Agricultural Literacy Takes Center Stage For A Day

Submitted Article

MEXICO, NY – Although we drive by farms of all types almost every day in Oswego County, many of us are unaware of the importance of these local businesses, and the role they play in the lives of those both in and outside of the area.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County regularly teaches agriculture enrichment programs in the local elementary schools introducing youth to the value of the farming industry and how its relates to them.

Hannibal resident and local maple syrup producer, Becky Fowler, passes out samples of fresh maple syrup to students of Fairley Elementary School. Becky and her husband, Tim, volunteered for the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County Ag Literacy Day. Similar presentations were made throughout Oswego County bringing attention to importance of understanding agriculture.However once a year, CCE collaborates with Oswego County Farm Bureau for a national event called Agricultural Literacy Day.

“Agricultural literacy is the basic knowledge and understanding of agriculture that all citizens need, in order to make informed decisions impacting careers, health and public policy,” said CCE’s Oswego County 4-H Program Educator Debra Holliday. “Over 20 percent of the nation’s workforce is in some way involved in food processing, marketing, distribution or sales. And, all of us eat, so this event helps young students begin to think about the food they eat, where it comes from and the people involved in getting it to their tables.”

This year, every county in New York State participated in the third annual event, which was held in April.

In Oswego County, all 24 local public elementary schools choose to participate in this national literacy project targeting second graders.

The program combines reading, farming vocabulary, education, speakers and some sugary taste-testing to engage children in the importance of agriculture.

The 2008 Agriculture Literacy Day focused in the maple syrup industry with the reading of a book by Martha Wilson Chall, Sugarbush Spring to local second graders.

Local maple syrup producer, Becky Fowler, reads from the book written by Martha Wilson Chall called “Sugarbush Spring.” The book was donated to schools by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County. Volunteers like Becky and her husband, Tim, made presentations to students in school across Oswego County promoting Ag Literacy Day 2008.The book describes the process of making maple syrup in which New York State is the second largest producer in the United States.

“The book reading was followed by a taste of syrup provided by several local syrup producers,” Holliday said. “The book was also donated to each elementary school’s library who participated. Almost 2,000 Oswego County second graders heard the story this year and learned a little more about agriculture and what it means.”

In addition to maple syrup producers, many individuals from across the county volunteered as readers in this year’s event including farmers, Oswego County Soil and Water staff, gardeners, librarians, county legislators, and 4-H leaders and members.

“What makes Agriculture Literacy Day unique and special are the volunteer readers who are farmers and agriculture industry supporters. These people graciously adjust their work schedules and chores to share their farming passion and experience one on one with the second graders,” said Holliday.

Oswego County Legislator Paul Santore participated as a reader at Kingsford Park and Leighton Elementary Schools in Oswego.

“It was my pleasure to read to six second grade classes this year,” Santore said. “I enjoy the openness of the students and how attentive they are to the reading. This year we learned all about maple syrup and all the steps that go into the process in a fun and informative way. The children really pay attention because we do an exercise after the story in which they select pictures depicting the story just read and have to place them in the proper order and they were all able to do it quickly. I also was able to share with them a small sample of real maple syrup that they all enjoyed very much. I look forward to doing this again next year.”

The sponsors who helped make this year’s Agricultural Literacy Day a success by providing maple syrup included: Paula and Gary Hayden, Tim and Becky Fowler, David and Cindi Rudd, Willow Creek Farm, Maple Help Stock Farms and the New York State Maple Producers’ Association.

4-H is an informal educational program for youth ages 5-19 built on subject matter projects developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension and by the National 4-H Council. Oswego County’s 4-H program is operated through Oswego County Cornell Cooperative Extension in Mexico and funded by a joint effort of the United States Department of Agriculture, Cornell University’s New York State Land Grant College, and the Oswego County Legislature.

“4-H has a far reaching impact beyond the participants in the various local student groups,” said CCE Oswego County Executive Director Paul Forestiere II. “Agricultural Literacy Day is one of the ways 4-H and other volunteers make a difference and get important information to students and parents. The more we know about agriculture, the more we can understand its importance and impact on our community.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension is a key outreach system of Cornell University with a strong public mission and an extensive local presence that is responsive to needs in New York communities.

The Cornell Cooperative Extension educational system enables people to improve their lives and communities through partnerships that put experience and research knowledge to work.

If you would like to learn more about the Oswego County 4-H program, contact Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County at (315) 963-7286, or visit