Target Grade Level / Age Range:

2nd and 3rd Grade


30 minutes

Virtual Learning:

Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system.


To help students understand some key differences and similarities between large-scale (farmer) and small-scale (gardeners) food production while helping students learn to make connections, communicate, and use visual aids to portray concepts.


  • Farmers and Gardeners Key
  • Pictures.pdf
  • Materials to make a large Venn Diagram on the wall or floor
    • White board, markers, magnets/tape
    • 2 hula hoops
    • 2 jump ropes
  • Short books on gardening and farming
    • We suggest From the Garden¸ and Farm Crops, but others can be substituted as desired.
  • Please note, some outcomes may differ if substituting texts with different focuses or angles

Suggested Companion Resources:

  • From the Garden by Michael Dahl
  • Farm Crops by Jennifer Blizin Gillis
  • Life on the Farm – Farm Crops by Lynn M. Stone
  • Gardening for Nutrition by Florida Agriculture in the Classroom
  • A Day in the Life of a Farmer by Heather Adamson
  • A Tractor goes Farming by Roy Harrington (focuses on machinery)
  • A Year on the Farm by Holly Dufek (focuses on grain crops
  • Planters and Cultivators by Holly Dufek
  • Farming with Droids?


  • Machinery – Machines in general or as a functioning unit; in agriculture, this can mean tractors, combines, cultivators, planters, etc.
  • Crop – A cultivated plant that is grown as food, especially a grain, fruit, or vegetable
  • Irrigation – The watering of land to make it ready for agriculture
  • Variety – The quality or state of being different or diverse

Background – Agricultural Connections:

  • Farmers and gardeners are alike in that they work to grow safe, healthy crops. They differ in the ways they work towards that goal. This lesson is highlighting those differences and similarities.
  • Farmers use many kinds of machinery. They may include planters, field cultivators or disks (for plowing), manure spreaders (for fertilizing), sprayers (for applying pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers), or combines (for harvesting). Different kinds of crop production may need different kinds of machinery (for instance, potato hillers are used to make rows in potato production).
  • When looking at photo cards that show machinery, it would be possible to point out simple machines within the photos. For instance, a tractor has wheels and axles, plows have wedges, etc.
  • Here in Iowa, the main kind of large crop storage we see is at an elevator or co-op. There, grain is stored in large bins or piles. In other parts of the country where grain is not their most common crop, warehouses and refrigerated storage can be used to store their crops.
  • Irrigation can be done in a number of different ways. In the pictures, we used a photo of drip irrigation, which drips water regularly on the plant. This is one of the most efficient ways to irrigate, but many farmers use “pivot” irrigation systems that spray water overhead and pivot to cover the field. Other overhead irrigation systems are also common.
  • Though field size and shape can vary, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance says the average field size is 434 acres. An acre is about the size of a football field.
  • Interest Approach or Motivator:

    Though many students may be familiar with gardens and the common produce that comes from them, they may not realize the same foods must be grown in a large scale, as well. Things that we may be able to produce ourselves on a small scale are also produced on a large scale to fill grocery stores, markets, and our refrigerators year-round.

    Have students think about a common garden item, like a pea plant. Then have students think about what 400 football fields of pea plants would look like. How would you like to pick all of those pea pods by hand? Would you like to pull all of those weeds? How do you think farmers do it?


