Agriculture Storybook Time at the Morgan County Fair

Reading and agriculture have always been a daily part of my life. Growing up my mother always read to me. She instilled a love for reading and education that has stayed with me into my adult life and professional career. My farmer father, planted my passion for agriculture in me that has also helped me attain some of my personal and professional goals. Those goals lead me to become a teacher and an active advocate for agriculture in my community. I am a teacher at Monrovia Elementary School and a first year Morgan County Fair Board member. One of the many reasons I wanted to join the board was to use my experience in education to help promote agriculture to the general public. I saw the county fair as a perfect platform to present agriculture education materials. With this goal in mind, I presented an idea to the board to incorporate reading and agriculture, Agriculture Storybook Time. This idea is much like the storybook events that happen at your local libraries or bookstores where children gather around to listen to someone read a story. This new event will take place at the Morgan County Fair (July 29 – Aug. 6) everyday on the Free Stage. There will be two opportunities to hear stories about agriculture at 11:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. A different book about agriculture will be read each time by a volunteer from the community.

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These are some of the books that will be read.

As a lifelong member of Morgan County and 10 Year 4-H Member, I have attended the Morgan County fair since I was a baby. As the years have passed, I have noticed the need for more educational events for small children and their families to participate in during the fair. Agriculture Storybook Time gives children and their families an opportunity to do something at the fair as a family and to participate in an agricultural education experience. Studies have shown the importance of reading to a child for at least 20 minutes a day and the great impact it can have on a child’s development. Reading and/or listening to someone else read helps children’s brain and literacy skills develop. With the busy schedules families have today, it is hard to get in that special reading time especially during the summer months. Agriculture Storybook Time will create an opportunity for children to get this important reading time.

In addition to receiving the recommended 20 minutes of reading, children will learn about agriculture and what farmers do on their farms through the books I have selected to be read during Agriculture Storybook Time. Every child and their family members are consumers, but many are so far removed from the farm and where their food comes from they don’t understand the work farmers are doing for them. This opportunity will help bridge the gap between consumers and our farmer producers.

To sum it up, I encourage you to attend our Morgan County Fair (July 29 – Aug 6) and stop by the Free Stage at 11:00 a.m. and/or 5:00 p.m. for Agriculture Storybook Time. I hope you enjoy this special reading time with your family while learning something I am very passionate about, agriculture!

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Agriculture Appreciation Month Summed Up

March is my favorite month of the year.  I love to see everything come to life after it’s long winter rest.  I love seeing new life on the farm.  I also love seeing my family and other farmer friends prepare for the planting season.  To me, January is not for new beginnings, March is.

I also love the month of March because it’s Agriculture Appreciation Month and there is nothing I enjoy more than educating, promoting,  AGvocating, and appreciating farmers and all their hard work they do for me.

This year to celebrate those hands that feed us, my sister, mother, and I donated books about agriculture to all of the elementary school libraries in our home county of Morgan County.  We donated them in memory of my father, Tim Thomas, who passed away in a farming accident 6 years ago.  Our hope is for the librarians, teachers, and students to use these books to help educate their students and/or themselves about the importance of agriculture and farmers.  I enjoyed picking out the books and educator guides we donated.  It was so hard to only donate a couple! So, my sister, mom, and I decided we will continue to donate and grow the ag book bundles for each library in Morgan County in the years to come.

As a teacher I have many opportunities to teach my students about agriculture. Throughout “Ag Week” (March 14-18) I read many books about farmers, farming, and ag products to help my students understand what farmers do for them and how they get their food and other products they need to live.  After we read the books and watched MANY Peterson Farm Brothers videos we brainstormed and wrote down facts about farmers and farming on our planning sheets.  Then, my students took their notes to write sentences about farmers.  After their writing was complete I let them create their own farmers.  My students had so much fun doing this!

I did a lesson on seeds and plants with my kindergarten class.  We read books about what all seeds need to grow for them to turn into the plants we eat.  Then we made seed necklaces.  This was a fun way for them to learn about seeds and then take their seed home and plant it if they wish.

As a member of the Morgan County Young Farmers I helped some of our young farmers go into classrooms in our county to read agriculture books to students.  Our president, Patrick Maxwell, visited a school in Mooseville’s school district.  He read to his cousin’s students.  Our secretary, Maggie Voyles, visited South Elementary, a school in Martinsville’s school district.  Joe Cleveland, our treasurer visited Monrovia Elementary school and member, Wayne Vaught, visited Eminence Elementary.  Together our young farmer group reached every school district in our county to help educate students about ag.  I was so proud of our young farmers for doing this and I hope to plan more visits to schools in our county for our members.

