Why I Teach about Food and Agriculture
I grew up on a fifth-generation family farm in Bureau County. My siblings and I learned hard work and collaboration at a young age. My family raised corn and soybeans as well as wheat, oat, rye, and hay, most of which was used to feed our livestock.
Growing up, my sisters, brother, and I were members of 4-H. 4-H is a nationwide program that offers young people the opportunity to learn through hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture and citizenship. 4-H members are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles and are given the guidance and mentorship they need to be successful. Even today, 4-H programs are in every county and parish in the country- even Cook County- through in-school and after-school programs, school and community clubs and 4-H camps.
With eager anticipation to put some space and concrete between my farm background and my life, I relocated to Cook County. Despite the distance, my farm background followed me all the way to Oak Park/River Forest.
In my classroom, I was an advocate for project learning, inquiry-based discovery, and developing the curriculum-assessment cycle central to the interests of the child. As part of this teaching style, I’d ask parents to join us and serve as our “Project Experts” during our discovery of a topic. Once, a parent joined us for cupcake baking. The parent kindly brought the ingredients and introduced each item to the students. She proudly brought out brown eggs and stated they were brown because they were organic, not bleached, like white eggs. What she didn’t realize was that different breeds of chickens lay different colors of eggs. The chickens being raised used organic growing methods does not change the color of eggs that the chickens lay.
I quickly realized that there was a considerable amount of mis-information or lack of information that we, as parents and teachers, unknowingly were giving our children. I believe that providing accurate information is my responsibility as a teacher. So many children don’t know where their food comes from and unfortunately, as our population has gotten more urban, many teachers and parents don’t know much about the sources of their food.
Having grown up on the very same farm that my brother and father still farm, I sought help from the Cook County Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom program (AITC). AITC works to ensure that Cook County teachers have the resources to enable them to incorporate agriculture into their existing curriculum and to provide agricultural opportunities for students in Cook County.
Cook County Farm Bureau® is the county’s largest general farm organization and is dedicated to bridging the gap between farmers and urban consumers. Through education programs targeting youth and their parents and programs designed to connect farmers with potential consumers, Farm Bureau members are actively engaging in conversations about food and the shared values between farmers and consumers.
Farm Bureau and AITC allowed me to share my love of the farm with students and enabled me to learn more about thecare of animals and plants, farmers’ attention to sustainability using technology, and the shared values of farmers and consumers.
Teaching about agriculture is in everything I teach. I have become a better early childhood, special education, and collegiate professor through the Cook County Farm Bureau.