    1. Start by reading From the Garden to the class. Ask them to look for gardening methods in the book. Once you have finished reading the book, ask them to point out a couple things that they learned.
    2. Then read Farm Crops to the class. Ask the class to look for similarities and differences in the way the plants are grown. (To spread the lesson out over a day or two, the books could be read at different times or days. This would give the students some more time to think about and recall the material.)
    3. Then lead into the activity by asking students to give some examples of what a farmer does. Repeat with gardener as well. Ask the students to pull from previous knowledge and the texts to compare and contrast the two.
      1. Some points to address may be:
        1. Both farmers and gardeners grow food or plants that need sun, soil, and water.
        2. Farmers grow their crops in a very large scale.
        3. Gardeners generally grow their crops in a smaller scale.
        4. Farmers use more machines, when gardeners do more things by hand.
    4. After the discussion, hand out the round picture cards to each student. Have them take a couple minutes to review the picture and the label. If they have questions about their photo, this could be a good time to answer them.
    5. Show the Venn Diagram to the class. This can be done in multiple ways; a Venn Diagram can be drawn on the whiteboard and the photos could be taped to it, two hula hoops can be placed on the floor and the pictures can be placed in the correct section, or jump ropes or other types of rope, string, or yarn can be used to make a Venn Diagram on the floor. Explain that one circle is to represent things that farmers do, use, or work with, and the other circle is to represent what gardeners do, use, or work with.
    6. Have the students come up in an orderly fashion to place their picture where they believe it goes.
    7. Once all the students have done so, go through each photo with the class. Talk about what each picture is showing and why it is in the position it is. If a photo has been wrongly placed, talk through that with the class and place it in the correct spot.
    8. Ask them if they see patterns in what they see in the farmers’ and gardeners’ circles. Draw parallels between field and garden, bag of seeds and packet of seeds, etc. If possible, rearrange the photos to reflect those patterns more visibly.
    9.  Category  Farm  Garden
       Planting space FieldGarden 
       Seed volumeBag of seeds Packet of seeds 
       Size of rowsLong rows Short rows 
       Types of plants togetherUsually same plant per plot Variety of plants per plot 
       Equipment usedMachinery Hand tools 
       Equipment storageMachine shed Tool storage shed 
       Amount of food producedFood for many families Food for one family 
       Crop storageCrop storage is large Crop storage is small 
       HarvestHarvested with machines Harvested by hand 
       PlantingPlanted with machines Planted by hand 
       Irrigation/wateringIrrigation Watered by hand 

      Both: sun, soil, and water

    10. When finished addressing the patterns, ask students if anything surprised them. Ask if there are other things that they do differently (they could say different kinds of crops depending on environment, different ways to map their plots, different ways of fertilizing, different purposes, etc.) Ask if someone would like to summarize what they learned.
    11. Take a couple minutes at the end to have students draw their own Venn Diagrams. In them, have students put at least five items on either side with things discussed in class, or others they may have in mind. Have students turn them in before the next class period.

    Essential Files:

    Did you know? (Ag facts):

    • 97% of all farms in the United States are family owned and operated.
    • There are over 2.2 million farms in the U.S.
    • Farmers today produce 262% more food with 2% fewer inputs (such as seeds, labor, and fertilizers) than they did in 1950.
    • American farmers today feed about 155 people worldwide. That number was 25.8 in 1960.

    Extension Activities:

    Have students think about all of the large jobs that need done on the farm. (Planting, fertilizing, plowing, harvesting, weed management, etc.) Have them design machines that could take care of those jobs. In addition to, or instead of, using the farm as an example, have students think about big jobs in their own lives (folding the laundry, sweeping the floor, putting away the dishes) and have them design machines for those jobs! Creativity (and usefulness) encouraged.



    Chrissy Rhodes

    Organization Affiliation:

    Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

    National Agriculture Literacy Outcomes:

    • Theme 1; Agriculture and the Environment:
      • Describe how farmers/ranchers use land to grow crops and support livestock
      • Describe the importance of soil and water in raising crops and livestock
    • Theme 2; Plants and Animals for Food, Fiber & Energy:
      • Identify the importance of natural resources (e.g., sun, soil, water, minerals) in farming
      • Identify examples of feed/food products eaten by animals and people
    • Theme 3; Food, Health & Lifestyle:
      • Recognize that agriculture provides our most basic necessities: food, fiber (fabric or clothing), energy, and shelter
    • Theme 4; Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics
      • Recognize and identify examples of simple tools and machines used in agricultural settings (e.g., levers, screws, pulley, wedge, auger, grinder, gears, etc.)
    • Theme 5; Culture, Society, Economy & Geography
      • Discuss what a farmer does
      • Identify the people and careers involved from production to consumption of agricultural products
      • Identify places and methods of exchange for agricultural products in the local area

    Iowa Core Standards:

    • English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subject
      • 2nd Grade
        • RI.2.3, DOK 2; Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text
        • RI.2.7, DOK 2; Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
        • RI.2.9, DOK 3; Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.
    • 21st Century Skills
      • 21.K-2.ES.1; Communicate and work appropriately with others to complete tasks.
    • Social Studies
      • 2nd Grade
        • SS.2.12: Identify how people use natural resources to produce goods and services.
      • 3rd Grade
        • SS.3.13: Identify how people use natural resources, human resources, and physical capital to produce goods and services.
    • Science
      • K-2:
        • K-2-ETS1-1; Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people want to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.




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