California Agriculture in the Classroom

Food on the Move: Food Transportation Specialist

Grade Level(s)

6 - 8

Estimated Time

Five 50-minute sessions


In this lesson, students will learn about the top agricultural commodities of different regions of California and the logistics that are involved in transporting those commodities to consumers.


For the teacher:

For each group:

For each student:

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


apiary: A place where hives of honeybees are kept.

bedding plants: plants that are grown in garden beds, usually for their display of flowers. They are usually grown as annuals and die at the end of the growing season.

bulls: male cattle that have reached sexual maturity, usually used for breeding.

cattle and calves: Cattle are adult beef cattle and calves are young beef cattle.

climate: the usual weather conditions in a certain region.

commodity: something that is bought and sold. Examples of agricultural commodities include milk, alfalfa, grapes, almonds, and poultry.

cow: mature female cattle.

crop: a plant or plant product that is grown by farmers.

cut flowers: flowers grown to be cut and sold in flower markets, floral design shops, and grocery stores.

farm: an establishment that produces and sells agricultural products.

feeder cattle: cattle that are being raised from calves until they are sold to the market or feed lot.

foliage plants: plants grown to be sold and planted as landscaping.

forest product: product from trees such as lumber for building homes, pulp for paper, and bark for landscaping.

hen: adult female chicken.

heifers: young female cattle that have not yet given birth to their first calf.

horticulture: the science and art of growing plants.

irrigation: the watering of land from sources other than precipitation from the atmosphere. For example, when you water your lawn with a sprinkler, you are irrigating your lawn.

livestock: domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber, and labor. For example, cattle, goats, and pigs.

nursery products: plants grown for landscaping and gardening purposes.

pasture: area of land where certain types of plants such as grass are grown for animals to feed on. Pasture may be irrigated.

poultry: birds that are raised on farms for their eggs or meat. Examples are chickens and turkeys.

processing tomatoes: tomatoes grown to produce products such as tomato sauce rather than being sold as fresh tomatoes.

pullet: young female chicken.

ranch: A large farm for the rearing of livestock.

range: an open area of land where livestock may roam and feed.

rooster: adult male chicken usually kept for breeding.

specialty crop: fruits, tree nuts, vegetables, herbs, spices, nursery, floriculture, and horticulture crops that are not considered staple foods.

steers: castrated male cattle.

stocker cattle: heifers and/or steers being raised on pasture or other forage for later sale.

timber: trees grown to produce lumber

topography: the features of land in area. For example, mountains, valleys, lakes, and rivers.

woody ornamentals: trees and shrubs grown for landscaping or decorative uses.

alfalfa: a type of plant grown as food for farm animals such as cattle and horses.

Background - Agricultural Connections

This lesson is one out of four lessons designed for grades six through eight which promote the development of STEM abilities and critical thinking skills, while fostering an appreciation for the people involved in food production. The new curriculum includes inquiry-based labs, real life challenges for students to investigate and opportunities to plan and construct products and shipping models. Other lessons in this series include:

This lesson focuses on the role of transportation specialists in the shipping and tracking of California’s agricultural products. Agriculture is one of California’s leading industries and California ranks as the number one agricultural state in the nation. More than 400 different crops and livestock commodities are produced in California and these commodities are shipped all over the world. This lesson is written specifically for California educators. However, it can be adapted to any classroom. 

Agricultural transportation specialists work on designing efficient transportation systems for perishable food and nursery products throughout the states and worldwide. This includes many challenges such as planning for inspection for invasive species in products at quarantine checks, weight limits on truck loads of product, and establishing efficient routes. The goal is to design a system that makes customers happy, is safe and rewarding for employees, and profitable for businesses.

Transportation design is a rewarding field for the type of person who is always thinking of a better way to deliver products to customers. This lesson will allow students to use their problem solving skills to design the best transportation system to ship a commodity from where it is produced in California to customers in a different region of the state.

Interest Approach – Engagement

  1. Find out what students already know about agriculture by completing the attached California Agriculture Quiz together as a class. Read a question to the class then have students turn to a neighbor for discussion. Ask partners to raise their hands to give their answers. After you are finished, review the correct answers with the class.
  2. In this lesson, students will:
    • Identify the growing regions of an agricultural commodity.
    • Design a process for distributing Californiagrown agriculture products throughout the state.
    • Learn why a commodity is grown in a specific region.


