More than 1,000 farm volunteers help in the classroom

Published 3:00 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

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Thousands of Virginia students are a little more knowledgeable about where their food comes from thanks to farmers and friends of the agriculture community.

More than 1,000 volunteers read to over 60,000 students during Virginia Agriculture in the Classroom’s annual Agriculture Literacy Week, March 13-17. Participants in the event read AITC’s 2023 Book of the Year, I Love Strawberries!, by Shannon Anderson.

The book follows strawberry-loving Jolie as she grows her own fruit from seedling to table with help from her faithful rabbit sidekick, Munchy. The humorous book—colorfully illustrated by Jaclyn Sinquett — gives readers a peek into everything involved as the delicious berry is cultivated.

Volunteers donated more than 2,900 books statewide to classroom collections, public libraries and libraries at public and private schools and community clubs, said Tammy Maxey, AITC executive director.

“It’s inspiring to see the entire farming community join forces to provide children with agriculture’s story in 2023,” Maxey said. “Children had an opportunity to meet a farmer or community leader to learn about agriculture and its value to everyday life.”

Many of the readings were accompanied by hands-on activities.

Carter Humphries, a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Central Virginia, read to students at several schools with help from local FFA students. After the readings, some classes planted their own herbs while others learned how to extract strawberry DNA.

“They thought it was the coolest thing ever!” Humphries exclaimed. “As a mainly suburban area, many of our youth aren’t exposed to agriculture, so this project is just one small way we can connect agriculture to the life skills and science standards students are learning in the classroom.”

Agriculture Literacy Week is AITC’s largest educational event and provides a fun, engaging way to increase children’s knowledge of farming and the origins of their food.

“It amazed me that the youth, even the older ones, didn’t know what the term ‘agriculture’ meant,” Humphries added. “Even though we’re only with them for a short amount of time, we hope the lesson sparks some ideas, discussion and interest to learn more.”

Volunteer readers also included Virginia’s first lady, Suzanne Youngkin; Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr; members of Virginia’s legislature; county Farm Bureau leaders; employees of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Farm Credit and F&M Bank; and FFA and 4-H club members.