Specialty Crops Coming To Class

Wisconsin Agriculture in the Classroom was a recipient of the federal 2022 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, and it means more curriculum around the state’s specialty crops will be available to classrooms.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service awarded over $1.3 million in 2022 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funding to Wisconsin. This USDA grant will help DATCP fund 14 projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops in the state and support specialty crop growers through marketing, education and research.

Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Ag in the Classroom program collaborated with the Alice in Dairyland program for the $24,000 grant. Coordinator Beth Schaefer says the curriculum will have a soft launch beginning in January. Student and teacher feedback will help polish up the lesson leading up to the 2023 school year.

Since Wisconsin ranks in the top 10 for several commodities, Schaefer says it was challenging to select which specialty crops to focus on in the curriculum. Without giving away too much information, she says they’ve narrowed it down to about 10 crops in a very interactive set-up. The curriculum will also explore Wisconsin topography and geography so that agriculture can tie into other subjects learned at the fourth grade level.

“Thinking about where our food comes from based on what our land looks like is a way that we can connect agriculture to what students are learning about Wisconsin in fourth grade,” she says.

What about the other commodities that are major drivers to Wisconsin’s economy? Dairy, corn and soybeans are included in other Ag in the Classroom projects. Right now, Schaefer is working on developing an online learning platform for Ag in the Classroom’s general materials as an alternative to print-outs, saving teachers money.

Educators are also encouraged to apply for grants at wisagclassroom.org. In October, Ag in the Classroom program awarded $4,000 to schools and educators to support innovative core curricula initiatives that incorporate agriculture.