Many states have established a statewide agricultural literacy program with staff trained to assist local Farm Bureau organizations, and other organizations with the implementation of agriculture education programs. The programs throughout the country are quite diverse and range from offering educational materials, to teacher training, to curriculum development. Several of these state level programs are organized as non-profit foundations, or are located at a state Farm Bureau, university, or organized as a coalition. Iowa farm, agriculture commodity and agribusinesses launched the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation (IALF) in June 2014. The goal of IALF is to centralize and serve the needs that teachers and agriculture education volunteers have expressed for providing comprehensive, quality agricultural education programming for our state.
IALF is a coordinated, statewide approach by business, education and the agriculture industry that is designed to augment and aggregate existing agriculture education efforts while encouraging new efforts that promote agriculture literacy in Iowa schools. IALF’s overall goal is to serve as a centralized resource to help increase the knowledge and awareness of today’s agriculture and its importance among students.
The concept of amplifying agriculture literacy efforts was born from the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) strategic planning process in 2012 when farmers from around the state, including county leaders, young farmers and the IFBF Board of Directors all identified a need to increase understanding of agriculture within our schools.
We also know that education needs vary greatly across the state. Some regions have successful, long-standing Agriculture in the Classroom (AITC) or other agriculture education programs in place and others may have none. However, there is not a centralized statewide resource for agriculture education that takes industry and business needs into consideration. IALF is an effort to serve as a clearinghouse of information, taking best practices from existing agriculture education programs, incorporating business needs related to STEM, and presenting a unified approach with benchmarks from a statewide perspective.
While the Iowa Farm Bureau helped spearhead the effort, resulting from our grassroots strategic planning process, IALF has been chartered as a non-profit organization. The contributors and representatives of IALF are from a diverse group of agriculture, education, and business leaders.
IALF is governed by an 12-member board of directors. The board structure of IALF also includes representatives from an Agriculture Literacy Industry Council and an Agriculture Literacy Education Advisory Council. The Agriculture Literacy Education Advisory Council appointments were made with a special emphasis on educational professionals. IALF is staffed by a full-time executive director, education program manager, two education program coordinators, an administrative assistant, and an intern.
For more information on individuals and entities that are involved with IALF, see Who We Are.
IALF is in no way meant to replace a county Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom or any other county Farm Bureau agriculture education effort. It is a centralized, statewide resource that is designed to augment existing efforts. It is the county’s choice to determine if/how they will participate. However, it would be helpful if county Farm Bureaus would provide the most current contact information for their county Farm Bureau AITC program coordinators. This information would be utilized to refer teachers to the programming coordinated locally by the county Farm Bureau.
The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation executive director is the state contact for Iowa for the National Agriculture in the Classroom (NAITC) program. NAITC is an excellent network for quality agricultural education materials and many experienced state based program staff are linked into NAITC.
IALF will offer both teacher and volunteer training workshops and there likely will be nominal registration fees for workshop attendees. Other fees that may apply would be for the fulfillment of orders for educational materials. Since the programming is centralized it is anticipated that bulk orders for educational materials would be placed thereby reducing the costs to end users.
IFBF encourages counties that are interested to surface coordinators for their local agriculture education efforts as they would any other program that is prioritized by the county Farm Bureau board of directors. It is not mandatory for the coordinator to use the IALF staff and programs. IALF is a resource for those that choose to use it to complement their county agriculture education activity.
One of the responsibilities of the IALF executive director and education program manager is to work with the state education associations and Iowa Department of Education to make those inroads. It's important to note that the executive director will not develop curriculum without first evaluating existing programs to determine best practices for aligning agricultural information. The partner organizations with IALF and the Ag Literacy Education Advisory Council will be involved in curriculum decisions as they evolve. IALF believes there is considerable curriculum and resource information currently available which can be more effectively used with proper coordination.
Absolutely! Interested parties can contact the IALF Executive Director Will Fett at: firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss a variety of options for funding support of IALF.
The IALF offices are housed in the West Des Moines IFBF site. This partnership allows for support and a centralized location for the offices to be able to reach out to all of Iowa.
Yes, fund and program development is ongoing for IALF.
Impacting student and teacher knowledge about modern agriculture will be measured in a variety of methods. We will use data collected from workshop surveys, web analytics, knowledge tests, survey perceptions from students, survey perceptions from the teachers regarding student learning, and others.
IALF will present/host training opportunities (i.e., workshops and conferences) for interested county Farm Bureau Agriculture in the Classroom coordinators. If a county is interested in leading an educational session at these training workshops to share the success of agriculture education activities in their area, they will have an opportunity to respond when the call for workshop presenters is extended by IALF. New contact orientation sessions are also available on demand.