Conference Update: Friday Night Keynote Speaker


As conference approaches we are excited to introduce our Friday night conference keynote speaker! A Santa Cruz local, Renee Shepherd is a seed developer, gardener, entrepreneur, and author, who will be speaking about two of her passions—gardening and cooking!

Renee will provide an overview of where home garden seeds come from, how they are produced and distributed, and how new varieties are chosen and developed. She will share her favorite picks for in the kitchen and in the garden. Renee will discuss what is best for home and school gardeners, covering topics that include heirlooms, hybrids, seed saving, GMOs, and organic gardening. She will address the many aspects of gardening and the lifelong lessons that can be learned in the garden. Renee uses critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration everyday while running her company and while in her garden.

Renee Shepherd is widely regarded as a pioneering innovator for introducing international specialty vegetables and herbs for home gardeners and gourmet restaurants.  She holds a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz where she taught in the Environmental Studies department before founding Renee’s Garden in 1998.

Renee’s Garden seeds are sold nationally at independent garden centers, and online at The company offers fellow gardeners access to the high quality seed varieties otherwise available only to mail order shoppers.  When Renee isn’t writing copy for seed packets or directing the company’s large trial garden, she can be found authoring cookbooks, speaking at national garden shows, or enjoying the Santa Cruz Mountains.

“Renee’s Garden is my practical way to spread the joy of gardening as a meaningful, productive and satisfying activity that connects us to each other and the earth.” – Renee Shepherd

We are really looking forward to welcoming Renee to our conference and listening to her speak about how gardening, cooking, and education can help students understand more about agriculture!

Renee is one of our four keynote speakers for the 2014 California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference. To see the other speakers, and to register for the conference, visit our website at

Book Review: Patient for Pumpkins


Introduce your students to how pumpkins are grown and the seasonality of other fruits and vegetables that you will find throughout the year at the farmers’ market in this book written and illustrated by Linda L. Knoll.

Young readers will follow T.J. and his dad on monthly trips to the farmers’ market. On each trip, T.J. shares which commodities are in season. Each month, T.J. asks, “But where are the pumpkins,” and T.J.’s dad replies “Be patient.” The beautiful illustrations throughout the story will help students identify different fruits and vegetables and when during the year they are available.

A side bar on each page explains the different stages of the growing process of pumpkins—from when the farmers prepare the fields in the spring to when the pumpkins are harvested and available at the farmers’ market in the fall.

Throughout the book, readers will also learn about the different parts of a pumpkin plant, like roots, tendrils, flowers, and leaves, and the different functions of each plant part. For example, the large leaves help protect the pumpkins from the hot sun.

This book also introduces the reader to the wide variety of pumpkins that are available from short ones, to green ones, and even ones with bumps on them. T.J. selects his pumpkin and takes it home to carve!

Linda Knoll includes a list of fruits and vegetables that you can find at the farmers’ market on the last page of the book. She encourages readers to check the commodities that they have tried and encourages them to try new ones!

To extend this activity in your classroom, download What’s Growin’ On? – CA Crop Talk – Specialty Crop Edition. There is a page featuring pumpkins.


Literacy for Life Grant: Traveling Wheelbarrow Garden

Carrie Strohl, a teacher at Bel Aire Park Elementary School in Napa County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Traveling Wheelbarrow Garden.

IMG_0470This project provided multiple grade levels with a traveling wheel barrow garden that traveled from classroom to classroom for all students to experience. Students learned the different cycles of food production, about farm and garden tools, and how use of containers are an alternate means for growing food.


The first grade students planted peas after tasting fresh pea pods. They learned the lesson of the Three Sisters and how three types of crops (corn, beans, and squash) can grow symbiotically. Students understood the cultural, scientific, and practical connection between the inter-planting of food that tastes good and provides energy, protein, and vitamins.

Second grade students participated in the lesson, Room to Grow, from CFAITC’s lesson unit, What Do Plants Need to Grow?. The students compared different types of seeds, measured them, and then planted them in six-pack containers to test whether seed size is an indicator of how big the plant will grow.

Fourth grade students studied energy. The central idea of their lesson was how different forms of energy affect the Earth. The students were able to evaluate energy inputs like soil and fertilizer versus energy outputs like nutritional content.

The students were astonished to discover how much food such a small space could produce!

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit

Teacher Feature – Patti Moore-Clack

PattiClack200x200We asked Patti Moore-Clack, fourth grade teacher at Pinedale Elementary School in Fresno County, about her experiences with agriculture education.

