GFB equips county volunteers & staff to promote agriculture
County Farm Bureau volunteers, staff and school teachers attending Georgia Farm Bureau’s annual Educational Leadership Conference got their batteries recharged to educate students and consumers about agriculture. The GFB Women’s Leadership Committee hosted the conference held April 12-13 at Callaway Gardens.
“Ag literacy is one of Georgia Farm Bureau’s primary programs. I’m grateful we have so many of you here this weekend who want to share your passion for agriculture with others,” said GFB Women’s Committee Chairman Nancy Kennedy, who represents the GFB 4th District.
A highlight of the conference for many attendees was getting to meet children’s book author Lisl Detlefsen, author of “Right This Very Minute,” the 2019 American Farm Bureau Foundation Book of the Year. County Farm Bureau staff and volunteers have been delivering copies of this book to all of the public libraries in Georgia on behalf of the Georgia Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture and Georgia EMC.
“Right This Very Minute” explores how farmers grow some of the common food kids eat throughout the day. The story is paired with colorful drawings that accurately portray modern production practices and technology farmers use.
“Part of my mission in writing is to be a voice of agriculture and tell our story,” Detlefsen said.
A city girl who married a cranberry farmer, Detlefsen’s first book, “Time for Cranberries,” tells the story of how her family harvests cranberries on their sixth-generation Wisconsin farm. She said getting the book published was a 10-year journey as she searched for a publisher and it was revised 34 times along the way before being printed in 2015.
Detlefsen praised the AFBF Foundation for establishing its Feeding Minds Press to publish books for children that accurately portray agriculture. While there are lots of children’s books that feature farms and farm animals, Detlefsen pointed out that many of these depict the animals having human characteristics or portray outdated farming practices.
“One of the problems we face as farmers is public perception,” Lisl said. “Kids need to see their life reflected back to them like a mirror, but they also need windows into aspects of life they aren’t exposed to. My books provide a mirror for farm kids and a window for kids who don’t live on farms.”
Building farmer/consumer relationships
During a workshop on building relationships between farmers and consumers, GFB Women’s Committee members Chy Kellogg and Melissa Mathis gave tips for talking to consumers about misconceptions surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs), organic food and hormones and antibiotics in meat. They also demonstrated hands-on activities volunteers can use to teach students about GMOs.
Kellogg said the main message to get across to consumers who have questions about organics and GMOs is, “All food is good food as long as it’s nutritious. Encourage people to compare the nutrition information on the food label of products made with GMOs, such as cereal, so they can see there is no difference nutritionally.”
She said doing a blind taste test of cereal made with GMO grain and an organic version is a great way to let kids taste that there’s no difference between the two types of cereal.
It’s important to make sure consumers and students realize the only genetically modified crops currently being grown are corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, papaya, apples, potatoes and squash. Most GMO corn and soybean crops are grown to feed livestock.
Mathis, whose family raises beef cattle, addressed misconceptions consumers have regarding meat labels that say hormone free, antibiotic free, grass fed or grain fed.
“I get asked a lot if I raise grass fed or grain fed beef. I explain that we raise cattle both ways. I explain that it doesn’t matter what the cattle eat because we’re producing safe food either way because we use safe growing practices,” Mathis said.
Mathis stressed that all animals naturally have hormones, so it’s misguided for a meat product to be labeled as hormone free. She said by law all animals must be free of antibiotics before they are slaughtered or milked, so products labeled as antibiotic free are also misguided.
“If I treat a sick cow with antibiotics, by law, I must wait the appropriate number of days for the antibiotic to leave its body before I can sell the cow for meat. It’s a USDA regulation and the animals are inspected,” Mathis said.
The same regulation applies to dairy cows. All milk produced by a dairy cow given antibiotics must be discarded until the medicine has left the cow. Milk is tested at several steps before it’s bottled to be sure it’s free of antibiotics.
GFB highlights farm markets with passport program
GFB Certified Farm Market Coordinator Kelly Thompson discussed the CFM Passport available at county Farm Bureau offices and all GFB Certified Farm Markets. Consumers are encouraged to visit as many CFMs as possible until Dec. 31. Travelers who get their CFM Passport stamped at 5 farms are eligible to receive a CFM t-shirt. Participants earn an insulated tumbler with 10 stamps; a $15 gift certificate to the CFM of their choice with 15 stamps; and a farm tour with a Farm to Table meal for 20 stamps. Passports must be returned to GFB by Jan. 10, 2020, to claim prizes. Visit www.gfb.ag/cfm for complete details.
