New Ag in the Classroom Initiative Turning Heads

GAINESVILLE, GA – Part of Georgia Farm Bureau’s mission is to educate people about agriculture, and how agriculture produces the food and fiber of our lives. The way Georgia Farm Bureau does that is through the GFB Foundation for Agriculture, which was started back in 2014.

“The Georgia Farm Bureau Foundation is an avenue for Farm Bureau members and agricultural enthusiasts around the state to spread the message of Ag in the Classroom, scholarships, leadership development, consumer education, really just in an effort to increase agriculture literacy across the state,” says Katie Duvall, Executive Director for the GFB Foundation.

One of the biggest parts of the foundation is Ag in the Classroom, which is a program that takes volunteers into local schools in the community and teaches lessons to kids about ag. Hall County, which didn’t have an Ag in the Classroom program yet, took the ag in the classroom initiative and modified it to get more people involved.

“We saw the need of bringing agricultural based lessons to the elementary school students in Hall County. So, we got together and decided to create a new name brand that would possibly tie in our community in helping us reach all 26, 27 elementary schools because we knew it was going to be quite a task to be able to do all of that on our own so we come up with the name HallGROWS, which is Hall, for Hall County, Georgia and GROWS stands for growing real opportunities with students,” says Justine Palmer, office manager for Hall County FB.

Just like other Ag in the Classrooms, they would take a volunteer and would go into schools in the county and teach different ag lessons to kids. They didn’t just stop there, though. With their new initiative, they would make it to where they could reach as many classrooms as possible with things like workshops.

“We started deciding, well, we really need to touch more people,” says Palmer.  “So, that’s when we decided to have an educator workshop. At that educator workshop, we were able to bring teachers to us, to give them the tools to be able to send them back to their classrooms and spread it out that way.”

The initiative also focuses on communication with the schools. Like sending them teaching materials in emails each month.

Palmer says, “after we have an educator workshop, they sign up for a monthly e-blast, and that is an email link that goes to them that we designed that focuses on one commodity every month.”

The program has been working so well, the Hall County team got the chance to go to Nashville and showcase their new initiative and share the idea with others at the trade show.

Caroline Lewallen, volunteer for Hall County FB says, “if it’s a brainstorming idea for someone, it helps them jumpstart or start from scratch like we did, an Ag in the Classroom program in their community, then we want to be able to give that idea and share that idea with others.”

Hall County Farm Bureau is very excited about this new initiative that is working so well. However, there are some challenges to making this work efficiently. The main one being manpower.

“We have over 17,000 elementary students just in our county,” says Palmer.  “So, in order to reach all of those and go get them the education of where their food and fiber comes from, it’s going to take some manpower and it’s going to take people to pull together in our community.”

By: John Holcomb