Agriculture Across the USA
Target Grade Level / Age Range:
Students will use knowledge of climate and landforms to study food production regions throughout the United States.
- Iowa Ag Today Issue 4
- Crops and Livestock Picture Sheets.pdf
- Smartboard or whiteboard & dry erase markers
- Tape or magnets (to put crops on map)
- Research materials
- Books, tablets, computers, etc.
Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)
- Iowa Ag Today magazine, issue 4, Agriculture in Society
- Agriculture - the production of crops and livestock for food, fiber and/or fuel.
- Crops - plants grown for food for fiber.
- Livestock – animals raised by farmers for food or other products we use.
- West coast - the western coast of the U.S., bordering the Pacific Ocean and comprising the coastal areas of California, Oregon, and Washington.
- Rocky Mountains - the chief mountain system in North America, extending from central New Mexico to Alaska.
- Midwest - United States region including area around Great Lakes & in upper Mississippi River valley from Ohio —sometimes considered to include Kentucky on the E to North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, & Kansas on the W
- South - to or toward the south
- Northeast – to, toward, or in the northeast
Background – Agricultural Connections (what would a teacher need to know to be able to teach this content)
- This lesson uses five main regions (plus Alaska and Hawaii). The regions are grouped based on commonalities within their agricultural sectors. They are as follows:
- West Coast
- The west coast includes Washington, Oregon, and California. These states are noted for fruit production (like apples, strawberries, and grapes), nut production, and vegetable production. California is also a major dairy producer. Washington and Oregon have more mild temperatures and plenty of rain. Fruit production is prevalent there. California is home to many types of agriculture, as it spans so far north and south. California has three main regions that range in production from cotton and sugar beets to vegetables, grapes, dairy, and potatoes.
- Rocky Mountains
- The Rocky Mountain Region consists of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. As this region is relatively dry, things like wheat, hay, and rangeland livestock like beef and dairy cattle, and sheep are raised here.
- Rangeland cattle and sheep may look different from the cattle and sheep seen in the Midwest. Since these animals need to walk farther to get the amount of grass needed to feed themselves, they can be leaner and more rugged. The dry air also lends itself better to wool production than our humid air does, so sheep in this region tend to be “white face breeds” or wool producing breeds. In the Midwest, we tend to raise “black face breeds” or meat breeds of sheep. They have these nicknames, as the coloring between the two breed types is generally split with white faces and black faces.
- The Midwest is much less dry than the Rocky Mountain states, and this extra rain and humidity lends itself well to corn production. Soybeans are often rotated between years of corn, and these two crops are used to feed many kinds of livestock, like pigs, chickens, turkeys, and cattle.
- In the northern Midwest, sugar beets and vegetable crops for canning are grown. Wisconsin is known for its dairy production, as well. In Kansas, more wheat is grown. The wetter parts of the Midwest, like Iowa, don’t grow as much wheat, as it performs better when it can avoid fungi with dry air.
- The South is notable for many things, including cotton and fruit. Peaches, citrus fruits, etc., are abundant in the southeast. Chickens are also raised in the south. Here, chickens are raised more for meat (these chickens are called “broilers”) whereas in Iowa we primarily raise chickens for egg production (we call these chickens “layers”).
- The top seven boiler producing states are all in the south! This includes Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, and Kentucky.
- However, Texas is the 5 th largest egg producing state, as well. (6, 7, and 8 are Georgia, North Carolina, and Arkansas, respectively.)
- Berries are prevalent in the Northeast, as well as mushrooms and maple syrup production. You can also find aquaculture and forestry in the Northeast. This region is notable for its forested areas and cold winters. In this region, large, plowed fields will not be common, but high-dollar crops that can be grown in small areas, the ocean, or woodland areas can be.
- Reindeer aren’t a myth! These creatures as well as musk oxen can be raised outdoors in the winters of Alaska with little trouble. Some other important commodities in the state include hay, dairy, potatoes, and greenhouse and nursery crops. Alaska is also known for seafood and forestry.
- Hawaii’s agriculture utilizes their warm temps and long growing season to produce bananas, pineapple, and coffee. These production systems are very different from other types of crop production, and are quite different from what students imagine. For instance, pineapples don’t grow on trees, they grow from bush-type plants on the ground. Bananas grow pointing upward, not hanging down like we store them at home. And coffee beans don’t come off the tree brown! They are roasted to turn this color.