Celebrating Ag Week
GFB 2nd District Women’s Committee Chairman Heather Cabe shared how she helped kindergarten through second-grade students at the three elementary schools in Franklin County celebrate Ag Week. She used contacts she had at each school – a principal, teacher and friends who knew teachers – to get the schools on board with observing Ag Week. She asked teachers what subjects they wanted covered.
Then, Cabe utilized the curriculum matrix section of the National Agriculture in the Classroom website - www.agclassroom.org - to download numerous lessons that meet curriculum teaching standards for math, science, social studies & English for the various grade levels. She provided copies of these materials to the teachers along with instructions and materials for hands-on activities and YouTube links of various children’s books about ag being read that the teachers used in their classes. Cabe made Xerox copies of the lessons at her county Farm Bureau office and got local ag businesses to sponsor supplies.
“I wanted to make it as easy for the teachers as I possibly could. I took a variety of lessons and activities to the teachers and let them select what works for them,” Cabe said. “If you don’t have a lot of volunteers or funds in your county, it’s not impossible to do Ag Week in your county.”
Cabe and other members of the Franklin County ag community visited each school to deliver an assembly program so the students could meet real farmers and people who work in agriculture, such as an auctioneer and livestock photographer, who each had five minutes to discuss their jobs.
Cabe also took the students on a virtual field trip of her family’s farm via a video, “Once Upon a Farm,” that showed cattle, sheep and goats grazing pastures and baby calves and piglets nursing. Other scenes showed chickens inside the poultry houses that protect them from the weather and provided a glimpse of the waterers and feeders chickens eat and drink from. The video also showed farm equipment cutting and baling hay and sheep being shorn.
Cabe worked with a videographer over two months to shoot the video of her farm. She plans to make a series of videos featuring other Georgia farms teachers can use to introduce their students to different types of agriculture. She’s looking for a dairy farmer and farmers who produce blueberries, corn, hogs, peaches and pecans who would be willing to have video footage shot on their farm. Interested farmers should contact Cabe at 706-207-7499 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traveling trunks hold forestry & peanut resources
Thanks to the Destination Ag Program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and the Harley Langdale Foundation, county Farm Bureaus in each Georgia Farm Bureau district have access to two different “traveling trunks” that highlight Georgia’s forestry industry and peanut farmers. The trunks are full of resources to take into classrooms to teach students everything they need to know about growing trees or peanuts and the products made from each crop. County Farm Bureaus interested in using the trunk should contact their district Georgia Farm Bureau Field representative.
Social media tips
Farm Monitor reporter John Holcomb gave tips for publicizing their farms and telling their story on social media, including the Friends of GFB Facebook page.
His tips included:
- Use high quality photos
- Post short video clips of farm events or Ag in the Classroom activity, like reading a book
- Don’t punctuate hashtags
I.e. #YFRS NOT #YFR’S
4) Don’t use abbreviations such as OMG or LOL
5) Use correct grammar
6) Tag Georgia Farm Bureau in your social media posts by using the following:
Facebook - @GeorgiaFarmBureau
Instagram - @gafarmbureau
Twitter - @gafarmbureau
Kelley Toon, an academic nutritionist with the Georgia Department of Education (GDE) and Georgia Department of Agriculture Farm to School Nutrition Coordinator Misty Friedman discussed programs they are doing to connect students with food.
The Georgia Departments of Education and Agriculture are working together to reach students through the Farm to School and the 2020 Vision for School Nutrition programs. As school cafeterias work to serve food grown in Georgia, Toon and colleagues are working to get teachers to talk about how the crops are grown in their classes using standard based lessons.
“What students see served in the cafeteria is also being talked about in the classroom,” Toon said. “Students can meet curriculum standards by charting the number of students who like or dislike a food item then convert the numbers into fractions or percentages. To meet English standards, they can describe what a food tasted like. Food taste testing is also a way to teach manners, to say please or no thank you.”