Farm Bureau funds effort to spread ag awareness in classroom

Grain bins are seen on the property that was formerly part of the Gibson family farmstead in Morocco, Indiana, September 13, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young

Illinois won’t be lacking in agriculture education if the Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) program succeeds in its goals of nurturing agricultural knowledge.

Kevin Daugherty, education director for the AITC, said the program’s purpose is to educate students about the origins of their food and raise awareness on how agriculture affects the world by providing support and training for teachers to integrate agriculture into their math, science, social studies and language curricula.

Daugherty emphasized that AITC is not about teaching agriculture.

“One of our main goals is that we don’t teach agriculture; we want to show students what agriculture does for the world around them,” Daugherty said.

The program has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to further this cause.

“We have a program in every county in the state,” Daugherty said. “In all 102 counties, there is a local contact. Several of our counties receive grants from us, and this year, we awarded over $600,000 in grants to 80 county coalitions.”

The other counties that did not receive grants were provided with support materials, including teacher lesson plans and AITC’s award-winning Ag Mag, a four-page weekly-reader type publication about various agricultural products.

AITC is mostly privately funded through various groups, such as the IAA Foundation, a division of the Illinois Farm Bureau, that are interested in sharing the story of agriculture, Daugherty said. Through the funding, AITC was able to reach thousands of students and teachers last year.

“We worked last year with over 600,000 students and 31,000 teachers and used over 5,000 volunteers to show students where their food and fiber come from,” Daugherty said. “Again, we’re not teaching agriculture. We’re showing here’s food. Here’s where it comes from. What’s the plant science behind that?”

Daugherty said it is important that people understand the origins of their food, regardless of whether they live on a farm, in the suburbs or in the city.

“You eat three times a day,” he said. “People need to know where their food comes from.”

–Illinois News Network

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