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CCFB News» March 2020

Ag Lit Bit"May the Lessons Continue"

03/02/2020 @ 7:15 am | By Diane Merrion

The past decades appear to have changed the landscape of education drastically, but have things really changed? Tools and terminology changes moved from encyclopedias to Google, filmstrip projectors to YouTube, chalkboards to Smartboards, slide rules to calculators to name a few.


Report cards still evaluate students on their mastery of reading, writing, and arithmetic while other subjects are no longer emphasized such as handwriting, spelling, art, music and physical education. I know the most important part of my report card was the non-subject areas including effort, citizenship, work habits and attendance.


As the Farm Bureau turns 100 this month, the emphasis on literacy is just important now as it was in 1920. Mr. Dooley, the first president of the Cook County Farm Bureau®, sought “to make the Cook County Farm Bureau second to none in the state”. That goal has not changed today in 2020, nor has the goal of ensuring that our educational efforts are second to none in teaching our communities about ag literacy.


In the early days of our farm bureau, there was an understanding of where food came from which was lost as the years progressed. As early as the 1940s, the Farm Bureau had an exhibit at the county fair at Soldier Field educating


Chicagoans about the 3,700 farms in our county and many people realized for the first time that agriculture was right here in Cook County.


When our Ag in the Classroom began in the 1980s we had our work cut out for us as we began to provide free programming to schools, communities and teachers and we haven’t stop since. It’s crazy to think that all these years later the most common comment we hear is, “Who knew these facts about agriculture?” There are new questions about GMO’s and plant-based meats, but most are still wanting to know the difference between hay and straw, sweet corn and field corn and organic vs. conventional.


My sense is 2120 will bring new terminology along with new ways of farming, but the same excited and curious students will be partaking in Agriculture in the Classroom lessons. I’m not sure if we’ll be there presenting it to them or if they’ll be going on field trips to farms in their space-aged school buses.


*Thank you to those who carried the AITC torch before me. Our impact would not have begun if it were not for the early efforts of Merlyn and Helen Heyen who began our outreach through Agriculture “Story Tellers”. Their message continued through the leadership of Ag in the Classroom Coordinators Gail Petersdorff, Katie Schmidbauer and Haley Loy-Siergiej and through the through talented, passionate AITC Presenters who have reached over a half million students.

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