Kaleb Wilson, vineyard manager for Blue Sky, discussed what happens during the wine-grape harvest, while teachers gathered on the crush pad following a tour through the vineyard. Photo provided.Doug Clover, left, co-owner of Shawnee Hills Lavender explains the harvest of Grosso that would take place later in the evening on Wednesday, June 14. Grosso is the lavender that he will use to dry and sell in bundles and to use in other products. Photo provided.

Area teachers learn about agriculture

During the week of June 12, local county Farm Bureaus collaborated with Southern Illinois University, local farmers and agribusinesses to hold the Southern Illinois Summer Agriculture Institute. 

The program offered participants an up-close look at one of the key driving economic forces for Union County and Southern Illinois.

Organizers said that the institute had a theme of “Sprouting Success in the Classroom.” 

The week-long program offered pre-kindergarten through high school educators a deeper look at local agriculture, the wide variety of agricultural products grown and processed throughout Southern Illinois, and learned ways to bring these topics into their classrooms.

Through the annual program, 19 local educators earned graduate credit/professional development units, gained access to free and innovative teaching materials, participated in hands-on experiences, learned about hot issues from ag experts, went on field trips, and developed action plans for their classroom.

The week’s activities included many tours and speakers. Here’s a look at what happened:

Day 1

“Career Opportunities in Agriculture” and hands on experience using FCAE AgriScience Kits with Dean Dittmar.

Field trip and tour of Sumerset Farmers in Murphysboro with a discussion about food safety, starting a specialty foods business, animal care and quality control with Gary Tretter.

Tour of Big Muddy Brewing with Chick Stuhrenberg.

Day 2

“Getting the Crop from Field to Table Equals Hard Work” with Jeff Flamm, during field visit to Flamm Orchards McGuire Farm.

Discussions with representatives of commodity groups including Illinois Pork Producers, St. Louis Dairy Council, Illinois Corn Growers Association.

Tour and discussion of SIU Farms and Research Centers.

“Current Livestock, Dairy, Production and Ag Issues” with Tasha Bunting, assistant director of commodities and livestock programs, Illinois Farm Bureau.

“Exploring Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom & New Resource Materials” with Laura Vollmer, education specialist for Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom.

Day 3

Field trip and tour to Shawnee Hills Lavender Farm with Doug and Charlotte Clover.

Field trip and tour of Blue Sky Vineyards for discussion of vineyard management, grape growing, and Shawnee Hills American Viticulture Area with Kaleb Wilson, vineyard manager and member of the Shawnee Hills Wine-Grape Association.

“A Fresh Look at Horticulture & Agriculture” lunch and learn discussion with Amanda Weidhuner and Amelia Raymond, both recent graduates of SIU’s plant and soil science program.

Field trip and tour of C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. in Cobden with Clay Mitchell, manager, including a discussion about food safety, supply chain management, and delivering food from field to table.

Field trip and tour of Bass Farms and Blueberry Hill near Cobden with Bill Bass, owner.

Day 4

Tour of Bunge Elevator and discussion about transportation of grain with Mike Williams, manager at Old Shawneetown.

Group lunch with farmers and agribusinesses.

Commodity group speaker Julie Blunier from the Illinois Soybean Association.

Field trip and tour of Martin Family Hog Farm near Galatia with Lance Martin.

Teachers pursuing graduate-level credit for the weeklong seminar returned for Day 5 to SIU for continued seminars and lesson planning.

Five teachers participated from Union County, including Amy Abernathy, Michelle Buchheit, Kim Dillow, Terri George and Cindy Pender. 

Other teachers who participated came from Franklin, Gallatin, Jackson, Perry, Randolph, Saline and Williamson counties.

Since 1991, more than 10,541 Illinois educators have completed a Summer Agricultural Institute.  

The course is designed for pre-kindergarten through high school educators who wish to expand their curriculum to include topics related to agriculture: the world’s food and fiber system. 

The course focuses on how to integrate available resources and hands-on activities about agriculture and the environment into an existing classroom curriculum.

 Information for the 2018 summer institutes will be available through local Farm Bureau offices in the spring of 2018. The Union County office is in Jonesboro.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
Email: news@annanews.com

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