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Ag Afternoons

It's Back to School time! It seems like very time I check my social media, my news feeds are filled with Back to School photos of the cutest little kids. Some kids crying, some kids super excited, some parents crying, some parents super excited. It is a fun time of year.

With kids going back to school, something that may be on a number of parents minds is "what will they learn this year"? The normal stuff like learning, reading, writing, history, science all seem to come to mind. But what about farming, agriculture, crops that are grown around them? To some this may be part of the school curriculum and others it may not be. Maybe some kids get their agriculture lessons at home from "ranch school" or going to work with Mom and Dad. But to a majority of kids, they aren't learning the lessons of agriculture.

That is why I am so glad when organizations step up and take the lead to keep agriculture in the classroom. There are some great partners like Ag in the Classroom that we have here in California that help supply teachers with lesson plans and fun activities to make learning about agriculture enjoyable and interactive. But are there more that you as a parents or community leader could help with?

A friend of mine reached out to me at the beginning of summer about a summer project she was working on for their public library. She wanted some almond info and I of course was intrigued by the idea she had. I knew you all would love it too.

My friend, Shannon Douglass, helped organize "Ag Afternoons". She worked with her county Farm Bureau, Young Farmers & Ranchers, Orland FFA and her county library. Orland is a pretty rural community but still a place that not everyone is connected to agriculture. The community saw a need to help connect those dots and help the more "urban" residents understand the agriculture around them. I loved that they partnered with their local library for summer activities with the kids, but going into the school year you could also work with your local teachers or after school program to try and do the same in the classroom.

Ag Afternoons was formed to highlight different crops that are grown in the surrounding areas and make them relatable and draw that connection to the consumer. It was a great program that I wanted to help spread the word about. Shannon helped me understand the program a little more and maybe get others interested in how they can join forces to make a similar program in your area.
Ag Afternoon kids and volunteers Photo Credit: Orland Free Library

Almond Girl: Explain the idea for Ag Afternoons.
Shannon Douglass: During the month of July, Orland FFA Members went above and beyond to participate in Ag Afternoons sponsored by the Glenn County Farm Bureau at the Orland Free Library. Our goal was to better educate our local youth about the basics of agriculture products by introducing them to commodities in our local area with fun and crafty activities, informative stories and a healthy snack in correspondence to the commodity that week!

AG: Why did you choose almonds to be included?
SD: We chose almonds because we have so many in our area and it makes sense for kids to learn about the agriculture that surrounds them. They were also some fun activities we could bring bee knowledge in as well.

AG: Explain the almond/ bee activities, story and snack.
SD: We read books about almonds and bees and helped the kids create a bee craft from paper plates. They were able to paint a yellow plate into a bee in a fun craft and hands on activity. It was easy, just needed black paint and a yellow paper plate and let the kids use their imagination. They loved painting the plates and making their own bees as well as learning about the importance of bees to making almonds. For snack, they got to enjoy honey sticks, almond crackers with almond butter and try almond milk. 
Making bee plates PC: Orland Free Library

AG: How was the local FFA involved in the project?
SD: The high school kids were FFA members from the Orland Chapter. They got involved in June and helped select and plan out each activity. They did a great job preparing materials and modifying the activities we found online to best fit our needs. They really took ownership, especially of the Almond week. 
story time PC: Orland Free Library

AG: How did the kids like it?
SD: The kids loved it. We had several kids who came each week for the activities and it was fun to see the returning faces.

AG: What is your advice to others to implement something like this in their area?
SD: Start small. We hope to grow this project in the future but we wanted to start with something more manageable. 
Work with your library. Not only do they have space and books, but they want help organizing activities for the kids in summer. They can help promote it to an audience we may not otherwise get access too. And our library even had some craft supplies we could utilize which helped as well. And because of our event, they ordered more ag themed books for the library after. 
Utilize FFA members. In our area the students need volunteer hours for FFA and for their senior projects. This was a great way for them to get the hours doing something they enjoyed. If you do utilize FFA members, make sure to give them some ownership and allow them to make decisions. I started with an outline of ideas but let the FFA kids decide which they liked best.
My favorite part of this activity was working with the FFA members. I think they enjoyed working with the kids even more than I did. They really shined in this project and I love being able to support them to make it all happen. We hope this will be an annual event now in the summers. 

Interested in organizing or taking part in a program like this in your area and wondering where to start? Contact your local Ag in the Classroom, Farm Bureau or county library and learn what programs might be in your area or how you can implement an Ag Afternoon in your area.

Hope this fun project inspired you to incorporate an Ag Afternoon where you live.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl Jenny



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