GORE, Okla. — Kim Sloan Pearson lives, breathes, and teaches agriculture every day.
Growing up on a row crop farm near the Arkansas River with her two older brothers, Pearson said she was practically a third son.
“From the time I was a little girl I was out there working,” Pearson said. “Dad didn’t care that I was a girl, but that was okay. I loved every minute of it.”
Pearson laughs and says she has never been much of an indoor person. As a girl, she preferred being outside on a tractor, raking hay or helping her dad with irrigation.
“One of my favorite memories was raising watermelons and dad would let us pick one to eat when we were working,” Pearson recalled. “We would just eat the heart out of it right there in the field!”
The Sloan Family Farm is on its 5th generation with Pearson’s nephew and continues to raise wheat, soybean, corn, and for the first time in several years, cotton. Her father “retired” last year at the age of 82, though Pearson said they got him a greenhouse so he wouldn’t be bored.
The Sloans have a rule in their family that you cannot come back to work on the farm until you have gone to college and earned a degree.
“We started a sweet corn business when we [the kids] were 6, 7 and 8 years old,” Pearson said. “Dad wanted us to go to college, so we started selling sweet corn on the side of the road and putting it away in savings.”
53 years later, Sloan’s Sweet Corn is still in business. It not only paid for all three children to go to college, but also for her oldest brother’s medical school.
“Sloan Farm has always been a very visible icon in our community,” friend and co-worker Debbie Dick said. “Every summer, people anticipate the first day the sweet corn will be ready and for Kim and her family to start selling it.”
The sweet corn stand is such a success and community favorite that on their first day of being open this summer Pearson said they sold over 300 bushels of sweet corn and had to turn the remaining customers away.
“You can only pick so much,” Pearson explained. “It’s a 24-hour job, picking at night and selling during the day.”
They utilize two one-row pickers to harvest their 30 acres of sweet corn in the summer. Her nephew handles picking, and Pearson handles selling.
Pearson has always had an interest in science, so it was no surprise that after earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Education from Oklahoma State University and a Masters in Administration from Northeastern State University she went on to teach high school and middle school science.
A month after graduating college, she married Arthur Pearson, a young man who grew up only a few miles away in Webbers Falls, before beginning her teaching career.
“We got married one month after I graduated college because I promised my mother I wouldn’t get married until after I graduated,” Pearson said.
Teaching was a great choice for Pearson because it allows her to spend summers with her family. She and Arthur have two kids, Arthur and Ashley.
Pearson just began her 37th year of teaching. She taught for 18 years at Webbers Falls, and is now beginning her 19th year at Gore teaching Anatomy and Chemistry for the high school honors classes and 6th grade science.
To Pearson, incorporating agriculture into her classroom is nonnegotiable. The two go hand-in-hand together. She feels it is crucial that students gain a real insight and knowledge of where their food comes from.
“I have always incorporated ag in my classroom,” Pearson explained. “I try to show them field to plate, whether it’s explaining how corn becomes cornmeal, the chemical reaction every time you cook, or why something smells or changes colors. It is more of a hands-on learning experience.”
Pearson was thrilled when she discovered there were resources available to through Ag in the Classroom.
“I didn’t know it existed until one night I couldn’t sleep and I was up searching on Google,” Pearson said. “I found Ag in the Classroom and began using some of their curriculum.”
In 2013, Pearson was honored as the Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom Teacher of the Year. She is well respected by others in the teaching field, and especially those who appreciate her work with agriculture.
“Kim Pearson grew up on the farm, and now the students at Gore are able to experience the farm, even if they do not live there,” said Audrey Harmon, State Coordinator for Ag in the Classroom. “Mrs. Pearson uses agriculture to teach her high school students chemistry, among other subjects.”
Pearson’s class has already made a trip out to the cotton fields this year.
“If I do an activity with once class they talk about it to their friends, then my other classes say “We’ve got to do that!” Pearson said. “I may not do it that day, but I promise them we will.”
In addition to teaching agriculture in her classroom, Pearson tries to reach elementary students by hosting an “Ag Day” in Gore. In addition to inviting a guest elementary school and her high school students help run the event.
“Her high school students become the teachers and use the lessons they have learned to make ice cream with the students, explaining the science behind a liquid turning to a solid,” Harmon said.
Pearson also uses the opportunity to open students eyes about potential careers in the agriculture industry.
“They get to look at equipment, see the computers farmers use and we talk about how many careers there are in agriculture,” Pearson said. “They are amazed by the technology we use, and I tell them ‘you don’t have to be the farmer; someone has to work on the computers a farmer uses.’”
There have been 10 “Ag Days” so far because of the Pioneer grant that Pearson obtained.
“I try to give a history of how agriculture and harvesting has changed through the years,” Pearson said. “I also do about 15 Ag in the Classroom activities in that one day.”
As a result of her passion for agriculture, she spends time during her summer break traveling with peers and Ag in the Classroom to glean new experiences to share with her students.
When asked why she feels so strongly about teaching agriculture to students, she simply replied, “If we didn’t have agriculture, we wouldn’t be here. Farmers feed the world. That is what keeps all of us going.”
–Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry
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