West Des Moines, Iowa – May 8, 2018– Students from two schools recently toured Iowa beef farms in a unique way – virtually. Without leaving the classroom, students were able to interact live with a farmer and take a tour of their farm through videoconferencing technology. This Agriculture in the Classroom program is called FarmChat® and students can interact with a variety of different farmers or agribusiness professionals to learn about the science, technology, engineering, and math that is involved in the agricultural industry.

Third and fourth grade students from Gilmore City-Bradgate Elementary in Gilmore City, Iowa have been studying beef production as part of a High Steaks! Beef Marketing competition provided by the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. The class broke up into teams and developed marketing posters that highlighted the nutritional aspects of a specific beef product. More than 40 entries were submitted during the competition and these elementary students captured the first and second place prize. Part of the prize package included a barbeque beef lunch and a virtual field trip and tour of a beef farm. The students connected with a local, Humboldt County, beef producer who showcased his feedlot and how he finishes cattle and raising them to market weight. 

Chariton Middle School students from Chariton, Iowa captured the first-place prize for the middle school division of the competition when they developed a full marketing plan to make and sell beef jerky. Through the project they actually developed their product and conducted taste tests to improve the recipe. They identified a target audience and develop ad campaigns and other elements of the marketing plan. These students connected with a farmer in central Iowa and learned about the conservation practices that he has employed while raising beef cattle. Students learned about intensive grazing practices that better allow plant communities to rest and recover after grazing animals pass through. Students learned about the farmer’s efforts to plant trees as shade for the animals and also as a method of helping control and minimize soil erosion. Though the farm was about over an hour away, students were able to interact with the farmer live and carry on a conversation learning about his farm. 

FarmChat® utilizes technology (Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, and other software platforms) to bring the farm into the classroom.  Students can speak directly with the farmer and even ride along in the combine or see animals up close and personal all from the safety and security of their classroom.  

“Most students don’t ever have an opportunity to visit a livestock farm,” said IALF education program manager, Cindy Hall. “This program gives students that chance and helps them understand where their food comes from and the care that goes into raising animals.”

FarmChat® programs can happen throughout the year and be matched with topics teachers are covering in their classrooms. These programs were scheduled in conjunction with May Beef Month celebrations. The High Steaks! Beef Marketing competition was sponsored in part by the Iowa Beef Industry Council. For more information about FarmChat® or to learn more about Agriculture in the Classroom programs in your area visit www.iowaagliteracy.org.  

Nick Bouden describes his beef production operation to Gilmore City-Bradgate elementary students.

Bruce Carney tells Chariton students about the conservation efforts on his beef farm.
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About the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation
IALF serves as a central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa’s students about agriculture. The mission is to educate Iowans, with a focus on youth, regarding the breadth and global significance of agriculture. Iowa is a leading producer of agricultural products that are essential to feed a growing world population, estimated to reach more than 9 billion by 2050. IALF believes it is important for all Iowans to understand the essential role agriculture has in their lives. IALF will support existing agriculture education efforts such as FFA, 4-H and Ag in the Classroom. IALF was created through a joint effort of agricultural stakeholders, including the Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Silos and Smokestacks Foundation, DuPont Pioneer, GROWMARK, and the Iowa Beef Industry Council. For more information visit IALF online at IowaAgLiteracy.org, on Facebook, and Twitter.

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Will Fett, Executive Director
Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation