf is a young animal that is ready to be fed like an adult. These animals are growing rapidly and will perform very well on high-energy diets – not unlike high school students!


Here’s an example of an ad for a sire that includes EPDs.

Breeding stock
Breeding stock consists of the animals that farmers keep to produce more animals. Farmers look at many different things when deciding on breeding stock, like disposition, meat quality, mothering ability, health, and overall structural soundness. There are many traits of interest, and many of those can be scientifically measured using EPDs, or expected progeny differences. EPDs can be relatively complicated, but essentially they help farmers compare traits of various animals relative to the average of that animal’s breed. It can be very helpful in breeding for specific traits, like birthweight or calving ease.

Market steer/market heifer
By prefacing steer or heifer with “market,” a farmer is indicating that their purpose is to be sold for meat, leather, and other byproducts. This is in contrast to breeding stock, where those animals’ purposes are to be kept to reproduce.

Sire is another name for an animal that fathered another animal. You can say, “Calf 123A was sired by 890B,” or, “890B is our best sire.”

A dam is another name for an animal that mothered another animal.

What they eat:

Cattle are ruminant animals, which means their stomach has four compartments. They are the rumen (microbial fermentation), reticulum (initiates regurgitation), omasum (water absorption), and abomasum (true stomach). The rumen is the largest compartment, and gives ruminant animals the ability to absorb more nutrients from plant-based foods than monogastric animals (like humans, pigs, dogs, etc.).

Colostrum is the first milk that the cow produces. Newborn calves lack a well-developed immune system, and this colostrum holds all kinds of good stuff that help them stay healthy while their body works on creating an immune system of their own.

Feed is what farmers call the food they give their animals. Most animals eat a mix of grains (corn and soybeans), as well as some extra vitamins and minerals and lots of water. Cattle in a feedlot will primarily eat a grain-based diet, whereas other cattle might be raised on pastures and may only be supplemented with grains. Though farmers work with animal nutritionists and veterinarians to make sure their animals always get enough to eat, different farmers can feed their animals different things that are still healthy.

Feed can also be called “feeds” or “feedstuff” depending on the person and the context. Feeds and feedstuff tend to refer to a specific ingredient in the overall feed ration.

Feed ration
The feed ration is the precise amounts of multiple feedstuffs that are mixed together to provide a healthy, balanced diet for the animals. Feed rations generally have some type of forage, corn and soybeans to provide carbohydrates, as well as a protein or non-protein nitrogen source (to aid rumen microorganisms in protein synthesis), vitamins, minerals, and a plentiful water source.

If you have ever seen tall blue metal or gray cement silos, they are used for silage. Silage is fermented plant material used to feed cattle. Though you can make silage with plants like sorghum, corn silage may be the most common. Farmers will harvest the corn when it is still green. They will cut the whole plant down, chop it up, and store it away. While it’s being stored, farmers will try to ensure that no air can get in. Because of this, modern technologies like plastic wrapping and tubing have been used to make higher quality silage. Many modern farmers that use lots of silage will use silage piles, pits, or bunks.

Silage can be stored and used as a feedstuff in the winter when fresh grass is scarce. Good silage should smell sweet, and will taste sweet to cattle.

Concentrates in terms of cattle feed generally means grains. Grains are a concentrated source of carbohydrates (energy), and play a large role in feeds, especially the feeds of market animals.

Forages are plant-based feeds, like hay. If an animal is raised on pasture, it is eating forages. Some common forages would be alfalfa, clover, oats, or smooth bromegrass. In southern states, fescue becomes a more popular forage.

Feed bunk
The feed bunk is the trough where the cattle’s feed is put at feeding time.


Some cattle are raised on pastures, which are large, grassy areas where they are allowed to graze. There is science associated with this, too, however. There are calculations necessary to find how many animals a pasture can best sustain based on size, forage quality, forage amount, and amount of time cattle will be grazing it. Pasture-raised cattle may require supplemented feeds during the winter, like hay, silage, or grains.

Many farmers split pastures into smaller sub-units, called paddocks. This way, they can graze one section more thoroughly, then move to another section while it regrows.

Rotational grazing
Rotational grazing is the system for rotating cattle through multiple paddocks in the pasture. Depending on the size of the herd and the paddocks, producers may rotate their cattle daily, weekly, monthly, or any other time schedule that works for them, their land, and their cattle.

Types of Production Systems:

Seedstock producer
A seedstock producer is one that works to create superior genetics. These farmers work to create the very best animals in terms of structural soundness, muscling, stature, and feed efficiency. Instead of selling their animals to market, they might sell replacement heifers for breeding stock, or straws of semen for others to use in their herds. Seedstock producers are the roots of genetic advancement in the cattle industry. These cattle may also be known as show cattle or club calves.

Cow-Calf producer
Iowa has many cow-calf producers. These are the farmers that aren’t necessarily in the industry for genetic improvement or to sell cattle at market, but instead they produce the feeder calves that will eventually go to a feedlot. Cow-calf producers have their own breeding stock, and will decide each year if it will be more profitable to feed the calves out to market weight, or if they should sell them to a feedlot instead. This may change depending on the year and the markets.

The feedlot is where feeder calves will go to live. This is a large, fenced-in area with a large trough for feed. The cattle get to roam at their will, and will get fed every day until they are large enough to go to market. More farmers now are “feeding out” cattle in a monoslope building or another type of barn for environmental and/or feed efficiency reasons. If you have ever heard a farmer say they “feed out” cattle, chances are that they fit in this category!

