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Ag in the Classroom


ag in the classroomMark Twain once said, "Buy land. They're not making it anymore." More than a century later Twain's statement rings even truer as we continue to see farmland disappear as it is developed into neighborhoods, malls and office parks. Today, children in the United States are less likely to experience farm life than previous generations. Not only will they not experience agriculture hands-on, many do not realize food comes from the farm rather than the store. 

Agriculture in the Classroom's (AITC) mission is to educate children (Pre-K to 5th grade) throughout the United States about the importance of agriculture in their daily lives. For the past 30 years, Virginia AITC has been providing resources to teachers to educate their classes on the direct link between agriculture and our health, well-being and economy. Through AITC's various outreach efforts over 1,900 teachers educated 56,000 plus children about agriculture in Virginia last year.

Southern States has been a proud supporter of AITC since 1993.  We are committed to improving the communities where we have a presence through helping our neighbors understand and appreciate agriculture. That's why we support the AITC program both by sending employees to volunteer in the classroom and through financial contributions. Karen Davis, Executive Director, Virginia Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom says, "We greatly value our partnership with Southern States and couldn't find a better partner to work with."

Each spring, Southern States takes part in Virginia Agriculture Literacy Week. In 2013, we had 24 volunteers go to 31 classrooms in or around the Richmond area. Each volunteer read the AITC book of the year to a class and completed agriculture activities with the students. Literacy week was a huge hit for both our volunteers and the students. Davis explains, "Southern States called us and asked for another book to read!" All of the books read were purchased by Southern States and donated to the schools to provide a lasting agriculture learning resource.

In addition to simply reading to the classes, several Southern States employees brought agriculture to the classroom through their real life examples. "We had one employee take photos from her family farm to show the children what a farm really looked like," explains Beth McMahon, SSERV Employee Volunteer Program Coordinator for Southern States. "Another brought in various hats and asked the student which hat was best suited for which farming activity."

As a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, AITC relies on donations from individuals and corporations to accomplish its mission. Not only is Southern States a corporate sponsor, but our very own Joe Will serves as Vice Chairman of the VA foundation for AITC Board of Directors.  As a board member Mr. Will assists with fundraising efforts. 
We also help raise money in other fun ways.  At Southern States headquarters each spring and fall there is a $5 jeans day where employees can donate money for the ability to wear jeans at work on a given day, with all funds going to AITC.  For those active folks, Southern States is a sponsor of the annual AITC charity golf tournament and AITC Stampede 5K fundraiser race.

The 2014 Agriculture Literacy Week will be celebrated on March 23-29. AITC encourages volunteers from the agriculture community to share agriculture's story by reading AITC's Book of the Year to a group of PK-2 children.

This year's Book of the Year is What's in the Garden? by Marianne Berkes. Told in riddle form, this book will introduce children to many new fruits and vegetables. Detailed artwork from Virginia illustrator Cris Arbo depicts plant parts and other garden creatures.

Interested in finding out more about AITC? Visit http://www.agintheclass.org/.


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