"FarmChat" Brings Iowa Students To Secretary of Agriculture's Farm

"FarmChat" Brings Iowa Students To Secretary of Agriculture's Farm

Speaking directly with farmers via an "Ag In The Classroom" program makes learning come to life.

Students at Jordan Creek Elementary in West Des Moines had the chance to ride in a combine and experience corn harvest firsthand earlier this week with the leader of agriculture in Iowa—Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. Through an "Agriculture in the Classroom" program called FarmChat, the students interacted with and asked questions of Northey as they learned about Iowa crops.

KIDS ASK QUESTIONS: A recent FarmChat program connected 4th grade students in west Des Moines via a live remote so they could talk with Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. Northey was standing next to his combine explaining how the combine harvests crops; the students asked questions on screen in the classroom, 200 miles away.

FarmChat uses technology (Skype, FaceTime and other software platforms) to bring the farm into the classroom. Students can speak directly with the farmer and even ride along in the combine— all from the safety and security of their classroom. "This technology gives us a great way to enable more students to experience the farm," says Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation education program manager Cindy Hall. "Speaking directly with farmers makes the learning come to life."

Students learned about how corn is raised, how it is harvested and how important it is to the economy of Iowa. More than 100 students in the 4th grade classes were able to take part in the conversation. They were given a virtual tour of the field and combine, and virtually helped bring in the 2014 harvest.

Instead of just learning about harvest, they experienced it
Polk County Farm Bureau helped coordinate the event in the West Des Moines classroom. Elementary teacher Jan Bergman said her students were engaged the entire time. One of them even commented, "It's like he's talking just to us!" Another student commented "I feel like we're in the field with him!" Bergman went on to say that this experience made it real for the students and helped them connect to Secretary Northey and his farm. Instead of just learning about the harvest, they experienced it.

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Agriculture in the Classroom is a grassroots program focused on helping students gain a greater awareness of the role that agriculture plays in our economy and society. The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation supports Agriculture in the Classroom efforts throughout Iowa and coordinates programs like FarmChat.

Students had the chance learn what happens on a farm
Bill Northey is a fourth generation farmer from Spirit Lake in northwest Iowa and raises corn and soybeans. He is serving his second term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and leads the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship. He prioritizes advancing science and new technologies to better care for air, soil and water and also reaching out to all Iowans – including students – to tell the story of Iowa agriculture. 

"Most students don't have any opportunity to experience what happens on a farm," notes Northey. "It is great to share what we are doing here on our farm with them." For more information about FarmChat or to learn more about Agriculture in the Classroom programs in your area visit www.iowaagliteracy.org.

About the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation: IALF serves as a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa's students about agriculture. The mission is to educate Iowans, with a focus on youth, regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture. Iowa is a leading producer of agricultural products that are essential to feed a growing world population, estimated to reach more than 9 billion by 2050. IALF believes it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives. IALF will support existing agriculture education efforts such as FFA, 4-H and Ag in the Classroom.

IALF was created through a joint effort of agricultural stakeholders, including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Silos and Smokestacks Foundation, DuPont Pioneer, GROWMARK, and the Iowa Beef Industry Council. For more information visit IALF online at www.iowaagliteracy.org, also on Facebook and Twitter.

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