RICHMOND, Va. — Kids are heading back to school ready to learn, but parents should ask themselves, are they learning the most basic things – like where their food originates.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) encourages teachers and parents to make a game of learning about agriculture. “You can start by hunting for it in the kids’ backpacks,” says former teacher Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, now VDACS Commissioner. “It’s everywhere – in their pencils, their clothing and of course, their snacks.”
You may identify:
- Wooden pencils and paper made from trees
- Crayons made with soybean oil
- Chalk or glue made with pig by-products
- Cotton gym clothes and socks, or wool sweaters
- Leather shoes
- Paint brushes that contain hair bristles from pigs or cattle
- Hand lotions with lanolin, which is found in sheep’s wool
- Lunch with fruits, vegetables, bread, meats, cheese, milk or a Thermos of chicken noodle soup
“There’s agriculture in the tank as well as the backpack,” Bronaugh adds. “The trip to school may have been in the family car powered by ethanol, a clean fuel made from corn, or a school bus powered by biodiesel. Agriculture is all around them, but they may not know that all of these products and so many more come from Virginia’s farms unless you teach them.”
Bronaugh encourages parents to take children to the farm for those quintessential fall activities like picking apples or pumpkins to learn that agriculture also provides intangible benefits that include recreation, tourism, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, improved water quality and soil stabilization.
To make sure the kids don’t stump you with their “what’s that?” questions, parents can download the Ag Spotter’s Guide from the VDACS website so they can tell a tractor from a combine or corn from soybeans.
—Elaine Lidholm, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services