At my school, Monrovia Elementary School, I planned an Agriculture Appreciation convocation.  All of the students in my school building came to the gym.  There I gave a quick little speech about famers and farming and why it is important we know what they do and to thank them every chance we get.  Then, my principal, Mrs. York, read How Did That Get in my LunchBox?  This book was one of the books we donated in honor of my Dad.  I also made a power point of the pages so our students could see the colorful book pages as Mrs. York read aloud.  When she finished reading I played the Peterson Farm Brothers’ video, I’m so Farmer.  The students and staff absolutely loved the songs and message!

This month I also cowrote an article with my sister, Katie, about women in agriculture that was published in our local newspaper.  I love writing with my sister.  Agriculture has connected us in such a unique way and we love sharing our writing on our blogs and in our hometown publication.

To sum it up, March provides opporutinties for me to share the story of agriculture.  Please say a prayer for farmers as the prepare for the busy planting season.  Pray for safe travel to and from the fields.  Pray for good weather to get the crop in the ground.  And always, always praise and be thankful for their hard work.  Do your part to appreciate agriculture and thank a farmer.

  

Celebrate the Year of the Farmer

By Sarah Thomas and Katie Thomas Glick

It’s the “Year of the Farmer” at the great Indiana State Fair and we are so excited that our favorite people and their hard work they do for each one of us will be featured. Honestly, every year is the “year of the farmer” because without them there would be nothing to showcase at the county and state fairs or growing in the many farm fields throughout the country. There would be no animals that 4­-H members raised or selected from a farm for their projects. There would be no fair food that has everyone marking their calendars for when they get to put their hands around a delicious tenderloin sandwich or pork burger. Or an ear of buttery sweet corn that you know will get stuck in your teeth, but honestly don’t care because it happens to everyone!

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The Indiana State Fair dates are August 7 – 23. A farmer or a farm family that represents different components of Indiana agriculture will be featured every day at the State Fair. There will be aquaculture (fish), corn, soybean, wheat, apple, mint, pumpkin, strawberries, tomato, beef, chicken/egg, dairy, sheep, swine, tree/hardwood, and wine farmers. They have graciously opened up their farms and businesses to tell their agriculture story, and each one will be showcased throughout many exhibits on the fairgrounds.

Our Morgan County Fair is also honoring farmers, keeping with the same theme as the Indiana State Fair, “Year of the Farmer ­ Feeding America in the Past, Present, and Future”. The dates for our county fair are July 31 – August 8. There will be many farmers attending 4­-H livestock shows, walking through the Merchants Building and eating at the many different food tents. They will be more than happy to talk to you about what they do on their farms and in their fields. Attending our county fair is a great way to educate yourself on agriculture and the people that are involved in the industry that provides food for you and your family.

We believe in the importance of educating others about farmers and our family farm businesses. We want you to understand how farmers have worked hard in the past and present, and how they will continue that hard work in the future because we need them to. Today, one U.S. Farmer feeds 155 people. In 1960, a Farmer fed only 26 people. Farmers are producing more food on less land while using less water and fuel. They work extremely hard to make sure that we have a variety of safe food to put on your tables and theirs. Farmers also understand that you, the consumer, may not know what exactly their job entails. They want you to trust them and know that they do have your best interest in hand because they also have to look after the best interest of their families. More and more farmers and farm families are welcoming people to take a glimpse into their world­­, their job and their livelihood, it’s one in the same.

Forever our favorite farmer, our Dad, Tim Thomas.

Forever our favorite farmer, our Dad, Tim Thomas.

Agritourism is becoming more popular throughout our state. It’s when farmers open up their farms or facilities to the public to help educate consumers on where their food comes from and how it gets to our tables. With the huge disconnect among consumers to the family farm in today’s society, agritourism has become essential for farmers to showcase their businesses and livelihoods. Our county and state fairs are a great example of agritourism, but there are other agritourism opportunities that are available in Morgan County. Driving around our county you see the abundant corn and soybean fields, but there are other products being grown or raised in the county. You can go to Hunter’s Honey Farm to get local honey or to pick out and chop down a beautiful Christmas tree for your home. In the fall you can visit Anderson Apple Orchard for all your apples and to pick out that perfect pumpkin to create your Jack ­ o ­ Lantern. Visit Willowfield Lavender Farm to see the pretty purple colors and smell the aroma of lavender while touring the farm and purchase some of their lavender products. Morgan County is also home to many in the aquaculture business. Clear Creek, Curtis, and Ozark Fisheries raise their fish in the ponds you may see on your drive. The Morgan County Farmers Market is another great showcase of the products our local farmers work hard to produce. The market is open May ­ September with locations in Martinsville (Saturdays 9-1 PM), Mooresville (Tuesdays 3­-6 PM), and Monrovia (Saturdays 12­-3 PM).