How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
I first learned about Ag in the Classroom when I was taking agriculture classes in high school. As an FFA member, we would brainstorm ways to introduce agriculture to younger students and our teachers/advisors taught us about Ag in the Classroom.

How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
I just finished my 13th year of teaching. I chose to become an educator because I had great teachers who had an amazing impact on me, and I wanted to try to do the same thing for my own students.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
It’s tough to choose my favorite AITC component. Everything that I have done with my students has been wonderful. We participated in the Specialty Crop Taste Test grant program last year and my students loved it; they looked forward to trying new foods. I had the opportunity to attend the California AITC Conference last year in Del Mar and absolutely loved it. I learned a lot, met great people, and came away with some outstanding resources that I used with my students. The Teacher Resource Guide is also amazing! Additionally, I received a Literacy for Life Grant in 2012 from CFAITC. My grade level partner and I used the funds to purchase class sets of the novel Esperanza Rising that we used to teach students about the different crops grown throughout California, and about the challenges faced by farmers and migrant workers throughout different times in our state’s history.

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
I began learning about agriculture awareness back when I was in seventh grade and took my first agriculture class. Agriculture education impacted me in many positive ways. In high school, I was involved in FFA and gained some amazing experiences and met some wonderful people, all while learning about important things that aren’t covered in a traditional curriculum. I feel fortunate that I am able to share the knowledge I have about agriculture with my students year after year. I like having the opportunity to inspire an interest in agriculture within my students.

Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
Absolutely! I am lucky to teach fourth grade. Our social studies curriculum revolves around California. Agriculture is such an important part of who we are, and I enjoy having the opportunity to bring this information to light. Just this past year, with all of the issues surrounding the drought, it was fascinating to see my students make all kinds of connections as they began to realize the far-reaching impact that our lack of water is having statewide.

Tell us about one person who has most influenced your own education and educational career.
It’s impossible to choose just one person. I am lucky to have great parents who stressed the importance and value of education. I have benefitted from some wonderful teachers throughout my education. Now that I am a teacher, I am fortunate to be surrounded by outstanding teachers who inspire and motivate me to do my best every day.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
I have been lucky enough to experience so many golden teaching moments throughout my career. During the 2013-2014 school year, my students and I were reading and discussing an article about how the drought is affecting the population of the tri-colored blackbird. The students were making connections left and right and came up with some well-thought-out descriptions of how other areas, people and animals in the state were being affected as well. This was a golden moment because it showed me that they truly understood what I had been teaching them about the drought conditions in our state, and the information they had been learning about with regards to agriculture.

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
Last summer, I participated in the EAT Foundation’s summer workshop. This is a great way for educators to learn more about agriculture and how to incorporate it into the curriculum.  Additionally, as a grade level, we have raised and released trout and salmon for the last three years.

Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
The best advice I have for teachers who want to implement agriculture into their classrooms is to do it! There are amazing resources out there that you can use. Agriculture lends itself to connections across all of the curricular areas.

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today’s society?
I think it’s important for students to know where we as a society have come from and how. Additionally, I think it’s vital that they begin to learn about how much of an impact agriculture has on all areas of our lives. I also think it is important for students to be knowledgeable about the many sides of agricultural topics, so they can make informed decisions. With the various forms of social media that are readily available, I think it is important for students to be able to separate fact from fiction.

Literacy for Life Grant: From Our Hands to Yours: Preserving our Past and Building Our Future

Suzanne Ludlum, a teacher at Esperanza Elementary School in Alameda County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Preserving our Past and Building Our Future.

This project combined concepts of food preservation and garden education while the students learned multiple preservation methods including the use of solar dryers and basic techniques to preserve food.


The first stage of the project was to introduce students to fermentation and dehydration as methods of preservation. The students made curtido, a fermented cabbage salad. They loved making this!


The second stage of the project was building the solar dryer that would be located in the school garden. We constructed the dryer with mostly recycled materials and three classes of students have already dehydrated fruit from the farmers’ market.


In today’s fast-paced society, students often have little idea about where their food comes from or how to preserve it. This project allowed students in third and fourth grades to learn about both fermentation and dehydration. They understand that these food preservation strategies were critical to their ancestors’ survival. Our school now has the supplies to keep this project going for years to come.

