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

2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom Conference

NAITC Conf Logo

The 2014 National Agriculture in the Classroom conference, The Sweet Story of Agriculture, was held this past June in beautiful Hershey, Pennsylvania. The conference was at maximum capacity with registration selling out months beforehand.

We hopped three planes and two taxis to get to Hershey and had the second longest journey, only topped by a participant from Hawaii.

At the conference, CFAITC shared resources with educators from around the country who visited our booth and attended our three workshops featuring lessons from new and updated units, What Do Plants Need to Grow? and From STEM to Plate: Careers in Food Science. We also soaked up as much information as possible by attending workshops on common core, science literacy, STEM, agriculture issues, watershed decisions and more.

Two California educators also attended the conference: Maureen Moreno, a K-6 grade teacher from Southern California who received a White-Rinehart Scholarship award, and Ann Hennesey, a special education high school teacher from Elk Grove who was recognized as California’s Outstanding Educator of the Year. Both teachers have been longtime advocates for bringing agriculture into the classroom.


The conference provided numerous opportunities for increasing our knowledge of agriculture. During farm tours, we visited a dairy that produces milk destined for the Hershey Chocolate factory and learned that mushrooms are one of Pennsylvania’s top agricultural commodities. A visit to Penn State’s veterinary hospital gave us a glimpse into the latest developments in large animal medicine. It was a different experience visiting farms in an area of the country where rain comes often and irrigation of crop fields is uncommon. This is hard to imagine in our drought stricken state of California.

After an action-packed week in Hershey, we returned home with our minds and suitcases full of new ideas to help California educators use agriculture as a meaningful teaching tool.

If you are looking for new and exciting ways to incorporate agriculture into your classroom, don’t miss the California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference October 16-18 in Santa Cruz County. For more conference details, visit

Bon à la Beef: Kids Cooking With Beef

Here at Agriculture in the Classroom, we have been busy working on a new project in partnership with the California Beef Council, Bon à Bon a la Beef Finalla Beef! This project will educate students about beef and nutrition by featuring four professional video clips of elementary through high school students cooking beef recipes and encouraging viewers to cook with beef at home. The student-developed recipes use easy techniques and readily available ingredients.

Each of the four cooking video clips will be paired with educational lesson plans that are aligned to Content Standards for California Public Schools for students in grades 3-5, 6-8, or 9-12.

Writing Meeting

Earlier this summer, we met with a group of educators and industry experts to develop the lessons plans which are currently being pilot tested. The lessons feature the history of beef cattle, nutrition, and planning a meal on a budget.

Picture of Chefs for Blog

Last Thursday, we worked with Access Sacramento and filmed the cooking demonstrations at the Art Institute of California – Sacramento. The students, Nicolas Come, Elisabeth Watkins, and Nichelle Crawford, were fantastic chefs! We cannot wait to see the final product. A segment with all four cooking videos will air on Access Sacramento after the final edits are made.

Stay tuned. The lesson plans and correlating videos will be available this fall!

Literacy for Life Grant: Planting a Garden in Your Own Backyard

Jackie Lacey, a teacher at Kimbark Elementary School in San Bernardino County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Planting a Garden in Your Own Backyard.


Through this program, each class was able to grow a vegetable plant in a container garden. Each class discussed the type of plant being planted, how to care for it, and how long it would take for the plant to sprout and produce vegetables. This year, we grew tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, and carrots. All 502 of the students at Kimbark Elementary School were able to participate by preparing the container, planting the seeds, or watering and caring for the plant. They students were so excited to watch their plants grow.


As part of our environmental curriculum, we work to help students learn ways to be healthy and sustain our planet. The “Planting a Garden in Your Own Backyard” project helped accomplish this goal. Container gardening is a way for all students to replicate what they have learned with their families without a huge expense or complicated procedures.


As a result of this project, students are more aware of where their food comes from. They are starting to understand the hard work and perseverance required of farmers to bring food from the farm to the table. Coupled with the drought in California, students are more aware of how agriculture is affected by weather and land use.

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

Teacher Feature – Dane White

DaneWhite_180x180We asked Dane White, a high school agricultural teacher at Galt High School in Sacramento County, about his experiences with agriculture education.

