Diane Prather: Celebrating National Ag Day

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The week of March 19 was designated National Agriculture Week. In addition, March 19 was National Ag Day, and in Colorado it was Ag Day at the Capitol.

Shirley Lawton, chairwoman of the Moffat County Farm Bureau, explained that the purpose of the week was “to make people aware that in this nation, we have farmers and ranchers who provide food, fiber and other products necessary for our everyday lives.”

Special events celebrating and promoting agriculture were held across the nation during National Agriculture Week. In keeping with Ag Day here in Colorado, a cook-off was held in Denver, featuring dishes prepared by some of Colorado’s best chefs. That evening, Colorado’s Farm Bureau hosted a district steak fry for legislators.

Locally, Moffat County Farm Bureau members decided to spend National Ag Day at some of the county’s elementary schools, informing students about the origin of their food supply.

According to Lawton, “Many children, even though they live in an ag-based county, think we just go to the store for our food — it just shows up there. So we have to remind them where food comes from.”

The Colorado Farm Bureau and Colorado Foundation for Agriculture’s Ag in the Classroom donated four picture books including “Who Grew My Soup,” a lesson plan called “Let’s Eat,” paper hands for a student activity, a map of Colorado commodities and a nutrition poster to the local Farm Bureau. The book and materials target kindergarten through fourth grade, with tips for carrying out activities for younger and older children.

The plan was for Moffat County Farm Bureau members to read the books to students while at school and to follow the lesson plan so that students could complete a “Give Me Five!” activity, plus other activities as time allowed. However, Moffat County schools were in the midst of testing on National Ag Day. So Farm Bureau members Ron and Shirley Lawton took books and materials to three elementary schools — East, Sunset and Ridgeview — and member Kris Brannan took a book to Maybell School. The librarians at the schools will read the books to the students and direct the activities.

The cover of the book “Who Grew My Soup” is of a boy who sits wide-eyed at a table with a bowl of soup in front of him. Phineas says he won’t eat the soup until he knows where it came from. So a man in a flying tomato balloon, with a soup pot attached, appears. His name is Mr. Mattoo (whose name comes from the word “tomato” scrambled), and he wears a pan for a hat.

The boy accompanies Mr. Mattoo in the balloon, and they fly from farm to farm where Phineas learns about the vegetables in the soup and the farmers who grew them.

The book is written with rhyming words that keep the readers engaged and help them remember key concepts.

After reading the book to students, presenters introduce the six “F’s” of Colorado Agriculture — farming, food, fiber or fabrics, fishing, flowers and forestry — and then lead a discussion about food groups and how Colorado-grown foods fit into each group.

During a clever art project, students write the names of food groups on one side of paper hands and examples of Colorado-grown foods that fit within the groups on the other side of the gloves. In addition, students write “exercise daily” on the palm of one side and then an example of a favorite exercise on the other.

And there still are more activities for a fun way to learn about agriculture.

The materials for this National Ag Day activity are part of the Colorado AITC Literacy Project 2013.

Copyright Diane Prather, 2013

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