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit

What’s Growin’ On? Let’s Look at Water

Last week we met with a team of educators and industry specialists to write the 13th edition of What’s Growin’ On? focusing on water in California. With the current drought, this topic is timely and will help readers learn the many ways that we use water.


The meeting was held at Lundberg Family Farms in Richvale, CA. The meeting started with a history of Lundberg Family Farms from Bryce Lundberg. Lundberg Family Farms is a family-owned rice company which has been in business since 1937. We then received an overview of water in California from Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition. Our group learned a great deal about water and how farmers use technology to conserve the water used to grow the food we eat.


The writing team then discussed the plan for this issue, What’s Growin’ On?-  Lets Look at Water. This is the first issue that has focused solely on one topic. Next, our group went on a tour of the Oroville Dam Visitors Center. During our tour of the Oroville Dam Visitor’s Center, we learned that Oroville Dam is the tallest dam in the country and the head of the State Water Project.


After the tour, the writing team had dinner at CFAITC Board Member Jamie Johansson’s olive ranch, Lodestar Farms. This was such a treat! The team of teachers was able to hear directly from Jamie, Butte County farmer Stacy Gore , and CFAITC Chairman Kenny Watkins a rancher in San Joaquin County, about the challenges they have faced growing food because of the drought.


The next day started with a tour of Lundberg Family Farms when Bryce took the team deep into the rice fields to learn about rice and quinoa production.


After the tour, we gathered our thoughts and started developing the content for What’s Growin’ On? The pages in this edition focus on the sources of water in California, watersheds, the California water system infrastructure, irrigation technology, water quality, and other topics directly related to water.


Over lunch, Danny Merkley, director of water resources at the California Farm Bureau Federation shared his expertise with the group and helped the writing team learn more about irrigation methods and water quality.


After lunch, the team worked to draft content and ideas for the remaining pages of What’s Growin’ On? We will work to finalize the content over the next few months and begin distribution later this year!

Literacy for Life Grant: Field Trip to the San Francisco Flower Market

Kayla Roberts, a teacher at Winters High School in Yolo County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Field Trip to the San Francisco Flower Market.

Students at Winters High School learned about the many career paths within the floral industry during their visit on March 19 to the San Francisco Flower Market and the de Young Museum of Art.

At the San Francisco Flower Market, the students participated in a scavenger hunt and several of the students had a tough time deciding which flowers they wanted to bring home and arrange. The students were amazed at the variety of flowers available at the flower market and enjoyed talking with the growers and learning about the different careers within the floriculture industry.


The class then traveled to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park where they had the opportunity to view the Bouquets to Art exhibit. This exhibit is only showcased for one-week each year. The students traveled through the exhibits finding specific floral art pieces and were challenged to find their top 10 favorites. They enjoyed seeing two industries collide: agriculture and art.

When we returned to school, the students chose their favorite piece of floral art work and began to design a miniature replication. Students were kept to a budget and had to create their own “floral recipe” in order to ensure that they ordered the correct amount of flowers for their replication. The finished posters and replications were put on display at the Winters High School Back to School Night. The students testimonials on their posters was touching and showed their enthusiasm for floral design.

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit


Conference Update: Farm Field Trips… More Than Fun!

A visit to a farm, ranch, or forest is a great way to inspire new teaching ideas for your classroom. We have chosen some spectacular tour destinations for our annual conference this October in Santa Cruz. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to experience working farms, ranches, and research facilities firsthand to gain an understanding of modern agricultural innovations and meet the people who produce our food and fiber.

Below is a glimpse of some of the tours that you could experience at the California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference.

Swanton Pacific Ranch
Swanton Pacific Ranch is an educational and research facility owned by the Cal Poly Swanton PacificCorporation, San Luis Obispo and managed by the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. The ranch was donated to the College in 1993 by the late Al Smith. The 3,200 acre property is composed of a redwood forest, riverine ecosystems, and expansive coastal grassland overlooking the bay and the Pacific Ocean. Students and faculty are able to actively pursue research opportunities, utilizing the forest, range, and watershed resources within the ranch.

The ranch produces certified natural beef, has “U-pick” certified organic apples, and hosts professional meetings and workshops offered by the Department of Natural Resource Management.

On this tour, we will learn about the University and Ranch from a Cal Poly Instructor and a student who will talk about the research projects and student opportunities on the ranch.