How and when did you first learn of Ag in the Classroom?
I first learned about CFAITC when I was involved in FFA many years ago—I admired its mission and appreciated the Foundation’s attempts to teach youth about our most essential industry. Since then, I’ve worked with CFAITC on projects such as the WeGarden at the State Capitol and the Farm-to-Fork Festival and have enjoyed every experience we have been given to work with such great people to accomplish such a noble mission.

How long have you been teaching students and why did you choose to become an educator?
My agriculture teacher, Sandy Lovfald of Eureka High School, is the reason I teach agriculture. She invested a ton of her energy in me and never accepted mediocrity as my personal standard—she would demand excellence from me. I knew I wanted to be an agriculture teacher the moment I was able to reflect back and realize the significant impact she made on my life—I can’t imagine where I would be without her. I’ve now taught for seven years at Galt High School and strive to make that same kind of difference in each of my students.

What is your favorite AITC program/resource/event and why?
There are many things about CFAITC I love—with most involving outreach. My particular favorite was last fall’s Farm-to-Fork Festival in Sacramento. I brought my students to work at an educational booth and I loved watching them engage young kids and their families in discussions about food—something they can certainly relate to! I value the work CFAITC does to bring agriculture to the forefront in events such as the Farm-to-Fork Festival.

What is the most profound impact that agriculture education/awareness has had on you?
Aside from providing me with a purposeful vocation, I love that agriculture education constantly evolves and gives us the chance to expand our reach. I see the impact it makes on students who might otherwise not be excellent students or find a place in their high school. Every year at our graduation when I see agriculture students proudly wearing their gold merit sashes, I am filled with pride at knowing they found a home and a place that would challenge them to grow and strive. To play a role in the development of the next generation’s leadership skills and agricultural acumen is a great blessing.

Has agriculture continued to impact the way you educate students?
It’s the core of what I do; though the complexities of our educational system can often obscure the purpose of our agriculture classrooms, I cannot imagine teaching anything else. When students leave my class with tactile experiences and skills that give them the upper edge in a competitive job market, I know my job is worthy. I also really appreciate that agriculture’s social credibility is growing—it has opened a lot of doors for non-traditional students to find a passion in our subject area that can lead to success later in life.

Tell us about a golden teaching moment.
Each year presents me with a number of golden teaching moments. I’m fortunate to work in a community and at a high school that will support visionary programs that prioritize kids and as a result, my cup is filled constantly with successes. Whether it is a student showing up to an FFA meeting for the first time, having our “AG Squad” support our school’s sports teams or even just a proud student who earned their first “A” on a test, I regularly find examples that are pretty golden. This year when my Agriculture Issues Forum team won the State FFA Championship that qualified them for the national competition, I nearly exploded with happiness and pride. The students on that team have been humble workers and many of them would never have dreamt they could be state champions. That’s one of the biggest “wins” in my career thus far.

Describe any agriculture-based projects you have been involved in lately.
We recently completed the Sacramento County Fair, which had nearly 90 Galt High School students involved with projects from rabbits to cattle to mechanics. Additionally, we have a poultry unit on campus and a greenhouse that was recently emptied thanks to a successful plant sale, and we’re partnering with a Lodi olive oil producer to start an olive orchard on our campus. Our mission is that students not only understand the technical aspects of agriculture, but can translate a set of competencies into success in college and careers. As such, we are implementing innovative agricultural projects that develop useful and relevant skills.

Do you have any advice for other teachers on implementing agriculture into the classroom?
There are a huge number of easily implemented resources available and in many cases it’s easy to begin with the FFA members of a nearby high school! Most agriculture teachers are looking for chances to engage youth with their agriculture students—an elementary teacher reaching out would be a win/win!

Why do you believe it is important for our students to be agriculturally literate and aware in today’s society?
As cliché as it may sound, agriculture is the only industry that is vital to sustain our population. Even if someone doesn’t have a career that directly involves agriculture, it’s critical that people can play a proactive role in problem-solving and innovation for agriculture. Too often those who are agriculturally illiterate will make the work of producers unnecessarily difficulty—but those who have an understanding of and appreciation for agriculture can work to create mutually beneficial solutions.

