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South Dakota Adopt-A-Farmer Program Brings Agriculture To Schools

South Dakota fourth graders are getting a taste of what it’s like to be a farmer through Agriculture United’s Adopt-A-Farmer program. The program was created ten years ago to connect youth with Mount Rushmore State’s many farmers.

“The hope is that these students will develop a connection to agriculture and better understand where food comes from through the opportunity to interact directly with the people who raise cattle, pigs, and other animals and those who grow and harvest grains, fruits and vegetables. Organizers also hope it may inspire students toward a farming career.”

Photo Courtesy Max S

The Adopt-A-Farmer program includes both in-person and virtual monthly visits from farmers. Visiting farmers share information about different agricultural jobs with hopes of triggering interest in children working in the industry. The curriculum ties into the fourth graders’ South Dakota history lessons while showing students how science, math, and emerging technologies affect farming.

The program has connected two dozen farmers with studies, reaching nearly 1,000 students and 46 different classrooms from Rapid City to Sioux Falls and many cities and towns in between. Overall, the response from the students has been overwhelming.

“They ask questions like, ‘How big are cows?’ ‘How big is your tractor?’ Very simple things that we in agriculture sometimes take for granted,” said Heidi Zwinger, Agriculture United for South Dakota’s Outreach Director “The kids are just excited to have somebody talk to them and share their story and the farmers a lot of times are hesitant until they get to that first session where they interact with the kids and see how excited the kids are, then they really buy into the program and see the value that it brings in being able to reach those kids and make that connection on where their food comes from.”

Adopt-A-Farmer is a perfect example of Agriculture United’s mission to develop communication between farm life and the state’s economic well-being, educate consumers about food production and engage those who might not understand where our food comes from. Additionally, it raises awareness of the struggles and triumphs of the state’s many farmers and ranchers with the underlying goal of keeping family farms in the family and ranches growing.

Photo Courtesy CDC

The program’s power is in how it changes students’ understanding of the importance of farms. Since its beginning, Legacy Elementary School teacher Kristi Desaulniers, who has been a part of Adopt-A-Farmer, has seen how it positively affects her students.

“For [students] who aren’t connected at all, it gets them thinking a little bit about perhaps how they could be connected to that career field in the future,” she said. “The presenters do a good job of tying in their expertise and promoting agriculture within the state and just helping students better understand how important knowing where food comes from is.

“They are used to going to the grocery store and finding what they need there, not realizing perhaps where the milk comes from or the meat that they’re eating or some of the other food sources that are coming to the stores, how they’re arriving and that they’re maybe just down the road, so making that connection is very insightful for them.”

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