Though this is becoming less common, backgrounding is a term used to describe raising a calf through its awkward “junior high” phase. Backgrounders may purchase calves that are newly weaned and will have them out on pasture until they are old enough to go to a feedlot.

Backgrounding is more prevalent in the west. Feedlot producers will pay a premium for calves raised on western pastures for a couple reasons. First, since pastures are large, the animals have to be healthy and structurally sound just to walk far enough to get enough to eat. Secondly, since these pastures have lower quality forages compared to other parts of the country, these animals will grow extremely rapidly once they are introduced to the high-energy grain diets of a feedlot.


So now you have the whole scoop on cattle lingo. Go ahead and show off your vo-COW-bulary to your friends!


What’s Cookin’? – Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Nothing says love quite like hot, fresh cookies straight out of the oven. There is something soothing about the combination of oatmeal and raisins. The hearty oats pair perfectly with the sweet, juicy raisins. This recipe is sure to delight the kid and the kid-at-heart. Here is the agricultural story behind this simple recipe.

oat-pile.pngOatmeal or rolled oats are one of those simple food products. Processing is minimal and they more or less just run the oat seed through large rollers to crush the seed flat. Oats used to be grown throughout Iowa as part of a regular crop rotation system. But as farmers in Iowa started growing more corn and soybeans, oats slowly fell out of the crop rotation cycle. Companies like the Quaker Oats company originally set up shop in Iowa because of the quick access to the base ingredients of their products. Now Quaker Oats (located in Cedar Rapids) sources raw ingredients from all over the Midwest.

sugar-beets.jpgIn any sweet treat, sugar plays a star role. Sugar that most people are familiar with has two primary sources – sugar cane or sugar beets. Sugar cane is grown in more tropical environments like Florida, Latin America, and South America. But in the upper Midwest, we grow sugar beets. Minnesota is the top sugar beet producing state. Sugar beets are much bigger than the beets bought in the store. They look like a large, misshapen potato. Once washed, the beets are thinly sliced. They are soaked in water releasing much of the natural sugar. The sugary water is then purified. Through several stages of evaporation, sugar crystals start to form as water is removed.

raisins.jpgRaisins provide a burst of flavor to these cookies. Raisins are dried grapes. Raisins are preserved and sweetened by the drying process. The grape industry is growing in Iowa. Most of the grapes in Iowa are going into the growing wine industry. This means that most of the raisins we eat are still grown in California vineyards. Raisins are made from seedless varieties of grapes and a vine will take up to three years before it produces fruit. The fruit are dried on the vines to minimize the energy needed to process them.

wheat2.jpgFlour helps give these cookies form and texture. Flour is wheat that has been finely milled. Some wheat is grown in Iowa, but much more wheat is grown in some of our near neighboring states like Kansas, Nebraska, and North and South Dakota. There are many different types of wheat flour that can be used for different purposes. Wheat used for bread may have a high gluten content so that the bread will be light and fluffy in texture. Different types of wheat can be mixed together to get different properties in the flour. For this recipe, a simple all-purpose flour will work.

IMG_0731.JPGAnd now, here is the recipe to make these delicious cookies.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dark raisins


  1. Melt butter and stir in sugars until blended. Add vanilla and egg until combined. Set aside.
  2. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Mix into wet ingredients.
  3. Stir in oats, walnuts and raisins. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Drop cookie dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Place into a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes.
  5. Makes approximately 3 dozen cookies.



Why Do I Volunteer? Because I Can!

Volunteering is defined as an altruistic activity where an individual or group provides services for no financial gain “to benefit another person, group or organization”. I feel it is a great privilege to be able to volunteer in the community that I live in. In sharing a few of my top reasons for volunteering, I hope to encourage others to step out and find the right reasons why you, too can volunteer for teaching agriculture to others.

Making a difference in our community only happens when we reach out of our own worldswhy-i-volunteer and look to see how we can help those around us. For me it was as easy as reaching out at the schools that my daughters attended and asking “Where can I help out”?  Once I showed an interest, I was asked frequently to assist in classroom and school activities. I found that many children just wanted to be heard and helped and it made a huge difference in their performance. We may not be able to change the world, but we can make a difference. Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Contribute to a cause you care about and make a difference for even one child.

Use skills you have to help others learn. Learning is fun and when we feel passionately about something, it shows in our actions. Agriculture in the Classroom is one awesome way many volunteers are helping others to learn about agriculture and their communities. By tapping into their own abilities and resources they help teachers add agriculture concepts into ways of teaching math, science, social studies and technology. Agriculture is all around us in Iowa and this makes learning about where we live and how important agriculture is to our community even more interesting and exciting.

Learn new skills as you reach out. I quickly became amazed at the opportunities andpic2 abilities I had as I volunteered. I didn’t realize that my willingness to learn with the children would soon ignite a passion to learn more and help more. Today the opportunities are endless and so are the reasons to learn new skills. Did you know that a classroom can ride along with a farmer by using FarmChat®? Students get to see technology as if they were right there in the cab with the farmer. They have many opportunities to learn and see things that they previously would not have had access to.

Why Volunteer? I volunteer because I can. It is just one way I can give to others in ways that seem to give back to me way more than I could ever imagine. Time invested in mypic1 community and in seeking to make agriculture real and relevant to young people is a privilege. It is amazing to see the faces of students as they witness soybean seeds crack plaster or corn seeds sprouting. I encourage you to look around your community and see where you can use your skills and passions to make a difference. The first step is always the hardest- but the journey will be worth it . If you are interested in finding out more about Agriculture in the Classroom, please contact Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation at 515-331-4181 for more information.