Ag News

GFB plants seeds for Harvest 20 vision at Educational Leadership Conference

"Planting Seeds for the Harvest 20 Vision" was the theme of Georgia Farm Bureau's annual educational leadership conference held April 13-14 in Augusta. About 200 GFB members and county staff participated in four hands-on workshops designed to help them implement the components of GFB's Harvest 20 Vision - Inspire, Educate & Preserve - in their local communities.

Keynote speaker Jane Herlong set a positive tone for the conference with her humorous motivational speech on Saturday morning. Herlong, who is also a published author, shared four principles she learned growing up on her parents’ tomato farm on Johns Island near Charleston.

Principle One: Never say never. “What I’ve learned is, if you’re in agriculture, you have to be positive and you have to never say never,” Herlong said.

Principle Two: Find your shine. “I learned picking tomatoes that you’ve got to find your shine. What do you do best? Find it and shine at it. Shiny starts on the inside,” Herlong shared.

Principle Three: Cull whatever is holding you back. “If you’re going to be successful you have to get rid of whatever is holding you back,” Herlong recommended. “Don’t settle for second best.”

Principle Four: Plow up the bad or plow through it with a sense of humor. “When you have a bad crop are you going to plow it up or plow through it? My daddy did both. I’ve seen him plow up a bad crop and replant it, and I’ve seen him plow through a tough crop. Having a sense of humor will see you through either way.

“Trying it again when things go wrong is the spirit of agriculture. You have to be the person God made you to be. Shine, cull and plow to get there,” Herlong said.

After laughing until their sides ached, conference attendees broke into four groups and rotated through four workshops focused on presenting agriculture in the classrooms of their local schools.

“The success of Farm Bureau’s agricultural literacy efforts in our classrooms is a direct result of our volunteers,” GFB Women’s Leadership Committee Chair Carol McQueen said. “They chose to come to this conference to better their programs. Each workshop was designed to help our volunteers and inspire them.”

“Planning Your Classroom Visits” was the topic of the workshop Harris County Office Manager Linda Luttrell and GFB Women’s Leadership Committee members Heather Cabe and Melissa Bottoms led at the conference.

Luttrell shared how she got into the Harris County Schools to teach about agriculture and the format she uses for her lessons. Luttrell said she got her foot in the door to visit Harris County elementary schools by meeting with the county school superintendent and sharing her plan for talking to students about agriculture.

“He loved the idea because it was free and met curriculum standards,” Luttrell said. “You can also start by meeting with a principal or start with a teacher you know.  Most schools have a volunteer program you could sign up for to get your foot in the door.”

Once you have gained access to a teacher’s classroom, Luttrell recommends that county Farm Bureau representatives meet with the teacher(s) when they are planning their yearly curriculum so you can match your ag lessons to their schedule and the class objectives they teach.

“Almost all of my lessons are about Georgia agriculture. I want students to be proud they’re from Georgia,” Luttrell said.

She encouraged Farm Bureau volunteers to serve fruit & vegetables grown in Georgia to the classes they visit.

“Students can relate if you give them something to eat. I ask them to take at least three bites. The first bite may be the yuck bite. Then I ask them to try it two more times. If they still don’t like it after the third bite, then that’s ok,” Luttrell said. “Parents are now calling teachers wanting to know why their kids want broccoli or fresh peaches.”

Bottoms and Cabe discussed resources Farm Bureau volunteers can take into classes to talk about farming. Bottoms led workshop participants in making a fact box about fruit and vegetables using the GFB Ag Mag about Georgia Specialty Crops.

Cabe discussed the Forestry Traveling Trunks the Destination Ag program makes available to county Farm Bureaus through a grant from the Harley Langdale Jr. Foundation. County Farm Bureaus can obtain the forestry trunks from their GFB district field representatives.

GFB Field Representatives Lauren Goble, 6th District, and Rebecca Jacobs, 3rd District, presented a workshop, “Reading is Awesome!” introducing a new approach to reading ag books to classes. Goble and Jacobs suggested Farm Bureau volunteers do a hands-on activity with students to reinforce the information the book presents. Activities and lessons to accompany accurate ag books, which volunteers can use to promote 18 Georgia commodities or ag topics, are being developed and will be posted on the GFB Foundation for Agriculture website at  later this spring.

Reading workshop attendees had the chance to do four hands-on activities including making edible compost using cereal, chocolate chips, dried fruit, pretzels and gummy worms. Each ingredient represents something that can be added to a compost pile. Other hands-on activities included making butter, no-bake pumpkin pie and honey fruit dip.

Dr. Wendy Fuschetti, Georgia Farm Bureau’s 2017 Agriculture Teacher, presented a workshop sharing how she uses agriculture and gardening to teach science, math and social studies in her third-grade class. Fuschetti, who teaches at Banks County Elementary School, said how she uses bird houses built in different geometrical shapes to teach her students about squares, triangles, octagons, etc.

“I’ve always grown vegetables for my personal use and so used gardening as my theme for incorporating hands-on learning before I attended this GFB conference for the first time last year,” Fuschetti said. “I gained a new perspective on the contributions agriculture makes to our daily lives and to Georgia’s economy, so I shifted the focus of my class from gardening to farming,”

Fuschetti has had her classes plant school gardens for many years. For the past two years, Banks County Farm Bureau has partnered with her to support the project. Students learn measuring skills by laying out the garden beds before planting them. The vegetables grown in the garden are used to feed the school during the Feed My School event in May.

Hall County Farm Bureau (HCFB) Young Farmer Committee Chairman Caroline Lewallen and HCFB Office Manager Justine Palmer gave an overview of their Ag in the Classroom program, Hall Grows Real Opportunities with Students (GROWS). Lewallen shared how her county Farm Bureau went about branding their Ag in the Classroom (AITC) program to make it more relatable to their local community.

“As of two years ago Hall County had never had an Ag in the Classroom program. We branded our program as Hall GROWS to try to open doors of our local schools to us,” Lewallen said. “We try to highlight commodities grown in our county to keep the program local.”

Since HCFB began its program in August of 2016, it has reached 3,300 Hall County residents.

Palmer said she continues to cultivate relationships with Hall County business and civic leaders to build support for and awareness of the Hall GROWS program.

“We started attending all sorts of meetings to get Hall County Farm Bureau’s name out there and the message that we do Ag in the Classroom programs,” Palmer said. “Cultivating these relationships is something that I think is very important for reaching our goals together. The point is to reach 17,000 students in our community, and we can’t do it alone.”

HCFB has hosted several Ag Educator Workshops offered by the GFB Field Services Department to introduce teachers to the AITC program. After the teachers complete the workshop, HCFB stays connected with them through an email newsletter.

GFB Foundation for Agriculture Executive Director Katie Duvall discussed how county Farm Bureaus can set up an account within the foundation so local businesses can make tax deductible donations to support ag literacy efforts in their county.

“This is actually why the foundation started. A county had a business that wanted to make a donation but the county wasn’t tax exempt,” Duvall said. “This is a statewide initiative to build relationships between the foundation and counties to help you fund Ag in the Classroom programs in your counties.”

GFB President Gerald Long addressed attendees during lunch.

“We are rapidly moving along with implementing the Harvest 20 Vision,” Long said. “Today we are planting the seeds that will lead us to a bountiful crop for our Harvest 20 Vision. When we talk about planting the seeds of our Harvest 20 Vision, our state and county women’s committees are right at the top of the effort.”

GFB would like to thank Georgia EMC for sponsoring our Education Leadership Conference. Georgia EMC has been a long-time partner of Georgia Farm Bureau programs.