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'Harvesting' the Web for farm resources

Fall is the traditional harvest time. Leaves are falling, pumpkins are ripening, and apples are just waiting to be picked from the trees. With many crops ready to be gathered, it's the perfect time to "farm" the Internet for agricultural resources! Included: Web sites for students of all ages!

Way too often young people are recognized for the problems that a few of them cause. Often unrecognized are those youngsters who are making a positive impact on their schools and communities! One such group of kids is from Mesa, Arizona. They recently combined their desire to improve their community with their "growing" knowledge of agriculture. The result was a garden that supplied homeless shelters with fresh produce, elderly citizens with fresh flowers, and students with a better understanding of farming. The leader of the project, J. Joseph Pearl, came up with the idea for the activity to "teach the kids about organic farming."

The students operate two gardens, one in spring and one in fall, that are located very much in the city. "All the food goes to local families and the food kitchens for the homeless," explains Pearl. "There's nothing wasted, and I mean absolutely nothing."

Growing a garden is a wonderful activity for students, but it isn't the only way to dig deeper into the agricultural scene. There are many resources your students may tap into right from a computer. Let's plow through a few of them together!

Down on the farm

Introduce your students to animals that live on a farm with a visit to Barnyard Buddies. Here they will meet Gary the Goat, Randy the Rooster, Polly the Pig, and their other friends who make their home at the Finn Farm. What would these farm animals say if they could talk? You'll find out! The "Circus Champions" story describes an adventure these characters shared when they stumbled across an old abandoned barn. There are character biographies, posters to color, and a "Race to the Barn" game to print and play. Your students may read letters to the Barnyard Buddies that were written by other children to find out which characters were their favorites.

One member of the barnyard crew that your students will immediately recognize is the tractor, and who knows more about tractors than John Deere? In the Kids' Corner of this company's Web site, your students will discover that farm animals aren't the only characters who can speak -- here the equipment does the talking! The leader of the mechanical work crew is Johnny Tractor. When he and his friends discuss who is the most important member of the group, sparks fly! Read the Johnny Tractor and His Pals Storybook to learn if the machinery will ever be able to work together again.

Another excellent resource from the John Deere Kids' Corner is the Learning Page. Safety around farm equipment is an emphasis in this area; highlighted issues include buckling up, staying away from sharp points, and being careful around farm equipment and animals.

Speaking of farm equipment safety, Dr. Danger of Farm Safety 4 Just Kids has a lesson for your students on PTO safety. PTO is "power take off," an area in a tractor where power is transferred to an additional implement like a mower or spreader. This portion of the device is particularly dangerous because of its speed and location. Dr. Danger's lecture explains where to find the PTO and how to avoid problem situations. In addition to Dr. Danger's page, Farm Safety 4 Just Kids offers farm safety tips and a quiz that tests your students' agricultural knowledge!

There is more to a farm than equipment, and your class will learn about all of a farm's occupants at Kids Farm. This Web site is tailor-made for young students because it contains many pictures of animals and plants, people and places. The Red Bluff Ranch of Colorado presents this look at farm animals, wild animals, things that grow, and equipment on the farm. Keep up with the latest bulletins from the farm at "What's New." Your students will enjoy the stories of how animals have been rehabilitated and released through the Wildlife Animal Rehab Center, including the "tale" of Fudge the baby rabbit.

Future farmers

Not all farmers grow vegetables or raise cows, but they face equally difficult obstacles in producing their crops. Your students will learn about these problems when they explore Vineyard Challenge. This Web site explains the various types of grapes that are commonly raised and the weather conditions and pest control issues that their growers deal with. It enables participants to design virtual vineyards where they manage their crops over time and handle each year's environmental changes. The goal is to keep making money and preserve the crops. Some students may diversify, while others will choose to remain with a single variety, but all will be made more aware of the pitfalls and rewards of farming as a livelihood.

Down-on-the-farm websites up on the web!

Pork 4 Kids
Students who do their eating in restaurants and their shopping in supermarkets can be left with the impression that food is delivered, not grown or raised. This Web site from the National Pork Producers Council bridges the gap between field and store! Find lots of nutritional information for teachers and students, especially regarding pigs and pork.

Vrrrooommm-Farming for Kids
At this Web site teachers can learn more about a video series that introduces concepts of modern agriculture to children. There are two puzzles to download and share with your class.

GoatWeb: 4 Kids Only
Here you'll find goat jokes and pictures of goats that have been submitted by children. There is also an excellent "goat parts page" that identifies all of the body parts of a goat.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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Updated 10/22/2015