By Jane Charmelo

COURTESY PHOTO Belvidere Republican
The Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau is leading a two-day class for teachers called “Awesome and Amazing Agriculture” that helps teachers learn more about the world of agriculture so they can incorporate more information into their respective curricula. The two-day class has teachers taking field trips/tours (such as in the above photos) for a close-up look a variety of agriculture-related places, from farms to businesses.

It is not just students who often take classes in the summertime – teachers do, too. This summer, the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau’s Agriculture in the Classroom program is offering teachers a chance to learn more about farming.

This year’s summer class theme “Awesome and Amazing Agriculture,” according to Diane Cleland, ag literacy coordinator for the Winnebago-Boone County Farm Bureau, who said the theme is “part of a bigger program with the Illinois [Farm Bureau] Ag in the Classroom program.”

“There are a bunch of these teacher trainings that are going on around the state,” she continued, and while the theme is the same, “Each area of the state has different types of farms.”

While last year’s theme was about soil, this year the theme is “a little more generic,” Cleland explained, pointing out that “Boone County has more specialty farms, not just all corn and bean farms.”

So, teachers who have signed up for the class (registration has ended) will be touring a number of places, the coordinator said.

On the first day of “class,” June 18, the teachers will tour Hildebrandt Dairy Farm in South Beloit, then it’s off to Alpaca Pines Farm and Fiber Mill in Poplar Grove, where they will also take a tour.

Next on the agenda is Edwards Apple Orchard in Poplar Grove, where the teachers will tour the orchard and stop for lunch – after which it’s on to Piscasaw Gardens in Harvard, which offers produce, flowers and popcorn.

The afternoon also calls for visiting the grain business DeLong Company in Harvard, Cleland narrated, where the teachers will also hear from grain farmer Cody Book.

“He is going to talk from a farmer’s perspective how he markets his grain,” she outlined.

On June 19, the teachers will start their morning with a tour of Perks (cattle) Ranch in Rockford, after which they will go to Pecatonica to see Behn’s Clydesdales.

After a break for lunch, the group will hear from commodity groups Illinois Corn and Midwest Dairy, and the state’s Illinois Ag in the Classroom will make a presentation that will “give them a whole bunch of lesson plans that are age appropriate,” Cleland related, that can be incorporated into classroom curricula such as language arts, social studies, math and science.

When asked how the different locations are chosen, she responded that “The farm bureau has a lot of contacts. We reach out to our local farmers” to ask for a tour of their facilities.

The coordinator said that even though the area covers a lot of agricultural acreage, as many as 99 percent of the area’s students do not live on a farm, and neither do a great many of the teachers.

So, she continued, the summer classes help to give teachers information they can “incorporate into their everyday curriculum.”

Cleland further noted that teachers often bring in Winnebago-Boone County Farm Bureau speakers to their classroom, but they also want to add to their personal knowledge base, thus attending the summer classes to gain “extra background knowledge.”

She quipped that when farm bureau speakers come to the schools, “Sometimes the teachers ask more questions than the kids do!”

And with a trend toward “farm to table” these days, “People really want to know where their food comes from,” she pointed out.

As for the success of the summer classes, Cleland said from her experience, she has heard teachers say it was “the most fun learning experience they’ve ever had.”

“We hope they will take this knowledge and share the knowledge back with their students,” she summed up.

For more information on the Winnebago-Boone Farm Bureau, visit

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