Commentary: Why it’s important to celebrate Ag Day every day
By Judy Culbertson
Judy Culbertson of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom speaks during the 2016 Ag Day at the Capitol celebration in Sacramento, which attracted hundreds of people to the state Capitol grounds.
2016 Ag Day at the Capitol celebration in Sacramento attracted hundreds of people to the state Capitol grounds.
If you ask students where their food comes from, many will say, "From the grocery store." Frankly, that concerns me. Far too many people are unaware of the role of California agriculture in their daily lives and what it takes to have food on their dinner tables.
We know that food and fiber doesn't just arrive at the grocery or clothing store—or magically appear on our dinner tables or in our closets. There's an entire industry dedicated to providing safe and plentiful food for consumption, as well as a wide range of comfortable, fashionable clothing choices.
We rely on agriculture for the very necessities of life. From beef and pork to cotton and corn, agriculture is working harder than ever to meet the needs of Californians, Americans and others around the world.
This week, the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, California Women for Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture host Ag Day 2017 at the state Capitol. It is a day to reflect and be grateful for agriculture. It is a day to share with California legislators and the public the educational programs and materials we provide to students and teachers so they can learn, for example, how each American farmer feeds more than 144 people.
Of course, it's not just the farmer and rancher who make our food possible. The entire agriculture sector, all the way to the grocery store, comprises a chain that brings food to every citizen—and millions of people abroad.
At the Capitol event, 50 agricultural organizations gather to reinforce the appreciation people have for the role California agriculture plays in our lives. The day includes interactive displays, farm animals, dancing, farm equipment and, of course, plenty of food. Legislators join in and see the passion and commitment the agricultural community has for agricultural education.
Student authors of California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom's Imagine this… Story Writing Contest autograph books of the stories they wrote about agriculture, receive recognition on stage during the program, and are honored by their legislators during a ceremony in the Governor's Council Room.
Students taught by the CFAITC Outstanding Educator of the Year, Lisa Liss of Woodlake Elementary in Sacramento, take a special walk around the Capitol grounds, sponsored by United HealthCare, to promote healthy eating and lifestyles.
Elsewhere in the state, more than a dozen Farm Days take place this month, organized by county Farm Bureaus, high schools and fairs. From Siskiyou to San Benito to Fresno and Los Angeles, thousands of kids will experience agriculture for a day. Yolo County alone will reach 4,000 students this week.
Ag Day at the Capitol is one location, one day. CFAITC focuses on educating California youth 365 days of the year. Our role is not only to reach students and teachers, but also to equip volunteers and other organizations with lesson plans, hands-on activities and other educational resources that enable them to teach accurately and professionally about this critically important part of our lives.
Ag in the Classroom works to expand that first day of experiencing agriculture through projects such as our Taste and Teach program, sponsored by Raley's supermarkets. Through this program, Raley's supports 100 Northern California teachers by providing gift cards and a binder of lessons developed by Ag in the Classroom that focus on fruits and vegetables, their nutritional benefits, growing habits and fun facts about them.
As one of the largest procurers of California agricultural products, McDonald's is investing in agricultural education by organizing field trips to its restaurants and teaching students that the food there comes from the same farms and ranches as the food they buy in a grocery store.
CFAITC could not do what it does without support from California farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations. For example, the California Farm Bureau Federation has supported Ag in the Classroom since its inception in 1986. The California Dairy Council has brought dairy cows to school sites every day of the school year for years, and has been an innovator in nutrition education since 1919. The 48th District Agricultural Association features agriculture and education and an annual farm day in the Los Angeles Basin. For the past 65 years, the California CattleWomen have traveled to schools in rural and urban areas to help children experience agriculture.
Ag in the Classroom supports thousands of teachers every year. We work with hundreds of farmers, ranchers and associations who share their knowledge, time and energy in support of agricultural education.
More than 7 million students are enrolled in California public and private schools. Is it a lofty goal to reach them all? Yes, it is! Can we reach the goal? Yes, together, we can!
Not every child has an opportunity to grow up on a farm, but through efforts of farmers and ranchers, Ag in the Classroom programs and supporters of agricultural education, every child can learn about where their food and fiber comes from.
(Judy Culbertson is executive director of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.