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FarmChat brings students to Northey’s farm

By Staff | Nov 9, 2014

-Contributed photo FOURTH-GRADERS at Jordan Creek Elementary School, watch Bill Northey, Iowa’s secretary of agriculture, as he spoke to them about activities on his Spirit Lake farm. They communicated on software called FarmChat.

WEST DES MOINES (IDALS) – Students of Jordan Creek Elementary Shool in West Des Moines had a chance to virtually ride in a combine and experience corn harvest firsthand last week with the leader of agriculture in Iowa – Secretary Bill Northey.

Through an Agriculture in the Classroom program called FarmChat, students interacted with and asked questions of Northey learning about Iowa crops.

FarmChat utilizes technology (Skype, FaceTime and other software platforms) to bring the farm into the classroom.

Students can speak directly with the farmer and ride along in the combine from the safety and security of their classroom.

“It is a great way to enable more students to experience the farm,” said Cindy Hall, program manager for the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. “Speaking directly with farmers makes the learning come to life.”

-Contributed photo BILL NORTHEY, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, speaks to fourth graders at Jordan Creek Elementary School last week while harvesting corn on his Spirit Lake farm through a software program called FarmChat.

Students learned about how corn is raised, how it is harvested and how important it is to the economy of Iowa.

More than 100 fourth-graders participated in the conversation.

They were given a virtual tour of the field and combine and virtually helped bring in the harvest.

Polk County Farm Bureau helped coordinate the event in the West Des Moines classroom.

Elementary teacher Jan Bergman said her students were engaged the entire time. One of them even commented, “It’s like he’s talking just to us.”

Another student commented “I feel like we’re in the field with him.”

Bergman aid this experience made it real for the students and helped them connect to Northey and his farm.

Instead of just learning about the harvest, they experienced it.

Agriculture in the Classroom is a grassroots program focused on helping students gain a greater awareness of the role that agriculture plays in our economy and society.

The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation supports Agriculture in the Classroom efforts throughout Iowa and coordinates programs like FarmChat.

Northey is a fourth-generation farmer from Spirit Lake, and raises corn and soybeans.

He is serving his second term as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and leads the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

He prioritizes advancing science and new technologies to better care for air, soil and water and also reaching out to all Iowans including students to tell the story of Iowa agriculture.

“Most students don’t have any opportunity to experience what happens on a farm,” said Northey. “It is great to share what we are doing on our farm with them.”

For more information about FarmChat or to learn more about Agriculture in the Classroom programs visit www.iowaagliteracy.org.

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