Despite being home to more than 75,000 farms and a food and agriculture industry that contributes $124 billion to the economy, many of Ohio’s smallest citizens have no idea these farms exist, much less that agriculture drives the state’s economy.
In addition to having their own educational programs, countless industry groups, including the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, American Dairy Association Mideast, Ohio Pork Council and Ohio Poultry Association, have come together under the umbrella of the Ohio Livestock Coalition to educate and promote issues relevant to agriculture and food production. For the last eight years, they’ve combined forces to bring a program to third-graders called For Your InFARMation (FYI).
Behind the Ohio Agriculture Essay Contest
Fueled by the state’s various commodity groups, the FYI program is a crucial educational tool that aims to make students aware of the impact agriculture has on Ohio. While this information would be beneficial for any age, the three-day program is designed for third- grade students.
Covering everything from economics and geography to language arts and math, the FYI program provides a holistic approach to agricultural education. But the greatest benefit is that all the materials provided in the program align with the state’s third-grade teaching standards, which allows teachers to effortlessly incorporate the lessons into their curriculum at any point during the school year.
The Winning “For Your InFARMation” Essay
While teachers are not required to participate in this extra leg of the program, they’ve had the option in past years to let students take part in FYI’s statewide essay contest. Students must respond to the question: “How do Ohio farmers make sure we have good, safe food to eat?”
The winning student receives a certificate and swag bag, as well as a field trip for their entire class to a local livestock farm. Additionally, the teacher of the winning student earns $250 to spend on school supplies.
Last year’s winner was a student in Hannah Pedersen’s third-grade class at North Union Elementary.
Pedersen first heard about the program in her second year of teaching and has incorporated its lessons in her classroom for several years.
“The program is easy to use since they have already created the lessons for you,” Pedersen says. She decided to add the program this year to complement a unit on agriculture in her reading program and says it coincided nicely with what her students were learning in their social studies class about economics.
By providing schoolteachers with curriculum resources and offering students the chance to learn through hands-on activities outside the classroom, agricultural commodity groups hope to teach children not only where their food comes from, but what it takes to succeed in Ohio’s top industry.