Agritourism is also taking the Internet by storm! Many farmers have created personal blogs to share their farms with consumers. What is a blog? A blog is like an online journal. It’s a perfect tool for farmers to use to document what happens on their farms. Many use pictures and try to simplify agricultural terms for you to better understand what they are doing. Here is a list of some of our favorite farmer and agriculture blogs we recommend:

The Farmer’s Life: http://thefarmerslife.com

Agriculture Proud: http://agricultureproud.com

Boilermaker Ag: http://boilermakerag.com

From My Front Porch: http://www.jentsfrontporch.com

Fancy in the Country: http://fancyinthecountry.blogspot.com

Sarah Sums It Up: http://sarahsumsitup.com

We hope that you are able to visit our great Indiana State Fair and the Morgan County Fair to show your support of Indiana Agriculture and to honor those hands that feed us, the American Farmer.

My brother in-law, Brett Glick on his farm in Columbus, IN. Photo Credit: Katie Thomas Glick

My brother in-law, Brett Glick on his farm in Columbus, IN. Photo Credit: Katie Thomas Glick

Ag Day 2015

Happy National Ag Day!  I am excited this year’s theme is “Agriculture: Sustaining Future Generations” because I get to work with our future generation almost every day.  I am excited for their future and hope many of them choose a path in agriculture.  I know my kindergarten, first, and second grade students are a long way from deciding what to do with their future, but it is my job to help lead them there.  It just so happens I am a little biased about the  opportunities ag has to offer them and will promote them as much as I can while they are in my classroom.

Below is a piece my sister, Katie and I wrote together.  To sum it up, we ask that you join with us today in celebrating the past, present, and most importantly future of agriculture.

Ag Day 2015: Celebrate Agriculture & Our Next Generation of Farmers

As we praise the warm weather and new beginnings that spring brings, we want to remind you that our farmers are starting to gather in the fields to produce this year’s crop and the food that comes to your table each and every day.

This year’s National Agriculture Day is March 18th and the theme is “Agriculture: Sustaining Future Generations”. This is a day to celebrate and support agriculture and the people that work in the agriculture industry even though we hope many of you celebrate more than one day of the year. These “people” are the farmers and ranchers that grow crops, raise, and care for livestock and tend to the land.

When we think of farmers, many times we think of overalls and a pitchfork. But in today’s agriculture world, more and more farmers are communicating via their smart phone from their tractors and using technologies that make our farms more efficient. The old pitchforks have turned into iPads. Even with the adoption of new technologies, we still face issues within agriculture. Many people outside the agriculture family don’t realize the issues we are facing today with aging farmers. Today, the average American farmer or rancher is 55 years old or older. Young people are not returning to the farm to work and take over the age-old tradition of farming. Instead they are looking elsewhere for more “attractive” jobs that have a typical 9-5 hour schedule, vacation days and less physically demanding work.

This is everyone’s problem because we need the next generation of farmers and ranchers to raise our crops and livestock to sustain our lifestyles as consumers. With the world population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, who will grow and raise our food? We need a next generation of farmers, ranchers and agriculturists to take on that task. Whether they come back to the farm or ranch to work, work for companies that create the technologies used on the farms, or help develop policies farmers and ranchers need to sustain their family farms, we need someone to take on the task. Also, we need people to teach the next generation about agriculture and where their food comes from. Without a doubt, there are many jobs that need to be filled in the agriculture industry.

Living in Indiana we are lucky to have various options for the next generation to be a part of this agriculture family. We have a strong agriculture sector ranging from a leading land grant university that provides educational and extension services to every citizen and a growing technology and innovation sector that includes companies like Dow AgroSciences and Elanco. We also have seed companies that provide more innovative agronomic tools for our farms and a livestock sector that provides food to people around the world. Our Indiana agriculture sector generates more than $25.4 billion towards Indiana’s gross domestic product and employees more than 475,000 Hoosiers, which attributes to roughly 20% of our workforce.

So how you can you help find the next generation of farmers, ranchers and members of the agriculture family? Encourage a young person to learn more about jobs in agriculture. Attend a forum or meeting that discusses ag issues and policies that affect our farming and our food. Visit local events, county and state fairs and farms to show your support of famers and ranchers. Educate yourself on local, state, national and world food and ag issues. Support your local FFA chapters, 4-H clubs, or young farmer groups. Let them know that they are needed and that you really need them too.

