Expedition Agriculture: Connecting Students To Ag

In 2022, Wisconsin Agriculture in the classroom received a specialty crop block grant. This led to the creation of the Expedition Agriculture series. The new program soft-launched in January of 2023. They have been collecting feedback from teachers and students ever since.

The Expedition Agriculture program was developed in collaboration with the Alice in Dairyland Program. The primary goal was to introduce students to the diverse range of specialty crops grown in Wisconsin. 

“We specifically chose areas where Alice in Dairyland had a media presence. Such as Milwaukee, Green Bay, Eau Claire, Madison, and Wausau-Rhinelander,” says Schaefer. “Through interactive presentations students learn about various agricultural careers. They learn about the economic significance of specialty crops, and how agriculture is connected to their daily lives, regardless of their location.”

They have expanded the curriculum to include additional specialty crops such as beef, poultry, Christmas trees, and goats. In terms of overall efforts, they have made significant strides. In the spring of 2023, they were able to present the Expedition Agriculture program in 37 classrooms. 

Schaefer says, “Our goal for this year is to expand our reach to 40 classrooms. The demand for the program is growing, and we are working with partners to boost our impact”

Schaefer adds that they are also working on the Book of the Year program. This program highlights Wisconsin agriculture through children’s picture books. Each year, a book is selected that accurately portrays an agricultural aspect or commodity in Wisconsin.

“This year, we are following the American Farm Bureau Foundation Book of the Year, “I Love Strawberries,” says Schaefer. “This book emphasizes personal responsibility and showcases how agriculture impacts our lives on a daily basis. It aligns perfectly with our fourth and fifth grade essay contest, which focuses on Wisconsin agriculture and its fruitfulness.”

To support the Book of the Year program and the essay contest, Wisconsin Ag in the classroom has worked with local farm bureaus across Wisconsin. Together, they have given out 900 copies of the book and provided an “Ag Mag” specialty crops publication to students. Additionally, the counties have purchased educator guides to accompany the books. This ensures that teachers have the necessary resources to incorporate agricultural concepts into their lessons. These efforts amount to about $13,000 worth of materials and resources.

Looking ahead, Schaefer says they are growing their teacher resources to provide them with support. One exciting development this year is the launch of a podcast for the essay contest. 

“We will feature Wisconsin fruit farmers in 20-minute episodes. In these we will discuss topics such as growing a Wisconsin fruit, its economic impact, and its nutritional value,” explains Schaefer. “This podcast will serve as an additional tool for teachers and volunteers.”

The Wisconsin Farm Bureau will be hosting a Leadership Boot Camp October 27-28. During this event, Wisconsin Ag in the Classroom will be hosting a volunteer rally. The rally will introduce volunteers to some of their latest resources and materials. 

You can register for the Volunteer Rally at the Leadership Boot Camp on their website.