By Debra Davis
Jen Nicholson sees over 600 students a week as the library media specialist at Inverness Elementary School in Shelby County. After attending an American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture workshop, she discovered lots of new tools to interest her students in science, technology, engineering and math.
Nichols was one of 60 educators from across the nation chosen to attend the workshop June 21-23 in Syracuse, New York. She was Alabama’s only representative.
“It was a wonderful program and very well done,” Nicholson said. “I met folks from throughout the agriculture industry and other educators from across the country. It was great talking to them about what we learned and about how we plan to use those things for students.”
In addition to the workshop in Syracuse, the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture also sponsored a workshop in Kansas. The On The Farm experience seeks to build awareness, understanding and a positive public perception of agriculture through education. Nicholson said the programs hit each target.
“Our unit was based around beef cattle production and covered everything from birth to harvest,” Nicholson said. “We talked directly to farmers, and they were completely transparent about everything. I thought it was fascinating to learn how much beef producers rely on genetics to help improve their herds. It was also interesting to learn that raising a calf to harvest is basically a two-year process and a lot goes into it before you have the possibility of a profit.”
Nicholson said she has several activities in mind for students thanks to what she learned. She’s planning a basic genetics workshop, a program on crop and forage rotation, and possibly an exercise focused on a cow’s life cycle.
“I found that farmers really care about the animals they raise and are concerned about improving the environment,” she said.
The Alabama Farmers Federation is a member of the American Farm Bureau. Visit On The Farm resources page to learn more.
The Beef Checkoff Program funded development of the On The Farm training and resources. The checkoff was established as part of the 1985 farm bill. It assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. In states with qualified beef councils, states may retain up to 50 cents of the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to U.S. Department of Agriculture approval.