Farm Economics and Food Processing
Target Grade Level / Age Range:
Students will learn about the steps involved in producing food and other goods from farm to our homes, including how farmers use natural resources to grow plants and animals, how they are sold, and how companies turn them into the good we purchase at the store.
- Starbursts candy - one per student
- Chart paper and markers
- Plain white paper
- Optional: various goods with ingredients from corn (list below)
Suggested Companion Resources:
- USDA for kids: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=FOR_KIDS
- The Big Buck Adventure by Shelley Gill
- Consumer-a person who buys and uses up goods
- Producer-someone or something that grows or makes a product
- Good-an item you can buy that you want or need
- Product-something that is made or grown
- Crop-a cultivated plant that is grown as food
- Livestock-farm animals that are raised for profit (to sell)
- Want-something that is desired but isn’t needed to survive
- Need-something that is necessary to survive
- Exchange-giving or taking one thing for another; to trade
- Natural resource-materials such as minerals, water, and fertile land that occur in nature and can be used for economic gain
- Renewable resource-it can be used repeatedly because it is replaced naturally.
Background – Agricultural Connections:
Cargill is a corn milling company located in Eddyville, Iowa. They buy, break down and distribute corn and soybeans into ingredients used by other companies. The breakdown of ingredients is incredibly complex! After being broken down, certain ingredients are manufactured and distributed to other companies for their use in their own products. Some of these products are possibly resold to the farmers that brought them the grain! Other products are ingredients in other everyday items we may find in our refrigerator or pantry! These items can be found in the “Did you know” section. Cargill employs many people, many of which live in towns nearby Eddyville!
This lesson will help students understand how goods are exchanged through the lens of a farmer. In this lesson, the farmer is defined as the producer. They have marketable goods and must sell them for a profit in order to continue a sustainable business. They may market their goods to a livestock sale barn, meat packing facility, cannery, grain processing plant, grain co-op, ethanol plant, etc. These companies will then add value to the product by processing it for use by either the general public, or another company. For instance, Cargill will create high fructose corn syrup from corn, but will not sell it to Wal-Mart. That product will be sold to a company like Pepsi-Co., etc.
Interest Approach or Motivator:
Give each student a starburst and allow them to eat it! Let them know that there are ingredients in starbursts that come from corn! WHOA!
- Review with students what a farmer is and some things a farmer might grow or raise. Share with students the definition of a producer. A farmer is a producer.
- Tell students that today we are going to focus on crops and livestock and where we might be able to get them for our home. These are the farmer’s products.
- Define with students: crop, livestock, product
- Farmers must invest a lot of time and money into raising and producing crops and livestock. There are important resources that are naturally occurring in our environment that they can use that don’t cost them any money!
- Outline the idea of natural resources and renewable resources. Talk about how plants and animals need sun, water, and air. Do farmers pay for sunlight or air? What about rain water?
- Allow students time to think/turn and talk about different places they may find different foods.
- List these on a piece of chart paper. Some examples: Hy-Vee, Fareway, WalMart, etc. Help students if they get stuck with just a few.
- Discuss the word consumer and tell students that when we go to get things from a store or other place with products/goods, we are consumers. Define consumers with students.
- Ask students: how do we get these products to our house? Do we just take them? Do we pick them from the farm? Allow students to answer but essentially we want them to get to using money to purchase items!
- Talk about
exchanging money for a product from the farmer (think farm stands OR farmers markets) or the store.
- This can be a nice place to tie in wants and needs. Food that farmers produce is something we need to survive. Toys and other fun things are items we want.
- Pose question to students: Do you think everything a farmer grows or raises goes right to a grocery store or to a stand to sell? Allow time for discussion. The answer is no.
- Examples of things that are processed further are livestock for meat, milk, cheese, lunch meat, yogurt, ice cream, etc. Fruits, vegetables, and eggs are also processed to be clean, ripe, and shiny at the grocery store.
- Introduce the idea of companies that process raw agricultural goods. Help the students understand that the farmer sells them their goods and doesn’t just give them away.
- Give the students an example scenario of one such company. Explain to students that the company Cargill uses corn (and soybeans) to make other ingredients to put in different kinds of products. Use the products listed in the “Did you know” section to discuss that some ingredients in these products come from the corn that farmers sell to Cargill. Remind students that Cargill had to pay for the corn that the farmers grew. The farmers will use that money to plant more corn! Discuss the cycle of exchanging money for products.
- Create a four-box cycle with students. Each student needs a plain piece of paper and then give directions on how to fold into four squares.
- Ask students: What is the first thing a farmer needs to do to grow corn? Allow students to answer: Plant it. Write ‘plant corn’ and draw a picture in the top left box.
- Ask students: After the corn has grown, what happens? Allow students to answer: Harvest/pick it. Write pick corn and draw a picture in the top right box.
- Ask students: What does the farmer do next? Allow students to answer: Sells it. Write ‘sells corn’ and draw a picture of the farmer getting money for the corn in the bottom right box.
- Ask students: Last what will the farmer do with his money? Allow students to answer: Buy more corn seeds. Write ‘buy corn’ and draw a picture of the farmer buying corn seeds in the bottom left box.
- Lastly, draw arrows showing that the cycle repeats itself over and over.
- Take a walk outside. Be noteworthy of things that are here and don’t need “human help” to continue to be here. Talk about soil, sun, air, water. What about the playground? Pose different questions to students to allow them to think about if something can always be here without help. Do research with students on the items they listed to see if it is a natural resource.
- Review lesson with students and answer any questions students may have.
Did you know? (Ag facts):
- These products are made with Corn milling ingredients from Cargill:
- Feed for livestock, Bar-S hotdogs, Johnsonville Brats, Kingsford Charcoal, Heinz Ketchup and Relish, Cheetos, Vlasic Pickles, Snack Pack pudding, and Snyder’s Pretzels and of course STARBURST! That’s not all, but it’s a few!
- Discuss with students the idea of a lemonade stand or bake sale. Relate to the lesson of exchanging money for goods.
- Hold a bake sale and discuss the effects afterwards. Can also discuss the idea of making sure the product you are selling pays for the ingredients you used. If the opportunity presents itself, you could also discuss profits.
Megan Vande Voort
Oskaloosa Elementary School
National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:
- T1.K-2c-Identify natural resources
- T5.K-2c-Identify places and methods of exchange for agricultural products in the local area
Iowa Core Standards:
- Social Studies:
- SS.1.11. Compare the goods and services that people in the local community produce with those that are produced in other communities.
- SS.1.13. Explain why people have different jobs in the community. (21st century skills)
- SS.1.19. Compare how people in different types of communities use goods from local and distant places to meet their daily needs.
- SS.2.12. Identify how people use natural resources to produce goods and services.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.