Kitayama Brothers
Kitayama Brothers has been growing and shipping cut flowers from Northern Kitayama BrotherslogoCalifornia since 1948. In 1950, they were the largest carnation growers in the early years in California. Since then they have become the largest rose grower in the United States. Along with roses, they grow 20 different varieties of flowers and cut greens in their one million square feet of greenhouses including; oriental and Asiatic lilies, lisianthus, gerbera daisies, snapdragons, mini callas, iris, gardenias, and stephanotis.

Kitayama Brothers is a large broker of quality flowers from around the world and especially the west coast. They ship nationwide and to Canada—mainly to wholesale florists, bouquet makers, mass markets and large event florists.

Providing quality flowers and adapting to meet the demands of the market has kept Kitamaya Brothers successful over the years. On this tour we will learn about their production and strategy for growing quality flowers.

Lakeside Organic Gardens
Lakeside Organic Gardens is the largest family-owned and operated solely Lakeside Organic Gardensorganic vegetable grower/shipper in the USA producing more than 45 commodities organically grown in California. The Peixoto family began farming in the Pajaro Valley of California in the late 1800s and perfected conventional growing throughout the 1900s. Lakeside Organic Gardens was launched by Dick Peixoto and his extended family in 1996.

Lakeside Organic Gardens farms on approximately 1,200 certified organic acres in the Pajaro Valley and approximately 600 certified organic acres in the Imperial Valley in California.

On the tour you will learn how Lakeside Organic Gardens grows their crops, works with the community, and takes pride in being stewards of the land to ensure the land is productive for generations to come.

Don’t miss your chance to register to for the California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference and attend exciting tours that you can share with your students. Early bird registration is $265 until September 15. For more conference details, visit

Literacy for Life Grant: Potrero Hill Native Plant Project

Kay Hones, a librarian at Downtown High School in San Francisco County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Potrero Hill Native Plant Project.

Through this grant project, Downtown High School students researched local native plants and used their newfound knowledge to create a small native plant garden. In the library, the students discussed the timeline of planting, growing, and harvesting their crops and also researched recipes using their crops.

The students completed a variety of research reports focusing on food and food practices throughout the world. They read several new books about composting, native plants, and cookbooks. The students also wrote short journal entries about their work in the garden and what they learned.

Early in the year, the students prepared the soil and planted heriloom vegetables and native flowers.The students are very proud of the garden and to maintain the garden throughout the summer they created a summer schedule for volunteers. One student wrote:

“The Native Species Garden is more than just a project, it is something we can call our own. It is something that we actually created. We have brought something nice to our community.”

The California drought has really impacted our work in the garden this year, but is was also a teaching and learning opportunity. The students carefully monitored their use of water and did their part to conserve.

Through this project, we also reopened our partnership with elementary schools. The high school students have planned presentations for K-5 students that will take place in the fall. These presentations will include a brief overview of native plants in California, a bookmark handout of garden tips, a short discussion of healthy eating, and an invitation to come visit our garden! This garden has really introduced our students to agriculture!

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit

Literacy for Life Grant: Nutrition Beyond the Textbook: A Life-Changing Experience

Kelly Wade, a teacher at Castle Rock Elementary School in Tulare County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Nutrition Beyond the Textbook: A Life-Changing Experience.

The goal for my class this year was to promote awareness, appreciation, and an application of a healthy lifestyle through agriculture.

To start the year off, we focused on nutrition through literature. We purchased books about agriculture and the students wrote their own stories about agriculture. The reading, research, and writing added depth and complexity to our curriculum.


We also tied agriculture into our social studies curriculum this year. The students studied the food of Native Americans and compared it to what they eat today. Studying the different tribes and their different lifestyles really helped to makes the students more culturally aware.


The students also studied the 13 original colonies and the different types of agriculture in each region. The students made a tri-orama with each side representing agriculture in the three different regions (New England, Middle, and Southern) and the fourth side served as an introduction. To further their research, the students also read books about the different commodities grown in the colonies.


Through this project, the students were also able to grow trout in the classroom and then release them into the wild. The students tested water both at the school and at the local water treatment plant. They learned how important water is to our health and our community.


Next year, I hope to expand on our agricultural theme and introduce students to many of the career opportunities in agriculture. This project has enhanced the learning and teaching in my classroom and I have shared the ideas and teaching materials I used this year with the other teachers at my school. As a result of this project, my students look at agriculture in a more positive light and they are more open to trying new foods.

To learn more about CFAITC’s 25 Literacy for Life Grant projects awarded in 2013, visit