Target Grade Level / Age Range

2nd Grade

Estimated Time

Two 45-minute class periods

Virtual Learning:

Make this a virtual learning module using Seesaw with these simple steps.


By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:

  1. explain how farming has changed in this country.
  2. compare and contrast early farming practices and today’s modern practices.


  • Pens/Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Poster board for Venn Diagram

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)


  • Machines – devices that do particular jobs
  • Harvest – the gathering of a crop
  • Crops – plants grown and gathered to be used for food or sold to earn money
  • Combine – a large machine used to cut, sort, and clean crops
  • Acre – a unit of measure for land, 43,560 square feet (a little smaller than a football field)
  • Yield – the amount of production
  • Chore – complete everyday tasks on the farm
  • Farmer – someone who owns or manages a farm
  • Livestock – animals raised on a farm to be used for food and many other products

Background – Agricultural Connections

Farming today is just as important as it was in the past. Farmers have always produced food, but their methods of production change throughout time. Machines make it easier and more efficient to plant, care for, and harvest crops. Machines do a lot of work that people and animals used to do, and they do it faster and more accurately. Before tractors, farmers mainly used horses to help with difficult work. Once tractors became economically feasible for each farmer to own, the number of horses decreased and the number of tractors increased. Farmers today continue to produce the food needed by humans and livestock, as well as producing other resources, just as they did in the past, but with new technology and innovation.

Interest Approach – Engagement

Would you rather be a farmer today or from long ago? The teacher will pose questions similar to the popular question and answer game to induce students thinking about the past, present, and future of farming. Students can discuss in small groups or take votes.

Would you rather…

  1. Farm 1,000 acres with machines or 10 acres by hand? (1 acre is close to 1 football field)
  2. Scoop manure by hand or have a Roomba-like machine do it for you?
    1. Roomba: autonomous vacuum
  3. Milk a cow by hand or with a robotic milking machine?
  4. Ride a horse or ride a tractor?
  5. Pull weeds by hand or have a robot to do it for you?
  6. Walk and spray for weeds or ride a ranger to spray for weeds?
  7. Plow a field driving a team of horses or sit in the self-driving tractor?
  8. Do all the work yourself or hire people to help you?
  9. Walk the field to pick corn or ride in a combine?

If you picked mostly the first answers, you would have been a great farmer long ago. If you picked mostly the second answers, modern farming is for you!


Part 1 of 2

  1. Explain the purpose of the lesson: We are going to compare and contrast early farming practices with today’s modern practices. When we get done, you should be able to tell me how farming has changed in this country and if you would rather be a farmer today or from long ago.
  2. Discuss with the students the ways they already know/think farming has changed over time.
  3. Introduce and discuss vocabulary words we will be using. Go through each word and define it, making sure to write it so students can refer to the definitions when they work on their vocabulary foldable worksheet.
  4. Practice vocabulary words by completing the vocabulary foldable worksheet. Students will work independently on this. Be prepared to assist with folding, cutting, and answering questions.
    1. fold on the bold line
    2. cut on dotted lines
    3. write definition under vocabulary word flap
    4. (early finishers can write a sentence using vocabulary word)
  5. Read aloud and discuss: Farming Then & Now by Scott Foresman. Focus on key vocabulary words and discuss picture clues that help us determine if a photo is from long ago or today.

Part 2 of 2

  1. Use vocabulary foldable to review vocabulary words with a partner.
  2. Discuss the key points of the previous lesson (how early farming practices have changed over time).
  3. Start a Venn Diagram as a class to compare and contrast farming in different time periods. Use Farming Then and Now as a reference to help get started, flipping through the pages and asking students to point out what they see.
  4. Project the PowerPoint, Farming Then and Now Photos, and see what else can be added to the class Venn Diagram.
  5. Watch both short videos and add to Venn Diagram if needed.
    1. Video: (3 mins)
    2. Video: (3 mins)
  6. Discuss predictions about the future of agriculture and what changes we may see down the road.
  7. Hand out writing paper. Have students decide if they want to be a farmer from long ago, or a farmer today. Students will write 3-5 sentences explaining why they chose the farming timeframe they did using what they learned about the different time periods.
  8. Students will proofread, then read aloud to the teacher, then draw a picture that goes along with their writing.

Did You Know? (Ag facts)

  • Horses outnumbered tractors until the mid-1940s.
  • Farmers used to plant crops in 40-inch rows because that was the average width of a horse.
  • Abraham Lincoln created the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1862. At that time about 90 out of every 100 Americans were farmers. Today, that number has shrunk to just 2 out of every 100 Americans.
  • One U.S. farm feeds 166 people each year
  • The average age of today’s farmer is 58.
  • Iowa has more pigs than people. (7 to 1)
  • Less than 1% of corn grown in the U.S. is sweet corn. Field corn is used for things like livestock feed, ethanol, plastic, paint, crayons, vitamins, and much more.

Extension Activities 

  • Have students work in small groups and fill out the interview paper by creating questions to ask a farmer. Focus some groups on older farmers with many years of experience, and other groups on younger farmers and how they use newer equipment and technology on the farm.
  • Find agriculturists in the community to visit the classroom and respond to interview questions from the students. Another option is to have a FarmChat® with a farmer if they are unable to come into the classroom.

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)



Jenessa Kaisand

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T3.K-2.b. Recognize that agriculture provides our most basic necessities.
  • T5.K-2.a. Discuss what a farmer does.
  • T5.K-2.b. Explain why farming is important to communities.

Iowa Core Standards

  • SS.2.19. Make a prediction about the future based on past related events.
  • SS.2.20. Determine the influence of particular individuals and groups who have shaped significant historical change.
  • SS.2.21. Compare the perspectives of people in the past to those in the present with regard to particular questions or issues.
  • K-2-ETS1-1. Ask questions, make observations, and gather information about a situation people wanted to change to define a simple problem that can be solved through the development of a new or improved object or tool.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.