Part 1: Getting to Know Our Commodities

Explain to students that they will be learning more about the different agricultural products produced in different regions of California as they take on the role of a transportation specialist in charge of designing trucking routes for pick up and delivery of agricultural products.

  1. Assign a California county to each student.
  2. As a class, review the California Grows map and point out the location of each student's assigned county. Discuss vocabulary that students may be unfamiliar with, such as commodity, crop, horticulture, specialty crop, forest product, stockers and feeders, processing tomatoes, woody ornamentals, cattle and calves, timber, bedding plants, alfalfa, poultry, nursery products, pasture, range, foliage plants, and cut flowers. Definitions may be found in the vocabulary section.
  3. Explain to students that they will be using the California Grows map to identify the three top commodities from their assigned county. Instruct students to choose one of these top commodities to research. A commodity is a primary agricultural product that can be bought and sold such as apples, wheat, or milk.
  4. Distribute an index card to each student and demonstrate how they should use their California Grows map to sketch an outline of the shape of their assigned county on their index card. Students will then write commodity facts inside the shape of their county that has been sketched on their index card. If possible, have students type the information regarding their commodity on the computer in a small font. This can then be printed, cut out, and pasted on their index card. After the commodity facts have been written or pasted on the index card, students can then cut it out in the shape of their assigned county.
  5. As a class or for homework, have students research the following facts about one of the top commodities from their assigned county. Helpful resources include Agricultural Fact and Activity Sheets from California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom; County Agricultural Commissioners’ Reports from USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service; or online searches for “California + the commodity name.”
    • Name of commodity
    • Picture of commodity
    • How it is grown/raised
    • Uses
  6. Once students have completed their commodity fact cards, instruct them to take their cards to the board and tape them in the correct geographical area of California. The end result should be a map of California showing one of the top commodities in each county. It may be helpful to sketch a large outline of California on the board  or on a piece of butcher paper for students to attach their county index cards.
  7. Facilitate a class discussion on the commodities by asking each student to contribute a few key facts about the commodity they researched. Discuss the different regions of California and ask students if they have any idea why certain commodities are produced in one area of the state and not another. For example, why is timber a top crop in Trinity County but not in San Joaquin? Discuss topography, climate, and population factors that make certain areas best suited for producing a particular commodity.

Part 2: Transporting Our Commodities

Pick a couple of examples from the California commodity map that your class has created. Ask students if they think the commodity is consumed only by the people living in that county. Who else might need or want this commodity? Where would it need to be shipped? How would it get there? Tell students that they will address these questions as they take on the role of food transportation specialists in the next part of the lesson.

  1. Present the Food on the Move: Food Transportation PowerPoint to the class. 
  2. Organize the class into small groups and assign a Commodity Transportation Scenario to each group (scenarios may be used more than once).
  3. Explain that students will use a semi truck to pick up and deliver their commodity to the assigned location. Show students how to use their Trucking Logistics worksheet to calculate the distance of each leg of the trip, amount of diesel used, and cost of the fuel. Ask students if they think it is okay for trucks to drive on any road, and why or why not. Some trucks may be too tall for tunnels or overpasses, too heavy for bridges, or too long to make tight turns on twisty roads. More information on California trucking routes may be found on the California Department of Transportation website. Also note that truck drivers need to take meal and rest breaks. Just because a map says it will take 12 hours from one stop to the next does not mean that the driver will make the trip in 12 hours.
  4. When finished with the Trucking Logistics worksheet, instruct each group to design a brief infomercial that they will present to the class to explain their plans for shipping their commodity from point A to B. The infomercial should include:
    • A description of the commodities being shipped, and the region where they were produced.
    • The type of truck needed for transport and any special considerations such as refrigeration.
    • Description of transport route.
    • Description of any food safety measures that need to be addressed while transporting the commodity.

Concept Elaboration and Evaluation:

After conducting these activities, review and summarize the following key concepts:


We welcome your feedback! Please take a minute to tell us how to make this lesson better or to give us a few gold stars!


Enriching Activities

Suggested Companion Resources


This unit was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Secondary Agriculture Education Challenge Grants Program.

Executive Director: Judy Culbertson
Illustrator: Toni Smith
Layout and Design: Nina Danner and Renee Thompson
Copy Editor: Leah Rosasco


Mandi Bottoms & Shaney Emerson

Organization Affiliation

California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom