Yogurt Grows on Trees?

Have you ever asked a young child where they think their food comes from? You might be capture-2-e1487971277155.jpgsurprised at the answers. One article said a young 4 year-old didn’t understand what the long orange vegetable was with big green leaves coming out of the top. The father responded that it was a carrot. The youngster thought carrots came in plastic bags.

Many children believe that food comes from the grocery store and if they run out, all they need to do is get more at the store. Many children don’t understand that all of the plants that we eat have to be grown and all of the animal protein has to be raised. Most American families don’t raise their own food, so we rely on farmers to produce crops and livestock.

With modern technology and the internet, students today have many resources at their fingertips, and yet haven’t been given the opportunity to understand some of the most basic things about food, fiber and fuel and where they come from. Very few children have thaccess to fresh fruits and vegetables that have come from a garden. Even fewer children have been able to visit a farm and see the crops growing in the fields or the animals grazing in the pasture. How about the young people in your life? Do they know where food comes from?

Children from other countries are battling this same issue. An article in the Telegraph stated that young adults in the UK don’t know that milk comes from a dairy cow or that eggs come from chickens. The same article also stated that one third of the students surveyed did not know that bacon came from a pig. In Australia, students thought fish fingers came from chicken or pigs and that yogurt grew on trees.

In our rush of the day to day obligations and priorities, have we lost a little understanding of why agriculture literacy is important to our economy? Agriculture is essential to our survival, but what can we do to help educate the next generation? Have you heard the saying “It only takes a spark to get a fire going?” As a mother of three and a grandmother of two, I intend to be certain the young people in my family have the opportunity to understand and experience agriculture up close and personal.

I read books to my grandkids that will help open their minds to where their food comescapture from. I really like “Where Does Our Food Come From”, by Bobbie Kalman. I also love to take them to the local farmer’s market and let them see, taste, and experience fresh fruits and vegetables and the people that grew them. As they reach grade school, I look forward to them experiencing lessons that integrate agriculture into science, social studies, and language arts curricula. Every year we experience the activities at the Iowa State Fair, like the Little Kids on the Farm and all of the educational things happening at the Animal Learning Center.

I encourage you to look for opportunities to share agriculture with your family and friends. Our need is real and there are limitless resources. Your local Agriculture in the Classroom coordinator has information, literature, books, lessons and may even be able to connect you with a local farmer who would be thrilled to share his experiences and expertise with you. Many Iowa communities have agriculture festivals and agriculture days’ year round. Every August the Iowa State Fair celebrates 11 days of awesome agriculture festivities. Let’s all be a spark for agriculture in our communities.

-Sheri

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.

-Will

Why do they do that? – Early Calving

thinkstockphotos-87175110Traditionally, spring is thought to be the time when baby animals are born. Spring is a season of new life, but on many Iowa farms calving season begins in the winter. So why do some farmers plan to expand their herd when the weather is still cold?

Farmers take several things into consideration when deciding when to breed their cows. The gestation for cattle is 283 days, so calving will begin about 9 months after cows are bred.  Most cattle farmers today use artificial insemination to breed their cows. Among the many benefits, artificial insemination allows them to better plan when calves are born.

Farmers choose to breed their herd to calve at different times, depending on what is best for their operation. The two main things they consider are time and weather, and these two factors go hand in hand.

Many farms, especially those in the southern half of the state try to plan calving in February and March. This enables calving to end before spring planting begins, and gives them more time to dedicate to it. Farmers’ first priority is the health and safety of their animals. They check on expecting cows and new calves often, sometimes hourly. They check to see if cows are going into labor, if new calves are born, and that moms and babies are doing well. Most cows are able to give birth on their own, but farmers are ready to assist if the cow or calf’s health is at risk. Occasionally farmers or veterinarians must pull calves that are stuck in the birth canal.

Herd of cows in a field at sunsetSome farmers move expecting cows to a pen or small paddock so they can closely monitor them as their due date approaches. It is common for farmers to move the cows into a barn or protected area of the pasture just before or when they go into labor. Some farmers have equipped their barns with Wi-Fi cameras, so they can keep an even closer eye on the cows in labor.

Weather is another key factor that farmers consider. Although it may seem odd to plan to have baby calves arrive when temperatures are low, the cold weather can be advantage.  Generally speaking, diseases don’t spread as quickly in cold weather. Frozen ground can also be an advantage. Muddy ground in the spring is difficult for young calves to walk in.  They can even get stuck in the mud.

Black Angus CattleAlthough there are benefits of cold weather, extremely cold conditions are not good either.   Farmers in northern Iowa, where it is common for temperatures to drop below zero regularly in January and February, generally breed cows so that calving begins in March when conditions are a bit warmer. This makes for a very busy spring for farmers who also raise corn and soybeans, since spring tillage and fertilizer application often begin in March. But with proper planning and management, farmers are able to balance both.

