The Michigan Farm Bureau and seven county Farm Bureaus have each received $500 grants to put toward teaching young people about local agriculture in fresh, fun and factual manners.
The county-level recipients are the Calhoun, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Missaukee and Wexford County Farm Bureaus, and the Hiawathaland Farm Bureau which represents Farm Bureau members in Delta, Alger, eastern Marquette and western Schoolcraft counties.
The grants are from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture, in partnership with the American Farm Bureau Federation Women's Leadership Committee, and awarded through the Foundation's White-Reinhardt Fund for Education. Awarded nationally and distributed through county and state Farm Bureaus, the grants help fund new projects or extend existing agricultural literacy efforts.
Deb Schmucker, manager of the MFB Promotion and Education Department, said Michigan swept the competition by earning eight of the 28 grants awarded in total.
"That's 28 percent; more than a quarter of the grant recipients!" says Schmucker. "We're proud of the achievement and believe it reflects our members' commitment to administering quality programs and their passion for agricultural education. On behalf of the Michigan Farm Bureau and the county Farm Bureau recipients, we're thrilled and eager to put the funds to good use in our communities."
Criteria for selecting the winners included: the effectiveness of demonstrating a strong connection between agriculture and education; how effectively the programs encouraged students to learn more about agriculture and the food and fiber industry; and the procedures and timelines expected for accomplishing project goals.
Michigan Farm Bureau
At the state level, the MFB Promotion and Education Department will use the grant to develop a fourth "Captain Food Fabulous" book in what eventually will be a 10-book series. Aimed at third-graders but appropriate for all elementary students, the popular books feature an agricultural super hero named Captain Food Fabulous who teaches two Michigan youngsters about standard farming practices, local food and fiber production, the state's agricultural diversity and how agriculture impacts their everyday lives and surroundings. The fourth book is tentatively titled, "Exploring the Wonders of Michigan's Natural Resources." This installment will be set in the Upper Peninsula and cover topics such as forestry and iron ore.
Calhoun County Farm Bureau
In Calhoun County, the White-Reinhardt grant will be used to tie third-grade economic lessons to agriculture, with students applying what they learn to make educational displays for use on an annual first-grade field trip to a local farm where first-graders move from station to station to learn about different agricultural commodities. The funding will help the county Farm Bureau develop educational resource kits for third-grade teachers, including lessons, books and videos about Michigan's agricultural commodities. The hope is that the third-grade students will be excited to learn about agriculture knowing that they will serve as subject matter "experts" for the first-grade students on the field trip, and the first-grade students will be educated, too.
Gratiot County Farm Bureau
The Gratiot County Farm Bureau will use its grant to continue agricultural education for students who last year toured a dairy farm to learn about dairy farming and milk production. This year, the county will introduce fourth-grade classrooms to a "Grow a Pizza" project which will have students grow herbs and vegetables to understand what it takes to make food products and how many ingredients for a pizza are grown in Michigan. In addition to Farm Bureau volunteers, local FFA and 4-H members will help deliver the classroom lessons.
Hiawathaland Farm Bureau (Delta, Alger, eastern Marquette and western Schoolcraft counties)
The Hiawathaland Farm Bureau will put its grant toward two projects. First, it will buy two incubators and brooding kits to be used at county fairs to show children and adults how poultry hatch from fertile eggs. This will set the stage for further education about poultry care, production and food products. For the second project, Hiawathaland volunteers intend to create a "lending library" of agricultural books for third-grade students which can be shared between classrooms and schools.
Huron County Farm Bureau
The Huron County Farm Bureau will use its grant to supply the county's nine high schools with "Ag Quest" trivia packets. The packets contain more than 1,000 questions that quiz students on their knowledge of several agricultural topics such as commodities, nutrition, livestock and soil. The cards cover many other subject areas including economics, history and geography. Farm Bureau members intend to supply each high school with four "Ag Quest" packets to cover the four required science classes: earth science, biology, physics and chemistry.
Isabella County Farm Bureau
Farm Bureau members in Isabella County will put their grant toward supplying third-grade classrooms with three-tier portable greenhouses so students can grow their own vegetables and learn the science behind food production. The county Farm Bureau will also supply classrooms with educational gardening books, deliver a "Where Would We Be without Seed" lesson, and arrange for a farmer to visit the classroom and correspond with students over e-mail about their planting progress and how it compares to activities on his farm.
Missaukee County Farm Bureau
The Missaukee County Farm Bureau will target fourth-grade students with its grant and build a portable barn-shaped bookcase, or "book barn," stockpiled with books about Michigan agriculture. The traveling "book barn" will move from classroom to classroom. In addition, volunteers will work with teachers to deliver hands-on agricultural lessons, complete with a 3-foot floor map of the United States and die-cast toy vehicles to show how and where commodities are transported.
Wexford County Farm Bureau
In Wexford County, the White-Reinhardt grant will fund the creation of a traveling agricultural library for second- and third-grade students. Wexford County Farm Bureau members plan to construct a small barn-shaped bookcase and stock it with about 25 books related to agricultural products produced locally. The barn library would stay in one classroom for a month before being moved to another classroom or school district. Volunteers hope the eye-catching bookcase design helps draw students to the books and the valuable content inside.