Program brings agriculture to the classroom

Soybeans in field
Soybeans emerging from a field near Glencoe, Minn.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

The Martin County Farm Bureau coordinates presentations by farmers for all fourth-graders in the county.

Virginia Anderson, Martin County Farm Bureau's Agriculture in the Classroom coordinator, said they chose to go to the fourth-grade classrooms because it is a good age to talk to students about the topic.

The program is designed to give students an idea of what happens on the farm.

Emily Zweber, Minnesota Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation director, said the curriculum is mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but is funded both privately and publicly.

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The foundation provides materials and training for other groups, like the Farm Bureau, to use when it goes into a classroom to talk about agriculture with the students.

"Kids don't know much about farming, even in this area."

Their mission is to promote agriculture literacy.

"Students are four to five generations removed from the farm," Zweber said. "We are teaching tomorrow's policy makers that they have connections to the farm - milk doesn't come from a grocery store, it comes from a cow."

Tlam, who runs a 2,400-hog operation with her husband along with raising 128 lambs and sheep, said the disconnect between farm and student is definitely there for many kids she talks to during the year.

"Kids don't know much about farming even in this area," she said.

She introduced Tito the lamb, one of a set of triplets who was rejected by his mother and consequently was bottle-fed by Tlam's daughter. Tlam told them about her farm, how many sheep she has and what they eat.

Students asked questions ranging from what she does with the sheep when they grow up to if they get medicine when they are sick.

Tito stood patiently as the students pet him, obediently followed Tlam around the classroom when she handed out goodie bags filled with games and information about the farming industry, and even posed for a picture with the class.

One student asked what happens to the sheep when they go to market. Tlam's response was called mean.

"That is what we do, we raise your food," Tlam said. "That is what farmers do; they feed America."

Tlam said she has been talking to classrooms about agriculture for many years. She does it because, even in this farming community, students are often unaware of what role farming plays.

"I am surprised how many students don't even know all the uses for corn and soybeans," she said.

But the students clearly are eager to learn. As Tlam left Striemer's class on her way to a third-grade classroom in Sherburn, her bleating lamb caught the attention of the other classrooms. She ended up showing Tito to even more students than she was scheduled for, all of them excitedly asking questions about Tito and the farm he came from.


Information from: Sentinel,

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)