The Michigan Farm Bureau cultivates curiosity and learning in the minds of the state’s youngest farmers through the Ag in the Classroom program. Hundreds of schools across the state participate in the program exposing their students to classroom presentations, farm visits, and other agricultural activities and events.
“Ag in the Classroom is funded by Michigan Farm Bureau and county Farm Bureaus in Michigan,” says Debra Schmucker, Ag in the Classroom coordinator. “We track more than 30,000 students, but there are additional activities happening across the state as well.”
Schmucker has been at the helm of the project since 1999, making agricultural literacy a priority in Michigan.
“Ag in the Classroom is connecting with schools, teachers and consumers on not only where their food and fiber comes from, but also on consumer food issues, scientific advancements and more,” she says. “With less than two percent of the population involved in production agriculture, we need to continue to find ways to connect with consumers of all ages and communicate the importance of food and agriculture in Michigan.”
The Ag in the Classroom program distributes resource guides and conducts workshops that reach more than 3,000 teachers. Lesson plans about the land, animals and the environment give teachers the tools to integrate agriculture into their curriculum. Lesson plan downloads have increased since the program participated in the annual Michigan Science Teachers Conference and Michigan Social Studies Conference and their associated trade shows.
Resource downloads are not the only thing to see an increase. Farm Bureau volunteerism has grown by 30 percent since 2010. Volunteers are instructed how to teach Ag in the Classroom at local fairs and festivals. Nearly 80 percent of volunteers trained at the state level bring their newly-acquired skills back to their communities.
“The program has grown by innovation – adopting a classroom, utilizing media centers, libraries and other locations where families are, along with using technology to communicate with classrooms, and bringing agriculture to the students and schools through career opportunities and more,” Schmucker says. “Ibelieve the future of Ag in the Classroom continues down a path of innovation and connection.”
With agricultural literacy on the rise, Ag in the Classroom has ensured a bright future for one of Michigan’s leading industries.