Agriculture is a part of our heritage and we hope it continues to be a strong part of our future in Indiana and in our country. As farm girls who wore overalls, loved showing animals and eating sweet corn from our own farm, we hope you take a moment to celebrate National Ag Day today and every day with us. Do your part in sustaining agriculture’s future generations which include you too.

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Celebrate National Ag Month With Us

This month is National Agriculture Month.  With spring right around the corner, March is a perfect month to plant seeds and share the story of agriculture with people.  My sister, Katie and I are passionate about working together to share and educate others about the work farmers and ranchers do for us.

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We loved visiting the sunflower fields with Dad. To this day they are my favorite flower.

Katherine, (that’s what I call her) recently started her own blog, Fancy in the Country where she shares stories about being a farmer’s wife and her life of all things fancy and country.  She also uses her blog as an outlet to share her passion of agriculture.  I started my blog for similar reasons, but the thing I love most about our blogs is they share stories about our father.  The first farmer we knew and loved.  That passion we use and share so immensely in our writing came from him.  He taught us to do things with passion or not at all.  He taught Katherine first and then me.  Now that he is no longer with us, I look to her for this guidance.  Boy she does a fantastic job filling his shoes!

My sister is the most passionate person I know.  I am so lucky and blessed that I get to do this thing called life with her.  I also love that within the past year we have combined our writing skills, thoughts, expertise, and ideas to produce some of the work we share on our blogs.  Looking back I think it’s ironic that the first piece we wrote together was the eulogy we read at our father’s funeral over 5 years ago.  I like to think of it as Dad’s way of making us work together and to discover we have a way with our words when they are written together.  I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for us as we continue to work together in sharing our passion for agriculture.

To sum it up, I ask you to celebrate National Agriculture Month with us!  Mark your calendars for Ag Day on March 18th and stay tuned for more from the Thomas Sisters!

Summing It Up: II

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I haven’t had much time for writing. Well that isn’t true, I have been writing everyday. Turns out I got a teaching job as a writing teacher! So, not only am I writing everyday, but I am talking about writing all the time too.

I am a kindergarten, first, and second grade writing teacher at an elementary school in my home county. It is the perfect fit for me. I am enjoying and learning so much as a first year teacher. I knew this time wasn’t going to be easy, but I am constantly seeing the rewards and blessings from all the work. Teaching is quite rewarding. I am glad I didn’t give up my  dream of teaching and having my own classroom.

As a writing teacher I am teaching my young writers all about the writing process and what writers write about. I am so busy trying to get them to write and find ideas to write about that I have put my own writing on the back burner. Then I did a lesson about how writers can write anywhere and about anything. So, I decided I better get back to it. I need to practice what I teach. Here is a part II to a similar post I did “Summing It Up.”

Making: lots of lesson plans for my kindergarten, first, and second grade students
Cooking: nothing. Still working on getting the motivation to do this
Drinking: black coffee
Reading: over my lesson plans and state standards
Wanting: more time in the day
Looking: still looking for that road less traveled
Playing: lots of Red Dirt music
Wasting: thoughts and ideas not written
Sewing: knowledge into my students
Wishing: all my favorite people were in the same place
Enjoying: the changing leaves
Praying: for a safe harvest season
Liking: how things do workout for the better
Wondering: what the next chapter will be
Loving: my new teaching job, my students, staff and the community my school is in
Hoping: the weather stays nice so farmers can stay in the fields
Marveling: at these pictures I took a couple of weeks ago in Kansas
Needing: a good book to read. Suggestions are always welcomed!
Smelling: the beautiful fall days
Wearing: boots. Boot season is finally here!
Following: still trying to follow God’s plan
Noticing: people and times are changing
Knowing: I am blessed beyond measure
Thinking: I need to head west again very soon
Opening: new chapters in my life
Giggling: at all the funny things my students say and/or write to me
Feeling: still just dandy

To sum it up, stay tuned for much more writing! Have a fabulous fall day!

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The Definition of a Hoosier

“There are two things that really define a Hoosier: basketball and agriculture.”

— Indiana Lt. Gov and Secretary of Agriculture, Sue Ellspermann

Many Indiana farmers, ag industry leaders, FFA members, and state lawmakers celebrated Indiana Agriculture at the State House yesterday. March is Agriculture Appreciation Month here in this flyover state. I know that I will be doing my part in showing how much I appreciate Indiana farmers and their families and I hope that you will too.

