Partnerships in ag help educate the community

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Jones County Extension and Outreach and Jones County Farm Bureau are partnering together to help bring an educational opportunity to youth of Jones County.

     “Agriculture in the Classroom” is designed to offer hands-on ag-related programming to school-aged kids, teaching them where their food comes from and more.

     Farm Bureau President, Dominic Hogan, said they’ve been offering this program for about a year, with Kellie Lasack going into the classrooms throughout the county. After Lasack left for another job opportunity, it was only natural to turn to the Extension Office.

     “There is a whole division at the state level with Ag in the Classroom,” explained Hogan of the statewide curriculum.

     Linn County Farm Bureau has a full-time employee who teaches Ag in the Classroom in schools there. It was actually Cedar County’s idea to partner with their Extension service that inspired this partnership in Jones County.

     “It’s a win-win,” said Hogan. “The Extension is already doing some of the same things. It’s an easy transition.”

     Jones County Extension Director Jennifer Fischer said it made sense to come together rather than have both entities doing the same thing, yet separately.

     “We just changed out staffing structure, so this is the perfect opportunity to do this,” she said.

     Hogan said there are a wide variety of topics that could be covered from modern farm practices to farm tours. He said the classes could even virtually accompany a farmer on a tour of a hog or cattle barn, or riding along in a combine.

     “It’s all about what we do and why we do it,” he said of the job of a farmer.

     Molly Schmitt, youth program coordinator with Jones County Extension, said the curriculum also covers the various ag commodity groups as well: egg, dairy, beef, swine, turkey, soybean, apple, etc. There is even a lesson on wind farms.

     “It allows the kids to look at ag a little differently,” she said, “beyond the typical Iowa commodities. There are a lot of different variations of lessons. This shows the gambit of how this can run.”

     Fischer said there are also literacy components to Ag in the Classroom for kids of all ages.

     “A lot can be adapted for different age ranges,” she said.

     Exposing young kids to ag could even spark interest later in life when it comes to joining FFA in high school or pursuing a career in ag.

     Ag in the Classroom can expand beyond the physical classrooms, too. The curriculum can be used at public events at community libraries as well. Hogan said Farm Bureau can also extend its programming to school for teacher in-service days.

     While Jones County Extension is getting things organized before going out into the classrooms, the idea is to start offering programs this summer, perhaps during Summer Discovery or Summer Reading Programs at local libraries.

     “We offer a wide area of ways in reach kids,” Hogan said.

     Fischer said Extension is starting to plan their lessons to take into the classrooms in the fall.

     Ag in the Classroom is funded by Farm Bureau. Schmitt said they also plan to bring in Farm Bureau members as guest speakers in the classroom to share their experiences.

     Aside from the Farm Bureau partnership, Jones County Extension is also, and has been, partnering with several entities throughout the county.

     “It’s all about taking what we have in the community and not having so many silos,” explained Fischer of groups doubling up on the same programs. “Extension can play a critical role in starting these conversations and bringing various partners to the table, being cognizant of the taxpayers’ dollars.”

     Extension has partnered with such entities as Jones County Economic Development, Kirkwood Community College, public libraries, chambers of commerce, Jones County Tourism Association, CPPC (Community Partnerships for Protecting Children)/Jones County Family Council, public/parochial schools and more.



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