- West Coast
- Though there are multiple examples here from each region, this is not an all-inclusive list. Corn is grown in all 50 states, for example. Some types of livestock, like cattle, sheep, and goats, might just have different breeds in different regions. Some breeds of cattle are more heat-tolerant, for example, so those breeds are found in the southern states, whereas more winter-hardy breeds are raised in the Midwest. The grouping of crops for this activity only highlights a few of the major products in each region.
- For each crop, there might be a different reason why it is grown in the location it is. Use this opportunity to talk about economic concepts such as comparative advantage, trade, and cost of production. You can also use this to talk about Earth and life science concepts such as biomes, landforms, habitats, ecosystems, etc.
Interest Approach or Motivator
Ask students if they have traveled outside of Iowa. Discuss how these places were similar and different that Iowa, focusing on weather, soil, plants, and animals they observed.
- Divide students into 7 groups. Explain to the students that each group will receive a different group of crops.
- Hand out the Crops and Livestock Picture Sheets (attached document) sheets, one page per group. Have the students in the group look over their photos and talk about where they might be grown.
- Using a projector, project the map (attached document) onto either a Smartboard or whiteboard. Take a few minutes to talk about what landforms are in each of the colored regions. When a student has an idea of a landform in a region, allow them to write it on the board on that region.
- If students are having a hard time thinking of landforms, help them think through it. For instance, if they don’t know what the Northeast looks like, have them say things they do know about the Northeast. The states are small, there are many big cities, the Pittsburgh Steelers are there (a Segway into their mining industry), etc. Help them connect those ideas to what their agriculture might look like.
- Then, take a few minutes to talk about climate in each of these regions. Again, let students write their ideas for climate in each of the regions.
- Direct students back to their photo cards. Have them discuss in their groups where they think their crops and livestock belong. Allow them to do research using books and the Internet.
- When students have a good idea of where their foods are grown, have them attach them to the correct region on the board (using tape, magnets, etc.).
- Once everyone is done putting their pictures on, ask them to self-check their work using pages 4 & 5 of Iowa Ag Today, Issue 4.
- Have an open discussion as to why the crops grow where they do. Why not in other areas? How does this connect to the landforms and climate already discussed? What surprised them?
Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)
Did you know? (Ag facts)
- Iowa is the #2 state for income from crops and livestock, even though it is much smaller than the two other states (California & Texas) in the top three.
- Iowa is the #1 corn, soybean, egg, and pork producing state.
- Iowa is #8 in turkey production.
- Iowa is #10 in wool production.
- Iowa is #4 in ice cream production.
- The average farm size in Iowa is 345 acres. This in contrast to Wyoming, whose average farm size is 3,743 acres, and Rhode Island, whose average farm size is 71 acres. The U.S. Average for 2014 is 438 acres.
Extension Activities (how students can carry this beyond the classroom)
- Have each group choose one of the crops they were assigned and report back to the rest of the class about it. Let them use tablets, computers, and/or books to do research. Tell them to give the class facts about the crop, such as how to they grow and why they grow where they do.
- Iowa Ag Today Magazine
- Stuff About States: http://stuffaboutstates.com/agriculture/farm_by_average_size.htm
- Alaska Agriculture: http://www.farmflavor.com/alaska-agriculture/
- New England Farmer’s Union: http://www.newenglandfarmersunion.org/about-us/mission/
- Top Broiler Producing States: http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/top-broiler-producing-states/
- United Egg Producers: http://unitedegg.org/GeneralStats/default.cfm
- USDA Poultry Production Data, May 2015: http://www.usda.gov/documents/nass-poultry-stats-factsheet.pdf
National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes
- Agriculture and the Environment:
- T1.K-2.a: Describe how farmers/ranchers use land to grow crops and support livestock
- T1.K-2.d: Provide examples of how weather patterns affect plant and animal growth for food.
- Culture, Society, Economy & Geography:
- T5.K-2.d: Identify plants and animals grown or raised locally that are used for food, clothing, shelter, and landscapes
Iowa Core Standards
- Social Studies
- SS.2.12: Identify how people use natural resources to produce goods and services.
- SS.2.17: Explain how environmental characteristics impact the location of a particular place.
- 2-LS4-1: Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.
- 2-ESS2-2: Develop a model to represent the shapes and kinds of land and bodies of water in an area.
- Language Arts:
- RI.2.1: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
- RI.2.5: Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
- RF.2.3: Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
- SL.2.1: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 2 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
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