Be sure to check out Chrissy’s recent blog, Vo-COW-bulary to learn more about cattle.

– Cindy

6 Reasons Farmers Use Cover Crops

There is a challenge that farmers are faced with every day of their career—how do we protect the land we work on? Farmers work with the land everyday of their lives and work to protect and restore the land for future generations. They understand how the land provides for them—after all, without taking care of the land they work they would not be able to grow a product, such as corn and soybeans, and be able to make a profit for their livelihood. One way farmers work to protect the land is through cover crops.

What is a cover crop? This is a plant that is grown in fields to protect land quality for the future. There are many benefits of implementing the use of cover crops—and here are 6 reasons farmers use cover crops in their operation.sloans-cover-crop-in-corn-stubble

1.)Soil Erosion: One thing I will always remember from my American History lesson of the Dust Bowl is that bare ground is not the answer. Open topsoil is something to avoid in farming practices. Wind and water can carry the soil away through erosion. My dad always said that we can’t rebuild the soil, and he’s right—it takes many years to produce organic matter that makes up Iowa’s rich topsoil. By planting cover crops we help stabilize the soil and protect the topsoil layer by not exposing it to erosion by wind and water.

2.)Nutrient Management: Cover crops are a great way to add valuable nutrients back to the soil. Not only that but cover crops also add back organic matter to the soil as they decompose. In my agronomy class at Iowa State University, I am learning how certain types of legume plants have the ability to ‘fix’ nitrogen in the soil, such as hairy vetch and winter peas. Nitrogen is an essential element in plant growth. By adding in certain cover crops we are also adding in ways to produce nitrogen. Adding in nutrients is not the only benefit, but also balancing nutrients in the soil is a great perk of cover crops too. Adding in certain cover crops, such as non-legumes cover crops (radishes and rye), also have the ability to tie up the nutrients and prevent them from runoff or leaching. Which leads us into our next reason, water quality.

3.)Water Quality: With nitrogen in the soil also comes nitrogen runoff—both which farmers work towards maintaining. Our water streams are easily exposed to nitrogen runoff and other pollution sources. Not only do some cover crops help produce nitrogen, but others like, radishes and rye, also work to lock in nutrients and keep them from producing runoff or leaching. If you think about it, cover crops work as an extra filter system on fields.

4.)Biodiversity: Not only are farmers introducing a new plant onto these fields, they also introduce new interactions of all types of life. Cover crops bring in new habitats, they bring in beneficial or repelling insects, they attract wildlife, and provide protection against wind and water erosion. Creating an area of diverse species only boosts the circle of life and provides new opportunities to grow.

5.)Weed Suppression: Competition is a real thing in the plant world and farmers use cover crops as a way to eliminate weeds from their fields. Roots of cover crops extend deep down into the soil to take up any nutrients or water available. While doing so they also ‘weed’ out other weeds (no pun intended) for those nutrients. Not only do cover crops compete with weeds below the soil surface, but they also compete above the surface for sunlight and space. The competition from cover crops is too stressful for the weeds to handle, making it easy for farmers to have complete weed control.

6.)Green Pasture: Some farmers who also have cattle also have the option of grazing their cattle on the cover crop fields. Its just another way farmers can save feed costs. Cattle love to graze on certain forages, especially crops like clover, radish tops, and rye. Not only can the farmer feed his cattle, but he can also fertilize his fields in the process. The cattle’s manure makes a great source of fertilizer—so basically it’s a two for one deal here.screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-11-47-14-am

There are many reasons why farmers use cover crops—each reason presents an opportunity to improve soil and land quality for the future. Now you may wonder why not all farmers use cover crops. Well even though there are benefits there are also challenges. Cost is a big challenge facing farmers and one of the key reasons that they do not use them. Although cost takes a toll in the present, the benefits can outweigh the costs for the future. For example adding in nutrients and managing weeds work to boost yields, not to mention protecting the topsoil works to help plant growth too. A farmer may be faced with many challenges each day, but they also know how they can work to make the best decision for their operation as well as for the land to be worked on in the future.

-Hannah Pagel

Vo-COW-bulary

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:

cattle-terms1

Bovine
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.

Cow
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.

Bull
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.

Steer
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.

Heifer
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”.

Calf
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!

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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
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.”

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

What they eat:

Ruminant
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
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
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.

Silage
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
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
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.

rotational-grazing-system

Pasture
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.

Paddock
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.

Feeder
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!

Backgrounding
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.

cow

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

-Chrissy

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.

Ingredients:
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

Directions: 

  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.

Enjoy!

-Will

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.

-Sheri