2014 CA Agriculture in the Classroom Conference: Pre-Conference Tour

logoSummer break is here for most students and teachers! As teachers and students take a well deserved break from the Monday- Friday class routine, we are continuing to plan the 2014 California Agriculture in the Classroom Conference, Common Core and California Crops!

We hope you have your calendars marked for October 16-18, 2014 and plan to join us and themelearn how agricultural education has been practicing Common Core concepts since before Common Core was cool! Incorporating agriculture into the classroom provides students with connections to the real world that help them develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. We are working with many agricultural and education partners to bring the most current resources and teaching strategies to conference participants.

One group we are excited to be working with is Life Lab. Life Lab teaches people to care for themselves, each other, and the world through farm and garden based programs.

lllogoLife Lab will be hosting the pre-conference tour on Thursday afternoon, On the Farm and in the Garden with Life Lab.

Participants will spend the afternoon bringing learning to life at the University of California, Santa Cruz  (UCSC) Farm and Life Lab Garden Classroom. The UCSC Farm is one of the most beautiful areas in Santa Cruz and home to the Life Lab Garden Classroom. On the tour, participants will experience firsthand how the staff at Life Lab teach thousands of students each year about farming and food through their farm walk and harvest tasting activities. Participants will gather ideas to connect the new content standards to garden-based learning in their classroom. The day will end touring the Garden Classroom, browsing edible exploration stations, and networking with others.

The pre-conference tour will be open to the first 50 registrants. The cost of the pre-conference tour is $50.

Don’t forget that conference scholarships are available! The next deadline is August 1.

Most scholarships will cover the early bird conference registration fee of $265* and includes a Thursday night reception, all meals, field trips, and resources on Friday and Saturday. A limited number of scholarships will be awarded to cover the cost of registration, hotel, and/or transportation for a total maximum value of $750.

*Recipients will be responsible for paying the initial conference fees and will be reimbursed from CFAITC after the conference

Registration is open!  Early bird registration is $265 until September 15, 2014.

For more conference information, or to register, visit

Literacy for Life Grant Update: Farm Exchange Program

Barbara Richey, a teacher at American River Charter School in El Dorado County, received a Literacy for Life Grant to fund her project, Farm Exchange Program.

The Farm Exchange Program was created through the Literacy for Life Grant that we received, but will be an on-going project at our school. Our hope is that students will have an opportunity to work in the garden and care for animals including chickens and a lamb. Eight teachers will have access for their class to make regular observations of the animals and participate in their care. Farm Meetings will be held twice a month and will teach farming and ranching skills.


This spring, we started the Farm Meetings. Using Agriculture in the Classroom curriculum, Bill Nye science activities, textbooks, and internet resources, students learned about agriculture and farm animals. Some of our meeting topics included earth worms, composting, egg incubation, seed plantings, and so much more.


Also this year, incubators were purchased for three classrooms and an assortment of turkey and chicken eggs were placed into the incubators. The students were very attentive to the eggs and observed the hatching process. A chicken yard was built and some of the chickens were kept at the school and some were adopted by the students. This was a great opportunity for the kindergarten through third grade students that participated.


This is just the beginning of our Farm Exchange program. We have Farm Meetings scheduled for the next school year and a school garden site has been approved. Construction of the garden will begin this summer. By the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, our goal is to make the garden and chicken yard available for all students. We will also purchase a lamb that will be kept as permanent school livestock. This will allow students to experience the growth and subsequent wool production of sheep. This program has allowed students to experience hands-on agriculture!

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

June is National Dairy Month


National Dairy Month is a great reason to enjoy your favorite dairy product! Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese contain essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and protein. These nutrients are critical for the development of strong bones, teeth, and so much more!

California has been the nation’s leading dairy state since 1993! There are approximately 1.8 million dairy cows in California located on approximately 1,750 dairies. California’s land, climate, and feed supply make it a productive and desirable location for dairies. There are 5 main dairy breeds in California including Holstein (the most common), Jersey, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Ayrshire.

To celebrate National Dairy Month, try making Ice Cream in a Bag or Mozzarella cheese!

To learn more about California dairies, download our Dairy Fact and Activity Sheet. One of the many things that you will learn is how Monterey Jack cheese got its name!