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Ag Literacy Lines

A blog featuring fun information on agriculture for youth and adults.

Summer Ag Institute A Success!!

Posted by Aimee Chandler -

University of Illinois Extension conducted the second Agriculture in the Classroom Summer Agricultural Institute June 9-14. Fifteen teachers from Iroquois and Kankakee Counties attended the four day teacher workshop that taught them how they can incorporate an agriculture theme into their classrooms every day. Most of them even learned something new about agriculture.

Day one brought a variety of speakers to our "classroom". We heard from and were given resources from Karen Schmitt of the Midwest Dairy Association. Sarah Song, FCAE, gave the teachers an overview of the different mAGic kits they can check out. Our teachers became potato farmers and futures traders that day during our activities. They also heard from Jackie Jones, Illinois Ag in the Classroom who showed books and activities that could be done with students of all ages.

On Day two we headed north in Iroquois county to visit a few different farms. Our first stop was MWS Seeds where Lyn & AJ Wilken gave us an overview of their worm farm where they harvest the castings from the worms to be used as fertilizer. Randy Wilken and Doug Hanson gave everyone an overview of the seed industry and their premium birdseed production. Next we headed to Shule Farms and Timberview Flower Farm where Rick and Lori Shule gave teachers a look at flower and vegetable production in a greenhouse. Here they also got to view up close a combine, grain bin, tractor and planter. These are things that sometimes we who are involved in agriculture take for granted. Not everyone has had the chance to climb the steps up to the tractor or see the complex machines that make up the inside of a combine or see the stirrator in the bin. Bob Blain was our next host at Riverfront Berry Farm showing us the production of the many things grown near Martinton. We saw gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries, garlic, asparagus, fruit trees, sweet corn, strawberries and more!! Many even took goodies home to enjoy later.

Monday we were ready to roll again after a two day break. Day three was another day full of field trips. We boarded our bus (thanks to Donovan schools) and headed to Livingston County. Marty and Will Travis were our first hosts for the day at Spence Farm. Kris was away on a trip. Spence Farm is the oldest living farm in Livingston County. We all saw and learned a lot at Spence Farm. Marty showed us all the different food crops that are grown and harvested including garlic, tomatoes, squash blossoms, and even lambs quarters. He explained how things work with the chefs in Chicago he works with to sell his products. We also met in the old schoolhouse on the farm to learn about the Stewards of the Land group and some more history. Many loved the composting toilet in the schoolhouse and had to take a picture of the sign explaining how to "flush". We met the animals on the farm including the American Guinea Hogs raised there. After lunch we headed down the road a short ways to Kilgus Dairy where Matt Kilgus gave us a tour of the Jersey Dairy Farm and explained how they bottle their own milk. We even got to eat some of their soft serve ice cream.

After two busy days on the road we were back in the "classroom" for another fun day of learning. Janet Hodel, Illinois Soybean Association, and Kayla Meyer, Illinois Pork Producers, came and talked about their commodity groups and what resources they have available to teachers. The teachers received various lesson plan/activity packets that provide them with cross curricular activities they can do. They made 3 Sisters Tambourines, had a chocolate tasting activity, dressed one of the teachers up like a cow to show the differences between a human and a cow, and lots of other things. The highlight of that day was the 12 person agribusiness panel. These professionals were brought in to show that there are more careers in agriculture than a person thinks. Teachers were given the opportunity to hear from a CPA, FSA director, elevator manager, farmer, ag broadcaster, marketer to name a few. They were able to ask questions and learn more about their degrees and ag background.

Lots of positive comments were heard at the end of the week. One of the teachers even went home and started working on a project she wants to do for the next school year. Photos from the Summer Agricultural Institute can be seen on the Ford-Iroquois Extension Facebook page. Teachers who participated included: Amy Portwood, Tim Davis, Kathie Both, Rick Banning, Phil Wilkey, Diane Gustafson, LeeAnne Brandt, Shirley Schleef, Deb Talbert, Amanda Kurtenbach, Laurie Rodriguez, Shelisa Henrichs, Susie Mabbitt, Kristi VanHoveln,and Megan Wilken.

For more information on the Ag in the Classroom program contact Aimee Chandler at 815-268-4051 or

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