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Innovation Brings Agriculture into the Classroom
By: Kaitlyn Riley, Wisconsin's 71st Alice in Dairyland - 03/21/2019

"How many of you come from a farm?" I always ask this question when speaking with elementary students. Occasionally, one or two students will raise their hands. More often, they tell me stories of visiting their grandparents' farms on weekends or holidays.

Our state is home to roughly 68,500 farms, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Wisconsin has farms of all different types, sizes and production methods. Whether they are dairy, pork, potato or cranberry, the people and the products that are connected to these operations play roles in our everyday lives. We all become part of agriculture when we eat our meals, wear Wisconsin fiber, or fuel up with ethanol blends at the pump.

I am grateful to have been raised on one of the 96 percent of Wisconsin dairy farms that are family-owned because I gained hands-on experience in our signature dairy industry. That opportunity expanded my understanding of how food travels from the farm gate to my plate. With less youth having a similar background in agriculture, it becomes more important than ever to bring the farm into the classroom.

For years, Alice in Dairyland has visited thousands of elementary students to share the story of Wisconsin agriculture. This year, the chance to connect with students will not be limited to my travels. Using a local production company and green screen technology to animate agriculture, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin created a virtual fourth-grade video lesson, "Farm to Table with Wisconsin Dairy."

Students can now join me on a video field trip all across the state to discover healthy foods grown or produced in Wisconsin. They will also explore the state's agricultural impact on Wisconsin's economy. The innovative program is a perfect match for a Wisconsin History unit. The 15-minute presentation also meets Wisconsin Model Academic Standards for Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Social Studies, Language Arts, Match and Nutrition Education.

The video and materials are free for 4th-grade educators and can be found at WisconsinDairyCouncil.com/FarmtoTable. Plus, the website has additional educational resources with helpful links to partners in agriculture.

Most students today may be generations removed from the farm, but thanks to technology, opportunities are endless for bridging the gap and planting new roots in agriculture. I truly hope this video will inspire our next generation of leaders to reach out to their local farmers and processors to visit a farm, expand their knowledge, and help their families make informed decisions in the grocery store. Some may even decide to extend a hand to agriculture by becoming future innovators in Wisconsin food, fuel and fiber production. The chance is just a click away!

For more information, contact Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin at FarmtoTable@wisconsindairy.org.

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