Yesterday I read “How Did That Get Into My Lunchbox: The Story of Food” by Chris Buttersworth to my first grade class. Before I read the book I explained to the students that March is Ag Appreciation Month in Indiana. Many of the students had never heard the word “agriculture.” We had a conversation about what ag is and what it means to Indiana. I was so excited to teach them about ag, but I was also heartbroken that the first time they ever heard the word was when they were six years old.

At the Ag Appreciation celebration yesterday at the State House, Indiana Lt. Gov and Secretary of Ag, Sue Ellspermann summed up why Indiana is such a great state, “There are two things that really define a Hoosier: basketball and agriculture.” I could not agree more! She also said, “It is important that we tell the story of Indiana agriculture to those outside our industry.” I hope that many farmers and ag industry leaders share their story as often as they can. We must bridge the gap between farmers and consumers.

To sum it up, Indiana = agriculture.

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How To…

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My first graders have been working on writing “How To’s” in class. They are learning how to write with details and use words that describe time and events (i.e. First, Then, After, Next, Finally). I have seen “How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.” “How to Shoot a Basketball.” So far my favorite is, “How to Write a Book.” The little girl asked me to help her come up three steps to describe how to write a book. So, I asked her, “What does an author need to decide on before he puts words on paper?” She told me that they need to find something to write about. Then I said, “Yes! They need a topic. What do you think they need to do after they have their topic?” She said they have to have some characters. Again I told her yes and asked, “What do you think authors do once they have their characters picked out?” She told me then they can write a story.

I love that she chose “How to Write a Book.” I hope that one day she uses her own “How To” and writes a book with her own story to tell. That’s why writers write. They see something and want to share their own story. A story that no one else can write but them. My goal later in life is to become a children’s book author because I see something that no one else does and I can’t wait to tell my story and share it with all of you.

Happy Wednesday! Do you have a story to tell?

Need a Pep Talk?

We all need a pep talk every now and then and it’s even better when it comes from someone smaller, younger and more optimistic than you.  I am in my final stretch of my college career.  Senioritis is kicking in a little bit.  I am excited to graduate and be done with school.  It has been a long four years and I am definitely over writing papers and all the reading.  At the same time I am terrified to enter the real world and get a grown up job.  I just need a pep talk every now and then to remind me that I am ready.  To tell me “its time to do something.”  I am going to come upon many many roads that diverge into two.  I hope that I choose the one less traveled because I too “want to be on the road that leads to awesome.”

What will be your Space Jam? What will you create that will make the world awesome? Have you thought about it or started going after it?  If not here’s a little pep talk to get you going.  To sum it up, I know I am ready to “create something awesome!”

Happy Wednesday and remember “we’re all on the same team.  We were made to be awesome.”

Photo Friday: A Dying Art

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Last night I worked on signing, addressing, and stamping my Christmas cards. Christmas cards are one of my favorite things about Christmas for a few reasons:

1.) They are a great way to give AND receive the Christmas spirit

2.) They are so personal

3.) I love the cards with pictures. Especially the cards with family and friends’ little ones on them (I don’t love how old they make me feel when I realize how fast those little ones are growing up).

I hope people continue to send Christmas cards. To put it simply, sending and receiving cards of any kind, letters, postcards, invitations is a dying art. More people use social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to send their messages to others. I love social media I do, but I also love sending and receiving snail mail. I’m that girl that put stationary on her Christmas wish list, if that gives you any idea just how much I love the art of letter writing. My grandmother went to Hallmark to get me some for Christmas. When she asked the sales person, the woman replied, “We don’t have many choices for stationary. It’s a dying art.” The woman at HALLMARK, a card making company said that!! Call me old fashioned, say I’m an old soul, call me crazy, I don’t care, I will always send snail mail! It’s so personal and lovely. I just hope more people out there love it the way I do.

Most of my generation does not understand the importance of writing and sending a hand written letter. I’m sure many do not send thank you letters after job interviews. I know for a fact that many do not understand how to send a RSVP (I am guilty of this at times). My generation has gotten lazy. They think sending a text or email will get the job done. For me, those forms of communication do not even come close to a hand written letter. You better believe I will teach letter writing in whatever classroom setting I’ll be teaching in in the future!

I have a friend who feels the same way I do about this lost art. You can read her blogpost about the matter here.

To sum it up, please continue to send your Christmas cards, birthday cards, letters of congratulations, wedding and party invites, or just a simple note to your friends. The receiver will greatly appreciate them, I am sure of it!

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