Story By: Taylor Pires, Associate Editor
Whether home is the rural countryside or the population dense metropolis, California agriculture affects us all. This leads to the importance of educating consumers and how agriculture enriches our daily lives. The California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom, or Ag in the Classroom, has made its mission to inform the more than 7 million California students of how food gets on their table, clothes are put on their back and a roof is put over their head.
Judy Culbertson, executive director of Ag in the Classroom, shared what the program sets out to accomplish. “We help educators integrate basic agricultural information into existing curricular areas such as mathematics, science, language arts and social studies.” Ag in the Classroom accomplishes this through developing curriculum, supporting school nutrition and garden efforts, rewarding students who write stories about agriculture and hosting an educator conference every year, among many other things.
Ag in the Classroom accomplishes so much with the help of their dedicated staff, almost half of which is made up of Cal Poly alumni.
Judy Culbertson graduated from the Agriculture Business Management major in 1979 and has been working for Ag in the Classroom since the program first began in 1986.
Stephanie Etcheverria is the program coordinator and graduated in 2005 with a double major in Agricultural Business and Wine and Viticulture.
Mindy (Burris) DeRohan, communication coordinator, graduated in 2010 as an Agriculture Science major and Agricultural Communications minor and is completing an M.S. in Agricultural Business.
Lastly, Mandi (Bartleson) Bottoms was the foundation’s curriculum and evaluation specialist for the last 3 years and graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in Agriculture Science and a Masters in Agriculture in 2009. Mandi and her husband Tommy are currently on a two-year mission trip in Africa where Mandi will continue to educate and teach elementary students, and Tommy will used his knowledge to work with local farmers.
These alumni are taking what they have learned from Cal Poly and applying it to their current positions. “Ag in the classroom shares Cal Poly’s philosophy of Learn by Doing,” Culbertson said. “We have a long history of offering hands-on demonstrations and activities that help our audience understand the lifelong lessons that stem from agriculture.”
Hosting farm days is among the good work that Ag in the Classroom does for California students. In 2011, they celebrated their 25th anniversary by hosting San Francisco Farm Day, with some help from Cal Poly. Over 10,000 urban students were able to experience agriculture through Cal Poly clubs, students, professors and alumni. The event was also made possible with the help of farmers, ranchers and hundreds of volunteers.
Another Ag in the Classroom event is California Agriculture Day, which will be held at the California State Capitol on March 20, 2013. Ag in the Classroom is working in partnership with California Women for Agriculture and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to put on this event, whose theme is “The California Advantage.” The Capitol will play host to farm animals, agricultural entertainment and the World’s Largest School Lunch Tray. There will be 43 agriculture organizations representing what California agriculture has to offer, the 5 F’s: food, fiber, flowers, fuel and forest. By incorporating the theme “The California Advantage,” there will also be a focus on the benefits of California’s people, climate, infrastructure, soil, water and sun.
The Cal Poly alumni that help make Ag in the Classroom the program it is today, take pride in their education and sharing the value of agriculture with California educators and students.
To learn more about the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom and the resources it provides, visit LearnAboutAg.org.