The average American may eat 125 pounds of potatoes each year, but corn is actually America's number one field crop, providing ingredients for cereals, peanut butter, snack foods and soft drinks. The average person eats 68 quarts of popcorn a year alone! Use a trip to an agricultural farm to find out where our fruits and vegetables come from. Compare organic, pesticide-free, and genetically engineered crops. Research the products made possible by crops grown in the U.S. (shampoos, crayons, and baseball bats all come from agricultural products, for example). Ask your local farm about the benefits of eating local or growing your own garden.
Students explore the process of growing/raising, packaging, and transporting food.
BEFORE YOU GO
- Ask farm staff about subject-specific tours on topics such as healthy or local eating.
- Ask about hands-on farming activities available for students.
- Find out what crops will be in season. Try to arrange a tasting session.
- Find out what livestock the farm raises. Try to arrange a petting/viewing session.
- With students, make a list of ingredients for meals they have eaten. Try to discover how and where these ingredients are produced on the farm when you visit.
WHAT TO WONDER
Ask: How does the cheese on your pizza, the eggs in your omelet, or the chicken in your McNuggets get from the farm to your table?
Observe the smells, the sounds, the feel, and the sights of the various crops, livestock, and farm equipment.
Describe a day in the life of a farmer.
Opinion: Do you enjoy working outside, caring for animals, or planting a garden? Why or why not?
Compare two farm animals, including what foods they produce.
Challenge students to come up with a food or product produced by each crop or animal seen on the farm.
Discuss the advantages/disadvantages of: eating local foods, using pesticides, small farms vs. factory farms, and growing your own food.
Research the steps that food takes to reach our dinner tables: Production, Processing, Transportation. Here are a few useful websites: From the Farm to Your Table: Where Does Our Food Come From? http://yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1997/7/97.07.07.x.html
Farm Machines http://sciencenetlinks.com/lessons/farming-1-farm-machines/
Project: Write a creative narrative telling the life story of one type of food. Create and label a map with the types of food produced in each geographic region. Throw a tasting party with ingredients you learned about on the farm.
Social Impact: Explore the environmental impact of transporting food and complete a service-learning project that promotes local eating. You can even lead by example by organizing a school garden.